25Oct
elephantgraveyard

The MLS is Like an Elephant’s Graveyard: a Place Where The Eldest Go to Die

According to a popular legend, when elephants reach an old age, they move away from their herd looking for a place to die. This is called an ‘elephants’ graveyard’. Have you seen ‘The Lion King’? Do you remember when Simba and Nala are attacked by hyenas for the first time? Well, that was an elephants’ graveyard.

American Major League Soccer is the football equivalent to that. A place where famous players with their best years behind their backs go to spend the final seasons of their careers.

Take for instance English players. As we already discussed on this blog, you won’t see many of them playing at major European leagues, but there are quite a few in the United States. In fact, they are the second most popular nationality among foreign players, just after Argentina. Among these 18 Englishmen you can find some big names, like Steven Gerrard, who is playing for Los Angeles Galaxy, or Frank Lampard, who plays for New York City FC. They both had very successful careers and they moved to the US in their mid or late 30s.

The chart below tries to visualise this trend: mature players from all over the world moving to the MLS at the end of the careers. The graph shows the difference between their current market value, and what they reached at the peak of their careers. I took the data from Transfermarkt, a very popular German website that publishes regular estimates of the market value of players in most leagues.
mls-elephant-graveyard
The players shown on the graph are those who suffered the highest losses in their market value. How many names can you recognise? Probably most of them, as these players had really successful careers in European football. Kaká shined at AC Milan and was sold to Real Madrid for a whopping figure. Steven Gerrard was a local hero at Liverpool for many years. David Villa was a key player in the most successful Spanish national team in history. Frank Lampard is the all-time leading goalscorer for Chelsea. Andrea Pirlo is a symbol of Italian football all over the world. Now they are all waiting for retirement in the USA.

Are there any other competitions that have became elephants’ graveyards? Let us know!

23Feb

Is there life after relegation? (Part 2) How long does it take to return to Italian Serie A?

No football fan likes to see their own team being relegated from the top category. I remember when my beloved Deportivo was relegated to 2nd Division back in 2011 (and again in 2013) and it was hard.

This GIF of a Brazilian kid crying during the World Cup describes how I felt.

brazil-boy

Quite sad, isn’t it? But hey, as I wrote a few weeks ago, sometimes there’s light at the end of the tunnel and teams recover and have impressive comebacks (a little bit like Deportivo this season)

However, there are teams that never come back, and fans need to find comfort remembering better times (hello, Nottingham Forest). In this series of blog posts I’m analysing how long it takes to return to the top category and if there are any differences between the 5 major European competitions.

So far I have analysed Spanish La Liga and also quoted the Daily Mirror’s article about relegation from the Premier League that inspired me to write this series.

Today, my analytical loupe is over Italy. What happens when an Italian team is relegated? Most of them get back to Serie A pretty quickly. 56% find their way back in just 3 seasons, but after that initial period, only 13% get back. The remaining 31% of teams will never return to Serie A.

What happens to a spanish team after being relegated from Serie A BLOG

The chart below shows that most teams only need one season to return to Serie A and, if they take longer than 3 seasons to come back, they might stay in Serie B forever.

When do relegated teams return to serie a. BLOG

But there’s always another side of the coin. There are teams (not many) that can spend a very long time in hell (aka Serie B) and then have a great season that catapults them back to Serie A. That’s the case of Pescara Calcio. They have traditionally played in Serie B but back in 1991 they got promoted to the top category. The following years were not good, they got relegated several times and they even played a few seasons in Serie C. But, hey, bad luck doesn’t last forever. In 2011-2012 they won Serie B and got promoted 19 years after their last appearance in Serie A.

Relegation la serie a  BLOG

26Jan

Is there life after relegation? How long it takes to return to Spanish La Liga?

A few weeks ago I read an article on the Mirror about how long it takes to get re-promoted to the Premier League. Aston Villa will probably be playing in Championship next year, so the paper was looking to the historical data to see how long it took other teams to come back to the top competition.

The article inspired me and I decided to do a similar analysis for other leagues, starting with Spanish La Liga, so I should thank Mirror’s journalist David Dubas-Fisher for giving me the idea.

When do relegated teams return to premier league. Mirror. BLOG

The chart above is based on the data provided by the Mirror and it shows that most comebacks take place in the first two seasons after relegation. If you stay longer…you might never return to the Premier League. That’s what happened to some big names like Leeds, Derby or Nottingham Forest.

In Spain the trend is quite similar. Almost half of the teams return to La Liga in the following 3 seasons after their relegation, in fact, the median is just 2 seasons. Nevertheless, almost 40% (38% to be accurate) are still in lower competitions.

What happens to a spanish team after being relegated from la liga

But hey, if your team has been relegated and it hasn’t returned yet, don’t despair. In Spain there are a few examples of teams that remained many years playing in ‘La Liga Adelante’ (Spanish second division) and eventually got promoted. Have a look to the chart below, you will notice a very different distribution compared to the Premier League.

When do relegated teams returned to Spanish La Liga?

There are some teams (not many) that were able to return to La Liga after 7, 8 or even 13 seasons. Think for instance in UD Las Palmas. They are currently playing in La Liga but they have been playing in lower categories since season 2002/2003. In fact, they spent two seasons in 2B, Spanish third division, but they managed to return to the top category.

The last chart of this post shows the teams that, since 1992, spent the longest periods in lower categories before returning to La Liga. The top position is shared between UD Las Palmas and Hércules CF, a team from Alicante currently playing in 2B that played in La Liga for the last time in season 2010/11.

Which teams waited the longest to return to la liga after relegation

18Jan
Players over 30 years old playing in 5 football teams

Which teams have more footballers over 30?

Following our series of posts about footballers over 30 years old, today we analyse how many ‘oldies’ are playing for each team in the 5 major leagues.

If you have read my last post about Italian players you might assume that the top 5 positions will be taken by clubs from the Mediterranean country. Well, your assumption is correct, 3 out of the 5 teams with the highest number of players over 30 are Italian.

But let’s move away from Serie A for a bit and have a close look to other competitions. What’s going on in La Liga? Rayo Vallecano’s squad includes 12 mature players, but what about the rest?

LA LIGA

Alongside Rayo Vallecano, Deportivo de A Coruña and Real Betis also have a significant amount of players over 30.

Rayo Vallecano’s performance this season has been terrible, and they are currently in relegation positions. Among their oldies you can find former Spanish national team player Pablo Hernández (30) and striker Javi Guerra (33).

Deportivo, on the other hand, are doing a brilliant season (disclaimer: I’m a Deportivo fan). Its squad includes veteran players like former Newcastle player Jonás Gutierrez (32) or the historical Deportivo’s right back, Manuel Pablo (39).

Deportivo’s biggest rival, Celta de Vigo, are the team with the lowest number of veteran footballers in Spanish La Liga. Only the Argentinian defender, Gustavo Cabral, is over 30. Well, actually he is just 30 years old.

Players over 30 years old playing in la liga

BUNDESLIGA

Most German teams have less than 6 players over 30, but there are two exceptions: FC Augsburg and SV Darmstadt 98. Both teams are in the lower half of the table, holding 12th and 13th positions respectively

FC Augsburg’s squad includes former Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Manninger (38) and Estonian international Ragnar Klavan (30).

On the other hand, SV Darmstadt 98 has a very interesting ‘oldie’, Costa Rican Júnior Díaz. He is 32 years old and during the last World Cup he was deemed by FIFA as the fastest player of the competition.

Players over 30 years old playing in bundesliga

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City and Stoke include 10 footballers over 30 in their squads, making them the two teams with the highest number of veteran players in the Premier League.

Fernandinho (30), Yaya Touré (32) or Jesús Navas (30) are some of the top players in Manchester City’s squad.

Stoke City’s ‘oldies’ include English defender Glen Johnson (31) and Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie (34).

It’s worth mentioning that Tottenham Hotspurs only have one player over 30. Alongside Celta de Vigo, they are the team with the lowest number of veteran players in major European competitions.

Players over 30 years old playing in the premier league

LIGUE 1

As you can see in the chart below, on top the table there are two French teams with 9 players over 30 in their squads.

SC Bastia, currently in 15th position, have two former French international players: Mehdi Mostefa (32) and Sébastien Squillaci (35).

SCO Angers, currently in 3rd position, also has two former internacionals, Algerian Anthar Yahia (33) and Guinean Ibrahima Diallo (30).

Players over 30 years old playing in ligue 1

SERIE A

Last week I defined Serie A as a ‘haven for players over 30’, and the chart below proves me right. Just in Chievo Verona there are 13 veterans, including footballers Dario Dainelli (36) or Slovenian international Bostjan Cesar (33).

Players over 30 years old playing in the serie a

11Jan
CC BY-NC the rik pics

Italian Serie A is a haven for footballers over 30

There are 564 players in the 5 major European leagues that are 30 years old or older. Well, at least that was the figure before the winter transfer window opened, now it might be slightly different.

In another blog post published a few weeks before Christmas I was surprised by the performance of mature Italian players and I promised to investigate if they grow old more gracefully than other nationalities. Well, I haven’t done a proper research this time, but I did have a look to the origin of these 564 players and, it’s true, there are lots of Italians!

Footballers in their 30s playing in major leagues

Defenders in Serie A

Serie A is the competition with the highest number of active players older than 30. They represent 26% of the total number of mature player in the 5 major leagues.

As you can see in the chart above, defenders are the most popular position for veteran footballers playing in Italy. Think in Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli from Juventus or Miranda from Inter Milan.

It’s interesting to see that Serie A players lead every single position except for midfielders, where Ligue 1 takes the lead, including names like Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique Lyon, aged 31) or Lassana Diarra (Olympique Marseille, aged 30)

Not even the veteran Premier League players are English

But where are all these players actually from? Which competition has more national players over 30? Well, there are quite big differences between leagues, as you can see in the chart below.

Nationality of players over 30

Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A have a clear majority of national players, Bundesliga is divided in a perfect 1:1 ratio and in the Premier League there’s an overwhelming majority of veteran footballers from overseas.

But where these foreign players come from? The chart below shows the top 10 nationalities of players over 30. Outside the 5 countries we are analysing, Argentina and Brazil are the most popular origin.

Top 10 nationalities over 30

Summary

  • Serie A is the major European competition with the highest number of active players over 30
  • There are more footballers over 30 playing as defenders than in any other position
  • Less than 1 in 3 players over 30 in the Premier League are actually English
  • Italy is the country with more veteran players in the 5 major competitions, but most of them remain in Serie A.
10Nov
AUGUST 23, 2008 - Football : Luca Toni of Bayern Muenchen in action during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Signal-Iduna Park on Augsut 23, 2008 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Tsutomu Takasu)

Old footballers: is there any life for a goalscorer over 30s?

Wayne Rooney’s performance this season has been broadly discussed. Has the Liverpudlian past his prime peak? Is he going to be a competitive player after turning 30?

I can’t answer any of these questions, but I’ve found a few old footballers who were over 30 when they had their best performances in the 5 major European leagues (Premier League, La Liga, 1.Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1) . This might give good old Rooney some hope.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic arrived to Juventus from Ajax when he was 23-24 years old. Since then, the number of goals he scored for every 90 min tended to increase, with some drops in specific seasons.

He had one of the sweetest moments of his career playing for Inter Milan. When he was 27 he scored 0.78 goals per 90 minutes, his best ratio until then, and one year later he became Serie A’s Capocannoniere (top scorer) for the first time.

The following years Ibrahimovic started moving from one team to another and his performance declined but, after turning 30, he achieved the best results of his career.

When he was 31 he won Serie A’s Golden Boot for the second time, this time playing for AC Milan, and the 2 following years he also became Ligue 1’s top scorer as part of Paris Saint-Germain’s squad.

When he was 32 he reached the highest number of goals per 90 minutes of his whole career, a whooping 0.91.

This season he will turn 35 and in his first 7 games with PSG he scored 7 goals. Is he going to achieve the best performance of his career in his mid-30s? We’ll see.

Antonio di Natale

Antonio di Natale is a very interesting example because he was a below-average player for most of his 20s but had some amazing seasons when he was over 30.

He started playing in Serie A when he was 25-26, after the promotion of his FC Empoli from Serie B. This first season in Italy’s top competition was pretty good, scoring 0.6 goals per 90 minutes, a little bit over the average of top goalscorers.

When he was 27-28 he signed with Udinese Calcio, but his performance in the first few years was quite mediocre. His golden age, the best years of his career, started when he was 31-32 years old. He reached 0.87 goals for every 90 minutes played, and became Serie A’s Top scorer two years in a row, when he was 33 and 34.

In the years after his peak, his performance started to decline slowly, but he still scored more goals than most footballers his age and he was a key part of Udinese Calcio.

Luca Toni

Luca Toni’s career is worth mentioning. Like most goalscorers, he reached his best performance in his late 20s, and started declining since then. What makes this player special is that when he was heading for retirement, he rose like a Phoenix and became Serie A’s Capocannoniere (top scorer) when he was 38 years old.

Toni’s best years took place when he was playing for AC Fiorentina and scored 0.86 goals for every 90 minutes. He was 29 years old at the time. After that, he had a couple of good seasons at Bayern Munich and declined dramatically playing for Juventus. There was a year when he didn’t even play a single minute!

He signed with Hellas Verona aged 36-37 and had his second golden age playing for them. This season he will turn 39 still playing in Serie A, one of the most competitive leagues in the world.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Van Nistelrooy is the typical player that had a few good years in his early thirties and then declined. He started his career playing in Eredivisie and moved to the Premier League when he was 25-26 to became of Manchester United’s most dangerous strikers. The year of his arrival he scored 0.81 goals per every 90 minutes and the year after he became Premier League’s top scorer.

His performance got worse in the two following years, until, when he was 29-30 years old, he signed with Real Madrid and had a couple of great years playing in La Liga. When he was 31 he won the Pichichi Trophy, an award given to La Liga’s top scorer.

In his last 2 years playing for Real Madrid he suffered a series of injuries that kept him away from the pitch, so he didn’t play much. Nevertheless, looking to the graph it look like he improved a lot, that’s because he scored several goals in the few minutes he had, but it’s not enough to talk about a trend.

He spent the last years of his career playing for Hamburger SV and Malaga, with poor success.

Alexander Meier

Meier’s story is still to be written. Like Antonio Di Natale, he was a below-average player during his 20, but he started to stand out when he got closer to his 30s. Last season he scored 0.77 goals for every 90 minutes played and he became Bundesliga’s top scorer. Is this going to be a trend? We don’t know yet, but it is worth to keep an eye on him.

Francesco Totti

Another Italian! One day I’ll need to investigate if Italian players get older more gracefully than other nationalities.

Totti is already 39 and he’s still playing for AS Roma, as he has been doing since season 1992/1993. Even earlier if we count AS Roma Primavera, the youth set-up of the Italian team.

His performance tended to improve through time, despite having some bad seasons from time to time. His best years took place when he was between 27 and 34, but he peaked when he was 31. That season he became Serie A’s top scorer.

Totti’s performance declined in his late 30s, but he still had many minutes in Roma’s squad.

A few notes about the methodology

  • All the data comes from transfermarkt.co.uk
  • I’ve analysed the top 2 goal scorers in each major European league since season 2000/2001
  • I started tracking each footballer’s progression when they started playing for one of the 5 major leagues. For example, I haven’t included the years Van Nistelrooy spent in Eredivisie. The reason why I did that it’s because transfermarkt.co.uk doesn’t have data for every single league in the world.
  • The number of goals only includes those scored in national leagues
  • Age is approximate. I took in consideration the year of birth of the player at the end of each season.
  • In the graphs, there’s a peak in 40 year old players, that’s just because of Totti, so it’s not very representative. Not many players are still playing being that old.
21Sep

Arrests at football games. A closer look to London teams

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that Millwall is the English team with the highest ratio of fans arrested. In the last 10 years, 2.5 supporters were arrested for every 10,000 attendees to their games.

Is this a London phenomenon? Do football supporters from the capital get in trouble more often that the rest of the country? Well, actually they don’t. If you have a look to the chart below you’ll see that only 4 teams are above the national average: Millwall, Chelsea, West Ham and Tottenham. There’s something in the docklands…

10 years in arrests in London teams

The chart below analyses the evolution through time of the arrest ratio of current Premier League teams. Be aware that not all of them have been in the Premier League for the whole period, so I’ve used a different colour to highlight the years they spent in Championship.

The general trend is a decline in the number of arrests in the last decade, you can see that both in London teams and in the national average. Nevertheless, there are some teams that consistently perform worse than the national average, particularly Chelsea, West Ham and Tottenham (just at the beginning of the decade).

There are some interesting peaks that can be explained by particular incidents that provoked a higher number of arrests. For example, in season 2008/2009, West Ham reached their highest ratio for the whole series. This was the year when the Upton Park riot took place, a battle between Hammers’ and Millwall’s supporters. I couldn’t any particular event for the Spurs peak in 2005/2006, so I’ve you know what happened that year let me know!

Arrests in London Premier League teams

The main reason for being arrested is public disorder, followed by alcohol offences and violent disorder. But some offences are more common in some teams than in others. For example, Spurs are the club with the highest percentage of fans arrested due to alcohol offences. West Ham are leaders in racist chanting and an important percentage of Leyton Orient arrests were caused by pitch incursions, probably after last year’s game against Peterborough.

You can explore the interactive chart below to see which crowds are more likely to commit each type of offence. But careful, it doesn’t include data for 2009/2010 because that year the Home Office merged public and violent disorder in a way that we can’t compare it with other years.

24Aug
Egypt fans light flares
as they celebrate a goal against Algeria during a World Cup 2010
qualifying soccer match in Cairo November 14, 2009.   REUTERS/Goran
Tomasevic   (EGYPT SPORT SOCCER)

Football hooligans are not dead. Which supporters are arrested more often?

In this second post about football-related arrests I’m going to add some context. Yes, it’s interesting to know that in the last decade almost 2,000 Man United fans were arrested, but this also has to do with the size of their support base. Old Trafford is the biggest ground in the Premier League and, when the Red Devils play at home, there are 75.335 people on average in the stadium.

Getting the approximate number of the fan base it isn’t a particularly easy task, so I used the attendance to home matches to weight the different crowd sizes. Please, be aware that this data also includes supporters arrested in other stadiums, but the attendance stats are only referred to the home grounds. Despite of this limitation, I still think that considering the home attendance is a good measurement and that it fits the purpose of this post. I must also warn you that I only have data about Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two. I have discarded those teams that have played some of the last 10 seasons in the National League as I wouldn’t be comparing the same time period.

Top 10. All competitions ratio

Manchester United is no longer on top, in fact, it is not even in the top 10! The team with the most fans arrested compared to their support base is actually Millwall. Surprised? Well, maybe not considering that Lions’ fans have been involved in some serious rioting in the last few years.  An interesting fact is that there is not a single Premier League team on this list, as most of them currently play in Championship and League One.

Top 10 Premier League

But what about the Premier League? There must be teams with a more problematic support base than others. Well there are, but the teams in the top 3 are actually very close to each other. Stoke City, Sunderland and Chelsea have around 1.3 supporters arrested for every 10.000 home attendees. This ratio also includes the seasons that Stoke and Sunderland played in lower divisions.

In a previous post I showed that the number of Manchester United fans arrested was twice as big as Manchester City’s. But, compared the home attendance, the difference is smaller.

 

Top 10 Championship

 

There is a very clear leader in Championship. Leeds United has a whopping ratio of 2 arrests for every 10.000 supporters. It’s not surprising considering that they have been involved in very serious clashes against other crowds, the last one just one month ago. In further posts we will take a close look to some of the most problematic teams. The chart above shows an interesting trend, the gap between the first positions of the top 10 and the last is quite wide. This means that there are just a few teams in Championship with a high ratio of arrests but that’s not the general behavior, as we will see in a little bit.

Top 10 League One

League One is a rough place, with teams like Millwall or Port Vale showing a worryingly high ratio of arrests. In this case, most teams show a higher ratio than in the two previous competitions. But, League Two is even worse. I haven’t created a top 10 for League Two because there are many teams that have recently played in the National League and I don’t have this data, but you can check the chart below to see what’s the ratio of arrests in each competition.

Arrests per competition

 

 

18Aug
10 years of arrests

10 years of arrests in football games

Let’s take a step back from the football pitch and have a look to what happens around it. Today I am starting a new series of blog posts about violence and disorder in football games.

The Home Office regularly publishes data about arrests and banning orders (that means people that are not allowed to attend to a match), so I have put together statistics between seasons 2003/2004 and 2013/2014 in order to create some charts. Hopefully, data for last season will be available in a few months.

In the following days we will see which supporters are more problematic when they are not playing at home, where are there more arrests for racist chanting and which crowd cause more violent disorders. But, today, we will just have a look to the big picture: which team has more supporters that have been arrested in the last decade? The answer: Manchester United. By far.

9Jul

Premier League: Best (and worst) performances in the second half of season 2014/2015

2014-2015 second half

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how English club’s performed in the second half of the season since 1993. The chart above is an update of that post and shows the best and worst performances of last season’s second half.

The most impressive improvement was broadly commented at the time. In just 6 weeks, Leicester City moved from being last to end up in a comfortable 14th position. As you can see in the chart, they were virtually relegated for most of the season!

It’s also interesting to see the evolution of Crystal Palace, another team that started the second half as one of the main candidates to be relegated and during the whole second half climbed 8 positions.

There were a couple of bad performances too. West Ham United had an amazing first half, reaching the middle of the season in the 5th position. Sadly for the East Londoners, they were not able to keep the good performance and they ended up 12th.

Newcastle United also had a terrible ending of the season. They held in the middle of the table for most of the season, but in the last 9 games they lost 4 positions and finished 15th.

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