3 things we learned* from Sunday’s football

*[the word ‘learned’ is used in the loosest possible sense, as it is for all ‘things we learned’ articles]

1. Goalkeepers are either heroes or villains.

Willy Caballero came into the League Cup final a ready-made villain of the piece, a prepared and packaged reason for City failure. Even before the deciding penalty shoot-out he was making pundits say that he had deserved his place with the saves he had made.

Simon Mignolet was a villain after letting in Fernandinho’s goal, a strike from a tight angle that seemed to pass straight through him. By the end of the match, he was redeemed, after having made several fine saves.

Perhaps this is an illustration of the bizarre way in which we see these players. We only notice them when they make horrific blunders or highlight-reel saves, and because of the nature of their position and the infrequency of goals in football, their errors tend to be costly.

(Compare it to the American counterpart – association football games tend to have an average of three goals a game, the NFL has somewhere between 40-50 points per game on average, the equivalent of 6-7 touchdowns. An error leading directly to a goal in association football could be said to be, in this very simple way, twice as costly).

2. Marcus Rashford is the new wonderkid of Manchester United.

Probably. Maybe. He’s scored 4 goals in 2 senior games. HOWEVER, his two goals against Arsenal came from his only two shots in that game, which is unlikely to be repeatable. In a way, this is Martial all over again – lots of goals coming from not many shots. Martial has still picked up a few goals since his debut, but not at the rate that he started at, and even his fanboys have to admit there have been spells of games where he has been very quiet.

Martial’s shots per 90 minutes in the Premier league is currently at 1.9 which, well, isn’t a lot. Good forwards, even wide forwards like Alexis Sanchez, tend to have 3-5 shots per 90. Martial’s young, so may be towards the bottom of that anyway, and on a shot-shy team, but it fits with what is seen on the pitch – that at times he drifts to the wings with little movement and does not very much.

Rashford, as a comparison and for the almost nothing that his miniscule sample size is worth, has 4.5 shots per game (per 90 would be a little higher as he was subbed off against Arsenal). He’s a more central striker than Martial anyway though, so as time goes on higher shot numbers may be expected. United fans will probably hope that at least one of he, Martial, and Memphis will be able to live up to the wonderkid tag at any given time.

3. Always trust Spurs.

Title dark horses (who are now some bookies’ favourites for the title) Tottenham were 1-0 down a struggling Swansea at half-time while everyone else was watching the United-Arsenal game on Sky. Were they slipping? Were they crumbling under the pressure of a potential trophy, letting Leicester bound away at the top? Well…

They duly came back to win 2-1. At half-time they were outshooting Swansea 11-5, 5-2 in terms of shots on target. By the time Spurs scored their first, actually just a little before, it was 23-5 and 10-2.

The reason why stats types bang on about shot numbers and ratios for teams is probably best summed up by the below tweet:


That’s kind of to say that if you play a match where the shot numbers are 23-5, and 10-2 by the 70th minute 100 times, a very large number of those will result in the team with the better shot numbers winning. This means that, even if Swansea had held on in that match, if their shot numbers had been similar over the next six games of the season they probably wouldn’t pick up many points.

Wins against the tide of the shot numbers are still wins, but we shouldn’t be fooled by them. And in this case the tide was too strong and the shot numbers won out.



Goals per game numbers from here http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/european-big-four-leagues-goals-3513388

NFL points per game from here http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/NFL/scoring.htm#per_game and here http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/64441086/nfl-statistical-analysis-average-nfl-game

There will undoubtedly be better, more accurate sources for this kind of thing, bu these were my best/quickest google finds.


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