Football Aging Curve

Jörg Seidel for Goalimpact:

Abstract: We found a strong Relative Age Effect in youth football. Yet many of the players that benefited from their relative age seem to fail to move to senior football because they lack their advantage among grown-ups. Football club could increase the efficiency of their youth programs substantially, by selecting player according to their talent rather than relative age. The minimum Goalimpact a player needs to achieve to have a realistic chance to become professional football player is 80. Yet older players often stay in business slightly below that age to.

Fascinating analysis, if somewhat obscure for most.

Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal

James McNicholas for Bleacher Report:

What’s perhaps even more concerning is the way Arsenal struggled to create anything in attack. There’s no flow or zip to Arsenal’s play at present. Wenger’s team have all but lost their identity as great entertainers. Against Anderlecht, the out-of-sorts Aaron Ramsey was seen resorting to long balls into empty spaces. If Alexis Sanchez was a little guilty of trying to do it all on his own, you can hardly blame him.

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

Hurricane Golazo blew into Anfield last night, Real Madrid sweeping aside Liverpool with a stunning display of attacking football. Cristiano Ronaldo struck a beautiful first, Karim Benzema added two more before the break, leaving Liverpool praying for another Istanbul against a Carlo Ancelotti team.

The miracle never came and, by the end, the Kop was applauding the magical men from Spain. Real were a class apart, almost a world apart at times.

Roma 1-7 Bayern Munich

Scott Saunders for FTB Pro:

The German champions cruised out of the Stadio Olimpico with a 7-1 win – after they hit five goals before the break – leaving the home team completely shell-shocked by the 36th minute.

Bayern have maintained their perfect record in the group and sit on nine points after three games. They will qualify from the group if they can win again in the reverse fixture which follows Tuesday’s clash.

Remarkable result.

CSKA 2-2 Manchester City

Nayir Chowdhury for Bitter & Blue:

The lead was doubled 9 minutes later when a pass over the top of the defense from Yaya Toure found Pablo Zabaleta, who headed back to Aguero. One well hit ball across the keeper found James Milner sliding in at the back post to make it 0-2 City. From there, City closed out the rest of the first half relatively comfortably as CSKA didn’t find any way to create a good chance in the remaining minutes. 0-2 City at the half.

The second half was another story, as City looked sluggish and complacent as the game progressed. Ambitious attempts from outside the 18 turned into better chances inside the box, and CSKA found their way back into the game. A through ball into the box behind a napping Mangala found Ahmed Musa, who slid a pass across to Doumbia to tap in to make it 1-2.

Barcelona 3-1 Ajax

Peter Mcvitie for Benefoot:

Ajax were completely outclassed in every way. The midfield was so easily cut through by the Spanish giants that it occasionally looked like it was in aide of Barca, rather than looking to hindering them. For the home side’s second goal of the game, Niki Zimling simply passed the ball to the nearest player in blue and red and stood still in resignation and despair. However, in that time, it had been moved on to Iniesta, who Zimling should have been marking, and the World Cup winner was able to take it on, pick out a pass to Messi, who Viergever had neglected, and the Argentine fired it in. From the first minute, they easily carved them open in the middle of the park.

What We Learned – Gameweek 8

Stoosher for All Things FPL:

It’s all there – pace, power, touch, and the finishing ability of a master artist touching up a sublime landscape. Nobody can touch Sergio Aguero for pure ability inside the box and he struck for four against an overrun Tottenham team whose previously imperturbable captain Younes Kaboul had the look of a deer in headlights. Ag was, as they say, unplayable.

Disclosure: I write for the site.

“It Was Our Way: Energy and Determination in the Last Third of the Pitch”

Gary Reilly for Balls:

One of the main accusations aimed at Ferguson’s is that he timed his departure to coincide with the natural decline of an ageing squad thus leaving Moyes with a near impossible task. However, Ferguson has said in his book that such ideas are ‘nonsense’. Instead, he has pointed to Moyes’ failure to adapt to the Man Utd way of playing, saying that the slow down in play was at odds with how the team were accustomed to playing.

John Terry’s 500th Time as Chelsea Captain

Tom Sheen for The Independent:

But Terry may well be the least popular player in the division’s 20-year history; only Roy Keane rivals the ‘captain, leader, legend’. But if one was to remove all bias, then perhaps Terry, who was arguably the best defender in the Premier League last season and is still captain of the Premier League’s only unbeaten team, deserves to get close to the top.

He’s a controversial figure, but an outstanding footballer.

The Positioning of United’s Full-Backs

Alan Smith for The Guardian:

Luke Shaw may forever be judged by his hyper-inflated price tag but he will have done himself no favours with a performance which, at times, bordered on awful. Not only was he sold softly by Graham Dorrans on the halfway line for Sessègnon’s goal, he was also continuously caught out of position, allowing both Albion players in behind too often. Ángel di María, for all his attacking ability, will never provide much protection but Shaw often got the basics wrong. His wayward crossing posed further questions.

Fair enough, but Van Gaal has certainly instructed both Shaw and Rafael to push forward. The question then is whether Blind is supposed to cover for both or whether United need another midfielder covering also, especially with United’s defence so shaky.

WBA 2-2 Manchester United

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

United’s rearguard needs strengthening, drilling, arguably overhauling. One of United’s most distinguished ever defenders, Gary Neville, was close to meltdown in the Sky studio. Van Gaal insisted afterwards that he would not temper his attacking inclinations to introduce more solidity.

United were the much better team in the second half, barring the defensive lapses. I think Winter is being a bit harsh, but it’s hard to see Chelsea and City not ripping them to shreds if the give Agüero and Costa chances.

Sandro’s Importance for QPR

Keith Satuku for Off the Post:

Harry Redknapp could not believe how his side finished this game with nothing. Rangers disguised their lack of pace up front by committing enough bodies in attack, they disrupted Liverpool through high pressing, plus Sandro and Karl Henry dominated the central midfield.

In a season in which the Loftus Road club have struggled for both results and performances, they need to concentrate on the positive performance they gave in this encounter because if they repeat it then better results will definitely follow.

Sandro going off was a massive loss for QPR. If he would have finished the game, Liverpool would not have scored those late goals.

QPR 2-3 Liverpool

Rebecca Parry for Metro:

Play is slow, not tying together, and it’s only rare impressive moments that have been letting us off the hook recently. We, as Liverpool supporters, are the first to say that fourth is not what our performances represent.

The game was absolute madness, with the last 10 minutes making the supporters swing from euphoria to bitter sadness back and forth. QPR deserved at least a point from the match but Liverpool got lucky. Only Sterling was impressive from Liverpool’s starters and Coutinho was dangerous off the bench.

Southampton 8-0 Sunderland

Nick Szcepanik for The Independent:

Graziano Pelle, scoring his fifth and sixth goals in six games, and man-of-the match Dusan Tadic, with a goal and four assists, emphasised again that Saints fans never needed to worry about the departures to Liverpool of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana.

Tadić had four assists and a goal. Four assists.

“Sergio Aguero Is the Finest Player in the Premier League”

Sarah Winterburn for Football 365:

On Saturday against Tottenham, Aguero was irresistible. Manchester City won 4-1 largely because they have one of the greatest strikers in world football while Spurs have Roberto Soldado. The City fans streaming out of the Etihad Stadium loved Aguero even more on Saturday afternoon than they did on Saturday morning. But do the rest of us love him enough?

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham

Mark Ogden for the Telegraph:

Instead Agüero conducted a virtuoso performance. He scored four – he could have had five at least, having missed one of his three penalties and been thwarted by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris on several other occasions – and he tore apart a Spurs back-line that seemed feeble and fearful of him. Agüero also forced a red card when Federico Fazio tugged the relentless striker back as he attempted to reach an anticipated low cross from Jesus Navas.

“15 Goals from Just Eight Matches”

Gianni Verschueren for Bleacher Report:

Ronaldo’s scoring proficiency in 2014-15 defies all logic. At the time of writing, the 29-year-old was outscoring 17 of 20 La Liga clubs on his own, via That’s not just impressive—it’s absurd.

Next Gameweek’s El Clásico is mouth-watering.

Arsenal’s Lack of Character

Daniel Taylor for The Guardian:

Arsenal have lost 75 league games since the Invincibles era and almost a third of them, 22, have been to United or Chelsea. They particularly tend to crumple when the opposition is from Stamford Bridge and that was an intriguing line from Keane the other day about the modern dressing-room culture of teams posting celebratory selfies on Twitter, sometimes from fairly routine wins, and what it said to him about a “lack of characters and good lads”.

Perhaps Wenger was lucky in inheriting the characters that perfectly complemented his style of play, similar to what I suspect happened at Everton last year. Martinez’s passing game working in tandem with what was left of Moyes’s defensive philosophy.

But that may be giving Wenger too little credit. My guess would be that Wenger was ahead of his time in both a tactical, but more importantly a preparational sense; he was renowned for reinventing Arsenal’s culture, from diet to physical training.

Guardiola on Tiki-Taka

Stephen Fottrell, quoting Pep Guardiola for BBC Sport:

“I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka. It’s so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal. It’s not about passing for the sake of it.

“Don’t believe what people say. Barca didn’t do tiki-taka! It’s completely made up! Don’t believe a word of it! In all team sports, the secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent must tilt its own defence to cope.

“You overload on one side and draw them in so that they leave the other side weak. And when we’ve done all that, we attack and score from the other side.

“That’s why you have to pass the ball, but only if you’re doing it with a clear intention. It’s only to overload the opponent, to draw them in and then to hit them with the sucker punch. That’s what our game needs to be. Nothing to do with tiki-taka.”

Neville Interview Mourinho

Gary Neville for The Telegraph, conducting a fantastic interview with José Mourinho:

“I prefer my team to press in a low block, but if the opponent prefers to build from the back, and they are fantastic, it gives them huge stability in their game – I’m going to press there. Liverpool wanted to play with Suarez behind the defenders, Sterling the same thing, and Steven Gerrard in front of the defenders. So I go there, I play Lampard on Stevie G, I play my block completely low. I win. And I’m criticised because I [am not allowed to] play that way. So I am the stupid one. I’m not fundamentalist. And I think some people in football are becoming a bit fundamentalist.”

Game States

Mark Taylor writing at The Power of Goals:

Game state is being increasingly used in football analytics and inevitably the phrase may have different interpretations across different sites. In this blog I have described game state principally as the interaction between the team quality of each side taking part in the match, the current scoreline, the time remaining and any dismissals that may have transpired due to red cards. As a consequence, accurately calculating the game state over even a single match, requires constant re-calculation. Some of the inputs may remain relatively constant, but time elapsed is always moving forwards towards full time.

Interesting, but perhaps for the more analytically minded.

So Berbatov

An oldie, but goodie; the most Berbatov-esque Dimitar Berbatov goal ever.

Walcott’s Importance to Arsenal

Matt Stanger for Football 365:

Walcott’s direct style should still be a huge benefit to Arsenal in the meantime. The 25-year-old scored five goals and claimed four assists in only 13 Premier League appearances last season, underlining his value to Arsene Wenger’s side. With Walcott set to return to full training following the international break, Wenger will hope that it won’t be long until he’s fully fit to fire Arsenal through a packed schedule of 13 matches in November and December.

He’s arguably been Arsenal’s most important player in the last couple of seasons due to being the only one with real pace. Now Arsenal have Sanchez, Welbeck, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has one more year of experience. With Walcott back Wenger could experiment with a counter-attacking setup chock-full of pace, better suited to playing against the top teams.

Serbia v Albania Match Abandoned Due to Brawl

Kevin Brown for Soccer Gods:

In events that unfortunately came as little surprise to anyone – traveling fans were not permitted to buy tickets, on UEFA’s recommendation – a brawl erupted at today’s European qualifier between Serbia and visiting Albania. The two nations have long-standing disputes, due in particular to conflict over the Kosovo region that separates them. The game was abandoned after a drone carrying a flag from Albania flew over the match. The drone hovered closely enough that Serbian defender Stefen Mitrovic was able to grab the flag and pull it down. He was immediately tackled by Albanian players, which lead to a brawl and the eventual end of the game.

Terrible scenes.

Van Persie Should Not Be a Guaranteed Starter for United

Colin Trainor for Stats Bomb:

Given the attacking firepower that currently resides inside Old Trafford I don’t think, in his current form, that van Persie is deserving of a start in United’s line up. With Mata, Falcao, Rooney, Di Maria, and Herrera real possibilities for the five available attacking spots (and that’s even before we consider Januzaj or Valencia), Robin van Persie should no longer expect to be one of first names on the Man United team sheet.

Worrying numbers for United fans but with all the firepower available this isn’t their biggest problem.

Arsenal’s Baffling Transfer Strategy

Mike L. Goodman for Grantland:

Wenger, in his infinite wisdom, went into the season with only six defenders, counting on 19-year-old Calum Chambers as the only backup, both in central defense and behind new right back Mathieu Debuchy. Now Debuchy is out three months following ankle surgery, and — shock of shocks — Chambers is overmatched, has already picked up five yellow cards, and will serve a one-game suspension. Meanwhile, the defensive midfield role is still being manned by the chronically injured and chronically immobile Mikel Arteta, along with Mathieu Flamini, who remains not very good. That (and a Ramsey injury) is how you end up with Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in support of Flamini in a game against Chelsea.

They just must have failed to get their targets, their backups, and the backups to the backups. I refuse to believe that Wenger considered this defensive depth good enough.