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Woulda been Rays 64th Bday today. Such a shame

Marcus Rashford has raised more than £ 20m for poor children to receive free meals in the Summer holidays. Superb. He knew what it was like growing up with nothing. Now I'm Chelsea through and th

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Steve Sidwell: ‘Mourinho told me I’d wear No 9 – I wasn’t sure if he was joking’

https://theathletic.com/1732297/2020/04/14/steve-sidwell-mourinho-chelsea/

steve-sidwell-chelsea-jose-mourinho-scaled-e1586781484251-1024x683.jpg

Steve Sidwell had just climbed into his car after finishing training at Reading when he received a call from his then agent Eric Walters.

“Are you sitting down?” asked Walters. “You need to be for this.”

For a terrifying moment, Sidwell thought he was about to hear some awful news about a family member or friend. Those fears quickly gave way to pure disbelief.

“I’ve had Peter Kenyon on the phone  Chelsea are asking about signing you,” Walters added. The midfielder thought it was too good to be true.

“I was a Chelsea fan, my family were all Chelsea fans and we lived in the area. I thought he was taking the piss,” Sidwell tells The Athletic.

It was just the start of a year Sidwell will never forget.


The year is 2007 and Sidwell is coming to the end of his contract at Reading, who were on course to finish a remarkable eighth in the club’s first ever season in the top flight. He’d already decided to leave for pastures new on a free transfer and every side in the Premier League bar Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool had declared an interest at one stage or another.

West Ham United offered considerably more than Chelsea’s £50,000-a-week package, as did Reading when they made a late bid to retain the former Arsenal academy player. But once Sidwell realised a switch to Stamford Bridge was a genuine possibility, there was only one place he wanted to be.

To say the move took the football world by surprise is an understatement. Chelsea had developed a reputation for spending fortunes on some of the game’s biggest names, while one of the greatest managers, Jose Mourinho, was at the wheel and in his pomp.

Competition for places was fierce. Mourinho already had Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele, Mikel John Obi, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack to choose from in midfield, although the latter missed a chunk of 2007 with an ankle injury.

An initial telephone conversation, followed by a clandestine meeting at Mourinho’s house, eased any doubts. “I was taken into his living room and just sat there for 15-20 minutes,” Sidwell reveals. “Nobody came in. I could hear his wife cooking in the kitchen and his kids were playing somewhere. His little dog was running in and out. I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t sure if they knew I was there. I didn’t want to scare anyone. He then came down the stairs in slippers, jeans and a casual t-shirt. I could hear him saying to someone, ‘WHAT? He’s here already?!’   

“He came into the room and was all apologetic. We ended up talking football for hours. He gave me a book and it had Chelsea 2007-08 on the cover — you have to remember this was at the back end of the previous season. It literally had a plan of what was going to happen day-to-day regarding training, recovery days and so on, all mapped out for the following campaign. 

Jose said I would get game time. He had watched me a lot and liked what I’d been doing for Reading. He wanted to add to the British core and felt I would respond well to the competition.

“He asked me, ‘What do you want from football?’ And I explained medals first and foremost, but also for my family to be secure. He said, ‘Well you must sign for Chelsea because if you play you will win stuff and if you don’t, you can get a pay-off and go somewhere else. It’s a win-win situation.’ So I signed.”

Sidwell didn’t have too long to wait before Mourinho shocked him again. On the very first day, as the team headed to the airport to depart on a pre-season tour of the USA, the manager made an announcement as he boarded the coach.

He explains: “Mourinho was sitting there at the front and he says, ‘Steve, you’re going to wear No 9 this year.’

“Every player who joins a new club looks at the numbers available and I’d seen the numbers 9, 14 and others that went upwards from there. I just assumed I may get the No 14 at a push.

“I didn’t know whether he was just testing me. If I said, ‘No thanks’ it would look like I had a weakness in my mentality. If I say ‘Yes’, it may have been that he was only joking. But I thought at least I’d then show him I had the balls to wear it. So I said ‘Yes’ and it turned out he was being serious.

“When I told people, my mates and family, everyone was just laughing. Obviously the number has a lot of history relating to top centre-forwards and that wasn’t me. I went on to score one goal for Chelsea.

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Sidwell celebrates his only Chelsea goal – away at Hull (Photo: Anna Gowthorpe via Getty Images)

“Looking back on why he may have made that decision now, I think he was sending a statement upstairs, to the board. That summer he had wanted more money to spend on transfers — but he’s brought in me, Tal Ben Haim and Claudio Pizarro on free transfers. The only big buy was Florent Malouda. Why didn’t he give Pizarro — a striker — the No 9? I reckon he was making a point by giving it to a free transfer from Reading.”

There were other things on Sidwell’s mind though as the squad departed for America. Seeing so many of the men he had idolised on a professional and personal basis meant he had to be careful when deciding who to sit next to on the long flight to Los Angeles. “I was so nervous,” he admits. “They were superstars in my eyes  what was I going to say to them for the next 10-11 hours? So I decided to sit next to the kitman.”

Training was an instant reality check, too. “It was like a computer game,” Sidwell adds. “The passing was so crisp, on the floor, first time, ping, ping, ping. It was like someone was playing FIFA. It struck me how this was the elite and I needed to buck my ideas up.”

While his new team-mates made an effort to make Sidwell feel welcome, there was one topic of conversation which dominated their opening exchanges.

Just nine months earlier, Sidwell had played for Reading against Chelsea in what proved a very controversial fixture. Petr Cech suffered a fractured skull following a challenge from Stephen Hunt and the goalkeeper’s replacement, Carlo Cudicini, was himself knocked out after colliding with Ibrahima Sonko.

“It was still fresh in everyone’s minds,” Sidwell recalls. “They were asking, ‘Did Hunt mean it? He could have jumped over his head.’

“But I just told them about the way Stephen was as a player, the way he acted afterwards and so on. It was an accident in my opinion. Whether or not they believed me, I don’t know.

“Petr asked me about it too. He was a clever and nice guy, he accepted it was just one of those things. He felt Stephen could have got out of the way, but concluded, ‘If he says he didn’t mean it, I believe him.’ That’s the kind of guy he is.

“A lot of them actually said the one with Carlo was worse — but that was just a freak accident too as far as I was concerned.”


It wasn’t long before Sidwell got to experience Mourinho’s man-management skills first hand.

He made a point of giving Sidwell 10 days’ notice before his first start at Stamford Bridge against Blackburn Rovers to help him prepare and as a reward for training well.

There were other examples too. He continues: “During the summer holidays, Mourinho said, ‘Tomorrow we train as normal but I want you to bring all your kids in so your partner can have a break.’ So the staff that helped players with various things were put in charge of around 30-40 kids and they had a great time. We could hear them laughing as we trained. It was a special touch but also showed how clever Jose was because it got the wives and partners onside too.”

However, on September 20, 2007, Mourinho and Chelsea parted ways. This was a much bigger story than the second sacking around eight years later when the team were sitting just one point above the relegation zone a week before Christmas.

There had been rumblings of discontent between Mourinho and the hierarchy since the start of the year and a dour 1-1 draw with Champions League minnows Rosenborg meant they had gone three games without a win.

Yet this was a man who had delivered five major trophies since taking over in 2004 and Chelsea were sitting in fifth in the Premier League, just a couple of points behind leaders Arsenal.

Sidwell didn’t see it coming. “I never felt that tension or thought he was in trouble,” he says. “There were a few games before, you could see things in the press and it really bubbled up. But you didn’t feel it on the inside. The players were all united, no one was turning against him, he hadn’t lost the dressing room. 

The day he went, I was driving my wife to the airport and the news came on the radio. I just thought, ‘Shit, he’s gone. What’s going to happen?’ We were then all called into a meeting at Cobham.

“It was awkward when Jose came to say his goodbyes. You could have heard a pin drop. It felt like someone had died. When you see strong characters like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry either crying on the floor or certainly welling up… I got upset as well. It was really weird. 

“I called him later in the day to thank him for bringing me to Chelsea and to express regret that we didn’t work together for longer. He told me he had no doubts I would go on to have a great career, which was nice of him. Every time I’ve seen him since then, through football or socially, he’s been top drawer.”

Avram Grant, who had joined as director of football that summer, was named the new head coach, yet Sidwell claims it was the senior players, along with assistant coach Steve Clarke, who ensured the squad were in a position to still compete for major trophies.

Avoiding the ire of owner Roman Abramovich was another incentive.

“I saw Roman a number of times,” says Sidwell. “He used to come into the dressing room a lot after home games. He would come into the training ground too but that was usually not on good terms. He was a very shy and timid character, very humble. But after Jose you knew he pulled no punches when it came to big decisions.

“I remember after one game he came down to Cobham and said, ‘This is unacceptable. The run of form, the players we have, is not good enough for Chelsea. We are here to win things and if this carries on, we won’t.’ He said it in a calm voice, but when you looked into his eyes, you knew he meant business.”

As Chelsea’s challenge for major silverware stepped up in the latter months, Sidwell was no longer selected. The last of his 25 appearances — he was never on the losing side for the club — came in a February FA Cup tie against Huddersfield Town.

It meant he had to sit and watch as Chelsea lost the League Cup final to Tottenham, were knocked out of the FA Cup away to Championship side Barnsley, and fell short by just two points in a title race with Manchester United.

Of course Chelsea had a chance to avenge that last disappointment a couple of weeks later when they faced United in the Champions League final. Sidwell travelled to Moscow with the group even though he was no longer eligible to play — Chelsea had removed his name from the squad registered with UEFA in February, a fit-again Ballack taking his place for the knockout phase.

Chelsea booked out the top floor of their Moscow hotel for a possible post-match party. But Terry’s infamous slip in the penalty shootout ended hopes of that, although it is often forgotten that Nicolas Anelka’s effort being saved by Edwin van der Sar was the moment when the trophy was actually lost.

“I remember watching United celebrate in the pouring rain while wearing a suit, it was gutting,” Sidwell says. “Due to my circumstances, I was there more as a fan, really.

“Everyone had gone up to John after the match and in the dressing room to console him. John was gutted. You could see it in his eyes. Everyone had said their piece earlier and there wasn’t much more you could say to him that night. 

“Obviously there was no dancing. There were just people in their own little groups and people just dwindled off to bed. It was a relatively early night. The flight home was really quiet, it was horrible.”

That was Sidwell’s last outing of any kind with the club he adored. Luiz Felipe Scolari took over from Grant that summer and soon signed another midfielder in Deco.

Aston Villa came calling for Sidwell and a £5 million transfer was agreed. Despite not making the impact he would have wanted, he still reflects fondly on his spell at Stamford Bridge.

I grew up as a person, and learned to be even more professional,” he concludes. “On the wall in my office I have the shirt I wore on my Chelsea debut in the Community Shield, signed by all the players. No one can take that away from me. Did I get the pay-off Mourinho talked about a year earlier? It was enough to pay the bills!”

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Chelsea players hoping to negotiate wage cuts lower than Premier League's suggested 30 per cent 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2020/04/17/chelsea-players-hoping-negotiate-wage-cuts-lower-premier-leagues/

Chelsea are in talks with their players over wage cuts, with the squad hoping to negotiate a reduction lower than the 30 per cent suggested by the Premier League.

It is understood the players, who are negotiating through captain Cesar Azpilicueta, would rather take a cut of around 10 per cent to help save Chelsea money during the coronavirus crisis.

Premier League clubs agreed at the start of April to consult their players on 30 per cent cuts and deferrals, but players across the country have not been happy with that proposal.

Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal are set to agree their players take a 12.5 per cent pay cut, with the proviso of a number of potential future bonuses.

Director Marina Granovskaia is handling the negotiations with the Blues squad, which are said to be taking place amicably and in an understanding manner on both sides even though an agreement is yet to be struck.

Chelsea’s players have already made what was described as a “sizeable” donation to the club’s foundation to go to charities to support the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Head coach Frank Lampard could also take a pay cut once an agreement is reached with his squad.

In the latest accounts, it was revealed Chelsea’s wage bill had increased by 17 per cent to £285 million a year, which was the sixth highest in European football and the third largest in England behind Manchester United and Manchester City.

With no date set for a return to training or a restart to the season, Chelsea have moved to try to save money just over a month since the Premier League was suspended.

Willian, who is one of four first-players whose contracts are due to expire on June 30, is currently in Brazil after being allowed to travel back to his home country to be with his wife and children.

As well as Willian, Chelsea have Olivier Giroud, Pedro Rodriguez and Willy Caballero coming to the end of their contracts, which potentially puts them in a difficult position.

Fifa have recommended that clubs can give their players short-term extensions to complete the season, but national employment law means they can, in theory, walk away on June 30.

Chelsea have not furloughed any non-playing staff and confirmed they will help their casual employees by paying them in full for the fixtures that have been postponed, including matches against Aston Villa, Bayern Munich and Leicester City.

Those payments will be funded entirely by the club and will go to the support staff who help on matchdays, benefitting stewards, hospitality, ground staff and the raffle sellers outside the ground.

Former players and club legends who work in the premium seating areas, including the likes of Ron Harris, Gary Chivers, Paul Canovile, Kerry Dixon and Bobby Tambling, will also receive payment.

Chelsea have already given up their Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge to NHS staff, who are being provided with rooms and breakfast.

The club are providing 78,000 meals to the NHS and charities that support the elderly and vulnerable groups, and have teamed up with Refuge, the domestic abuse charity, to raise funds for those suffering during the pandemic.

Head coach Frank Lampard said: “I’m very proud to be the manager of this club with the way Chelsea have handled it. They were very quick to respond with the help of the hotel and there’s a lot more work going on with the foundation, with link-ups and with getting in touch with fans. There are a lot of people at Chelsea who have really stood up.”

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Chelsea are in talks with their players over wage cuts, with the squad hoping to negotiate a reduction lower than the 30 per cent suggested.

The players would rather take a cut of around 10 per cent to help save Chelsea money during the coronavirus crisis. - Telegraph

 

So our money for Morata, Pasalic is not sure thing anymore. Wow.

Not sure I believe this because we are not losing more than 100m at worst and Roman can just inject 100m so it would be like nothing happened? 

Also does this mean another season to write off?

About wage cut. In France is 50%, in Italy 33%... PL players are such a embarrassment!

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1 hour ago, NikkiCFC said:

Chelsea are in talks with their players over wage cuts, with the squad hoping to negotiate a reduction lower than the 30 per cent suggested.

The players would rather take a cut of around 10 per cent to help save Chelsea money during the coronavirus crisis. - Telegraph

 

So our money for Morata, Pasalic is not sure thing anymore. Wow.

Not sure I believe this because we are not losing more than 100m at worst and Roman can just inject 100m so it would be like nothing happened? 

Also does this mean another season to write off?

About wage cut. In France is 50%, in Italy 33%... PL players are such a embarrassment!

Morata will lose his shit if he has to come back here, lol.

Mario Pašalić was superb for Atalanta this past season, I am sure we will have zero problems selling him on if Atalanta cannot buy him. (they were right in the middle of the COVID-19 decimation, and I have no clue about their finances, although they are qualified for the CL (4th place atm) again, even if Serie A voids the season.)

 

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Chelsea players pushing for just 10% wage drop

https://www.chelsea-news.co/2020/04/chelsea-players-pushing-just-10-wage-drop/

Chelsea’s players are negotiating a small wage cut with the club in the light of the coronavirus hiatus.

It’s less than the club wants, but the players hold the cards and have their own plans for their money. Goal.com’s Nizaar Kinsella had the report last night, and he outlined the negotiations as they stand.

While the Premier League are suggesting that top flight players offer to take a 30% wage cut; the player want to see their cash to directly towards the crisis.

 

snip

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On 4/18/2020 at 6:07 AM, Vesper said:

Chelsea players pushing for just 10% wage drop

https://www.chelsea-news.co/2020/04/chelsea-players-pushing-just-10-wage-drop/

 

Roma players, coach and staff to give up four months' wages amid coronavirus

 
 
Well done Roma! And to all Italians... In France is 50%, easy decision. In PL where is biggest money players will not accept anything. Huge disappointment.
I only follow PL intensively (because of Chelsea ofc) and barely other leagues.... I will revisit my decision after all this ends...
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Why Chelsea view Tottenham as their biggest rivals

https://theathletic.com/1759011/2020/04/21/spurs-chelsea-tottenham-derby-rivals/

chelsea-totteham-rivalry.jpg

In the end, the only surprise was that the margin wasn’t greater. The Athletic went to the polls to ask who Chelsea fans regard as their biggest rivals and the answer was emphatic: Tottenham.

The north London club came top with 58.6 per cent of the vote — their nearest challengers were Arsenal with 26.7 per cent. Then came Liverpool (10.6 per cent) and finally Leeds (4.1 per cent).

Limitations set by Twitter meant only four teams could be named on the ballot and as many comments below the message revealed, Manchester United would have picked up a lot of support had they been included, too. But it would have made no difference to the identity of the winner. The fact Tottenham emerged victorious wasn’t a shock. Some of those responding were mystified that the question was being asked in the first place.

What isn’t so clear is why they are the undisputed No 1. Granted both sides play in the same city, but so do 10 other clubs in the top four tiers of English football. Bar League Two Leyton Orient, all of their stadiums are closer to Stamford Bridge than Tottenham’s.

There is a disparity in the trophy cabinet, too. Thanks to Roman Abramovich’s arrival in 2003, Chelsea now boast a lead of 24 major trophies to 17. That includes six championships to Tottenham’s two — the last of which was claimed by them back in 1961 — as well as the bragging rights of winning the Champions League in 2012.

Indeed, since lifting the FA Cup in 1991, Spurs’ silverware has come in the form of two League Cup wins (1999, 2008), the least valuable competition of the trophies categorised as “major”. And yet the animosity is as great as ever.

“This is how silly it is,” Mark Worrall, author of several Chelsea books, begins to explain to The Athletic. “I took my daughter to her first game against Everton in March. The Liquidator (a tune that has been played at Stamford Bridge for over 50 years) came on and the fans sang, ‘We hate Tottenham, Chelsea!’ She turned to me and said, ‘Why are they chanting about Tottenham when we are playing Everton?’

“It’s like a conditioning thing. Anyone under 30 has no real reason to hate Spurs from a rivalry point of view. What have they done? They are the annoying kid brother that you always beat. It’s overplayed.

“There is a cartoon quality to it. They are not a rival, they’re someone to laugh at. They are the gift that keep on giving. The hatred aspect is a bit bizarre because they’re rubbish. I have liked the Liverpool rivalry over the last 20 years because it’s been a two-way street.”

So how did it all begin? Everyone to whom The Athletic spoke said that the first signs of real angst came in the 1960s. Having already seen academy graduate Bobby Smith win the Double with Spurs in 1961, two more prized assets, Jimmy Greaves (via AC Milan) and Terry Venables, also made the move to White Hart Lane. Greaves and Venables were part of the Tottenham side who defeated Chelsea in the 1967 FA Cup final, which was the first to be contested between two London clubs. The anger and disappointment felt by those connected to Stamford Bridge was overwhelming.

What isn’t so well known is what happened at Wembley that day. Chelsea historian Rick Glanvill says: “There was a lot of violence outside the ground, pockets of people fighting.

“I’m in my late 50s and the majority of people I know around my age who hate Tottenham will say it started with the 1967 FA Cup final. You have to remember Spurs had Greaves and Venables in their side. Tottenham were winning trophies regularly. It made Chelsea fans ask the question, ‘Are they a bigger catch?’

“They’d won the title in 1951 and the Double in 1961. In between that, Chelsea had won the league in 1955 but it felt like Spurs were the bigger draw, more glamorous. There were big derbies leading up to 1967, which also led to animosity. That is the seeds of it.”

David Chidgey of the Chelsea FanCast adds: “Unlike now, when it is so much more of a mixed bag, if you went to school in London in the 1960s, a lot of kids supported either Chelsea or Tottenham. So if your side lost to the other at the weekend, there would be an awful lot of mocking going on and it would be something you wouldn’t forget. Those kids go on to have kids and pass those feelings on. It’s hereditary.”

That is a sequence of which season-ticket holder Darren Mantle is a classic example. His grandparents and parents were all Chelsea supporters and there was one rule in his household growing up.

“When my elder brother was young, he wanted Spurs to win the 1991 FA Cup final,” Mantle says. “They had players like Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker and played good football. But we were not allowed to support them, we never had a choice. We knew from an early age they were the enemy.”

Similarly, on joining the club, new players have always been given a quick instruction on the one team Chelsea simply have to beat. As more and more foreigners began to arrive in the 1990s, captain Dennis Wise made sure everyone knew what the situation was and his successors have done the same.

A series of bitter duels in the 1960s and early 1970s with Leeds, whom Chelsea beat in the FA Cup Final three years later, threatened to eclipse it at the time, yet Spurs always remained in the picture. When both clubs were struggling to avoid relegation in the 1974-75 season, Chelsea lost a crucial match against them late on in the season and went down. Tottenham stayed up by just a point.

The spread of hooliganism in the English game took things to an even more unsavoury edge. Glanvill continues: “The old White Hart Lane was one of the last grounds where you’d get chased out down the street afterwards. People would randomly run out and punch people.

“Racism entered into it. Chelsea were infiltrated by racist groups like Combat 18 in the 1980s and that became a huge strand. It threw oil on the fire. There was a lot of anti-Semitism involved. For example, in the 1980s people were singing about the Tottenham striker Steve Archibald: ‘Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim chim cher-oo, you used to be Scottish and now you’re a Jew’. I remember thinking ‘this is horrific’.”

It took concerted efforts by Abramovich, who is Jewish, to make serious strides in stamping anti-Semitism out of Chelsea, through a combination of punishment and education. The battle remains ongoing.

Chidgey puts forwards another valid theory for Tottenham’s lack of popularity. “Chelsea suffer from a lack of a real direct local rivalry,” he says. “We have Fulham next door, but back in the day people would go to their games one weekend and ours the next. QPR hate us to pieces, but there is no competitive rivalry there.

“In contrast, Tottenham have Arsenal, Liverpool have Everton, Manchester United have Manchester City. So for Chelsea, it is a little bit fudged. The club’s fans inevitably had to look elsewhere.” Even more so during a drought of trophies between 1972-96, which also coincided with rarely challenging at the summit of England’s top division.

As Glanvill says: “We weren’t involved in title races so when the fixtures came out what was the first one everyone looked for, the game to make the season? It was Tottenham.” That sentiment remained, even though winning became a habit. Chelsea went 19 years without losing a league game at White Hart Lane (1987-2006), a run which was bettered at home (1990-2018).

There have been a lot of high-profile fixtures to keep the bitter relationship going. Tottenham’s last trophy — the League Cup in 2008 — came at Chelsea’s expense in the final. A month later and Chelsea suffered a costly 4-4 draw against them to lose two crucial points in a close title race with Manchester United.

Of course, Chelsea have had the better of most of the exchanges: FA Cup semi-finals in 2012 and 2017, plus a League Cup final triumph in 2015 and semi-final penalty shootout victory after two legs last year.

One of the most celebrated games came in Chelsea’s worst campaign under Abramovich in 2015-16. The 2-2 draw was called the “Battle of the Bridge” due to 12 players being booked (Tottenham set a Premier League record with nine) and a big altercation by the dug-out at the final whistle. Chelsea fans reacted as if their side had won a trophy, when the home side had merely come from two goals down to earn a point which ensured Leicester would beat Tottenham to the Premier League title.

“In retrospect, a lot of people are embarrassed about it now,” Glanvill insists. “We had had so many bad results, it was a really weird season. A few weeks before I was at an away game and the performance was so poor, the fans were singing, ‘You better beat fucking Tottenham’.

“Basically there was a feeling of what could be salvaged. It was a case of desperate minds, desperate solutions. The only way it could be worse was if Tottenham ended their winless record at Stamford Bridge and went on to win the title. But looking back, it was embarrassing to celebrate a draw at home over our rivals, who we had dominated for years.”

As Chelsea have become more successful, so has their list of adversaries. Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and even Barcelona have been the subject matter of some fierce contests.

But when football resumes again, most Chelsea fans will already begin looking forward to the next chance they get to enjoy a win over Tottenham.

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Straight Outta Cobham

Why Mourinho Got The Sack: Vol 1

3c2d85338725c863b08acf629846dec7.png

 
Host Matt Davies-Adams is joined by The Athletic's Chelsea experts; Liam Twomey, Simon Johnson & Dom Fifield, to revisit the first Jose Mourinho sacking! ... How it all unravelled for 'The Special One' at Stamford Bridge, through the prism of two notorious signings - Andriy Shevchenko and Steve Sidwell.

Plus, the quartet discuss loaning out talented youngsters to varying degrees of success, the latest on player wage-cuts & which Chelsea starlet would deserve a 'Young Player of the Year' Award.
 
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So PL will have another Man City in Newcastle United.

Abramovich better be ready to invest more or we wont be in CL for much longer.

And we will be even further from winning any trophies. City last season collected all domestic trophies for example.

Meanwhile we are trying to rebuild with rookies in critical areas of Chelsea.

 

This Newcastle takeover scares me because you know the new owners will splash cash.

You know within the next five years, Newcastle is going to compete with us for trophies and top 4.

You know our current owner has less interest of Chelsea then he did a decade ago.

You know these new owners have more money than Abramovich.

And to top it all off, St. James Park is one of Chelsea’s bogey stadiums.

The failure of getting Stamford Bridge rebuilt to have a 60,000 stadium tells us exactly where Chelsea is going. Downhill.

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1 hour ago, Mana said:

And we will be even further from winning any trophies. City last season collected all domestic trophies for example.

Meanwhile we are trying to rebuild with rookies in critical areas of Chelsea.
 

This Newcastle takeover scares me because you know the new owners will splash cash.
You know within the next five years, Newcastle is going to compete with us for trophies and top 4.
You know our current owner has less interest of Chelsea then he did a decade ago.
You know these new owners have more money than Abramovich.

And to top it all of, St. James Park is one of Chelsea’s bogey stadiums.

The failure of getting Stamford Bridge rebuilt to have a 60,000 stadium tells us exactly where Chelsea is going. Downhill.

Oh look, someone is back with all the doom and gloom...

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Oh look, someone is back with all the doom and gloom...

Nice to see you again, Michael Owen! [emoji23]

Also to be fair, I haven’t really “left”, I became a lurker for a while. Putting anything related to COVID-19 aside, there is nothing really football-wise to be discussed apart from the BS transfer rumours, reading opinionated articles and of course, Newcastle.

I have been holding this back for a while, but I am very disappointed of us that in the end we are not getting our new stadium. That setback whether you want to hear it or not, is going to cost us big time, financially AND in terms of competing.
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10 hours ago, Vesper said:

Why Chelsea view Tottenham as their biggest rivals

https://theathletic.com/1759011/2020/04/21/spurs-chelsea-tottenham-derby-rivals/

chelsea-totteham-rivalry.jpg

In the end, the only surprise was that the margin wasn’t greater. The Athletic went to the polls to ask who Chelsea fans regard as their biggest rivals and the answer was emphatic: Tottenham.

The north London club came top with 58.6 per cent of the vote — their nearest challengers were Arsenal with 26.7 per cent. Then came Liverpool (10.6 per cent) and finally Leeds (4.1 per cent).

Limitations set by Twitter meant only four teams could be named on the ballot and as many comments below the message revealed, Manchester United would have picked up a lot of support had they been included, too. But it would have made no difference to the identity of the winner. The fact Tottenham emerged victorious wasn’t a shock. Some of those responding were mystified that the question was being asked in the first place.

What isn’t so clear is why they are the undisputed No 1. Granted both sides play in the same city, but so do 10 other clubs in the top four tiers of English football. Bar League Two Leyton Orient, all of their stadiums are closer to Stamford Bridge than Tottenham’s.

There is a disparity in the trophy cabinet, too. Thanks to Roman Abramovich’s arrival in 2003, Chelsea now boast a lead of 24 major trophies to 17. That includes six championships to Tottenham’s two — the last of which was claimed by them back in 1961 — as well as the bragging rights of winning the Champions League in 2012.

Indeed, since lifting the FA Cup in 1991, Spurs’ silverware has come in the form of two League Cup wins (1999, 2008), the least valuable competition of the trophies categorised as “major”. And yet the animosity is as great as ever.

“This is how silly it is,” Mark Worrall, author of several Chelsea books, begins to explain to The Athletic. “I took my daughter to her first game against Everton in March. The Liquidator (a tune that has been played at Stamford Bridge for over 50 years) came on and the fans sang, ‘We hate Tottenham, Chelsea!’ She turned to me and said, ‘Why are they chanting about Tottenham when we are playing Everton?’

“It’s like a conditioning thing. Anyone under 30 has no real reason to hate Spurs from a rivalry point of view. What have they done? They are the annoying kid brother that you always beat. It’s overplayed.

“There is a cartoon quality to it. They are not a rival, they’re someone to laugh at. They are the gift that keep on giving. The hatred aspect is a bit bizarre because they’re rubbish. I have liked the Liverpool rivalry over the last 20 years because it’s been a two-way street.”

So how did it all begin? Everyone to whom The Athletic spoke said that the first signs of real angst came in the 1960s. Having already seen academy graduate Bobby Smith win the Double with Spurs in 1961, two more prized assets, Jimmy Greaves (via AC Milan) and Terry Venables, also made the move to White Hart Lane. Greaves and Venables were part of the Tottenham side who defeated Chelsea in the 1967 FA Cup final, which was the first to be contested between two London clubs. The anger and disappointment felt by those connected to Stamford Bridge was overwhelming.

What isn’t so well known is what happened at Wembley that day. Chelsea historian Rick Glanvill says: “There was a lot of violence outside the ground, pockets of people fighting.

“I’m in my late 50s and the majority of people I know around my age who hate Tottenham will say it started with the 1967 FA Cup final. You have to remember Spurs had Greaves and Venables in their side. Tottenham were winning trophies regularly. It made Chelsea fans ask the question, ‘Are they a bigger catch?’

“They’d won the title in 1951 and the Double in 1961. In between that, Chelsea had won the league in 1955 but it felt like Spurs were the bigger draw, more glamorous. There were big derbies leading up to 1967, which also led to animosity. That is the seeds of it.”

David Chidgey of the Chelsea FanCast adds: “Unlike now, when it is so much more of a mixed bag, if you went to school in London in the 1960s, a lot of kids supported either Chelsea or Tottenham. So if your side lost to the other at the weekend, there would be an awful lot of mocking going on and it would be something you wouldn’t forget. Those kids go on to have kids and pass those feelings on. It’s hereditary.”

That is a sequence of which season-ticket holder Darren Mantle is a classic example. His grandparents and parents were all Chelsea supporters and there was one rule in his household growing up.

“When my elder brother was young, he wanted Spurs to win the 1991 FA Cup final,” Mantle says. “They had players like Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker and played good football. But we were not allowed to support them, we never had a choice. We knew from an early age they were the enemy.”

Similarly, on joining the club, new players have always been given a quick instruction on the one team Chelsea simply have to beat. As more and more foreigners began to arrive in the 1990s, captain Dennis Wise made sure everyone knew what the situation was and his successors have done the same.

A series of bitter duels in the 1960s and early 1970s with Leeds, whom Chelsea beat in the FA Cup Final three years later, threatened to eclipse it at the time, yet Spurs always remained in the picture. When both clubs were struggling to avoid relegation in the 1974-75 season, Chelsea lost a crucial match against them late on in the season and went down. Tottenham stayed up by just a point.

The spread of hooliganism in the English game took things to an even more unsavoury edge. Glanvill continues: “The old White Hart Lane was one of the last grounds where you’d get chased out down the street afterwards. People would randomly run out and punch people.

“Racism entered into it. Chelsea were infiltrated by racist groups like Combat 18 in the 1980s and that became a huge strand. It threw oil on the fire. There was a lot of anti-Semitism involved. For example, in the 1980s people were singing about the Tottenham striker Steve Archibald: ‘Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim chim cher-oo, you used to be Scottish and now you’re a Jew’. I remember thinking ‘this is horrific’.”

It took concerted efforts by Abramovich, who is Jewish, to make serious strides in stamping anti-Semitism out of Chelsea, through a combination of punishment and education. The battle remains ongoing.

Chidgey puts forwards another valid theory for Tottenham’s lack of popularity. “Chelsea suffer from a lack of a real direct local rivalry,” he says. “We have Fulham next door, but back in the day people would go to their games one weekend and ours the next. QPR hate us to pieces, but there is no competitive rivalry there.

“In contrast, Tottenham have Arsenal, Liverpool have Everton, Manchester United have Manchester City. So for Chelsea, it is a little bit fudged. The club’s fans inevitably had to look elsewhere.” Even more so during a drought of trophies between 1972-96, which also coincided with rarely challenging at the summit of England’s top division.

As Glanvill says: “We weren’t involved in title races so when the fixtures came out what was the first one everyone looked for, the game to make the season? It was Tottenham.” That sentiment remained, even though winning became a habit. Chelsea went 19 years without losing a league game at White Hart Lane (1987-2006), a run which was bettered at home (1990-2018).

There have been a lot of high-profile fixtures to keep the bitter relationship going. Tottenham’s last trophy — the League Cup in 2008 — came at Chelsea’s expense in the final. A month later and Chelsea suffered a costly 4-4 draw against them to lose two crucial points in a close title race with Manchester United.

Of course, Chelsea have had the better of most of the exchanges: FA Cup semi-finals in 2012 and 2017, plus a League Cup final triumph in 2015 and semi-final penalty shootout victory after two legs last year.

One of the most celebrated games came in Chelsea’s worst campaign under Abramovich in 2015-16. The 2-2 draw was called the “Battle of the Bridge” due to 12 players being booked (Tottenham set a Premier League record with nine) and a big altercation by the dug-out at the final whistle. Chelsea fans reacted as if their side had won a trophy, when the home side had merely come from two goals down to earn a point which ensured Leicester would beat Tottenham to the Premier League title.

“In retrospect, a lot of people are embarrassed about it now,” Glanvill insists. “We had had so many bad results, it was a really weird season. A few weeks before I was at an away game and the performance was so poor, the fans were singing, ‘You better beat fucking Tottenham’.

“Basically there was a feeling of what could be salvaged. It was a case of desperate minds, desperate solutions. The only way it could be worse was if Tottenham ended their winless record at Stamford Bridge and went on to win the title. But looking back, it was embarrassing to celebrate a draw at home over our rivals, who we had dominated for years.”

As Chelsea have become more successful, so has their list of adversaries. Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and even Barcelona have been the subject matter of some fierce contests.

But when football resumes again, most Chelsea fans will already begin looking forward to the next chance they get to enjoy a win over Tottenham.

I'm about to type swear words, well almost anyway. I hope no one will hold this against me the next time I comment on unnecessary profanity in posts. This is Tottenham after all.

Surprisingly it's not actually Spurs, but Rick Glanville who's got my back up here. Who the f is embarrassed about celebrating the draw against Spurs? I'm still celebrating it now. It's Spurs, f 'em. Of course they moaned and mocked us for it, but, if the shoe had been on the other foot, they'd have made a DVD about stopping us winning the league. F 'em.

And what's this bollocks about 'because we had a bad season'? If we'd finished third, won both domestic cups, and brought home the Champions League that season, there would still have been pandemonium when Eden scored. It's f'ing Tottenham. What are you on about Rick?

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1 hour ago, Mana said:

Also to be fair, I haven’t really “left”, I became a lurker for a while. Putting anything related to COVID-19 aside, there is nothing really football-wise to be discussed apart from the BS transfer rumours, reading opinionated articles and of course, Newcastle.

What's the difference? Your first post here in weeks and it's all doom and gloom. You're definitely living up to the brand. 

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What's the difference? Your first post here in weeks and it's all doom and gloom. You're definitely living up to the brand. 

Boohoo.
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Newcastle won’t be ‘dangerous’ until 4 or 5 years time. And this is giving them the benefit of the doubt (quality manager, scouting network, director of football) The way the market is, it’s going to take them a while to create a quality side. It took City 4 years to win something. 
 

The best we can do is to keep hold of the vision we started with Sarri. Progressive football. Hopefully with Cech, our transfer policy is a bit more consistent and the players identified match the philosophy at the club. Mix this together with having the best youth academy in the country, we have nothing to worry about long term. 

 

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1 hour ago, MoroccanBlue said:

Newcastle won’t be ‘dangerous’ until 4 or 5 years time. And this is giving them the benefit of the doubt (quality manager, scouting network, director of football) The way the market is, it’s going to take them a while to create a quality side. It took City 4 years to win something. 
 

The best we can do is to keep hold of the vision we started with Sarri. Progressive football. Hopefully with Cech, our transfer policy is a bit more consistent and the players identified match the philosophy at the club. Mix this together with having the best youth academy in the country, we have nothing to worry about long term. 

 

Ambition and spending are only two things that matter though.

Its realy nice to see us go progressive football. It was definately required.

But all these talents we have are only a part. 

All teams that won something in recent years spent big money on at least few world class players. Regular spenders like Real, Barca, City,...Pool with Dijk and Alisson etc. 

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Chelsea pay cuts explained: Why not a deferral? What does it mean for transfers?

https://theathletic.com/1766419/2020/04/23/pay-cuts-chelsea-abramovich-azpilicueta/

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Chelsea players have agreed to take a 10 per cent pay cut starting in May for four months to help the club cope with the effects of football being shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. But why and how was this move made? The Athletic look to answer some of the key questions…


Chelsea have a multi-billionaire owner in Roman Abramovich, so why the need to turn to the players for help?

Chelsea pride themselves on being a business in their own right and attempt to live within their means. Despite suggestions from UEFA that Financial Fair Play rules might be relaxed for a period due to the crisis, it is still a practice the club want to adhere to. Like all teams, Chelsea are suffering financially without matchday revenue and there are no guarantees when that will return. Even if football resumes in June as is the target in England, it will start off behind closed doors. There is no time frame as yet for when fixtures can be played in front of fans at Stamford Bridge again so the hierarchy are having to respond accordingly.

Chelsea’s last accounts for the year ending June 30, 2019 showed the club made a £96.6 million loss despite Abramovich providing another £247 million of capital. The club’s wage bill has climbed to £285 million, which took a significant chunk out of the annual turnover figure of £446.7 million (57.8 per cent). Chelsea will have revenue from the sales of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata to include in the next set of accounts, but clearly this break in play — and the potentially significant loss of broadcast revenue should the season not resume at all — is being taken into consideration.

So how did the negotiations start?

It is understood that Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia made the first move. She stated the club’s stance to captain Cesar Azpilicueta and he then relayed the information to the rest of the squad via a WhatsApp group already in place for players to communicate.

The initial request from the club was for the players to take a 30 per cent reduction, which was a figure Premier League clubs set as the benchmark following a meeting between all 20 members on April 3. At Stamford Bridge, the plan was set for the scheme to last four months.

After raising the club’s proposal of a 30 per cent cut with the players, sources told The Athletic that Azpilicueta said he would go back to the club with a counter-offer of 10 per cent. If anyone had any further questions they were to raise them on WhatsApp.

There was no conference call set up for the whole faction to talk things out and little resistance to what was being proposed. It is understood some players spoke between themselves over what course of action they were planning to take but everyone was keen to stay united and reach a group decision. Head coach Frank Lampard was not involved.

The initial story that players were bargaining over a 10 per cent figure was leaked to a newspaper last week. This came to the attention of Azpilicueta and the defender highlighted to everyone the importance of keeping the negotiation process private.

Did anyone have a problem with a 10 per cent pay cut?

The Athletic can reveal more than one individual questioned why taking a deferral wasn’t a possibility, as has been the policy adopted by Southampton, for instance. But the club made it clear, via Azpilicueta, that this wasn’t an option and nor was earning the money back — as Arsenal have promised players who have accepted a 12.5 per cent cut — should they qualify for the Champions League this season (or next).

Chelsea are currently fourth place in the Premier League table with nine games to go and have a three-point lead over Manchester United in fifth. With Manchester City currently banned from the Champions League for the next two seasons, albeit subject to appeal, fifth place could be enough to play in Europe’s premier club competition. There is a further two-point gap to Wolves and Sheffield United (sixth and seventh respectively).

One agent remarked that he is surprised Chelsea have taken such a stance on wages at this stage and not put something in place like Arsenal have done to repay players should certain targets be met. Another suggested the shortfall could be used by players in future contract negotiations instead and that one of the demands will be for the sum to be paid back then.

It is believed some individuals shared concerns with each other about the possibility of Chelsea spending big on new players in the transfer market whenever the window reopens despite asking the current squad to make this sacrifice. However, at no point did the issue become acrimonious and everyone voted unanimously in favour of the motion.

It helped that the club has done many positive things during the lockdown, from not furloughing non-playing staff, providing free rooms at the Millennium and Copthorne Hotels for National Health Service staff and paying for 13,000 meals a week to be sent to five hospitals.

Will Chelsea still be active in the transfer market?

Certainly, but there are still so many unanswered questions about COVID-19 right now which could have an effect on the budget. That will inevitably have a say in what players they attempt to buy.

Chelsea were planning to invest significantly before the crisis hit having been unable to do so in the previous two windows owing to their transfer ban. The early acquisition of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax in February for an initial £33 million was an indication of their intent to bridge the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City.

But without knowing when football will be played again, whether broadcasting rights will have to be repaid or if Chelsea are in the Champions League next season, it has made the process far more complicated.

 

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Inspired by you: How can someone with bad stats be a good player?

https://theathletic.com/1763286/2020/04/23/bad-stats-but-good-player-analysis/

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This week, we’re writing a series of articles inspired by questions from our readers.

Thank you to Muhammad S for inspiring this piece after he asked us to explore the use of statistics in football analysis and how they can be subjective.


More specifically, Muhammad asked for a piece that looked into a few topics to do with stats and football:

“How statistics is not the definitive viewpoint in football, how stats don’t measure everything, how they can be subjective, with examples of how someone can have apparently poor stats and be an integral part of the team.”

That’s cheating slightly as it’s three articles in one, but that’s fine because we like Muhammad as he raises some great points about data in football that are worth exploring.

Stats aren’t the definitive viewpoint in football

Football is a complex sport. The prevalent school of thought for years posited that it was too complex to reduce to dry, boring, soulless numbers. In recent years, that narrative has died a bit of a death — xG stats being discussed on Match of the Day, Liverpool’s well-documented use of data powering best-in-class recruitment and, well, one of the premier places to read sports journalism hiring a dedicated analytics writer are all testament to that. I’ll put my trumpet down now.

The increased use of this data doesn’t change the fact that football is complex. Statistics are still used to formulate an opinion or win an argument because it’s the best way to succinctly provide evidence to back up an opinion. The reason why there is widespread stats usage in football (and sport in general) is because there’s no better medium to back up (or falsify) an opinion about a given team or player in an objective manner.

Maybe the world would be different if footage of games was easier to come by and rights holders didn’t exclusively have the keys.

Stats might be the best tool we have at our disposal to properly analyse and discuss the game in an objective manner, but that doesn’t mean we should take them as gospel.

For a start, there will always be things that can’t be measured precisely using stats. For example: Who has the best first touch in the Premier League? You could try to create a proxy that measures something similar, such as the proportion of passes received that are miscontrolled. Using data from fbref, I calculated Aston Villa defender Bjorn Engels (0% of his pass receptions were miscontrolled) as having the best first touch, slightly ahead of Liverpool counterpart Virgil van Dijk (0.1% of his receptions were miscontrolled). Not a metric that passes the eye test, you’ll likely agree.

This measure doesn’t tell us anything about the types of passes received, or the context in which the player receives the ball, such as where they’re facing. Callum Wilson’s “miscontrolled rate” of 16 per cent for Bournemouth is the highest in the Premier League, but he is receiving passes under far more pressure and further upfield.

It’s also hard to distinguish between those touches that are “killed dead” versus “came off shin, knee and finally brought under” — the miscontrol datapoint here is a binary “yes” or “no”, so even if pass type or pressure were taken into account, the output would still be too blunt to find out who has the best first touch anyway. Some debates are better left to opinions, and in this case, more fun to resolve in that manner anyway.

It’s also worth pointing out that although we take the data collected by companies as “objective”, it is (currently) collected manually, by people. The issue here is that humans are biased, irrational and error-prone, all the things that data should not be. For that reason, there will always be some amount of error present in the data that is collected, no matter how advanced your quality-assurance processes are.

It’s not just that the data being collected is at the mercy of human error at times, but the different definitions used to collect data are prone to some level of error too. At some stage Opta or Statsbomb or whoever else it is collecting the data need to decide upon a definition for each event they want to capture. What is a pass? What is a through-ball? What is a take-on? What’s the difference between a block and a save? These choices aren’t always black and white, and at some point a line has to be drawn.

If you were to do an archaeological dig on the decisions made when creating a data collection process (football or otherwise), at some point you would always find some subjectivity at play somewhere. Data is never completely impartial, and subjectivity — whether intentionally or not — is an inescapable part of data collection.

This isn’t to question the data providers, or say that the data isn’t trustworthy. Data collection is hard, and the limitations of the data that is collected mean football can never be reduced to statistics that are purely objective.


You can have “poor stats” and still be a good player

The notion of a player having poor stats, at times, is down to misinterpretation of the numbers to begin with.

Take Sebastien Haller of West Ham United, who has lost the second most aerial duels in the Premier League this season (187) but also won the most (186). This could easily be spun either way to show he is good or bad in the air, but the more accurate interpretation of these figures is that he’s involved a lot in aerial duels and wins them at a high rate for a Premier League striker (an aerial win rate in open play of 82/99 per smarterscout, which you can think of as FIFA ratings for players, but using real-life data). Lies, damned lies and statistics, as the phrase goes.

Additionally, part of the reason players have “poor stats” is that the output they produce on the field is not considered within the context of their role in the team. Much was made of Jorginho’s lack of assists for Chelsea last season under Maurizio Sarri, but few noted that this wasn’t really his job.

As a deep-lying playmaker, it’s important for him to connect defence and attack, dictate the tempo and get the ball forward to those who are tasked with creating chances. He did that really well — Jorginho was involved in the build-up to more open-play goals, which is where everyone in the possession chain gets credit apart from the shooter or assister, than any other Premier League player last season.

He also did make a lot of passes that, on average, would have returned five assists according to Opta’s expected assists model. Luck should be accounted for where possible, and players should be rewarded only for things that they have control over.

The best example this season of a player whose stats aren’t the best reflection of their overall abilities might be David McGoldrick of Sheffield United.

Yes, he’s scored a grand total of zero goals from chances worth 6.2 xG. If he was being picked based on his goalscoring prowess, he’d have been dropped a while ago. McGoldrick’s constant hustling off the ball — no other striker makes more defensive actions than him — is what justifies his place in Chris Wilder’s squad, and makes him a valuable asset to his tactical system when called upon.


Stats don’t measure everything, and that’s OK

The whole point of using statistics is to try to attach meaning and insight into something as intricate as 22 bodies chasing a bag of wind around a field for an hour and a half.

The most common datasets you see around football are the aforementioned events on the ball. They’re great at telling you what happens to the ball (passed, passed, cleared, recovered, passed, shot, goal!) but not a lot about the 21 other players (or 20, in the case of duels) who aren’t in possession.

Due to this, we’re going to miss out on capturing events on the pitch that take place because of the ball, but not with it. Think off-the-ball runs into pockets of space, defensive midfielders blocking passing lanes into the strikers, and so on. Statistics at this point aren’t able to fully capture everything on the field because of the limitations of the data collected.

One of the biggest deficiencies of football statistics at the moment is the inability to properly measure the defensive side of the game. The volume of defensive actions (tackles, interceptions, recoveries, etc.) don’t tell us if one defender is better than another, they purely tell us how active they are and are also a reflection of defender and team style.

As noted in my 10 commandments of football analytics, these figures are usually influenced by the amount of possession a team has too; more of the ball means less time required to defend.

Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings attempts just one tackle per 1,000 opposition touches, the lowest mark of any centre-back in the league. This isn’t to say he’s a bad defender, but one that doesn’t actively look to win the ball back. We learn something about his positioning too from the fact that Mings leads all Premier League defenders in blocked shots this season. Villa manager Dean Smith prefers to use him deeper as a shield in front of the goal instead of having him hunting to regain the ball.

There might not be the statistics that tell us how good a defender is, but the raw data those statistics are built from is incredibly useful here. The best way to use this data to evaluate defenders from a quality perspective is to use it as a signpost, pointing to situations in a game where a defender is likely to be tested. While the defender might not make an action every time the opposition puts a cross into the box, a trained eye can still evaluate what a good response looks like. Efficiently finding these clips means scouts can run their eye over how well a defender performs in different situations, and can form a subjective judgement on the quality of defender.

Currently, there are subjective measures for errors leading to a shot or a goal that are collected, and of all outfield players this season, Jan Bednarek has earned the wooden spoon, helping Southampton’s opponents score three goals due to his mistakes. These are usually errors which help the opposition score out of a situation where it never looked possible — a weak back-pass to the goalkeeper that is intercepted, leading to a one-on-one, for example.

These mistakes are few and far between, and either happen at random, or not enough of them happen in a season, such that they are a reliable means of comparing all defenders through this lens. An ideal measurement instead are the subtle moves (or lack thereof) that lead to an opponent being able to score.

Somewhere in the chain leading to every shot and goal that is conceded, someone has made a mistake. It could be a defender switching off and losing his man, or a midfielder failing to close down an open passing lane, or other such errors that are only really apparent to the trained eye. These are useful clues that tell us why a shooting opportunity was carved open by the opposition, but these insights aren’t available in any sort of statistical form right now.

It’s also likely that goals aren’t conceded due to one single event, but a combination of failures. Nevertheless, the merge of event data and tracking data (which tells us where all the players, the ball and the officials are at any given moment in a game) should open the doors to answering this question and others like it — but the game’s not there just yet.

Now for a thought experiment.

Imagine a data provider had fully cracked football. They have managed to collect every single data point imaginable: all of the passing options available to a player, how much pressure they’re under, whether they’ve got their head up, when a team-mate has initiated a run, whether they’ve got a bootlace untied — the lot.

With this much data, the issue is no longer deciding what to measure but out of that which has been measured, what matters?

In reality, we don’t have everything, we have a tiny sample of the actions that take place on the field, but that requirement to measure only the things that matter remains the same.

The prevalence of expected goals in recent years is because it has plenty of descriptive and predictive power — it tells us something new we didn’t know before about teams and players, and can treat this information as a signal as to what future performances might have in store.

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