Talking tactics (MSN)

By Lee_Harvey_Ed 31/03/2013 00:04
Stats show Martin O'Neill managerial magic wasn't working on Wearside.
(AP Photo-Scott Heppell)
Martin O'Neill and Sunderland parted company following the Black Cats' 1-0 home defeat by Manchester United.

O'Neill leaves Sunderland just a point clear of the relegation zone with just seven games left to play.

Sadly for O'Neill, his managerial magic was not working at the Stadium of Light. Of his three stints as a Premier League manager, he has never been less effective.
Though O'Neill is famed for his ability to motivate players, the Black Cats' form since the start of 2013 suggests the former Celtic boss' methods were no longer working.

Since the turn of the year, Sunderland have won just two Premier League games and suffered six defeats.

Only Norwich and Reading have endured a worse run of form since the turn of the year.

Moreover, the Black Cats have found goals difficult to come by, finding the net just 12 times in 11 games.

That, combined with the loss of striker Stephen Fletcher to season-ending injury suggested that the Black Cats were not going to score their way out of relegation trouble.

O'Neill's tenure at the Stadium of Light has been the least successful of his three Premier League managerial stints.
OptaThe 61-year-old enjoyed higher win percentages at both Aston Villa and Leicester City. Those side also produced significantly more goals than O'Neill's Sunderland.

But was O'Neill's job on Wearside tougher than his previous Premier League stops?
OptaAs the table above illustrates, Sunderland have struggled to score goals under every manager they've had since 1995. The problems that have blighted O'Neill - lack of goals, fans grumbling about the quality of football - also dogged Roy Keane and Steve Bruce. 

Only Peter Reid has won a higher percentage of games as Sunderland boss than O'Neill.

With just seven games remaining, there is no time for the next Sunderland boss to bring in fresh faces or change the ethos of the club. The board will hope their choice will provide just enough impetus to keep the freefalling Blacks Cats in the Premier League.

More on this story


Stats expert Joel Ramey assesses Roberto Mancini's forward pairings

By Lee_Harvey_Ed 23/02/2013 12:21
(AP Photo-Jon Super)
Neither Manchester City nor Chelsea can afford to drop points in this fixture. Roberto Mancini's men could start the game 15 points behind league leaders Manchester United while for Chelsea, anything but three points gives Spurs the opportunity to leapfrog them into third.

Both teams possess players of great technical quality and the numbers indeed suggest that this will be an intriguing, attack-minded battle.

Both teams have 31% of their touches in the opposition's half, putting them behind only Everton in the league, who average just 1% more. This has lead to the creation of 336 chances for City so far this season, with Chelsea behind on 295.

Ultimately, though, it's the goals that count and here is where Chelsea have the edge, outscoring City 55-48 so far this season.

For City, it's the strikers who lead the way, with Edin Dzeko on 12 goals, Sergio Aguero on 9, and Carlos Tevez on 7. But Mancini usually starts just two out of the three.

The Argentine duo have often started together this season, reducing Dzeko to a super-sub role. However, his goals recently have helped him force his way into the line-up.

In truth, Dzeko deserves to start. It can be argued that a Tevez-Aguero combination boasts excellent movement, pace, and flair. Both players also contribute to the team's build-up play and score goals. But Dzeko, though not the quickest or the best dribbler, boasts one attribution the Argentine duo can't: height.

Dzeko has netted two headed goals this season. Tevez and Aguero have none between them. The Bosnian will prove a good target for crosses and will be key at set-pieces against Chelsea - both defensively and offensively.

Who should partner Dzeko? Tevez has proven more creative than Aguero this season - he leads City with seven assists (the third best assist total in the Premier League) while Aguero has just two.

The charts below show why Tevez, at least in this point in time, is better suited to playing just off Dzeko.
(Fourfourtwo Stats Zone)
Both players willingly drop deep and pull wide in order to get on the ball. Going forward, however, Tevez seems more keen to pick out final passes for team-mates in and around the box than Aguero.

Aguero likes to lay the ball off and sprint into space to collect the instant return pass. Tevez, meanwhile, is a bit more open-minded. He'll try to set up team-mates in addition to making runs and shooting at goal. 

Both players scored in their respective games playing just off the main striker, but because Tevez was more creative, he got an assist as well. He and Dzeko should combine well versus Chelsea and beyond.

As for the Blues, Rafa Benitez has a decision to make regarding Demba Ba and Fernando Torres. The Spaniard continues to misfire in front of goal, scoring just seven times this season. Benitez will hope Ba, who appears likely to start this game, can pick up the slack. Ba isn't as quick or as tricky as Torres, but his good link-up play will definitely help his team-mates.

This is something Torres is also in the process of developing and the pass he made for Ramires' goal in the 4-1 win against Wigan offers hope.
(Fourfourtwo Stats Zone)
In creating this goal for Ramires, Torres showed great awareness and composure to turn and play the right pass into space and was rewarded with an assist.

Both Chelsea strikers possess great movement, but Ba's strength and hold-up play are superior to Torres'.

Matija Nastasic and Joleon Lescott are strong defenders, but they'll have their hands full with Ba when the ball is on the ground. The City centre-backs have an advantage in the air. While Ba wins 46.2% of his headed duels (better than Torres' 43%), which pales in comparison to Nastasic's 65% and Lescott's 55% aerial duel win rate.

The good news for Ba, though, is that both teams prefer to keep the ball on the ground. 

Regardless of the strikers they ultimately select, both managers will hope their frontmen fire them to a priceless victory.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored and Squawka Sports

Joel Ramey is a freelance writer published by FourFourTwo, The Score’s Counter Attack blog, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @FlixandTrix

Vital statistics and historical trends as the Bantams face the Swans at Wembley

By Lee_Harvey_Ed 23/02/2013 11:12
(Andrew Matthews-EMPICS Sport)
Bradford City are only the second team from the fourth tier to reach the League Cup final; the other was Rochdale, who lost 0-3 to Norwich City in 1962. 

The last team from outside the top-flight to win the League Cup were Sheffield Wednesday, who beat Manchester United in 1991. Since then, five other teams have made the showpiece, including Cardiff City last season, but all have been defeated.

Only three of the 12 teams from outside the top division to face a top-flight side in the League Cup final have won the competition (QPR 1967, Swindon Town 1969, Sheffield Wednesday 1991).

The Bantams are looking to become only the second team from outside the top flight (Sheffield Wednesday 1991) to eliminate four top tier sides from the same League Cup competition.

This will be Bradford’s first appearance in a major domestic final since 1911, when they beat Newcastle United 1-0 in a replay to lift their only FA Cup. Swansea, meanwhile, have never before made the final of a major domestic cup.

Three of the last four clashes between the Swans and the Bantams (all played in League One between 2005-06 and 2006-07) have ended level, with the Welsh side winning the other 1-0.

There's nothing to separate the teams in terms of their overall record against each other. In 54 previous meetings (all in the league), they have won 20 apiece and drawn 14.

Swansea have only won two of their last eight games in all competitions (D3 L3) and have failed to score in six of those games. Michael Laudrup’s side have not scored a goal away from the Liberty Stadium since a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the Capital One Cup semi-final back in early January.

The Welsh side have scored a goal inside the final 10 minutes of five of their six Capital One Cup games this season; the exception being a 0-0 second-leg draw at home to Chelsea in the semi-final.

Bradford have only won two of their last 11 games in all competitions, drawing two and losing seven.

Phil Parkinson’s side have won their last nine successive penalty shootouts, a record for any English club, including two already in this Capital One Cup competition (v Wigan and Arsenal).

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup has previously won silverware as a manager. He won the Danish Cup while in charge of Brondby (2002-03, 2004-05). Laudrup also reached the Copa Del Rey final with Getafe in 2007-08 before losing to Valencia.

More on the Capital One Cup final

By Lee_Harvey_Ed 19/02/2013 11:59

How does Arsenal's Champions League form compare with that of Bayern Munich? How do the two clubs fare when they face each other?

Getty Images

Arsenal and Bayern Munich have met four times before in the Champions League, with the Bavarians winning twice, Arsenal once and the other being a draw. Their last encounter came in the 2004/05 Champions League last 16 when Bayern won 3-2 on aggregate.


Arsenal have won six of their last seven home Champions League games against German opposition, the only defeat coming against Schalke in this season’s group stages. The Gunners have only lost two of their 17 knockout games at home in the Champions League (v Chelsea in April 2004 & v Manchester United in May 2009).


Bayern Munich have lost on each of their last four trips to England in the Champions League. The Bavarians’ last win in England dates back to April 2001 at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-finals.


Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has kept 16 cleans sheets in 22 Bundesliga games this season. However, Bayern have conceded seven goals in their six Group E matches.


Bayern have scored in each of their last 12 Champions League games. The last team to stop them from hitting the back of the net was Basel in February 2012.


The Bavarians conceded the fewest shots on target (17) and had more shots on target from outside the box than any other team in the group stages (17). They also had the highest number of goal-scorers in this season’s group stages (nine). Mario Gomez has scored 25 goals in 26 Champions League starts.

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the knockout stages, Arsenal had the fewest shots in this season’s group stages (47). However, the Gunners were the most efficient attackers, scoring a goal every 4.7 shots. Lukas Podolski has scored three goals from three shots on target in the Champions League this season.


Olivier Giroud has delivered four assists in the group stages of the Champions League this season, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has more (five).


For more football news and stats follow msnsportlee on Twitter


On Bing: more Champions League news


By Lee_Harvey_Ed 13/02/2013 12:14

How does Manchester United's Champions League form compare with that of Real Madrid? How do the two European giants fare when they face each other?

(AP Photo-Jon Super)

The eight European Cup/Champions League encounters between Real Madrid and Manchester United have produced 31 goals (3.9 per game). Their last encounter was 10 years ago, in April 2003. Real Madrid won 6-5 on aggregate in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Manchester United have never won away against Real Madrid (two defeats, two draws). The Red Devils have conceded exactly three goals in three of their four trips to the Santiago Bernabeu. Sir Alex Ferguson's team has won only two of their 13 away Champions League games in Spain (seven draws, four defeats).


Real Madrid have only failed to score once in their last 31 Champions League games, the semi-final against Barcelona at the Bernabeu in April 2011. Since that match, Madrid have scored 33 goals in nine Champions League games at the Bernabeu.


Real Madrid have failed to keep a clean sheet in this season’s competition. They have conceded nine goals in the Champions League this season, the most among the 16 teams qualified for the knockout stages.


Manchester United have conceded the opening goal in each of their last five Champions League games. The Red Devils have seen their woodwork rattled five times, the most in the group stages this season.


Real Madrid had the joint-most shots (including blocked attempts) in the group stages this season, alongside Juventus (126). They’ve scored the most goals from outside the box (six).

Cristiano Ronaldo was the joint-top scorer in the group stages alongside Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz (six goals). Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez have scored six of Manchester United’s nine goals in the Champions League this season (three each). All three of van Persie’s goals have come away from home.


Sir Alex Ferguson has only won two of his 14 competitive encounters with Jose Mourinho (two wins, six draws, six defeats).

In-depth head-to-head stats: Sir Alex v Jose


For more football news and stats follow msnsportlee on Twitter


By Rob Neil Jones 07/02/2013 15:02

After the announcement that Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher will be hanging up his boots at the end of the season, MSN Sport takes a look at his Premier League statistics to see how he compares...

Jamie Carragher at one club - Opta

Jamie Carragher Premier League appearances - Opta

Jamie Carragher season-by-season statistics - Opta


By Rob Neil Jones 06/02/2013 13:40

On the day that Ashley Cole makes his 100th appearance for England, MSN Sport compares him to the other England left-backs since 1998...

Ashley Cole v England left-backs, Graeme Le Saux, Phil Neville, and Leighton Baines - Opta

Ashley Cole compared to other England left-backs - Chris Powell, Kieran Gibbs and Stephen Warnock - Opta


With the knowledge of @OptaJoe we preview this samba-filled friendly

By Rob Neil Jones 06/02/2013 11:07

Rivaldo scores against England as Rio Ferdinand turns his back in the 2002 World Cup - PA

  • England have won just three of their 23 previous internationals against Brazil, drawing nine and losing 11.
  • England’s 13% win percentage over Brazil is their worst against any nation they have faced more than twice in international matches.
  • The Three Lions are without a win in eight against Brazil (D4, L4), with Bobby Robson the last England manager to oversee a victory against them back in March 1990 (1-0, Gary Lineker with the goal).
  • This run of eight without a win against Brazil is also England’s longest current run without a victory against any side.
  • Brazil have only won two of their 10 games against England at Wembley, however, though six of these games have ended level (two England wins).
  • England have only lost two of their last 22 internationals in all competitions (W13, D7) and have only been defeated once in 12 under Roy Hodgson (W7, D4, including one defeat after penalties).
  • England have scored at least one goal in all but one of their 31 internationals at the new Wembley, with Montenegro the only side to prevent them from scoring back in October 2010.
  • Brazil were the last team to prevent England from scoring in a friendly match, beating them 1-0 in Doha in November 2009.
  • Danny Welbeck, who finished last year as England’s top scorer, scored with all five of his shots on target for Roy Hodgson’s side in the year 2012.
  • Brazil have won 15 and lost just two of their last 18 internationals (all friendlies), with both defeats coming in the space of a week back in June 2012 against Mexico and Argentina.
  • Neymar has scored eight goals in his last six appearances for Brazil.
  • Rob JonesRob Jones

    A fan of all things competitive, Rob plays, watches and shouts on the terraces of most sports.

  • Lee HarveyLee Harvey

    Whether it's football, cricket, cycling, NFL, NBA or major league baseball, Lee will be there and won't be short of an opinion.

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