Monthly Archives: October 2011

Rooney – Should he stay or should he go?

This piece appears in full on TEAMtalk.

The last week has surely confirmed what we all knew already – Wayne Rooney is the most divisive figure in English football.

Wading through the views of journalists, ex-pros and – of course – the TEAMtalk Your Say boards, there appears to be no real consensus of opinion.

While Harry Redknapp and Alan Shearer have been quick to rubbish suggestions that England’s star man should stay at home for Euro 2012, others are calling for Fabio Capello to write him off as a talented liability.

Motormouth Stan Collymore and World Cup winner George Cohen believe Rooney should be dumped from the squad and seem to have the public on their side.

At the time of writing, a Sky Sports poll suggests 68% do not want Rooney selected for England.

CLICK HERE TO READ THIS PIECE IN FULL AT TEAMtalk.

Del Bosque right not to shoehorn in Silva

by Adam Bate

This piece appears in full on TEAMtalk.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for David Silva when he speaks of feeling like a “supporting actor” with the Spanish national team. Silva has certainly been the star man in Manchester City’s ensemble cast so far this season.

But surely with the talent at Vincente del Bosque’s disposal, the Spain coach can be forgiven for not putting Silva centre-stage.

It is one of the curiosities of international football – teams are constructed that see world-class performers left out of the side while lesser lights in other positions are automatic picks.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS PIECE AT TEAMtalk.

What’s the Truth about Serie A?

by Adam Bate
 

Sam Wallace (The Independent): “You go to Stoke, they’ve got an identity. You go to Bolton and that club’s got an identity. When I watch Serie A you don’t feel that so much about the smaller clubs there.”

Shaun Custis (The Sun): “You watch Serie A do you? I didn’t think people did that anymore. Genuinely, I didn’t.”

Neil Ashton (Daily Mail): “If you watch the last couple of weeks both the games have been 0-0 draws.”

Shaun Custis (The Sun): “Italian football has dropped off the map. You do get the feeling there is so much more competition in this country – you do feel that teams at the bottom can win the big games at any point.”

Sunday Supplement, Sky Sports, 25/09/2011

It’s quite an exchange and while it kicked up a storm on Twitter it may well have tapped into a common view among English football fans.

Thankfully, some of these views can be challenged by looking at the statistics.

Goals

Neil Ashton’s facile point that the recent televised games had ended goalless suggests he is of the view that there are fewer goals scored in Italian football. Is this true?

In short, yes it is. Over the past three seasons there have been 2935 goals in Serie A at an average of 2.57 per game. In the Premier League there have been 3058 goals at an average of 2.68 per game.

Interestingly, however, Ashton may be surprised to note that in two of the past three seasons there have been more goalless draws in the Premier League than in Serie A. In total, in the last three completed seasons there have been 98 goalless draws in England compared to 82 in Italy.

So why are there both more goals and more goalless draws in the Premier League than in Serie A? That may have something to do with the heavy beatings that the top teams in England are capable of dishing out on a regular basis – and it strikes at the heart of the debate about competitiveness…

Competitiveness

Custis’s claim that the teams at the bottom of the Premier League can win the big games at any point is an interesting one.

If it were true that England’s weakest sides were getting better results against the top teams than their Italian equivalent then that would certainly indicate a greater competitiveness. But it isn’t true.

Comparing the results of the bottom three sides against the top three sides in both England and Italy is revealing in so much as what it does not reveal. It does not bring to light these miraculous results that justify Custis’s “feeling” he gets.

In 2010-11 the three relegated teams from the Premier League (Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham United) managed one win, three draws and 14 defeats against England’s top three (Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City).

That one win was for Birmingham against Chelsea (memorable for you Shaun?) and, admittedly, it’s one more than the Serie A sides managed. However, Italy’s bottom three (Bari, Brescia and Sampdoria) did get seven draws against Serie A’s top three (Milan, Inter and Napoli) meaning that they took more points off the top sides than their English equivalent.

Perhaps Custis and co were hinting at a more general competitiveness than is shown in the results. But a look at other key performance indicators only serves to highlight the competitiveness of the Italian league.

The spread of average possession stats for 2010-11 – per the WhoScored website using Opta statistics – show a greater disparity in England (38% to 60%) than in Italy (43% to 59%).

The pass completion rates tell a similar story. The spread in England is from 64% to 84% but in Italy there is remarkably consistent with Lecce bottom of the pile with a respectable 73%.

It’s a similar story so far in 2011-12 and the early indications are that Serie A is set for a wide open title race with just three points separating the top eight.

It adds weight to the argument of Italian football expert James Horncastle when he says: “At this moment in time Serie A is the most competitive it’s ever been.”

Identity

The notion of identity is a more difficult matter to prove. And yet, it should come as no surprise that an English person should detect a greater sense of identity among English clubs.

Sam Wallace points out Bolton Wanderers are a club that he sees as having a clear identity – but one wonders whether this identity resonates among the Italian public?

It’s tempting to conclude that this supposed contrast between England and Italy reveals nothing more than the journalist’s own ignorance.

Perhaps it’s best to leave the final word on this topic to James Richardson, former presenter of Football Italia on Channel 4, who says: “There is no country with a stronger regional identity than Italy and it is absolutely expressed through the clubs.”