Thursday, February 26, 2009
Where are all the goals?
Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner wrote in his blog 'Defense on Autopilot' http://www.socceramerica.com/blogs/soccer_talk/?p=101 that despite most of the free-wheeling attacking play on display in the European Champions League this week, teams and players are so conditioned on individual and team defending that it kept goal scoring at a premium.
"Think about this: eight teams — Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Lyon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, a list that arguably includes the top seven teams in the world (sorry, about that, Lyon). Teams bursting with attacking, goalscoring talent. On the field, at one time or another, were Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Adriano, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Nikolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Raul, Arjen Robben, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Juninho."
"A glittering gallery of goalscorers — and what did we get? Despite all that talent, despite all the money spent on acquiring and paying that talent, after 360-plus minutes of soccer, we got just four goals. Of those, one was from a direct free kick and one from a set play; only two resulted from open play. So that’s the best that the world’s best teams, with all their superstars, can do."
Gardner referenced the fact that this was not caused by first-leg matches forcing away teams to sit in and defend - Juventus (17 shots - 4 on goal) and Manchester United (15 shots - 5 on goal) were the two most offensive minded teams in their first-legs, and they were away from home. Manchester United drew their match 0-0, where Juventus lost their match 1-0.
"You could read into those few stats a simple tale that attacking play does not pay. But there is another revelation here -- one that should not be a surprise. Defensive play has now become so organized, so standardized -- in fact, so easy -- that even when a team is not playing defensively, it has little trouble in snuffing out its opponents' attacks. Even when those attacks feature a bunch of the world's top goalscorers!"
Posted by Mike Jacobs at 8:33 AM