Robben is a Monster

Ted Knutson for Stats Bomb:

The short analysis of these players would read: Even at age 30, Arjen Robben is a monster. Shot monster, dribble monster, and excellent key pass numbers as well. He’s basically unplayable, especially with Ribery, more creative but a slightly lesser scorer, on the other side.

Love the stat radars that Stats Bomb produces. They give a better visual view of a player than going over a whole table of stats. As show in this piece it also provides a fantastic way of comparing two players.

Atlético Madrid 2-0 Elche

Rik Sharma for Mail Online:

If they win their next three league matches they will be crowned La Liga champions before the visit to Barcelona on the final day.

How amazing would it be for the neutrals if Liverpool and Atlético Madrid won the league titles this season. Would give every team toiling away in the third to seventh spot hope of battling for the title next year.

The Sliding Scale of Diving

Richard Whittall, for Counter Attack, on Gary Neville’s opinion that Matt Jarvis should have gone down when challenged in the box against Arsenal:

There is another way to see simulation, however: the inevitable result of football simply being the sport that it is. Diving, rather than a moral choice, is a heuristic response to the circumstances of any given football match. You can try to resist it, but there will always be a tendency to go to ground with goals as valuable as they are. Diving for pens is just the extreme end of a spectrum of deceit which also includes moving the ball in free kicks and falsely claiming throw-ins.

Whittall with another fine take on a complicated issue. He’s one of the best football writers today, able to put complex matters in a clear perspective.

Gary Neville on Diving

Gary Neville on Sky Sports:

He should have gone down. Well done, your team haven’t won a game.

You can either be an angel and do what Matt Jarvis did and get a pat on the back off his Nan when he goes home tonight, or he can win his team a penalty.

The referee won’t give it if you don’t go down. Sam [Allardyce] said it, if you don’t go down you don’t get a penalty. It’s a foul.

I suppose in some ways people can say ‘It’s disappointing to hear you say that Gary’ – well then, be disappointed because ultimately that’s the game.

That’s the truth and we all know it. Whoever claims that managers and players would rather be “clean” than win a game is living in a fantasy world.

Introducing The Pena.lt/y Web App

Martin Eastwood at Pena.lt/y:

The pena.lt/y web app is essentially a website connected to a computer programme running in the cloud that monitors upcoming football fixtures and models their expected outcomes and probabilities. As well as individual fixtures the pena.lt/y web app also models full seasons so you can see how likely teams are to win the league, reach Europe or get relegated etc. Plus you can see their Pythagorean Predictions too.

It’s raw, but promising.

Luis Suárez’s Financial Worth

Jimmy Coverdale for B Sports’s Stats Insight:

Over the summer, when it appeared that Luis Suarez could depart the club, I argued that the striker’s ability to both score and create made Suarez a more valuable player than Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani – with any potential transfer fee being closer to what Real Madrid paid for Gareth Bale than the £55 million paid for Cavani (not to mention the £40,000,001 that was reportedly offered by Arsenal), given that the market was set set by the Falcao/Cavani transfers. Certainly, just looking at Suarez’s assists would be flawed – after all he’s been fortunate that he’s had teammates on hand to convert these chances. However, he has created 20 big chances (0.69 per 90 minutes), eight more than any other Premier League player (again with a teammate in second, just this time Philippe Coutinho), and he ranks eighth in the division with 2.70 shot assists per 90 minutes (among players with a minimum of 1,000 minutes played). The benefit of this dual goal and creative threat has been exemplified by Suarez this season – as when the player fails to find the net he’s still a threat to the opposition’s goal.

Liverpool should only sell for a ridiculous amount, or not at all. If the win the title and can keep Suárez they only need to add depth for next season. Sell Suárez, and the need to review their forward setup. The big question is whether an oil club or Real Madrid offer some crazy amount of money in the summer.

Who Will Be Champions?

Mark Taylor, at The Power of Goals, calculates the likelihood of Liverpool, Man City, and Chelsea become champions and comes to a simple conclusion:

The title is now Liverpool’s to lose.

Bale’s Fantastic Winner in the Copa del Rey

Eric Beard from A Football Report on Bale’s goal against Barcelona:

He was shoved out. He could have dived. He could have taken the foul and slowed the game down. Instead, he stayed on his feet, knowing more than anyone that nothing could stop him. Gareth Bale stepped up, and now there are no doubts. Madrid will remember this one legendary run for years to come.

The post also has a gif video of the goal.

Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey last night with a tight win over a Barcelona side that has now lost three in a row in all competitions. Real Madrid went 4-4-2 instead of their normal 4-3-3 and Michael Cox attributes this to Carlo Ancelotti learning from Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid approach:

What was most striking about Real’s system, though, was how closely it resembled the shape Atletico successfully deployed against Barcelona. They played in two deep banks of four, and depended upon the wide players to burst forward to support the attackers. Isco, primarily seen as a playmaker, showed all the defensive aggression of Atletico’s two wide players, making nine tackles (three more than anyone else) despite being on a booking from the third minute. In all likelihood, Ancelotti did his homework, saw the Atletico approach, and replicated it as closely as possible.

Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

Lightning struck twice. Wickham is hardly the most prolific of finishers. Suddenly he doubled his tally in 10 minutes. Released by Giaccherini, Wickham raced through and thumped the ball between Hart and the keeper’s post. It was an emphatic finish but City’s defenders and their keeper will not enjoy seeing the DVD of this.

Say what you want about José Mourinho, but this is exactly the type of thing he seldom lets happen. Can you imagine Chelsea coming from 1-0 up to 1-2 down in 10 minutes against Sunderland. The problem with high-flying attacking football is that when the team isn’t in the mood, or struggling with injuries as happened here, City becomes vulnerable. The same did not apply to Barcelona in their pomp, who overcame this with pure possession. If the other team doesn’t get the ball, they can’t score.