As Argentina’s national anthem was being belted out by supports in the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, the camera panned to a very disgruntled, stressed and worried-looking Lionel Messi, rubbing his forehead, completely abnormal in comparison to his usual relaxed-self. A sign of things to come? Every time the camera was on him, Lionel was looking down onto the floor, as if he was dragging his shoulders from it, and in a brutal conclusion from this match, you can’t really blame him. In the many World Cups I’ve watched, I can’t recall an Argentine performance just as bad, not just from players individually, but tactically they had literally no idea what to do. Messi wasn’t fed, the midfielders were all over the shop, and as the game went on, they couldn’t string two passes together.
Per 90 minute numbers don’t tell us everything about players.
While per 90s help compare players who’ve played different amounts of minutes, not all players get the same amount of opportunities on the ball. Players who play in bad teams, or even players who play in teams that keep less possession and attack directly, won’t get the ball as much as players in teams in the same league as Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
SD Eibar, the smallest club in La Liga which consistently punches above its weight, are currently sitting pretty at 8th in the Spanish La Liga table. The club from a town of 27,000 people in the Basque country, which play at the little Ipurua Stadium, have been putting on some dazzling displays this season under the Basque manager José Luis Mendilibar.
When Barcelona’s 29-year-old midfielder Paulinho scores more goals in the league than a 5-time Ballon d’Or winner, you know there’s something weird going on. Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored 0.4 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes (NPG90) this season. Not ideal for someone who’s famous for wrecking goalscoring records every year.
Let’s start with a statement that looks pretty obvious: Liverpool have an awful defense.
While it may look like their bad defense is down to the incompetence of Liverpool’s individual defenders, it’s largely down to the high-pressing system favored by Jurgen Klopp that’s gone awry this season. When the first line of press is broken (which has happened many times this season), the ball gets into dangerous areas because of the vacant spaces left behind. This leads to tricky situations for the Liverpool backline.
With the top four separated by a mere five points, and potentially less if Roma win their game in hand, Serie A has kicked into full overdrive going into the Christmas period. Juventus’ most recent win over Napoli just a weekend ago blew open the Scudetto race even more while Spalletti’s Inter and Di Francesco’s Roma have kept pace impressively, with the Nerazzurri currently nestled comfortably into first place. Going into a crucial stretch, it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders.
When it comes to football and coaching, England’s trade deficit is less than ideal. People like Arsène Wenger, José Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino, Claudio Ranieri, Antonio Conte, Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and now Marco Silva have taken charge of Premier League clubs and have significantly improved their clubs’ fortunes. Right now, there are 16 non-English managers in the English Premier League.