Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Archive for November, 2008

Tosic on his way to United

Posted by hakanrylander on November 28, 2008

United have offically confirmed that Zoran Tosic has been granted a work permit in Britain. This means that the transfer of the 21-year old from Partizan Belgrade can now be concluded. He is likely to move to United in January. Left winger Tosic is a full Serbian international and a dead-ball specialist. It seems he can also shoot from long range:


According to the Guardian Tosic is “one of the most highly-rated young players in Europe”. Some people think he could be the new Ryan Giggs. After a customary and thorough You Tube-analysis, Between the Lines has concluded that the hype is justified!


Posted in Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Two Penalties that Changed the World

Posted by hakanrylander on November 25, 2008

It might seem unlikely that two particular penalty kicks should dramatically improve the chances of other penalty takers scoring in the future. Yet, this is what probably happened in the mid 70’s, according to a scientific study by Wolfgang Leininger and Axel Ockenfels (“The Penalty-Duel and Institutional Design”) at the Universities of Dortmund and Cologne. The study is included in the recently published book “Myths and Facts About Football” (to be reviewed shortly).

The argument goes something like this. From the beginning of time up until the summer of 1974 it was generally perceived that both kicker and goalkeeper had two alternatives, i.e. kick/dive to the left/right. This gave the keeper a 50% chance of diving in the right direction.

Then suddenly, in the second minute of the World Cup Final, the Netherlands were awarded a penalty, and Johan Neeskens scored by whacking the ball straight to the middle while Sepp Maier dived for his right corner. Two years later the point was made even more emphatically in the final of the European Championships when Antonin Panenka delicately chipped the last penalty of the shoot-out to the middle of the goal, in what is generally acknowledged as the coolest penalty of all time. This time Sepp Maier dived to his left.

These two high-profile penalties didn’t, of course, change the actual possibilities when taking a penalty. It was always possible to hit it down the middle. But it changed players’ perceptions of the strategies you could expect from kicker and goalkeeper. They both now have three basic choices; left, right or centre. Accordingly the keeper now has only a 33% chance of getting in the right position to save a penalty.

This game theoretic analysis is backed by empirical data from the German Bundesliga, where the scoring rate of penalty kicks was on average 69 % from 1963 to 1973 (pre-Neeskens) and on average 77% from 1977 to 1987 (post-Panenka).

The model is extremely simplified, but it seems that Neeskens and Panenka forever improved the chances of scoring a penalty.

Posted in Academic | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

United to sign Kaka and Bambi

Posted by hakanrylander on November 22, 2008

According to the Daily Mirror United are about to sign two Serbian players from Partizan Belgrade. We have previously been linked with 17-year old Adem Ljajic, a right-sided midfielder nicknamed “Little Kaka”, but now the deal is rumoured to also include 21-year old midfielder Zoran Tosic who can play on either flank and is nicknamed “Bambi”. The deal is expected to go through in January if work permits are granted.

Posted in Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Carrick makes it look easy”

Posted by hakanrylander on November 20, 2008

michael_carrickLast night Michael Carrick finally took centre stage at international level when England defeated Germany in Berlin. I missed the game, but the match reports were a delight to read.

Guardian: “8. Strode around central midfield oozing such class as to suggest he has been a regular on this stage for years. There was vision, assurance in the pass, time on the ball and invention to his game.”

The Times: “8. This was Carrick’s debut under Fabio Capello and his first international appearance since the 2-1 defeat by Germany last year, a record that does not do justice to his talent. Carrick makes it look easy.”

Independent: “Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry in central midfield looked every bit as effective as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.”

Telegraph: “Michael Carrick excelled in central midfield. ”

And some more recent praise from The Stretty Rant.

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Should he stay or should he go?

Posted by hakanrylander on November 19, 2008

Carlos Tevez has looked nothing like a £30m player on his few outings this season. United therefore face what might be a tricky decision whether to sign him permanently, a deal that would bring the total cost to around £32m. Yet the answer is obvious. Of course he should stay. For three reasons:

1. Tevez is a class player, he proved that beyond doubt last season with United and the season before that with West Ham. He can also be relied upon to perform in high-pressure games. His performances this season are not a proper reflection of his worth.

2. We need several top class alternatives, both for tactical flexibility and cover for injuries. This makes Tevez very important even if he can’t get into the first XI at the moment. With him in the squad we could cope with a long-term injury to Rooney or Berbatov. Welbeck, Campbell and Manucho are not (yet) in that league.

3. The fee to be considered isn’t £32m, but £22m, since around £10m has already been paid for his services during the first two seasons. Any economists among our readers might recognize this as “sunk cost”. There is no doubt in my mind that his market value is higher than £22m. We could probably sell him for twice that amount to City in January.

There has been some concern that the deal has been delayed, and that this is a sign that United are having second thoughts. In fact, the reason for the “delay” is probably that since United have an option to sign him before a certain date (probably between Jan 1 and June 30 2009) for an already agreed price it makes sense not to close the deal to long before that date. A lot of things could happen in those months such as a serious injury to Tevez or the credit crunch hitting the Glazer family in a bad way.

Still unconvinced? Watch this:

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Mother of all Nicknames

Posted by hakanrylander on November 18, 2008

Most of the time nicknames are extremely boring and predictable, like Giggsy, Scholsey and Curbs. But now and again they reach a completely different level. I learnt a couple from an entertaining story in The Times today, such as “Dissa” for former Manchester City and Everton defender Neil Pointon, and “Chris” for Kiki Musampa at Manchester City (it’s a worrying thought that City might actually be better than us at this particular game).

One Size

One Size


And the winner is: When he was at Oldham, Fitz Hall used to be called “One Size”.

Posted in Non-United | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

United 5 – Stoke 0

Posted by hakanrylander on November 17, 2008

Lots of positives in this game. Most of all the exciting debut of Danny Welbeck who scored a stunning goal and confirmed his immense potential, even though he played for less than half-an-hour and in the unfamiliar postion of right midfield. I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity to watch him. I might be wrong but I can’t remember that Ferguson has given a PL-debut to a 17-year-old since – Ryan Giggs.

United were in total control for most of the game, but I confess that I was a little bit worried towards the end of the first half when I felt that they were too relaxed. But Carrick settled my nerves with a difficult strike that he made look very easy. Ronaldo scored twice, but I’m not as enthusiastic about his overall contribution as some commentators. I still feel that his heart isn’t really in it. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thank Heaven for Central Midfielders

Posted by hakanrylander on November 12, 2008

Owen Hargreaves has undergone an operation on his right knee and is due to have surgery on his left knee in a fortnight. This means he will not play again this season, and in the worst-case scenario he will not be able to resume his career. Under the circumstances it’s encouraging that he is being treated by Dr Richard Steadman who is widely regarded as the world’s leading expert in this field.

With Paul Scholes out until X-mas this could constitute a major injury crisis. But luckily a number of other central midfielders have exceeded most people’s expectations this season. Darren Fletcher is playing the best football of his career. Ryan Giggs looks very comfortable as a playmaker. And Rodrigo Possebon is rising fast towards the first XI. These three give Ferguson several options apart from Carrick and Anderson who I regard as the first-choice partnership.

Even so Hargreaves’ aggression and big-game mentality will be missed. The bigger the game, the better he performs. He was one of the the best players on the pitch in last seasons CL-final in Moscow.

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Preview: United – QPR (Carling Cup)

Posted by hakanrylander on November 11, 2008

Not the most exiting game of the season, but an opportunity to see our most promising teenagers alongside some of the established stars. The best news is that Rodrigo Possebon is back in the first team for the first time since he was injured in the Carling Cup third round tie against Middlesbrough. Hopefully tonight’s performance will be further proof that the present crop of teenagers is the strongest since the early 90’s. Rafael and Evans have already proved that they can be trusted in big games with the first team, and I personally believe that Possebon also falls into this category. Welbeck looks great but has not yet been tested at the highest level. I’ve not seen enough of Darron Gibson to have an opinion either way.

My line-up: Foster; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, O’Shea; Park, Possebon, Gibson, Nani; Tevez, Welbeck.

Posted in Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

They dive better than a Portu-geese

Posted by hakanrylander on November 10, 2008

canada-gooseTabloid sub-editors had a field day today with the story of how United’s training ground Carrington was invaded by Canada geese. Carrington is situated close to a nature reserve in Cheshire and from time to time two lagoons in the reserve attract a large number of birds. The Sun broke the story under the headline “That’s a fowl, ref” while The Mail went for “Foreign birds leave Ronaldo in a flap”.

According to a “club insider” the geese “can dive better than Cristiano”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »