How the Global and Financial Success of the Premier League Will Continue to Hinder the English National Team
Blog Written by Yianni Garris (@Garinho14):
The Barclay's Premier League kicked off last week and it instantly showed why it is the best league in the world. The league may not have the best players as evident by this year's Team of The Year selection; however, it is the unpredictability of the league that the other top leagues in Europe simply do not have. Everyone has their own predictions on who will lift this year's trophy, but if Leicester City's triumph proved anything last season, it is that nothing in the league is guaranteed, such as leagues like France, Italy, and Germany where the big question is who will come second? The league is an attraction for players all over Europe, especially with the wages able to be provided by the clubs and it can become responsible for helping the players entering this league turn into global superstars without needing to only sign for the best teams. However, the one group that has suffered, and their display in this summer's Euro were clear evidence is the English national team itself.
No one can provide an efficient argument to the claim that the English national team's time in France was nothing short of a failure. Coming second in what was considered an easy group, as well crashing out to Iceland was almost comical to the neutral viewer. One of the main problems for the English national team is that the squad is competing in a league in which the English players cannot thrive. When looking at every position, can an Englishman be considered the best player in that position when looking at the Premier League? The only case that can truly be argued is the striker position in players Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, however, it can also be argued that if Sergio Aguero were able to be fit for an entire season he would be able to win the golden boot every season without any competition. That lack of dominance carries over into the national team and seeing the final Euro squad shows that there should be no surprise to England’s inability to compete at the very top. Out of the final 23-man squad, less than half of the players came from a team that finished in the top four of the Premier League. Only two players came from the top two placed teams in the league, one of those being controversially Jack Wilshere who only made a couple of appearances after being out almost the entire season with a broken leg. The core of the national team came from Tottenham Hotspur, who although had players like Dele Alli and Harry Kane, who had excellent seasons, their absolute capitulation during the latter months in the Premier League it was clear it carried over to their national team form. If your best players are not playing for the best team in their league your national team should not expect to have an abundance of success.
An easy question that can arise from this is how this can happen? How can a country where all of its players, minus the third choice goalkeeper, play in the best league in the world and not be able to provide a team that can dominate tournaments? There are obviously a lot of different factors. It could be the media overhyping what can be considered a slightly above average team, or possibly the change of tactics right before the tournament, also Roy Hodgson not necessarily being a genius at his trade. However, one of the factors I find to be the greatest to the English National team’s downfall is the inability for the English players to be able to truly develop. Something that all of the money in the Premier League has stopped, is the “not as rich” clubs relying on the English players they have at their disposal. If the current pickings are not up to par teams, no matter the size, can easily bring in outside talent. As well as the difficulty to bring in these outside players, it becomes easier every year with the increased wages being able to encourage the player’s signature. With all of the money coming into the league, teams cannot risk the possibility of going down to the second tier. What that means is not risking the English player you have when you can go out and purchase another player to come in and almost guarantee getting the job done. When looking at a newly promoted team like Middleborough signs a player like Alvaro Negredo, or a team like Everton being able to shell out up to 30 million pounds for a player like Yannick Bolasie just show how deep a mid-table team’s pocket is, as well as the pulling power a newly promoted team has. The lower and mid-table teams are no longer places for a younger English player to develop under and work his way into getting a move to a better team.
The implementing of the “English Premium” does not help a player either. After his very expensive move for 49 million pounds, Raheem Sterling completely under performed for Manchester City and John Stones has recently completed a 47 million pound move to the club as well this summer. These are still two very young players with great potential and have time to fill that potential, but the question also has to be asked would they cost that amount of money if they were not English? Most likely not and it is that premium on English players that also causes managers to purchase foreign talent because they are able to find someone who can do the same job if not better for even cheaper and it is less of a gamble financially if that player does not live up to expectations. It is tough for clubs to be able to fix these problems that I have mentioned above because all of the things that I have mentioned are some of the reasons people love the Premier League. They love the huge transfer fees, the small clubs competing with the big clubs and all of the players from all over the globe coming in to compete. It seems as though the Premier League has noticed this and I like the idea of the newly implemented Premier League 2 and it appears that this will help with the development of the younger players. However, the only way to find out if there will actually be progress for the English national team is come Russia in 2018. But, if things continue the way they are in the Premier League English fans should not hold their breath for success in major tournaments.
Blog Written by Cam Earley (@CamEarley97):
Last Saturday, Southampton kicked off their Premier League season, with a 1-1 draw against Watford, a game they will feel they should have won. Yet again, a variety of new faces filled the gaps left by the star players of the previous season, who have moved on to “bigger and brighter things,” or so it would seem. Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pellé have all left this summer, allowing to Southampton to deepen their pockets again. The South-Coast club have raked in around £50 million for these 3 players, leaving them with a lot of money, but a lot less quality in their ranks. Many fans are happy with the money, stating that the club can now buy new, exciting players. But wouldn’t it be better to keep the settled, well-performing players that you already have?
The Saints answered that question with a resounding no in the ’14-15 and ’15-16 seasons, as they continuously shocked the nation by improving, game after game, season after season, earning them a club record 6th place finish last season. An astonishing achievement considering they sold some of the most influential and important players to play for the club in the last decade, in Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Morgan Schneiderlin. Surely, however, they cannot do it again. Now with the extra game time of the Europa League, Southampton have never been blessed with squad depth, and many are tipping them to struggle. In 2014, however, some of the UK’s “top” pundits said they would be relegated. They finished 7th. So it really is an incredibly difficult task when trying to predict how a Southampton season will unfold.
It is way too early to tell where they will finish this season, but Southampton’s performance against Watford overall was disappointing. Although Watford set out to defend and did so very well, Southampton struggled to break them down. Although both Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic dazzled at times, it was evident they were missing something further forward. They certainly missed the aerial threat of Pellé when floating crosses into the box, and Mane’s ability to accelerate past defences and create something out of nothing. The performance of Redmond was particularly promising, rifling home a volley in the second half, following his £12 million move from relegated Norwich. Another bright spark was the second half arrival of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who showed a few nice touches, showing his ability to unlock the defence with a raking pass or a driving run. So it would seem Southampton’s head of recruitment has done it again? Saints fans will be joking that they’ll both be off to Liverpool next summer…
It would also seem that his job is far from over this summer, as Southampton legend and Euro 2016 winner Jose Fonte is reportedly looking for a Champions League club, with Manchester United and Arsenal being linked. Being a Southampton fan, I have mixed emotions about these rumours. He has proved there is still some loyalty on the South-Coast, and his sheer presence on and off the pitch has been so important in recent seasons. However, he is 32 years old and plays like it. He lacks in pace and technical ability, and has been bailed out many times over the last two seasons by the fantastic Virgil Van Dijk, before him Toby Alderweireld. If Southampton can replace with him a younger but talented defender, his leaving may not be as dreadful as it may seem.
New Southampton manager Claude Puel is worth a mention. His heart-warming season with Nice obviously captured the eye of Les Reed, and he decided to appoint him. It is well known that Puel trusts youth, with the likes of Alassane Plea, Vincent Koziello and Olivier Boscagli capturing my eye for Les Aiglons last season. The Southampton conveyer belt is obviously rather well known, but there isn’t much homegrown talent coming through at the moment. This means Puel may have to look past the academy this season, and dip into the market some more for a talent. There aren’t too many young central defenders with a lot of experience out there at the moment, but a player like Jason Denayer would be a good signing for the Saints, who doesn’t seem to be able to break into the City team, but has impressed out on loan.
It will be interesting to see what Southampton will do going into the last half of August, and will be exciting to see how they fare in the League and Cup. With some exciting new additions already in the squad, potentially more on the way, there could be another exciting season for the red and whites, but perhaps not record-breaking.
Blog Written by Nicholas Dobbin (@MUFC_1958):
It’s that time of year again where we all make our predictions on the new Premier League season, the same predictions that we all invariably try and distance ourselves from come May. The time of year where the eager sense of anticipation starts to take over your body so much that you cannot think of anything else. All the footballing eyes have been on Manchester this summer with the arrivals of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. Manchester United have been making all the waves this summer with the stellar signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba in addition to Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan under the tutorage of the reinvigorated Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has made younger additions a priority to his aging Manchester City side. Pep has already recruited eight players this summer with only two of them players over the age of twenty-five. But who will come out on top when the curtain comes down on the 2016/17 campaign?
Josep Guardiola was a combative centre midfield player at the heart of Johan Cruyff’s “dream team” and no man has had a bigger influence on his career than the Dutch legend. His football teams are built in the same mould as Cruyff’s Barcelona team that won their first European Cup in 1992 and four successive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994. Guardiola started his coaching career off as the Barca B coach before moving up to take over from Frank Rijkaard in 2008, and he never looked back. Shipping out big names like Ronaldinho, Deco and later Samuel Eto’o to make room for the younger talents of Lionel Messi and Andreas Iniesta, turning an already good side into arguably the greatest team of all time. He then moved to Bayern Munich for a new challenge and had similar success although the Champions League eluded him in Germany. The criticism Pep has had throughout his career, somewhat unfairly maybe, is that he has taken charge of two sides in Barcelona and Bayern that were already considered among the very best teams in Europe at the time. Many still saying that Pep needed to take on a team who were not considered as one of the top 3 or 4 in Europe and develop them into being the best, something that his counterpart Mourinho has done with Porto and Inter Milan. Therefore, Manchester City represents the first real test of Guardiola’s career to turn an aging under-performing side (especially in Europe) into being the best team in Europe during his tenure.
Jose Mourinho on the other hand in recent years has found life a little more difficult than he did in his first few years in management where he won trebles at Porto and Inter winning three European trophies during this period. But from then on, at Real Madrid and his second stint at Chelsea, he’s had his ups and downs ending in the sack at both teams. Last year Mourinho’s ego took its biggest knock after getting the sack from Chelsea leaving the champions in 16th just one point above the relegation zone. This however, could work in favour of Manchester United because if we thought ‘the special one’ was one of the best coaches in the world before, just imagine what a wounded Jose Mourinho could be like. We have already got a taste as he has brought in two mega stars in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and breaking the world transfer record with the £89 million signing of Paul Pogba in addition to Eric Bailly and Bundesliga player of the year Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
So, who will come out on top this season Jose or Pep? If you look at past meetings between the two there is only one winner, with Jose winning only three out of the sixteen meetings between the two. However, Mourinho is still the only manager to beat Pep Guardiola to a league title in his career during his time at Real Madrid. The feeling around the footballing world is that Manchester United are on the way up with young players starting to make a name for themselves in Rashford, Shaw, Martial, Lingard and Fosu-Mensah. Then, once you add them to De Gea, Smalling, Pogba, Mkhitaryan Rooney and Ibrahimovic you have a very strong side. On the other hand, Manchester City still has a lot more to do in this summer transfer window. In recent seasons City have been seen to have the strongest side in the league but often their mental strength has been questioned, something that the former Barcelona manager will not put up with. Guardiola has already looked to bring down the average age of the group with signings of Zinchenko, Stones, Sane, Jesus and Gundogan. However, there are question marks whether they can all hit the ground running at the Etihad this season.
In conclusion, when you look at both sides there is not much to choose between the two. Both sides have spent upwards of £100 million this window already in a bid to regain the Premier League crown. The difference between the two however, is that you have to feel that Manchester United’s squad is a lot more settled than Manchester City’s. There are still a lot of questions that need answering for the Citizens. Can Stones and Sterling regain their form and become more consistent? Are they both good enough? Is Joe Hart going to be Pep’s number one or is he going to bring somebody else in? Will Yaya get the axe under Pep for the second time? Are Mangala, Nasri, Delph, Navas and Bony part of his plans? Are all questions that are yet to be answered and with a week to go before the new campaign you would have to feel that they are not ready. With all this in mind I feel Mourinho will come out on top this season. His Premier League experience, world class signings in the peak of their powers and he has more of settled squad being a huge factor in me believing that Manchester United are better equipped to win the Premier League title this season. This is all of course speculation but, one thing is for sure, this season is going to be incredible.
Blog Written by Albert Edwards (@statsfindings):
Chelsea’s first major signing of the transfer window brings strength in a much needed area for the Blues, the striker department. Michy Batshuayi, the 22-year old forward from Marseille, was purchased for around £30 million pounds. A promising young striker who scored for Belgium in the Euros this summer, he will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, who was also bought from Marseille.
Although I am by no means an expert on Michael Batshuayi, or the ‘batsman’, I want to show that you can gain a good idea on a player by looking at a few stats. Obviously in the real world of football, you would do much more analysis/scouting.
As you can see from the Squawka comparison, Batshuayi’s 16 non-penalty league goals last season are no fluke considering his statistics. He scores almost every other game, and 3.74 shots per game is also impressive. He managed to get significantly more shots on goal than Costa last season, and these were not all just shots from 30 yards out. Only one player had more shots on target in Ligue 1 last season than Batshuayi, and Michael Caley’s expected goal model gave him18.1 expected goals. Most of his shots are also inside the penalty area, which is a good sign of shot quality.
From the same Michael Caley article, Batshuayi has very good expected goals and assists numbers, roughly the same as Harry Kane. Expected goals is very useful as an indicator of past performance, and hence can help us predict how well a player or team may perform.
It is also important that the statistics used to compare players are standardized, by comparing the per 90 totals, which adjusts for playing time.
This radar from @fussballradars is a very useful visualization of Batshuayi’s statistics. It clearly shows how many shots he’s taking, and almost half of them are on target. It’s interesting to note though that although Batshuayi seems a more technical striker than Diego Costa, Costa completed 1.81 dribbles per 90 last season, compared to Batshuayi’s 1.26. However, Batshuayi had a higher percentage of completed dribbles than Costa, suggesting he knows when he can take a player on and beat him, or when it’s the right time to take on a player.
It seems very likely that Conte’s Chelsea will operate with two strikers next season in a 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation, especially after the signing of Kante. In my opinion, Batshuayi has the ability to do well in a potential second striker type role for Chelsea, especially if Antonio Conte sets up to play on the counter.
I hope that a look at some of Batshuayi’s stats has given you the idea that he is a promising signing. Whilst writing my first post, I realized that there is a lot for me to learn about football and statistics, and how to carry out analysis like this. I’m glad that my blog is giving me the platform to do so, and I look forward to it.