Monday, May 03, 2010

Despite the best and worst efforts of Gerrard and Berbatov, United still clinging on to title hopes...

I had the misfortune of tuning into BBC Radio 5 Live 606 on Saturday night, Alan Green was on good form; he was asked how he thought the Liverpool players would perform against Chelsea, bearing in mind what was at stake. Green stated that Gerrard and Carragher would give 100%, of that he was convinced. Green said he wasn't sure how the rest of the Liverpool team would respond. Was Green suggesting the two Liverpool stalwarts were bastions of integrity and just perhaps Johnny Foreigner couldn't be relied upon in such circumstances? We will never know the answer to that.

What we do know is Green was 100% wrong, and not for the first time. Gerrard was pathetic, as was Carragher. I cannot remember seeing a more limp-dicked performance from either, but then again I wasn't expecting anything else.

The fact that Gerrard laid on the opening goal just added insult to injury. Chelsea won two-nil - for their part, Liverpool, barely turned up.

So by the time United kicked-off later in the afternoon, they knew it was more or less all over. All credit to the champions for doing a very professional job against a hard working Sunderland team. Paul Scholes was man of the match again, he is having a very good end to the season.

While Scholes caught the eye, it was a very different story up front, Berbatov, was simply dreadful; his recent performances have been very poor, so much so you wonder how much Fergie would get for him now. The Bulgarian hasn't quite reached car-boot-sale proportions, but his worth must be a fraction of the £30m United paid to Spurs to bring him to Old Trafford

Against Sunderland Berbatov should have had a hat-trick, but he never came close to scoring any of the relatively easy chances he squandered. Thankfully, Nani had his eye in and he scored the vital goal, one that ensures the title race goes down the to the last game of the season.


  1. Maybe if UTD would have beaten Chelsea at your at Old Trafford they would not be relying on Liverpool to do them a favour. They only have themselves to blame, but as usual blame everyone else. As a Liverpool fan I was glad to see chelsea beat us, and hopefully go on to win the title.

  2. Astonishing post. While we do not always agree on our views, you usually touch all the big subjects. But this time you missed the biggest deal of all, Hargreaves actually played, albeit only 30 seconds. He did win a header though.

  3. Yup, I forgot about Hargreaves. My bad!

  4. Slasher,

    I'm guessing you have a couple of Chelsea shirts in your wardrode. All in all, you're as pathetic as your players.

    But, yes, United have had their chances and they cannot really complain too much.

  5. Comment #1
    Calculating the value of a player to a team is more difficult that merely counting goals and assists. The opinion of the fan about certain players is almost always based on observation with little or no factual basis other than “that’s how I feel about him”. As a result, the value of a player to the team is often questioned based on the accumulation of observed errors and the most tangible of game stats. However, the most meaningful measures of player value are not always the most obvious or the easiest to calculate.

    Dimitar Berbatov provides an ideal example. Hailed last year as an important addition to Man U, his star has dimmed in the eyes of many fans. Usually, the comments revolve around his apparent casualness on the pitch, his lack of pace in the counter-attack, and missed scoring chances. Because of these perceived negatives, other behaviours are often interpreted negatively, such as laziness or petulance. Is he really a poor striker? Is he underachieving? Does he contribute to the success of the team? These are questions that cannot be answered by opinion, but which can be determined with some attention to the data. Let’s look at his numbers in comparison to the team performance and include Rooney’s and Ronaldo’s numbers.

    Looking at the EPL season only:
    Winning percentage
    When a player starts a match, how does the team fare?
    Team total : 27 wins in 38 matches = 71%
    Rooney: 23 wins in 32 matches = 72%
    Berbatov: 19 wins in 24 matches = 79%
    Rooney alone: 60%, Berbatov alone: 71%, Rooney and Berbatov together = 82%
    The team plays better than the season average when Berbatov starts.

    Team total: 28 wins in 38 matches = 74%
    Rooney: 17 wins in 25 matches = 68%
    Ronaldo: 24 wins in 31 matches = 77%
    Berbatov: 19 wins in 24 matches = 79%
    The team played the same as the season average when Berbatov started.


  6. Comment #2
    Goal scoring
    When the player starts a match how many goals are scored, how many conceded? How many goals per match? What is the average score (differential)? How does that compare to matches when the player does not start?

    The following numbers will be number of matches, goals scored-conceded, team average, average score.
    Team total: 38, 86-28, 2.26, 3.07-1
    When Rooney starts: 32, 76-23, 2.38, 3.30-1.
    When he does not start the team average and average score are 1.67, 2.0-1
    When Berbatov starts: 24, 61-16, 2.54, 3.81-1
    When he does not start the team average and average score are 1.21, 1.42-1
    Rooney without Berbatov: 15, 31-11, 2.07, 2.82-1
    Berbatov without Rooney: 7, 16-4, 2.29, 4.0-1
    Rooney and Berbatov together: 17, 45-12, 2.65, 3.75-1
    The team scores more goals per match when Berbatov starts, but not much higher than Rooney’s starts. Also the scoring differential is more than half a goal greater per match when Berbatov starts. When Berbatov does not start, the team half a goal less than when Rooney does not start.

    These differences between the two players are the result of matches where they did not both start. That occurred 15 times for Rooney and 7 times for Berbatov; they started together 17 times and scoring was much higher for the team in those matches.

    Team total: 38, 68-24, 1.79, 2.83-1
    Rooney: 25, 43-20, 1.72, 2.15-1 and 1.92, 6.3-1
    Ronaldo: 31, 59-19, 1.90, 3.11-1 and 1.57, 1.6-1
    Berbatov: 29, 58-17, 2.0, 3.41-1 and 1.11, 1.43-1

    When Berbatov started, the team scored more goals than when Ronaldo started and the scoring margin was higher. In Rooney’s starts, scoring was equal to the season average, but the scoring differential was much lower. When Berbatov did not start the team scored fewer goals per match and well below the season average and below the score when Rooney or Ronaldo did not start.

    For goal scoring, the data clearly suggest that the team was better able to score when Berbatov was in the game and part of the game flow.


  7. Comment #3
    Shots on goal/goal scoring efficiency
    The numbers following the names will be: shots/goals and average for the EPL, shots/goals and average for all club matches.
    Rooney (no pen): 154/20, 7.7, 225/37, 6.08 (non-EPL = 4.5)
    Berbatov: 90/12, 7.5, 99/12, 8.25
    Valencia: 38/5 , 7.6, 49/7, 7.0
    Giggs: 29/4, 7.25, 33/6, 5.5
    Scholes: 40/3, 13.3, 50/7 , 7.1
    Owen: 20/3, 6.7, 34/9, 3.8

    Rooney: 109/10, 10.9, 161/17, 9.5
    Ronaldo (no pen): 173/14, 12.4, 274/20, 13.7
    Berbatov: 53/9, 5.9, 77/14, 5.5

    For shots on goal, Berbatov’s average in the current EPL season is not very different from Rooney’s – a bit better, but with half the attempts. On the season, Rooney has been performing particularly well in non-EPL club matches. In the previous year, Berbatov’s shot efficiency was much higher than either Rooney or Ronaldo.

    In terms of the generally negative opinions held by many about Berbatov, one can only conclude that they are based entirely on perception and not on facts. The facts suggest that Berbatov’s contribution to the success of the team is even higher this year than last year which is not surprising given his greater role with the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez. What may surprise many, and contrary to popularly held opinion, is that Berbatov’s scoring efficiency remains consistently high. While both Berbatov and the fans expect more goals, the data suggest that the team is achieving at a higher level in both winning percentage and goal scoring with Berbatov on the pitch.

    (Caveat: These data were taken from Game Logs for each player at ESPN and may be subject to human error, mostly mine, but occasionally ESPN’s. For example, shots on goal from the game logs do not always agree with the summary statistics for the player.)


  8. Andy,

    I've been very impressed with your stats and they back up your point that Berbatov gets a bad press.

    However, your stats don't tell the story of the chances the Bulgarian has missed in the final and most important games of the season.

    Berbatov missed good chances against Bayern, Chelsea and Blackburn. If he'd scored in any one of those games United would be either Champions or going to the final in Madrid.

    Whatever we collectively think of Berbatov I think events will overtake us and that is despite Fergie hinting the Bulgarian is staying.

    IF Berbatov does stay, it will only be because no one has offered us decent money (£15m) and of course Fergie would still need to replace him...

  9. James,
    Berbatov did not start against Bayern but came on after 70 and 66 minutes. I assume in hopes that he would save the day. He started only one CL match this year (a 1-0 win), but came on after 19 minutes for Owen against Wolfsburg (a 2-1 win).

    Against Blackburn, he starts alongside Macheda! and after 16 shots on goal, his misses were the ones that lost the game?

    Ronaldo's shots per goal ratio last year was not good (13:1 vs. almost 6:1 in 2007/8), but I never heard anyone call for his neck. Quite possibly because MU didn't lose.

    Do we agree it takes a team effort to win? But to lose? That can be blamed on individuals, especially when they are brought on late and told specifically to go win the game.

    Seriously, in a year where Carrick, DeLaet and Fletcher start a game as backs and the team still leads the EPL in defense and MU scores 86 goals for the first time since 2001-2?

    I have a better suggestion- don't lose to Burnley the second week out and then it's not a problem. (By the way, Berbatov did not start and Rooney missed 6 shots.)


  10. Andy,

    I won't disagree with with many of your points raised. Prior to this season, Rooney needed to improve his goals to shots ratio and he's done that remarkably well. No one was more surprised than me at that outcome.

    However, it's a fact of life that the big players are expected to score when it really matters and as I've pointed out when we needed Berbatov to score in those vital last few games he fluffed his lines. This of course was when Rooney was injured too, so we were more reliant on Berbatov to score.

    Regarding the wider point; clearly Fergie has lost faith in Berbatov, so much so that he's changed formation. Fergie has access to all manner of stats and make no mistake his final judgement is based on what he sees on the pitch and not just stats.

    You are right about the Burnley result and if you look at this blog in relation to that game ,I think I stated it was one of the worst results in the last 30 years.

    Berbatov is one of those players who divides opinion about his worth, it was the same with Veron. I don't see that situation changing.

  11. I couldn't agree more that Berbatov divides opinions....and there is the reason for my comments. If a team wins more often when a player is on the pitch, of what value is any opinion that he is not worth the price?

    If Berba had scored 20 goals this season, the tone would be different because he's paid to score goals. But goals do not ensure wins, otherwise the 18 extra goals United scored this year should have resulted in more wins.

    So the number of goals can't be the benchmark. It has to be team play. MU is an extraordinarily well designed and balance team and they continued to prove it this year by nearly winning a 4th consecutive despite a revolving door lineup on defense.



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