Between the Lines

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Posts Tagged ‘Nemanja Vidic’

Nigel de Jong and central cohesive sources of stability

Posted by hakanrylander on February 6, 2012

It has been reported that Nigel de Jong has rejected a contract extension at Manchester City that would have given him a raise from £75,000 to £100,000 per week. Apparently de Jong and his agent believe he is worth more. A poor decision I would think. I can’t see any other club paying him more. De Jong is a decent player, but I certainly wouldn’t place him in the select group of players that are so central to their teams’ success that they are worthy of extraordinary salaries. But he set me thinking about which players in the PL at the moment really belong in this group.

In the case of United my list includes just two names; Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic (out for the season). Nani is too inconsistent, Ferdinand somewhat past it and Jones not there yet (but he will be). In the other top-six clubs there are also two players in each team who stand out.

Arsenal: Van Persie, Wilshere (out for the season?)

Spurs: Modric, Bale

Chelsea: Terry, Essien (when back to full fitness)

Liverpool: Gerrard, Suarez

But there is one exception. I have to admit that I put four Manchester City players in this category: Hart, Kompany, Yaya and Silva. All of them have been consistent sources of skill and stability this season. So at least in this particular respect I give City an edge over their main rivals. Enough to win them the title?


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Six conclusions from the weekend

Posted by hakanrylander on November 30, 2009

1. After a comfortable 4-1 victory I suppose only a bona fide whiner could complain about our system. But why the * did we line up in this cautious way? If I’m generous I might call it 4-3-3, but it was perilously close to 4-5-1. Against Portsmouth! It would have been fine if someone from central midfield had moved forward a lot in support of Rooney, but it didn’t happen and you wouldn’t expect so with Carrick, Scholes and Fletcher in those positions. Maybe Ferguson felt a need to contain Pompey’s electrifying passing game. But, frankly, I didn’t see the point.

2. The signing of Antonio Valencia was a master stroke.

3. Thomas Kuszczak was my MotM alongside Valencia. I have to admit I haven’t really seen Kuszczak as a serious contender for the long-term no 1 spot. I thought it was Foster or a new signing. This game changed my perception a little bit. Look at it this way: When Foster got his big opportunity at the beginning of the season he made a dog’s breakfast of it. When Kuszczak got one of his last(?) chances to impress he raised his game to a new level. That’s an important quality for a United keeper, or indeed player.

4. A lot of United fans, maybe even a majority, seem to think that the referee was wrong to award a penalty against Vidic. At first sight that was exactly my impression. But the replay shows without a doubt that Vidic pulled the shirt of the Portsmouth attacker. A clear penalty. (And the ref was right about the other two penalties as well.)

5. I thought Avram Grant looked a tad more cheerful than he used too. But then again, maybe not.

6. Finally, and ominously, Chelsea have the look of champions.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Our rock is crumbling before our very eyes

Posted by hakanrylander on October 27, 2009

For the last three seasons United’s success (including three consecutive PL-titles) has to a large extent been built on the solid foundation of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. This season the partnership has looked rather more shaky.  But I have felt that even though this was perhaps not as insignificant as a “blip” it would still sort itself out before long. Until now. After the defeat at Anfield I now believe that central defence is turning into a long term problem.

Throughout his career Rio Ferdinand has been accused of occasionally going to sleep and lacking concentration, but this problem largely disappeared a few years ago. Lately his focus might have suffered more from all kinds of off-field activities that seem to occupy his mind. This stretches from becoming a father to editing his own magazine, involving himself in a restaurant venture and producing movies. Still the most serious problem is probably his fitness. He needs continous physiotherapy for his recurring back spasms and hasn’t been able to fully join in training for most of the season. My impression is that the doctors don’t know the root of the problem and are just treating the symptoms.

In previous seasons Nemanja Vidic has occasionally looked vulnerable to pace. This was most obvious when he was humiliated by Torres at Old Trafford last season. Three successive red cards against Liverpool/Torres is not a coincidence.  This season he seems to be in trouble more often. One example is that he was lucky not to be sent off against Wolfsburg, when he found it difficult to handle Dzeko and Grafite. Meanwhile rumours continue to surface that Vidic (or his wife) is tired of England and would prefer to live in Spain or Italy. It’s also very likely that Barcelona will be in the market for a central defender next summer.

Perhaps I’m wrong in describing our defensive rock as a partnership, when in fact Edwin van der Sar has been very much a part of it. The fact that Van der Sar has been injured for a large part of this season, and that Ben Foster has looked out of his depth has made it more difficult for Vidic and Ferdinand. It would be so much easier to ease in a new keeper if the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership was in perfect shape.

I fear that we might in fact be moving towards a scenario where Van der Sar retires, Vidic leaves for Spain and Ferdinand struggles even more with injuries. This would leave Ferguson with a major rebuilding challenge in a key area. Thank heavens for Jonny Evans.

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

A brief guide to when to commit a red card offence

Posted by hakanrylander on February 20, 2009

Defenders often face the decision whether to deny the opponents a scoring opportunity if this means receiving a red card. From now on Ferdinand, Vidic et al can rely on academic research to help them in this decision-making process.

In a study published in the latest issue of Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports three researchers from Colombia University, New York (Vecer, Kopriva, Ichiba) analyse the effects of red cards in soccer. One of the conclusions is that when the opponent’s chance of scoring in a particular situation is 57,5% or higher it’s better to prevent such a scoring opportunity from the very beginning of the game, provided that the offence doesn’t lead to a penalty but just a red card.

The tricky part might be to in an instant calculate whether the probability of scoring is above or below 57,5%.

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

Scientists worried by Vidic’s post-scoring behaviour

Posted by hakanrylander on December 7, 2008

Yesterday’s game against Sunderland became a lot more thrilling than necessary, and accordingly the joy and celebration was all the more ecstatic after Nemanja Vidic’s extra-time winner. But maybe we should have been worried rather than overjoyed as Vidic saluted the crowd and then ran to embrace assistant manager Mike Phelan (who only moments earlier had ordered Vidic to move upfield). Scientific research seem to indicate that this kind of celebration could signal hard times ahead for Manchester United.

Gary Bornstein and Chanan Goldschmidt at the Department of Psychology at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem have studied the correlation between post-scoring behaviour and team success in football. The hypothesis is that strong team cohesion leads to success. They constructed a model to measure team cohesion by the way players behave after scoring. In this model it’s a sign of weak team cohesion if the player turns his attention to the crowd and runs towards the crowd and/or the coach (a la Vidic). If team cohesion is strong the player is expected to focus mainly on his team-mates.

They then went on to study 125 videotaped goals scored in the Israeli premier league and categorize them according to the nature of the celebration. The next step was to compare this with the final standings in the league table at the end of the season. Their conclusion was that post-scoring behaviour was indeed a fairly good predictor of team success. To put it bluntly; teams that celebrated in the style of Vidic finished at the bottom of the league. Further details of the study (and others) can be found in “Myths and Facts About Football”.

Luckily, the study cannot be seen as the final word on this issue. One obvious objection is the difficulty involved in measuring team cohesion in this way, involving e.g the weighting that should be given to different aspects of the celebration such as focus of attention, direction of running, number of team-mates touched etc. Furthermore, there is a question mark as to the direction of causality. The scientists themselves admit that it’s quite possible that players become more team-oriented as the team becomes more successful rather than the other way around.

With these reservations in mind I feel that both my own and Vidic’s celebrations of his goal were fully justified.

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