Tag: football

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!

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.
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.

24Jun
Gerrard

Only a third of Premier League players are English

Last week I wrote a post saying that there are only 4 English footballers playing in the big 5 European leagues. But there are not many playing in England either!

I had a look to the percentage of nationals in each major competition and the Premier League performs really bad. In season 2014/2015 only 35% of footballers in England were actually English. This is a very low percentage compared to other countries like Spain, Germany or France.

National players in the big 5 leagues

This is not something new. At the beginning of the season, BBC Sport made a great analysis about the number of foreign players in Premier League and changes in the FA home-grown rules are trying to push forward players from the Premier League academies.

My question is, does this low percentage of national players damage England’s chances in international competitions? I will crunch some numbers and try to answer myself in a few days. Stay tuned!

16Jun

Players nationalities in the Premier league and other major competitions

It’s summer time! The Premier League is over, Barcelona is the new European Champion and sports pages are full of transfer rumours. I’m more interested in facts than rumours, so I’m not going to write about transfers.

Last week I downloaded a spreadsheet with the nationality of every single player in the 5 major European leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A) and started looking for patterns. Do English teams sign more Spanish players than French? Which league has more players from outside Europe? Are there more Asians in Bundesliga than in any other competition?

I have found some interesting stuff that I will publish it in the following days. But, if you want to analyse the data yourself, have a look to this Tableau visualisation. If you find something interesting, let me know.

5Jun
Champions League Final

Barcelona won most of the Champions League finals. Juventus didn’t

Champions League finals are usually played by the same handful of teams. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and…Barcelona and Juventus. Sadly for Juventus, Barcelona really makes the most of their chances and they have won 4 out of 7 Champions League finals. Juventus also played 7 but they have only won 2. Anyway, good luck tomorrow.

 

27May
is ospina that short.jpg

Is David Ospina’s height enough for Arsenal?

Arsenal’s goalkeeper, David Ospina, is 1.83m (about 6 feet) tall, but is this enough for the Premier League? Well, according to the media it’s not.

Last week, The Guardian published an article summarising some mentions of Ospina’s height in British media. It’s called ‘In praise of short(er) goalkeepers”, and it is worth a read.

But is he that short?

Well…yes, a little bit.

The average height for a Premier League goalie is 1.91m (6.3 feet), and Ospina is 8 cm shorter than that.

percentage shorter ospina
To be fair, the Premier League and the Bundesliga have the tallest keepers among the 5 major European competitions. Compared to other leagues he performs a little bit better. For example, in Spain there is a tradition of short goalkeepers. The average is just 1.86m (still, 3cm more than Ospina) and the keepers of the 4 main teams are not particularly tall.  In fact, Claudio Bravo, from Barcelona, and Iker Casillas, from Real Madrid, are both below the average height! And, as you can see in the chart below, keepers of Atlético and Valencia are not much taller.

The shortest first-choice goalie in La Liga and in all 5 major leagues*  is Sergio Álvarez, from Celta de Vigo (La Liga) and he is only 1.77. I’m taller than that!

 

goalkeepers in la liga are all quite short

Does it really matter?

Well, height might be considered a good quality for a goalie, but it’s not essential. In the chart below I have put together the top 10 goalkeepers in the 5 major leagues with the lowest number of goals conceded per game and their height. As you can see, David Ospina is between them and he is not the only short one. Yann Sommer, who plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach, is the exactly same height. Claudio Bravo, the keeper with the lowest number of goals conceded per match, is just 1 cm taller.

do tall goalies condede fewer goals per game

Most keepers are tall, but you don’t need to be a giant to be among the best.

*5 major leagues are Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1

23Feb
Infographic distances

[Infographic] The longest distances travelled for a Champions League final

Not many Champions League finals required contender teams to travel such a short distance as last year. There are only 500 km between Lisbon and Madrid, home city of both Atlético and Real Madrid.

But what are the longest distances travelled in the history of the competition? Actually, English teams take the top of the table. I have created an infographic with the 5 longest distances travelled by any team in Champions League History. 4 out of 5 are English teams.

Infographic distances

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