Author Archives: timmyg

Last word on Magath, for now

[by timmy]

A few pieces come to mind when thinking of Magath. The fact they’re about American football and their titles and the specifics don’t really matter as much as their essence.

Piece #1, from a former football player who spent one week at a certain team with a hated coach:

The psychology goes like this: Players used to love the game. They enjoyed their talent and had high self-esteem. If a coach comes along who makes them feel insecure and paranoid, they begin to hate the game. Then they begin to hate the man who made them hate the game. When they hate the man, they hate his agenda. His agenda, in this case, is an impersonal obsession with winning a football game, with (the perception is) little respect for the players who are doing the winning. The result: a player who doesn’t care whether his team wins or loses. And it happens constantly.

The good coaches are malleable, open-minded, humble. The good coaches make it feel like it’s our team, not his team. The good coaches understand that there is a fine line between being prepared and being confounded. The good coaches adjust their approach when they see 53 grown men ready to cry on a daily basis. These are the best athletes in the world. You don’t have to run them into the ground and call them pussies. You simply have to turn them loose. Sure, you must do so intelligently, with the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. But you can’t project your own pedantic, inactive analysis of the game onto the athletes who actually have todo it.

Piece #2:

In the 21st century, NFL players are smart enough to distinguish between actual discipline (having a well-structured operation) and the bullshit old-school disciplinarian discipline. They know that a guy like Schiano is being a hardass because a) he gets off on it and b) he doesn’t really know what the fuck he’s doing. If you know what you’re doing, you usually don’t have to be a cock. If you haven’t, read former NFL tight end Nate Jackson’s account of Eric Mangini’s reign of terror in Cleveland for a good idea of just how far these nutjobs can take it.

Study after study has proven there are many good substitutes for Schiano’s redassed brand of leadership, and that it should be phased out of all aspects of American society entirely—in coaching, parenting, teaching, business management, etc. And now most NFL teams are doing just that. You can’t separate head coaches into “player’s coaches” and “disciplinarians” the way you used to. A good NFL head coach wins his players’ confidence by being detailed and having an answer for everything, not by being some stern daddy figure who demands you fight for his grudging approval. He doesn’t demand discipline. He inspires it.

Why Khan Hired Felix and Why He’s Still our Manager

[RA - This fine piece is by Timmy, incidentally]
khanfelixbuck

John Arne Riise mentioned the other day how, after that horrible defeat at Derby, Magath called a late night meeting and announced practice first thing in the morning. Usually days after matches are for recovery. Que the horror.

The practice allegedly consisted of “tactics training” and lots of running.

When I played varsity sports in high school, heavy defeats were often followed by impromptu practices that contained lots of running. Same for those I helped managed in both high school and college. It didn’t matter if the coach horribly prepared us for the game, or if it was just a ‘bad day at the office’. Our actions on the game field had repercussions on the practice field.

I have no record (and done little research) that Khan played sports in his teen years. I can say that he has a lot of business acumen, and probably learned a bit about coaching methodologies I mentioned above while pursuing an NFL team before eventually owning the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And the fact he owns an NFL team, and not say an MLB team (more on that later), in relation to Magath is key.

American Football coaches, by and large, are insane (http://deadspin.com/5958802/coaches-are-freaks). Outside of baseball, no sport has sees much over coaching by managers. They routinely pull 100-hour work weeks. Everything is planned out. Game film is pored over again and again. It’s so intense that last season, one NFL coach had a heart attack while leisurely playing golf. Another had a stroke in the middle of a game.

The response from his colleagues were a shrug.

(Just read this from the now-fired Jim Schwartz: “That’s probably the same way you would talk in the locker room about a player that saw another player get an ACL or have another injury — if you let that affect the way you work, you’re in the wrong boat … Coaches don’t work 100 hours a week because they’re doing it because that’s healthy. They do it because the job requires it. It just is what it is.” Let that seep in.)

Compare that to the methods allegedly reported when Jol was in charge. If the rumors were true, the man rarely showed up to practice. The team was clearly out of shape and horribly ill prepared to do, well, anything. The defense, the bedrock of coaching, was on track to set historic lows.

Khan arrives and sees the mess. No, he’s not a football man; but he knows (or, thinks he does) enough about how teams are supposed to function that the current setup is a recipe for disaster.

But, he’s new. He doesn’t want to pull a Tony Fernandes and make an ass of himself in the first few months on the job. Nor does have the ego (or naiveté) to throw money at the problems like Abromovich or Sheikh Mansour did when they first arrived.

So he waits. Things don’t improve. He has Ali Mac hire esteemed assistant Rene Muelensteen to whip the team into some semblance of shape. Things continue to go sour. Jol gets fired, Rene takes over.

Things change slightly, but not enough. Rene’s reign was too short to make any sort of inferences, but I sense he found him to be too “salesman-y” (anyone who watched his videos on the team’s website will know what I mean; i.e., only speaking in cliches and platitudes) but mostly the results continue to remain poor.

Eventually Khan has enough. He played the modern English/European game to no avail, so now it’s the Puritanical American game. Cajoling is replaced by commanding. Obliging replaced with ordering.

He hires Felix Magath, a man hated in the game for his “methods”. He’s cold. He yells. He demands peak physical fitness. He’s ruthless. In Felix, Khan must have seen a familiar face. And what Felix has been implementing isn’t new to any American athlete or anyone involved heavily in sports. Khan sees him as someone who can whip this horrible, and horribly prepared, team into cohesion before it’s too late.

Well, it was too late. Although we may think otherwise, and have hindsight to prove (somewhat), Khan was a bit off in his belief. But, he still believes in Felix. The work is not done, the time to relax the control has not arrived. So he currently remains manager.

Sure, there’s been ultimatums given but that is to be expected in this hyper-competitive environment.

I mentioned baseball earlier as a comparison to the NFL. Although I can’t speak to say NHL or NBA coaches, baseball managers are a different breed. They have to be considering the long, daily season. Yes, some are “players mangers” and others are “disciplinarians” but it’s all quite relative.

Except for Buck Showalter, current manager of the Baltimore Orioles. And it’s with Buck that I think Felix Magath can learn from, and hopefully follow.

Buck is described as a control freak by many fans. Others would call him an asshole. According to Pat Jordan in a Sports on Earth (RIP) article, “Showalter hates to be called a control freak. He hates it because he doesn’t consider himself a control freak, but mostly, he hates it because he can’t control people calling him a control freak. To assuage his hurt feelings, I offered to call him one of the many other names people associate with him: passive-aggressive, taciturn, sarcastic, caustic, suspicious, paranoid, Machiavellian. He did not laugh.”

(Before I proceed, we could probably apply any of those adjectives to Magath. I highly recommend reading this piece and think about Magath.)

But Buck wins.

…Sort of.

The rap on Buck is (or was) his an uncanny ability of taking underperforming or new teams (New York Yankees in early 90s, when they sucked; Arizona Diamonbacks in late 90s; Texas Rangers in early aughts) and turning them into a contender. But before they could clear that hurdle and become great teams, Buck got fired (each would go on to win a World Series, or many in the Yankees case, or at least appear in them shortly thereafter).

Usually it was a mutual departure.

Essentially, teams got tired of his attention to detail (the man reportedly picked out the Diamondbacks color palette upon his hiring) and players grew weary of his methods and tuned him out.

So it was no surprise to see him hired by the Baltimore Orioles in late 2010, a team that was suffering their 15th (was it more?) straight losing season.

It took a little while to turn the teams fortunes around, but the O’s magically made the playoffs in 2012. They’re currently on par (KNOCK ON WOOD) to win their first division title (not a pennant, just a freaking division title!) in nearly 20 years.

Four years into his current job, Buck has already lasted longer than he did at any of his prior MLB managerial positions. Part of it is probably the team has sucked for so long that everyone will take the warts with the wins. But a bigger part of that is he (reportedly) mellowed out a bit before his Orioles gig. He (again, reportedly as it’s late and I don’t feel like searching for articles to back this up; just going on what I hear) pays close attention to the appropriate things instead of all the things.

Which is what I think plays into the ‘Felix as manager story’ I’m attempting to spin here. As Rich said Felix is still experimenting, the team is still evolving.

I don’t know if it’ll work and whether Felix can survive. I hope he himself can evolve himself and lighten up; and this team and season provides that perfect opportunity. Like Buck who after third time of of being fired only for his team make the World Series just a few years later; perhaps finally being relegated and managing a bunch of 18 year olds in AAA will be that humbling experience.

Results to date haven’t been helpful, but it’s really up to him. I don’t see Khan changing just yet; we need to see Felix do so.

Highway to Fulham’s Danger Zone

By Tim

The fact that Fulham stink, that we’re terrible on both ends, that we can’t control the game anywhere, isn’t news.

But what’s worth exploring is just how bad we are.

Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) of Cartilage Free Captain has some great shot statistics that I highly recommend you check out. But what I want to focus on here is how he divvied up the one half of a football field into several Shot Matrix Zones. The word “matrix” makes even my head spin so bear with me.

Here’s the map:


(courtesy of Michael Caley)

And here’s why divvying the offensive zone is important: conceding shots closer to the net are easier for the offense to score. Shots further away are more difficult to score. This is a very simplistic maxim exists in most other ball/net games.

So, if a defense concedes a higher amount of shots closer to the net than they do the further away, it’s representative of bad defense.

Michael took Zones 1-3 and placed them into what he dubbed the Danger Zone (cue the Kenny Loggins!). Basically, if you’re conceding a high amount of shots from there your defense stin–

OH, OH MY, THAT’S FULHAM FC’S MUSIC!

Fulham are leading the league with 241 shots in the DZ. Next to them is Cardiff with 232, followed by West Ham at 184. If you take the total of all DZ shots (3040) and average it out per club we’re nearly 100 over the average.

Of that total, 92–NINETY FREAKING TWO– are what’s considered on DZSoT, or shots actually target (what Bent is incapable of doing; also somehow Cardiff are one worse than us). We all know how we are repeatedly getting outshot, but this takes that figure to a whole new level.

What about the Wide Shots? Fulham aren’t as bad in that category–17th!–but second worst when it comes to Wide Shots on Target.

What we can glean from this is our opponents don’t need to shoot from odd angles inside the 18-yard box. No, they just can pass or dribble to a better location! (Cue 2nd half highlights from that home Southampton game)

Next up is Shots from outside the 18 yards box, or Zones 6-8.

Fulham are 2nd worst behind West Ham, and just 3 above Cardiff and Sunderland with 242 shots conceded from outside the 18 yard box. 34 of those are on target.

So not only are teams literally dribbling down our throats, we’re affording them time and space from outside the box. Think Mucha at home in September. Or both times Shelvey scored for Swansea. Or or I’ll stop now.

What does this mean? It means we literally cannot defend in any facet of the game. The 5-0 loss on Saturday wasn’t an anomaly, down to some refereeing decision, or because we were playing a team who exponentially outspent us. There is empirical precedent for losses of that magnitude to happen; and will probably happen again this season.

In fact, it might even happen this Sunday!

Although not particularly notable in one specific facet, Everton are still in the Top 8 in Offensive DZS, WS, and SoB. Hopefully the spectre of catching Arsenal/4th place will be a bridge too far for them and they’ll bottle it. Otherwise it’s going to be a long, long day.

So what about our offense?

We’re currently 19th, tied with Crystal Palace on just 117 shots in the Danger Zone. Let me repeat: We are tied with Pulis-ball. Let me repeat again: we are tied with Pulis-ball. For DZ shots on target, we’re tied for 18th with CP, Cardiff, and Swansea at 45. Moving away from the net, we’re not as awful in the wide areas or outside the box, but still in the bottom half of the league.

But our offensive futility is a chicken/egg thing: is it bad because our defense is awful, or is it bad for other reasons? In January we shipped off our moody but still very talented forward, and only mercurial play-maker, and thus have been left with starting highschoolers and the-footballer-formerly-known-as-Darren-Bent. Hence since the start of 2014 we’ve scored 11 goals in 12 games.

What’s the point of all this?

I suppose if this was a business, lawyers would recommend we file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (or whatever equivalent you guys in England have) and reorganize everything.

(Kenny Loggins cued!)

[Quick tangent: Kenny Loggins looks so 80s in this video but I'm fairly certain the barista that served me coffee this morning looked just like him. Everything old is new again..]

Esteemed Company

By Tim

DID YOU KNOW

Yaya Toure’s hat-trick on Saturday was the 3rd hat-trick conceded by Fulham this season. This stat now ties them with 1994/95 Ipswich, 1995/96 Coventry City, and 1997/98 Bolton Wanderers for conceding the most hat-tricks in one EPL season with 3. (This paragraph has a hat-trick of hat-trick mentions).

All three of said hat-tricks have come in past two months, since Adam Johnson netted his in mid-January. This is worse than Bolton and Coventry who each conceded their hat-tricks over a 3 month span, yet better than Ipswich who conceded their three hat-tricks in just a month. (Ouch. And another paragraph with three hat-trick mentions!)

Ultimately, Ipswich finished bottom (22nd at the time), Coventry 16th (survived on GD, somehow), and Bolton 18th (relegated on GD). We’re probably going to finish somewhere thereabouts.

We could nuance the point away and look at who scored each of the hat-tricks:

  • Yaya Toure (cost City £24m–double our transfer fee record–and arguably Ivory Coast’s best player)
  • André Schürrle (cost Chelsea £18m, wunderkind)
  • Adam Johnson (doesn’t live up to hype/ego, but still cost Sunderland £10m)

Or look at the following chart from Sporting Intelligence (based on 12/13 and even 11/12 accounts) and somehow be surprised this hasn’t happened more often against the bigger teams (blue is transfer fees/yellow is wages):

wages and fees

But if there’s one silver lining to this turd: we’re not as bad as 2007/08 Derby County. And here’s how:

  • Fewest points in a season (11, we’re at 24)
  • They only won once (we’re at 7)
  • Kept just 3 clean sheets all season (we have 4!)
  • Had the worst GD in EPL history (-69; we’re at -40)
  • Conceded the most in 38 game season (89; we’re at 70)

Yet Derby DOES have a better TSR than us, as they posted .377 in 2007-08 and as of last week we had .3747–which may go down considering Saturday’s result.

A Statistical Look at Rene’s Reign

As to be expected, there is much gnashing of teeth over Rene’s sacking. The performances in the past 6 days suggested that maybe a corner had been turned, that maybe this “toilet bowl” of a season was finally getting some draino. Or, *gasp*, the bathroom was finally getting remodeled.

What’s also expectedly absent from so much of the writings are any form of research or analysis of Rene’s reign. But hey it sounds good to say Fulham are the next QPR or Cardiff or Leeds United. And that “madness” has taken over and we hit the “panic button” and that our “absentee owner has no idea who Felix Magath is”. I rarely assume anything different from the sport’s fans.

But pop open the hood and you’ll find Rene’s reign has been a bit of a dumpster fire to put it bluntly. Let’s look at some advanced stats from when Jol got canned to the current day.

{Warning, I’m going to use some of those newfangled things known as statistics. If you’re one of those “stats are bad” types, then just jump to the bottom where I discuss goals. You know, another type of statistic.}

TSR SV% Sh% PDO
Jol 0.316 70.5 27.9 984
Rene 0.371 65.1 25.7 908

In case you don’t know, TSR means Total Shots Ratio, SV% is Save Percentage, SH% equals Shot Percentage, and PDO is Scoring % + Save %. Read full definitions here. These are important because they, especially TSR, usually have a strong correlation to goal difference and points. Also, all stats are from James Grayson’s blog.

The only positive you can really deduct from the above is that Fulham are no longer getting outshot as exponentially as they were before. Each of the remaining metrics were down. It’s not good enough, it’s not sustainable, and the “moral victories” of the past week simply cannot paper over that fact.

For context, let’s look at Tony Pulis and compare what he’s accomplished, arguably with far less than what Rene has had to work with, to his predecessor.

TSR SV% Sh% PDO
Holloway 0.429 58.7 23.1 818
Pulis 0.461 67.9 20.2 881

His god-forsaken style aside, we see that Pulis has increased the teams TSR, SV%, and PDO. In layman’s terms, he’s shored up the defense despite the slight downtick in shot conversion (which is mainly due to his god-forsaken set piece/long-ball system). This is a sign of progress beyond what the current table shows, as standings can occasionally be disguised by smoke and mirrors (HI THERE WEST HAM IN 11TH!). This is why Crystal Palace have gone from regulation certainties to a steady lower/mid table finish.

If you don’t want to read or acknowledge all those fancy stats, here are some more basic ones:

One tenet of Rene’s reign was to go into the half tied at 0-0 or something thereabouts and have it fall apart. In fact, Fulham have been drawing at halftime a league-leading 15 times this season. Of that, 8 were under Rene.

Not bad on the surface, but only twice did Fulham get a result of any capacity in those matches: both wins, both in his first four games, both solitary goals. In total, when drawing, the club conceded 17 goals while scoring only 4 after halftime. Take those two victories away and it’s 2 GF and 17 GA.

Plus plus plus only in one game, his *second*, did Fulham take a lead into halftime and see out the result. Need I remind you we’re currently 20th?

Regardless of how you slice it, regardless of what disaster* of a squad you have, regardless of all the feel-good-emotions we’ve accrued in the past week…that’s beyond terrible.

It was a bungled removal from office. But Kahn really had no choice.

{*Okay, fine, it was a disaster before he got here. Martin Jol should have been fired last spring and we’re reaping that now. Also, MAF should have sold the club earlier or at least attempted to have *some* liabilities for the future owner, and we’re reaping that now. Also, until Mitroglou’s record fee, we’re also reaping not spending more than £500,000 on a striker for nearly 5 seasons (and that was on David Elm!) UPDATE: Since Berbatov, not Mitroglou, which was officially “undisclosed”. And on and on.}

Examining our central midfielders

Apologies if you hated my past post but I want to revist the +/- stat with regards to our four main central midfielders. Again, this stat isn’t a great indicator of causation, but correlation. It also doesn’t occur in a vacuum, as the entire team and certain dynamics of the sport play a hand in the metric. But, along with other indicators, I found it to be quite instructive, as seen below. So consider it more an idea board then a didactic study.

I left out wingers as I wanted to keep the scope on what we’re all in agreement is our main problem area: the center of midfield; particularly the Parker/Sidwell axis. StatsBomb recently did an amazing (and horrifying) job at comparing those two and Kasami to Barca’s Xavi, Busquets, and Iniesta. This is very much like comparing a Hank Williams or George Jones song to a Blake Shelton tune, but what can you do. I also broke up the stats by each manager to see if there’s any differences.

Sidwell

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 10 22 -12 -0.92 13
Rene 10 29 -19 -1.73 11
Total 20 51 -31 -1.29 24

It may seem like Sidwell has regressed under Rene (if “Sidwell” and “regressing” is somehow possible), but 6 of the 29 GA came in that Hull City match. Nonetheless our opponents have scored >3 goals a whopping FIVE times since Rene has taken over and Sidwell is on the pitch.

Parker

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 8 22 -14 -1.27 11
Rene 12 21 -9 -0.90 10
Total 20 43 -23 -1.10 21

Very similar to Sidwell, with the only visible difference is he was fortunate enough to escape that 6-0 Hull City thrashing. Like with Sascha Reither, there certainly seems to be a visceral notion that Parker belongs in the side. But beyond high interception and tackling rates, which as StatsBomb said is most likely down to the oppositions always with the ball/running at him…what are the justifications exactly?

Kasami

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 12 22 -10 -0.83 12
Rene 5 18 -13 -1.30 10
Total 17 40 -23 -1.05 22

This is where it starts to get interesting. Rene’s been using Kasami as a sub for the majority of his league reign–only 3 starts in his 10 games under Rene compared to 11 starts under Jol. This explains why the GF is way down but the GA still quite high. But, considering Fulham scored three goals in the entire month of January, it’s perplexing why he only averaged 15 minutes last month.

Karagounis

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 3 4 -1 -0.17 6
Rene 6 10 -4 -0.80 5
Total 9 14 -5 -0.45 11

I didn’t include Boateng because he had such a small sample size, but thought it would be interesting to see what Karagounis has done with ever-so-slightly more play time. Each manager has treated Karagounis differently: Jol used him as a sub for 5 of his 6 appearances; Rene started him in all his 5 appearances (albeit none since Hull City in December). But if we were to take away that Hull City game, we’d see his +/- to be fairly respectable, despite the small sample size–unlike if we subtracted result from Sidwell’s stats, they’d still be terrible. I’m not sure why Kara hasn’t been playing (hooray opaqueness!), but like Kasami, it’s clear he’s a necessary dynamic that’s being under-utilized.

No one needs to opine how the Parker/Sidwell duo has proved to be detrimental. But the idea behind these stats further reinforce such a notion, and that stems from the fact the two are always playing. Whether it’s down to them or other factors, it certainly feels like we’re at the point where, when we see both in the starting XI, much like seeing a bad #5 pitcher start, we’re going to lose.

I’d argue it’s not one part of the combination that needs to be replaced, it’s the entire recipe. Curious to know your thoughts as well.

Fulham’s record when scoring, and not scoring. Also just how bad are our defenders?

Thanks to Rich for graciously letting me guest post.

Of all the issues plaguing Fulham this season, two have stood out the most for me. First is Fulham’s knack for getting a result when scoring 2 or more goals (and lack of results when scoring 1 or less), second is which defenders have been privy to the various shellackings we’ve received so far.

Fulham’s inability to get a result when scoring less than 2 goals is no secret considering our terrible defense. Chances are we’re not scoring a lot is because we’re chasing games, and it’s often more difficult to score when a team is having to chase. Additionally, something I’ve been saying all season is that a club of our aptitude can’t expect to get a result when we’re not scoring. We could under Roy, we can’t now.

Our record when scoring less than 2 goals:

Team Pld GF<2 W D L F A GD GFA GAA   PpG Pts
Fulham 20 15 2 1 12 9 35 -26 0.6 2.33   0.46 7

For context, the league average for this is .811 PpG; and 9.45 Pts. So we’re 16th in Total Pts, but third worst (Swansea and WestHam are T-1st) in PpG. Taking a step back, we’re T-13th in amount of games when scoring 1 or less goals, but our terrible PpG shows our inability to “keep it close” and “grind out” draws: in 2008/09 we had 10 draws when scoring less than 2; in 2010/11 we had 12. This season we have 1.

Now here’s our record when we score more than 1 goal:

Team Pld GF>1 W D L F A GD GFA GAA   PpG Pts
Fulham 20 5 4 0 1 12 7 5 2.4 1.4   2.4 12

Again for context, the League average is 2.4 Ppg and 12 Pts. Right on par considering we’re also T-13th in this category. This stat also shows how terribly our defense has been regressing: in 2008/09 our GAA when scoring more than 1 was .75; under Sparky it was 1.08; even Jol’s first season was a .75(!) Last season was an atrocious 1.66, highest since the Coleman days.

So basically if we score more than 1 goal, there’s like an 80% chance we’ll win. If we score less than 2 goals that drops to 15%. (Now this is when the likes of StatsBomb and James Grayson stumble upon the site and rightfully lambaste me for my terrible arithmetic…)

Second is the Plus−minus (+/-) of the club’s Defenders. This stat is widely used in hockey, and even stretching to sports like Basketball and Ultimate Frisbee. It’s a bit incongruent in footy because of the numerous variables that don’t exist in the former sports (main being the lack of timeouts/substitutions, which can create wide variances). But there have been moments this season when we’ve thought to ourselves “Boy, Richardson is always playing when we’re losing a lot” or “Actually, Senderos might be better than we think”. Both are actually true.

Player Appearances +/- +/- pG
Briggs 2 0 0.0
Hangeland 8 -4 -0.5
Reither 16 -6 -0.4
Senderos 11 -6 -0.5
Riise 9 -12 -1.3
Zverotic 4 -14 -3.5
Richardson 15 -15 -1.0
Hughes 13 -15 -1.2
Amorebieta 14 -18 -1.3

Players like Amorebieta, Hughes, and Richardson have been on the field when the opposition is scoring a lot. Hangeland, Reither, and Senderos haven’t. Again, this is quite imperfect considering how awful the team was up until about a month ago, and the symbiotic nature of the game: defense is really only as good as the midfield, which is only as good as the forwards. Also, if we don’t ever see Zverotic again this might be why.

At some point I’ll crunch the numbers for our midfield, and our defenders of past seasons. But this is still quite telling: Hangeland and Senderos need to get healthy ASAP; and boy oh boy do we need a good Left Back.

there_will_be_blood1

Following The Money

City had 71% possession on Saturday. They attempted 23 shots to Fulham’s 7. They completed 646 of their 726 passes. Fulham attempted just 276. If those stats aren’t enough, the passing charts bear out the notion that this really was a match between the haves and the have-nots.

And so it is. Like Chelsea before them, and Leeds before them, and whoever else before them; City resembles everything that is wrong with current economics of football.

No, it’s not about wealthy owners coming in, “splashing the cash” (dear lord that cliche is awful), and buying whomever they wish. And it’s not it the media touting bullshit narratives like Mancini didn’t get all the transfers in he wanted; despite dropping nearly £90m over the summer.

Nor is it having loads of depth off the bench; that’s what good teams always have.

What’s so maddening is how they, like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, et al, are freely able to amass talent and own not just the best players, but all the not-so-best-but-still-damn-good players too. And just pay them to basically do nothing in the reserves, or make an occasional cup appearance.

Honestly, what the heck is Victor Moses doing at Chelsea (anyone remember Steve Sidwell in a Chelsea shirt?) Or Nuri Şahin at Real Madrid? I’m sure we could flood the comments with other examples.

For all the chatter about how a salary cap will fix this issue; it won’t. It’s the fact that players get new contracts whenever they sign for a different club that spurs on the stratification. The wealthy owners will just continue to spend, spend, spend and ultimately kill the game not just because they can, but because the players are all willing accomplices.

Take a look at City’s bench. I won’t list the names, but how much they cost: £1m, £22m, £16m, £24m, £25m, £27m, £22.5m. Nearly £140m just sitting there; and that’s not including their annual salary. Most of them are bonafide stars, but several aren’t. And lets look at the players who didn’t even feature because of injury or whatever else: Jack Rodwell (£12m), Sinclair (£6.2m), Maicon (£3.5m), Kolo Toure (£16.m).

No wonder the likes of Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz are still on City’s payroll; and Adam Johnson and Jô were for so long.

I’ve written about this before, but how can any sporting system that allows this to happen even consider itself legitimate?

Take baseball in America: a sport that everyone loves to hate because the New York Yankees always have the highest payroll and  it’s the least socialistic in its share of revenue and payroll. “The Yankees buy everyone” is often the refrain; as the masses turn their attention to the NFL. Yet what limits the Yankees literally buying everyone like the big European clubs do is that they can only give good players BIG contracts when they are free agents. And so they often have to make do with the likes of Eric Chavez and Raul freaking Ibanez.

Players like Matt Weiters and Manny Machado from my local Baltimore Orioles, who will probably someday play for the Yankees, are going to remain an Oriole until their contracts run out. There’s little incentive for them to join a better team and possibly not play much if they’re going to get paid the same. It behooves them to play out their contract, and hopefully do really well in their contract year.

Yet if this was footy, they would be Yankees by this time next month when the season’s over, mainly because they’d see a huge increase in their salary. And the fans wouldn’t bother come watch the sport anymore.

This isn’t sour grapes, just something that annoys me. And I wish we didn’t have to play these type of teams as I get no enjoyment from  it; win, lose, or draw.

(Okay, I enjoy the win. But we all know the narrative won’t be about us winning, but them losing).

wigan win

Where will the goals come from?

Sunday’s match at Wigan will be the first since March, 2007 that Clint Dempsey will not feature for Fulham against that club.

That’s not notable in and of itself, but consider that in 10 games he scored 6 goals and that tally accounts for 42% of our 14 goals against them. Which is nearly half. (Go here for a full account of his feats.)

Sure, we have the Berba. Plus Ruiz and Petric should be coming back.

But it’s instances like this where the reality sets in. I sure don’t hope we miss our talisman.

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As the prior two posts have mentioned, Sascha Riether had a great game on Saturday. Of the top six pass combinations, 5 include Riether either receiving or passing the ball. His dashboard is below.