Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Ronaldinho Goals + Assists 2003/2004

Ronaldinho's arrival at Barca was the catalyst for a period of great success for the Catalan club, and for himself as an individual.

His first season almost ended in disaster as Barca were languishing in midtable half-way through the season, but the arrival of Edgar Davids and some inspirational displays from Ronnie himself helped the club finish 2nd in La Liga, building the platform for the success that was to follow in the next 2 years.

03/04 season stats: 22 goals, 12 assists

Song: Get Ready for This (Orchestral mix) by 2 Unlimited

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Xavi Hernandez Goals + Assists 2003/2004

Xavi aged 23, before he became the great playmaker he is now.

03/04 season stats: 5 goals, 13 assists

Song: Changes by Tupac

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Nuri Sahin Goals, Passes + Assists 2009/2010

A short review of Dortmund's no.8 Nuri Şahin in the season just gone by. He's a central midfield all-rounder who contributes to defence and attack, winning key interceptions and spreading the ball around the pitch well with accurate long passes and precise throughballs. He's a dead ball specialist and takes most of Dortmund's corners, indirect freekicks and penalties.

09/10 season stats: 36 games, 6 goals, 8 assists

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Diego Benaglio Best Saves 2009/2010

At the World Cup this summer, Diego Benaglio helped Switzerland set a new defensive record as they went a total of 551 minutes without conceding a goal over the course of 2 tournaments. Even though he didn't play at WC 2006, his confident performances (particularly in the Swiss' shock 1-0 victory over Spain) ensured his name will go down in the record books.

His form for Wolfsburg over the course of the 09/10 season was equally impressive. He was out for several months at the start of 2010 with a knee injury that needed surgery, but came back after 3 months and made an instant impact, helping his side to a 4-0 victory over Hoffenheim and then making an incredible 13 saves in the 2-0 win over Nürnberg.

He's an excellent shot stopper who closes down attackers aggressively, not afraid to bravely throw his body on the line to keep the ball out of the net. As this video shows, he also likes to make the occasional flashy save for the cameras.

Song: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Zvjezdan Misimović Goals, Passes + Assists 2009/2010

A typical no.10, Zvjezdan Misimović has been the leading creative player in Germany for 2 seasons running. Like all old-fashioned playmakers, he lacks pace and has no defensive inclinations whatsoever, but there aren't many better attacking midfielders around in Europe. He boasts an excellent range of passing, set piece prowess, 2-footed ability and a knack of scoring great goals.

08/09 season stats - 6 goals, 23 assists
09/10 season stats - 14 goals, 18 assists

Song: Breathe (Indecent Noise remix) by Telepopmusik

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Dani Alves Goals, Passes + Assists 2009/2010

Dani Alves is one of the finest attacking full backs of his generation, following on in a fine Brazilian tradition. At Barcelona he is responsible for providing much of the width on the right side, and at times he pushes so high up the pitch you'd think he was another attacker.

His first season at the club was outstanding and he developed an almost telepathic partnership with Messi, in his second season he's had less support from Messi (who's played more centrally), but his form has been just as spectacular. With 3 goals and 14 assists there aren't many full backs out there who can rival his attacking game.

Song: One More Chance (Tiesto Remix) by Bloc Party

Friday, 16 July 2010

Assists of the World Cup

The World Cup's over and I've been sifting through the goals picking out the best assists. With exactly 100 to choose from, it wasn't easy, but here are the 15 assists I considered to be the most impressive. They range from solo runs to accurate long passes to deft chips to the good old throughball.

World Cup 2010 Statistics

So the World Cup is over for another 4 years, and being the analytical person that I am, I thought I'd go through the OPTA stats and pick out the best defensive, creative and attacking players.

The first thing that jumps out from these statistics is Uruguay's dominance. Not only do they have the 3 players with the most interceptions, they have the 4 players with the highest rate of interceptions. The 4 players consist of a left back (Fucile), central defender (Godin) and two holding midfielders (Perez + Rios). It's indicative of Uruguay's defensive approach to games and aggressive closing down within their own half.

The rest of the list is not too surprising, consisting mainly of defenders and conservative midfielders, but Podolski's 24 interceptions are very impressive given his attacking role in the side, and it shows what a good defensive job he did in closing down opposition right backs and preventing them from getting forward.

The fact that Juan was Brazil's leading interceptor is not surprising, given Brazil's tendency to invite opposition teams into their own half to open up space for swift counter attacks.

Most of the names here overlap with the ones in the interceptions table, Gerardo Torrado and Kevin-Prince Boateng however stand out, not only as frequent tacklers but also as tidy ones. Jorge Fucile incredibly won all 20 of the tackles he attempted, and made interceptions more frequently than any other player, making him one of the standout left backs of the tournament. Diego Perez' poor tackling success rate highlights the fact that he's more of a midfield nuisance rather an expert ball-winner. Nothing groundbreaking here. 

It's amazing to see one man dominate this list so much, but when that man is Xavi Hernandez, is it really a surprise? This is a guy who's pretty much dominated every major club and international competition he's played in over the last 2-3 years, achieveing unprecedented success. The highlight of his tournament was the quarter final fixture against Portugal, in which he created 8 goalscoring chances and provided the deft flick-on in the build-up to David Villa's wining goal. At this rate he will go down as one of finest midfield playmakers in the history of the game.

Kevin-Prince Boateng's high ranking coupled with his excellent tackling stats prove what an excellent job he did in his role as a box-to-box midfielder for Ghana. Ghana lacked cutting edge throughout the tournament, so it's not surprising that noone manage to convert any of his passes.

Mesut Ozil, Lionel Messi and Diego Forlan all unsurprisingly created plenty of chances playing as the no.10 within their respective sides' formations.

Daniel Alves added a lot of forward thrust to Brazil's play when he came in for the injured Elano, and was the 2nd most frequent creator of chances, showing that good full backs can make good midfielders.

Kaka, Dirk Kuyt and Thomas Muller all managed to record 3 assists apiece without being particularly creative throughout, an unsuprising statistic when you consider that Brazil, Holland and Germany played a lot of counter-attacking football and all 3 players were able to pick out teammates in plenty of space.

Contrast to Xavi who played most of his football in congested opposition halves, where teammates had little space to pull the trigger once he'd played them through on goal. It's testament to his ability that he can still create goalscoring chances even when up against the metaphorical parked bus. See his assist to Gudjohnson in Barcelona's 1-0 victory over Liverpool in 2007 (7:58), or his assist to Pique in the 1-0 victory over Inter last season.

David Villa showed why he's one of the top 2 or 3 strikers in the world, displaying an ability to create for others as well as himself while playing in an unfamiliar role coming in from the left.

Robin van Persie had a poor tournament in front of goal, not helped at all by the fact that none of his attacking partners seemed willing to pass to him, but he did a good job holding the ball up and waiting for support to arrive, the best example probably being the semi-final tie against Uruguay. He was a real teamplayer throughout the tournament and tirelessly ran the channels to create space for onrushing teammates.

How old is Thomas Muller? With 5 goals and 3 assists, Muller displayed maturity far beyond his years. Not only was he the tournament's leading direct contributor to goals, he was also one of the most efficient and didn't waste many shooting or passing opportunities in the final 3rd. He was of course aided by playing in one of the best counterattacking teams of the World Cup, but his off-the-ball movement to get into dangerous positions was superb and he didn't show any signs of nerves once there. He has a great future ahead of him.

Sneijder was Holland's leading scorer and shooter at the World Cup despite being a midfielder on paper. He played a role that could be described as a 'false 10', constantly looking to get into the box and almost playing as a striker when his side wasn't in possession. It's an interesting trend and one that will probably become more prevalent over the coming years as managers think up new ways of outfoxing opposition defences.

The rest of the statistics are fairly straight-forward, with the penalty box strikers converting a higher percentage of their shots (Higuain proving that poachers do still have a place in the modern game), while the more expressive forwards were less clinical but scored from greater distances and contributed more in other areas of the pitch.

I hope you find the statistics as interesting as I did(!). Join me again in 4 years time for another World Cup statistical analysis.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Javier Saviola Goals + Assists 2009/2010

Javier Saviola's career has been somewhat of a disappointment to date, after joining Barcelona at the age of 19 from River Plate he immediately settled into the team, scoring goals in number and quality. However, a mixture of poor form and managerial changes meant he lost his place at the club and since then he's been something of a journeyman footballer.

Now he finally looks settled at Benfica, playing just behind Oscar Cardozo, running at defenders with pace, threading in passes for teammates and of course scoring great individual goals. He ended the season with 19 goals and 10 assists from 44 games, but he will probably be disappointed that he let his form drop in the 2nd half of the season.

At only 28 he still has a lot to offer, and his retirement from international football last year should allow him to save his best football for Benfica.

Song: Star Guitar (Shinichi Osawa Remix) by Chemical Brothers

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Zinedine Zidane - Real Madrid Passing Compilation

A very low quality compilation of some of Zidane's best passes and assists while at Real Madrid.

Song: Timefreeze by Aalborg Fantasy Soundtracks

Monday, 5 July 2010

Dennis Bergkamp Passes, Assists + Creative Plays - Part 1

Dennis Bergkamp is one of the finest technical players I've ever seen and probably my favourite player of all time. He was renowned as a scorer of great individual goals, but just as big an asset was his vision and creative intelligence.

In 423 appearances for the Gunners, he recorded 124 direct assists and created many more goals with his precise passing. Originally signed as a support striker, his game changed over the years and by the time he retired he was playing virtually as a midfielder, scoring very few goals but supplying others with the same deadly accuracy as he'd done throughout his career.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Angel di Maria Goals, Passes + Assists 2009/2010

One of my personal favourite players. I first saw him play for Argentina during the Olympic games in 2008 and he looked like he had the potential to become a world star. He scored the winning goal in the final against Nigeria with a superb chip and impressed throughout.

His form for Benfica this past season (10 goals, 18 assists) has been excellent and it's no surprise he's been a transfer target for many clubs, with Real Madrid confirming his signing a few days ago.

He loves to dribble at defenders and has a quick change of direction, lightning pace and an excellent variety of crossing. His technique is exquisite and this video shows several examples of well-executed rabonas, chips and outside-of-the-boot passes.

It'll be interesting to see where he fits in at Real next season, they've largely played a diamond 4-4-2 this season and di Maria could play as the left-central midfielder (where Marcelo has mostly played), providing attacking width and tucking in when the opposition has possession.

Again, apologies for the low quality of some of the clips.

Song: Watch the Sunrise by Axwell

Friday, 2 July 2010

Fabio Coentrao Goals + Assists 2009/2010

Fabio Coentrao has emerged as one of the brightest young left backs in Europe this season. Formerly a winger, he likes to get forward whenever possible, dribbling past opposition players, reaching the byline and swinging in pinpoint crosses. He has 3 goals and 9 assists to his name this season, an excellent output from a full back, and he was one of the stars of this summer's World Cup.

Sorry for the poor quality of the video, and the missing 3rd goal, but it was hard work finding footage of all of Benfica's goals this season.

Song: First Snow by Issi Noho