2 weeks ago, I pointed out Man Utd’s average 27 crosses per match is the highest in the league. What I failed to highlight was David Moyes’ faith in crosses is nothing less than maniacal. Facing bottom-of-the-table Fulham, Man Utd pumped a staggering 82 crosses in the Theatre of Dreams. The social media was all about ‘crosses’ after the match. In light of that, I’d like to quote some additional information on crosses.

In November 2013, Colin Trainor revealed the statistics of the 5 biggest European leagues concerning key passes areas. He showed the probability of scoring goals from key passes (passes that are followed by shot attempts immediately) provided in different areas of the pitch. The results were as follows.

If the key pass is from:

–          the penalty area, the scoring probability is 18.8% (average 1 goal per 5.3 attempts)

–          own half, the scoring probability is 9.9% (average 1 goal per 10.1 attempts)

–          byline, the scoring probability is 9.1% (average 1 goal per 10.9 attempts)

–          central area outside penalty box, the scoring probability is 7.6% (average 1 goal per 13.1 attempts)

–          wide area outside penalty box, the scoring probability is 7.5% (average 1 goal per 13.3 attempts)

It should be noticed that only KEY PASSES (those resulting in goal attempts) are counted. Successful passes not resulting in an attempt were excluded.

Taking this match as an example, out of Man Utd’s 82 crosses, only 18 were completed, of which 1 was a key pass from wide area outside penalty box and 5 were from byline. Using the above result as a reference, the probability of scoring was actually quite low. What’s more, it appeared that Man Utd didn’t bother to try other methods. Consider the following: the Red Devils did not attempt to play a single through ball; 62-min sub Januzuj made 24 passes and half were crosses. Their ‘dedication to crosses’ is even making the neutral frustrated.

I suspect Moyes is a bit out of his mind amid all the negative comments made against him. Just look at how he stared back at the crowd after Man Utd’s second goal, it appears he craves to prove the world wrong. This attitude could be extremely powerful or extremely dangerous. Which one is it going to be?


The match between Man City and Chelsea is seen as a critical one in deciding this year’s champion. In their previous 11 home matches, Man City bolstered a stunning 3.8 goals scored per game whereas Chelsea only conceded 11 goals in their previous as many away games – that’s when an unstoppable force meets with an unmovable object. Mourinho stated his team will attack Man City, and ‘if I don’t, it’s because I can’t.’ Albeit yet another attempt to ease the pressure of his players, he was telling the truth.

Just as previous showdowns with fellow title challengers, Mourinho opted for David Luiz in the holding role together with Matic, who made his full debut in the league. The two did their job reasonably well. But if we are to single out one magical move by JM, it would be deploying Ramires as an attacking midfielder instead of Oscar. JM’s game-plan was somewhat idealistic: he wants to defend solidly and be able to hit Man City with both quick counters and patient build-up. That requires a good blend of attacking and defending attributes from every single player. Given this requirement, Ramires was a better choice over Oscar. For the other two attacking midfielders, the defensive ability and willingness of Hazard and Willian was exactly why JM let Mata go. Using these three behind E’too ensures the team has enough bodies to stay behind the ball when defending, yet possesses enough pace, aggressiveness and technical ability during counter attacks AND build-up play.

Comparing to their previous games against the big teams, the Blues were more aggressive this time. True, they only had 35% of the possession throughout the match and were defending most of the time; however, when they managed to get hold of the ball, they aimed to hurt City right away. Among their meager 256 passes, almost 40% of them were attacking third passes, demonstrating their willingness to go forward with numbers. Apart from that, it was clear the JM had special orders for Hazard. He made 11 successful dribbles, more than double of his season average. What’s more, goal-scorer Ivanovic’s continuous support in the attacking third also proved JM’s pre-match pledge a valid one. In terms of results, JM can be very proud of his players: they had 18 shots, even higher than their season average for away games. Not bad for a trip to the Etihad.

To be fair, Man City had a good game, or I should say they performed ‘as usual’, except they failed to convert chances. Even with Chelsea’s resolute defense, Man City created 14 chances in the penalty area (in a way, it also showed that Chelsea did not quite succeed in restraining Man City’s attack.) but only 1 was on target. Watching JM winning this game reminds me of his first attempt in El Clasico with Real Madrid. He also planned to take the risk and to attack Barcelona. That time he lost 0:5. Maybe Mourinho understands all too well that the difference between winning and losing can be so close, his smile was somewhat odd when his assistants were cheering around him after the final whistle.








The most eye-catching transfer in the winter transfer window is undoubtedly Mata switching to Old Trafford for a record-breaking fee. Man Utd fans I know have mixed feeling about this move. On one hand they are thrilled because Mata is one of the best players in Europe; on the other, they fear Moyes is going to turn him into another Shinji Kagawa.


No doubt, Mata is a top-notch attacking player. From stats of his recent seasons, no matter at Valencia or Chelsea, it is obvious that he can always deliver. Since 2009, in 190 league games, European games and international games, Mata averaged 0.23 goals, 0.31 assists and 2.5 key passes per match. (In comparison, Shinji Kagawa recorded 0.15 goals, 0.16 assists and 1.3 key pass in 95 matches since 2010 whereas Iniesta recorded 0.1 goals, 0.24 assists and 1.4 key pass per match in 192 games since 2009.) Mata is for sure one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe. The remaining question is: is he suitable for Man Utd?


Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd has always relied heavily on crosses to create chances; under Moyes, they rely on crosses even more: their averaged 27 crosses per game is the highest in the Premier League (followed by Swansea, West Ham and Spurs’ 24 crosses per game). In contrast, on average, only 24% of their attack is through the middle area, the lowest in the Premier League. In fact, Moyes had demonstrated his obsession with crosses during his time at Everton. Last season, Everton crossed 26 times per games on average (this season, the number dropped to 22) and Leighton Baines topped the crossing table with an average of 2.8 crosses per game, of which 30% were successful. However, this season, Man Utd’s players cannot quite catch up with Baines’ performance and recorded much lower success rates in their crosses: Januzaj 16%, Valencia 18%, Evra 21% and Rooney 20%. Obviously, Moyes cannot quite repeat his game plan at Man Utd with equal success. Of course, to be fair, the absence of RVP and Rooney could be a direct cause of crosses not finding their target.


So how will Moyes deploy Mata? Is he going to stick with the crosses and hope Mata can deliver better crosses? Or is he going to penetrate more through the middle with Mata’s short game? For the former, although Mata is not a traditional winger/crosser, his crossing stat is actually quite impressive. This season at Chelsea, he provided 1.8 crosses per game with 32% of them finding a teammate. That’s better than any Man Utd player. Yet, many may see this as a waste of Mata’s ability. For the latter, we tend to believe Mata thrives as a central attacking midfield; but is Moyes bold enough to change the mode of attack mid-way through the season? I hope he has got a pretty clear idea to this issue. Otherwise, the ‘panic-buy’ hat would bring additional pressure upon his already shaky tenure.








In his post-match interview, Mourinho implied the title challenge is all but over for Man Utd. However, looking at the starting line-up, it seems the Red Devils still pose some level of threat in his mind, only for United’s performance to provide a pleasant surprise to him.

Chelsea fielded David Luiz and Ramires as their holding midfielders. As I have pointed out previously, these two can’t quite contribute to attack the way they do to defend (as seen from their pass success rate last night: 73% and 77% respectively). In fact, before E’too found the net, Chelsea barely threatened United. The Blues’ second goal was only their second shot on target, 28 minutes after their first goal. Nonetheless, during those 28 minutes, contained by Chelsea’s deep line, Man Utd only managed 1 shot on target, just for Welbeck to produce a harmless shot straight into Cech’s gloves. Speaking of that, RVP and Rooney’s absence is sorely missed. Apart from the gulf of class between these two and the rest of United’s attacking players in terms of converting chances into goals, the non-existence of their smart and quick movements to draw defenders off-position had eased Chelsea defenders’ night. During the first-half, Gary Cahill was busy covering Ivanovic at the right side in light of Januzaj’s preference to attack that side. Should RVP or Rooney was there, they would be glad and eager to take advantage of this gap left behind.

People are in awe of E’too’s scoring ability for the 2nd and 3rd goal; truth is, those chances were presented by United’s defense. Looking at the play-back of the second goal several times, I recognized none of Man Utd’s defenders was actually checking teammates’ positions to reorganize after the corner was half-cleared to Ramires. The consequence was detrimental: none of Cahill (the assist provider), E’too (the scorer) and even Ivanovic (who was lurking at far post) was marked. For the 3rd goal, Cahill’s pressure-free header further highlighted United’s disorganized defense.

In terms of attack, Moyes can blame the absence of key players; but it has to be the coach and the players to take the blame for such horrible defensive organization. In my opinion, it has nothing to deal with their age or anything else. It merely shows their mentality is nowhere near a battling one. Whether it’s down to Moyes’ impotency or the reluctance of key players to follow suit remains to be discovered. What might interest us more right now is who will make way for the good of the team? Moyes or the players?










After an eleven-days wait, Man Utd got their first win in 2014. This win, apart from relieving some (not much) of David Moyes’ pressure on his shoulder, delights many Asian fans because of Shinji Kagawa’s performance.

Much of the after-match comments made by United fans were about Moyes’ decision to switch Kagawa’s position with Januzaj’s, playing the former as AMC. In fact, Kagawa’s performance improved drastically in the second half: he recorded no shots, only 8 receives and 4 passes in the attacking-third in the first half. After the break, he had 4 shots, 15 receives and 14 passes in the front third. Many fans who watched the game would notice his positive influence: his ability to find pockets of spaces among tight defense and to create overloads for his teammates. Playing him as AMC allows him more freedom to roam from central area to the flanks to offer support; Kagawa also flourishes in this role as he can make deep runs and create scoring opportunities for himself more often. The only down-side of his performance was his overwhelming desire to score, blinding him from better choices at times (an example was his shot cleared by Britton, where it could be better if he pass to Rafael who was unmarked).

One of Kagawa’s unnoticed strengths is his defensive ability. Possibly because of his time spent at Dortmund, he is good at pressing, which is a big plus for modern attacking players. During the second half, after he switched roles with Januzaj, Man Utd’s pressing was more effective. Despite Swansea’s reputation for being able to retain possession in their own half under pressure, Man Utd managed to give them a hard time during the second half: Swansea had 85 passes in their defending third in the first half and only 35 during the second. This difference could be attributed to, apart from Moyes’ half-time instructions, the pressing lead by Kagawa.

In this January transfer window where rumors are flying, if Moyes can make the most out of Kagawa’s ability, why would he need to rush in bringing in new attacking players?

The original article is posted at sports.now.com:






After the packed Christmas and New Year schedule, 20 weeks has passed. Arsenal is still leading the table while Man City and Chelsea are closely following. The league table is of course the most important of all as it decides final standings. However, how much of individual teams’ attacking/scoring and defending efficiency can be reflected by it? As we enter a bit of a break because of cup ties, let’s take a deeper look at these aspects and it may just give us a brief idea of which team is more likely to finish at the top in week 38.

The total number of goals scored by each team can be seen from the table, which in a way represents the attacking ability of the teams. Nonetheless, if we want to know how efficient a team is in scoring goals, we will need to take into consideration 1. average number of attempts needed to score a goal and 2. average number of on target attempts needed to score a goal.

Average number of attempts needed to score a goal: (in brackets are total number of goals and goal-scoring ranking)

  1. Man City 6.18 attempts (57 goals, 1st)
  2. Liverpool 7.43 attempts (46 goals, 2nd)
  3. Arsenal 7.59 attempts (39 goals, 3rd)
  4. Man Utd 8.06 attempts (33 goals, 5th)
  5. Chelsea 8.63 attempts (38 goals, 4th)

Average number of on target attempts needed to score a goal: (in brackets are total number of goals and goal-scoring ranking)

  1. Man City 2.25 attempts(57 goals,1st
  2. Liverpool 2.83 attempts(46 goals,2nd
  3. Man Utd 2.97 attempts(33 goals,5th
  4. Arsenal 2.974 attempts(39 goals,3rd
  5. Hull City 3 attempts(22 goals,14th

Given the above ranking, we can see that Man City leads the charts by quite a large margin. In fact, the average number of shots and shots on target of Man City and Liverpool are very close (Liverpool even records a higher number of shots on target and SoT ratio). This further highlights Man City’s efficiency in converting chances into goals. On the other hand, Man Utd’s scoring efficiency surpasses the two teams who rank higher in the league table: Everton and Tottenham. It appears Man Utd’s fans can be a little bit more lenient with David Moyes.

On defending side, goals conceded of course tell us something; but to go deeper, we can also consider the number of shot conceded in relation to goals conceded. This gives us on average how many shots conceded will lead to a goal conceded.

Average number of shots conceded to concede a goal: (in brackets are total number of goals conceded and goal-against ranking, least GA being 1st)

  1. Arsenal 13.22 (GA 18,1st
  2. Everton 12.42(GA 19,2nd
  3. Cardiff City 11.5(GA 32,17th
  4. Liverpool 11.39(GA 23,4th
  5. West Ham 11.2 (GA 30,15th

Surprisingly, Man City and Man Utd ranked 16th (9.04)and 11th (10)in this table whereas Tottenham came last, conceding a goal every 8.56 shots conceded.

All in all, Arsenal and Liverpool excel in scoring and defending efficiency as they ranked top 5 in all the above tables and it could be fair to say these two teams performed best after 20 weeks. Should they be able to keep up the standard, either one of them might just be able to end their long wait for the title. On the other hand, Man City performed dramatically varied in terms of scoring and defending. The fact that they are second right now is attributable to their superb scoring efficiency rather than robust defending. However, lessons learnt from the past show that this may not be a reliable way to sustain a title challenge. Chelsea, third of the league, did not impress in either scoring or defending efficiency and might need some drastic improvements if they are to challenge for the title.


聯賽榜上大家可以看見各隊總入球數字,這固然可以反映攻力,但如果要知道他們攻門的效率,就必須要把進球、攻門數字和中目標次數這三項因素一起考慮,從而得出:1.平均每入一球要攻門多少次和2. 平均每入一球要中目標多少次。


  1. 曼城 6.18次 (57球,入球排名第1)
  2. 利物浦 7.43次(46球,入球排名第2)
  3. 阿仙奴 7.59次(39球,入球排名第3)
  4. 曼聯 8.06次(33球,入球排名第5)
  5. 車路士 8.63次(38球,入球排名第4)


  1. 曼城 2.25次(57球,入球排名第1)
  2. 利物浦 2.83次(46球,入球排名第2)
  3. 曼聯 2.97次(33球,入球排名第5)
  4. 阿仙奴 2.974次(39球,入球排名第3)
  5. 侯城 3次(22球,入球排名第14)




  1. 阿仙奴 13.22次 (失18球,失球第1少)
  2. 愛華頓 12.42次(失19球,失球第2少)
  3. 卡迪夫城 11.5次(失32球,失球第17少)
  4. 利物浦11.39次(失23球,失球第4少)
  5. 韋斯咸 11.2 次(失30球,失球第15少)

較為意外的是曼城和曼聯分別排在第16位 (9.04次)和第11位 (10次),而熱刺更排最後,平均被攻門8.56次就失一球。


Jose Mourinho said before Christmas that Liverpool was top of the table simply because of the fixture. Turns out he’s right. As week 19 passed by, Liverpool find themselves 5th of the table after losing to fellow title contenders Man City and Chelsea. Liverpool’s starting line-ups of these two matches are identical bar 1 change, but were beaten by 2 distinctive approaches deployed by Pellergrini and Mourinho.

The Boxing Day fixture between Man City and Liverpool was one of the best matches in recent times in terms of footballing standard. Both sides played with a high tempo with minimal errors and both sets of fans can be pleased with the match itself. In general, number of passes and success rate can reflect the fluidity of a match to a certain extent. That night, Man City’s and Liverpool’s number of passes (success rate) were 545 (88%) and 507 (88%), which were almost identical to their season average of home and away matches. (Man City’s average number of passes for home games is 586(88%) while Liverpool’s away average number of passes is 508 (83%)).In fact, the number of shots taken by both teams are pretty much close to their respective season average. Apparently both coaches chose to play their own game despite the weight of the match. In the end, Rodgers would have no complain as his Liverpool side performed as usual, if not better.

Contrary, Mourinho adapted his team for Rodgers’ men. The number of passes of both teams (Chelsea: 443 (77%); Liverpool: 407 (77%)) were far worse than their respective season average (Chelsea’s average for home games: 557 (83%)). Even number of goal-attempts was significantly lower than their season average.

Mourinho is renowned for adapting to opponents, even if it means sacrificing the attractiveness of the match. (An example was the away game against Arsenal on 23rd December when the Gunners, with 61% possession, were restricted to 7 shots when their average was 14 and the game ended a goalless draw.) It was apparent that Mourinho deployed David Luiz as DM, together with replacing Lampard with Mikel, as a move to restrain Suarez and Coutinho’s movements between Chelsea’s defense and midfield lines. And it worked. Suarez’s actions in the attacking third were reduced significantly, comparing to the Man City game: Suarez only received and passed 9 and 14 times in the front third against Chelsea but managed 17 and 22 times respectively against Man City. As a result, Liverpool struggled in attack: they only managed to enter the final third 49 times, comparing to 83 times against Man City.

This tactics is a two-edged sword for Mourinho, however. Chelsea’s own attacking play suffered simultaneously. The success rate of final third passes was at a poor 58%. Anyway, Rodgers seemed clueless in tackling Mourinho’s ‘chaotic approach’ apart from making two ineffective changes in Smith and Aspas. Rodgers and his team was caught by surprised apparently.

In defense of Rodgers, it is the first time he’s challenging for the title and it takes experience. By contrast, Mourinho has been doing this for 10 years and knows in these potential title deciders, results come first. Speaking of this, I can’t stop thinking about the rumors when Mourinho last ‘mutually agreed’ to leave Chelsea. Words were that Roman didn’t like Mourinho’s pragmatic approach and wanted Chelsea to play ‘beautiful football’. A bit of Deja Vu eh?




摩連奴善於因應對手改變踢法,為求達到目的,哪管踢出來的足球好不好看。(就以12月23日作客阿仙奴為例,一樣是為求不失而犧牲進攻流暢度。今季主場場均攻門有14次的阿仙奴當時即使有61%控球權,但面對車路士卻只有7次攻門,最終握手言和。)今場對利物浦,摩連奴起用David Luiz擔當防守中場,下半場更換入米基爾代替林柏特,目的就是要減低蘇亞雷斯和古天奴在後防線和中場線之間遊走的威脅。以蘇亞雷斯為例,今場他在前三分一場傳球和接應只有9次和14次,比起對曼城時的17次和22次減少了很多。也因為這樣,利物浦今場舉步維艱,全場只成功進入前三分一場49次(對曼城時有83次)。如此一來。車路士本身的進攻能力也受到影響,今場他們在前三分一場的傳球成功率只有58%,差不多每傳兩球就失一球。面對車路士以亂打亂這一著,羅渣士除了換入史密夫和阿斯帕斯兩位無甚貢獻的攻擊球員外,似乎無計可施,在這場博弈中被摩連奴的奇招擊破。