Early Doors

Berbatov and tactical analysis rare bright spots in cold, dark world

Early Doors

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Dimitar Berbatov

The world is a troubled place. The UK is on the verge of a sea change in politics. UKIP are edging the polls for the European elections. Gold prices are through the floor and, partly because there is no income generated by investing in it, some people have lost huge amounts in the last few years after the prices peaked. Russia and Ukraine might soon be at war and drag surrounding countries, perhaps much of the rest of the world, into the conflict. House prices in London are due for a correction with the market close to overheating, but due to the shortage of housing many people spend much of their wages on the cost of renting. Inflation spiked a few years ago and levels of wage increases are yet to properly catch up with that. And antibiotics are starting to fail across the world.

But amid the doom and gloom, one thing is leading the way: tactical and statistical analysis of football is hitting ever-new heights.

With the end of the season fast approaching, there are lessons to be learned at the top and bottom of the leagues. Manchester United enjoyed their best weekend of the season, Dimitar Berbatov is an anti-relegation talisman, and Marcelo Bielsa has developed a frighteningly vertical new formation.

DIMITAR BERBATOV AND RELEGATION

CSKA Sofia, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Fulham and Monaco. What do all these clubs have in common? Manchester United and Monaco are two of the most glamorous names in world football. CSKA, Spurs and Leverkusen are all clubs with long histories of success in their own leagues. Fulham, Spurs and CSKA and Monaco - sort of - are all based in their respective capitals.

But that’s not the common thread. The link is that not one of these clubs has been relegated while Dimitar Berbatov has played for them. Even newly promoted Monaco, freshly promoted from Ligue 2 and therefore favourites to go down this season in their first season, rescued their chances of survival by adding Berbatov in the winter transfer window, whereas Fulham nose-dived after letting him go. Bulgaria, too, have never been relegated.

If you have a look at the diagram below, you can see that the cigarette Berbatov is smoking, tactically speaking, means he is too cool to ever be relegated. You can compare that to the relegated, non-smoking Steve Sidwell to his right.

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RYAN GIGGS WIN RATIO DISASTER

David Moyes's win ratio was worse than that of Alex Ferguson, but better than Matt Busby's. However, the continued under-par performance when compared with Ferguson was one of the reasons for Moyes to be let go.

Some people in the press, and some fans, wanted Ryan Giggs to be awarded the job full time after his first match, and rightly so. He had a win ratio of 100%. However, in his second match he had a win ratio of 0%. A new statistical analysis tool has recently been developed, which displays a percentage of a manager’s face in line with how many games he has won in his entire career as manager. You can see this reflected in the diagrams of Ryan Giggs and Tim Sherwood below:

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Giggs's win ratio

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Sherwood's win ratio

Following this complicated formula, as explained in the diagram, you can see that Giggs’s win ratio is 50%: worse even than David Moyes, which is an absolute disgrace. Expect Manchester United to announce his replacement imminently, and rightly so. Giggs needs to be removed from his post as soon as possible.

MARCELO BIELSA INVENTS VERTICALITY SQUARED

"Talk about vertical!" went the cry on Twitter when Dani Osvaldo scored for Roma a couple of years ago, which provoked most English-speaking people to say, "What?"

It turned out that "vertical" simply meant "direct", or "passing the ball forward", and was simply the new modish term used in order to look clever. It soon transpired that Marcelo Bielsa was one of the most vertical managers about. His players would pass the ball forward like nobody else could pass the ball forward, no matter what your eyes or logic would say. Sadly, he was let go by Athletic Bilbao for being unacceptably vertical and not horizontal enough. Horizontal and vertical had a fight, diagonal watched on, and defeat was the result.

But Bielsa has not been cowed. He’s gone away to work on his tactics and verticality, and convinced Marseille to give him a go. He has come back, perhaps inspired by the renaming of Duran Duran to Duran2. He has invented Verticality2, a foolproof plan. Watch on:

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Textbook. The player is lifted up by two of his teammates, to pass to another teammate also in an elevated position, thereby bypassing the opponents' midfield. Talk about vertical!

UNITED’S STRONG FINISH TO THE SEASON WITH TITLE HOPES

Although some idiot in the points above has said that Ryan Giggs should be sacked for the woeful performance against Sunderland, that idiot misses the point. There were three shots on target at the weekend which have cheered United fans immensely, namely the goals that put City in the driving seat of winning the Premier League:

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Just a few more of these would put Liverpool out of the title race, thereby giving United a thrilling end to the season, and remaining emotionally invested in the title chase.

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