The BBC website produces match reports for all of the games every single Premier League side plays during the season. From Premier League and FA Cup, to Champions League to League Cup ties the BBC reports on them all. I thought it would be interesting to compile all of these reports for each of the twenty Premier League sides, and to produce word-clouds for each side. If a particular word is used more often, then it is shown on screen as larger than the other less used words.
I created one for Square One Football Radio, and felt I should create word clouds for all twenty clubs. I used the excellent online tool wordle.net to create the word clouds. Please feel free to use these on your blog or website, but I’d appreciate a link back.
To see a higher resolution image of the word cloud, click on it.
I did something that I’d never done before last week. I attended women’s football matches.
Women’s football has lagged behind the men’s game for decades. The fifty year FA directive that saw womens teams banned from using men’s football grounds was only lifted in the early 70s and the women’s game has never recovered to the pre-war days of 50,000 crowds at Goodison Park
Recently however, the game has seen a bit of a renaissance with the formation of a national league (the FA WSL) and the coverage of women’s football, especially the English national side, has increased over the past few years.
Women’s clubs at the top of the game in England are linked to already established Premier League and Football League sides, but they generally play at non-league stadia (to accommodate the sort of attendances they are likely to attract). Arsenal Ladies play at Borehamwood, Liverpool play at Widnes and Birmingham Ladies play at Sutton Coldfield. On Wednesday evening of last week I travelled to Staines Town to see Chelsea Ladies play Millwall Lionesses in a Continental Cup match.
Chelsea Ladies 4 Millwall Lionesses 0, WSL Continental Cup @ Staines Town
It didn’t take too long to see that Chelsea were a step above in class over Millwall. Not unsurprising considering Chelsea are in WSL1 whilst Millwall play in WSL2. The Lionesses struggled with the crisp passing of Chelsea, but held on valiantly until England international Eni Aluko – one of the few players I actually recognised – broke the deadlock. This opening goal settled Chelsea down, and apart from a few dangerous set pieces, Millwall barely troubled Chelsea’s Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler.
Not many kids to entertain on a school night
Despite the crowd being less than 200, the atmosphere inside the ground is very different to a non-league match with a similar attendance. That’s both unsurprising and perhaps even encouraging. But, it’s quite difficult to fully understand who this game is actually being promoted to. Is it being promoted towards Chelsea FC fans who can no longer afford to attend games at Stamford Bridge (entry is set at a very reasonable £5 and £1 for children)? Or is it the demographic being aimed at young children (a disconsolate looking Bridget, Stamford’s sister I’m told, walked slowly around the pitch during the match). I was very confused to see two 14 year old lads at the game until the second half when I saw the larger group of 14 year old girls giggling amongst themselves.
As far as I can surmise, WSL sits in a strange netherworld in the footballing galaxy. The games are played at non-league stadia, using famous club names, in front of low crowds, the programmes they produce are glossy, thin and expensive (£2) but Chelsea (for example) still use Staines Town’s corner flags. I also saw, for the first time, a player make a referee blush by making a rude comment. Normally the referee would ‘banter’ back at the player, but he was a bit taken aback by the Chelsea player’s remark…
Reading Women vs Arsenal Ladies, WSL Continental Cup @ Farnborough FC
If Chelsea playing at Staines feels odd, then Reading playing in Hampshire, 24 miles away from the Madejski Stadium feels even stranger.The crowd at Farnborough was around double that at Staines the previous evening. Bolstered by some rowdy Arsenal fans, and some rather optimistic Arsenal fanzine sellers there were approximately 400 in attendance for this tie.
WSL2 side Reading fared much better than Milwall had managed against WSL1 opposition the previous night and went ahead when the diminutive Fran Kirby flicked the ball with the outside of her right foot, past Japanese World Cup winner Yukari Kinga, ran onto the loose ball and slotted past the Arsenal keeper to put Reading 1-0 up. It was a magnificent goal and ranks as one of the best I’ve seen live this season.
Reading celebrate their win over Arsenal
Kirby was a thorn in the side of Arsenal all game, and eventually proved to be the difference between the sides. A bit of trickery in the box left Arsenal defender Casey Stoney on her arse and the eventual shot from a Reading striker was parried away only for Lauren Bruton to finish well. Kirby’s excellent performances have seen her deservedly called up to the England squad for the first time.
What’s quite refreshing about the women’s game is that players generally have a lot more time on the ball. It means that rather than rush a pass, or hitting it long, they normally have time to pick out a pass to a team-mate. It leads to some very attractive football. The two WSL games I’ve witnessed have seen far more attractive passing football than I’ve seen at many games this season (if passing football is your thing of course!).
WSL is a fantastic opportunity to see some footballers playing at the peak of their sport. I’ve seen World Cup winners, England internationals, players from afar afield as Chile and Belgium and Wales. In the 90’s British football fans were drawn towards Serie A by the allure of watching Paul Gascgoine at Lazio, many still watch Italian football, hopefully fans will be pulled into women’s football by Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and will stay because of the quality of football show. WSL is certainly going to become a part of my own football calendar.
“It is without question that first-class football by floodlight is both spectacular and enthralling. With vision fixed to the pitch that alone is illuminated, there can be no distraction at all to disturb or frustrate attention. There is an accentuated feeling of expectation and excitement, and the speed of the players and of the game itself is, or seems to be, increased. The flash of bright-coloured jerseys against the bright green of the grass combine in one “vistavision” panorama, but with the added reality of live people seen in the flesh.”
Arthur Rowe, former Tottenham Hotspur manager, Caxton’s Encyclopedia of British Football and Association Football
Floodlit football is something we’ve all grown accustomed to in the modern era. But there was a time in the dim and distant past where floodlit games were frowned upon and even discouraged by the establishment. Remarkably it was as late as 1950 that the Football Association of England allowed floodlit games to take place, and that was only with prior arrangement. English football was a late adopter of floodlights, with countries in South America and on the continent introducing them far earlier. This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the heat of the day in South America.
Despite official introduction being twenty years away it didn’t stop the London clubs experimenting with lights. In the early 1930s, London clubs Spurs, Arsenal, West Ham and Chelsea joined together to play a match against a representative side at White City Stadium (a ground that would later host France against Uruguay in the group stages of the ’66 World Cup). Not only was the match floodlit, but also played with a (then unfamiliar) white ball that was washed every time it left the field of play in order that its luminescence was maintained throughout. In a few floodlit experiments in the late 19th Century teams had even gone as far as painting the ball with whitewash in order to improve its visibility and following the ball around the pitch from one large spotlight placed on the halfway line.
Despite the seeming reticence on the part of the authorities, games under lights became necessary for many clubs as the financial realities of professional football hit. Stadiums that could only be used on a Saturday but had to lie dormant throughout the week didn’t make sound business sense. Indeed, the inability to fit in fixtures during the working week led to league fixtures having to be scheduled on Christmas Day as well as the now traditional Boxing Day. Despite these limitations on playing official fixtures under lights, many clubs were playing games against touring European sides during the week in order to entertain fans and to boost coffers. However, the need for further competitions and matches to supplement the league schedule was strong.
Suggestions such as the creation of an Anglo-Scottish-Floodlit-Cup were proposed. After all, many of the big clubs in England were regularly playing test matches against Scottish opposition already, and codifying these these friendlies into an organised competition seemed like a sensible idea. Incidentally, this is very similar to how UEFA are currently treating their League of Nations idea to replace international friendlies. Despite these possibilities being fielded they never got past the drawing board stage.
Eventually under pressure from club sides the FA acquiesced, and in the early 50s FA Cup replays began to be played during the week, and following on from this league fixtures were finally permitted to be played under lights in the mid 1950s. The rest is history.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the previously mentioned Caxton’s Encyclopedia of British Football and Association Football on the future of floodlit football from former Tottenham Hotspur manager Arthur Rowe:
“If we let our imagination run riot a little if we can, of course, be terrifically enthusiastic about the potential of a Grand European Floodlit League with all matches played in mid-week, Without doubt some great matches would be certain.”
I must admit, I find the name Grand European Floodlit League far more palatable than European Champions League. It certainly describes the league more accurately, and in my view more romantically.
In the late 1970s a company called Marshall Cavendish released a series of football magazines which the avid reader would slip into binders to create their very own football encyclopaedia. One of the articles contained within is a lament about the struggles of the British game and part of the argument for improvements made by the author suggests the introduction of a British Super-League.
The author has chosen an interesting selection of sides, many of which would be unlikely to feature should the list be drawn up today. He uses criteria such as recent attendances as well as success to decide whether clubs should be admitted to such a league.
Would these be the super-clubs?
The proposed British super-league contains a few oddities. The first being that the two Edinburgh and Sheffield clubs are expected to merge (and are even wearing half-and-half kits to denote that). Other interesting aspects of the proposal are that teams like Coventry City and Derby County are included amongst the elite.
Clubs proposed: Celtic, Rangers, Edinburgh, Newcastle United, Liverpool, Manchester United, Leeds United, Sheffield, Everton, Manchester City, Wolves, West Brom, Coventry City, Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Southampton.
Interesting omissions: Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Sunderland and the exclusion of all Welsh/Irish clubs (though perhaps understandable).
If a club wins both the home fixture and the away fixture during a league season then they are said to have “done the double” over that side. In the Premier League during the 2012/2013 season 16 of the 20 sides did the double over a rival.
The following lists show the teams that each club in the Premier League managed to do the double against.
Manchester United: Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City, QPR, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Fulham, Wigan Athletic, Reading and Liverpool.
Chelsea: Sunderland, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Norwich City, Everton, Wigan Athletic and Arsenal.
Arsenal: QPR, Newcastle United, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan Athletic and Reading.
ManchesterCity: Newcastle United, Aston Villa, West Brom, Fulham, Wigan Athletic and Reading.
Tottenham Hotspur: Southampton, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Swansea City, West Ham and Reading.
Liverpool: QPR, Norwich City, Fulham and Wigan Athletic.
West Brom: Southampton, Sunderland, QPR and Liverpool.
Swansea City: QPR, Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic.
AstonVilla: Sunderland and Reading.
Southampton: Aston Villa and Reading.
Everton: West Ham.
Fulham: West Brom.
Sunderland: Wigan Athletic,
Stoke City: QPR.
Newcastle United: QPR.
Wigan Athletic: Reading
Norwich City: None.
West Ham: None.
Of the three relegated sides Wigan Athletic were the only team who managed to win home and away against another club (Wigan did the double over fellow relegated side Reading).
Four sides in the Premier League did not lose home and away to another club. Those sides were Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United. Nine clubs did the double over eventual FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic.
A list of footballers who have played in the Premier League, Championship, League One or League Two this season with their first name beginning with the same letter as their surname. Please let me know if you are aware of any others.
Adebayo Akinfenwa (Northampton Town)
Adebayo Azeez (Wycombe Wanderers & Leyton Orient)
Ahmed Abdulla (Barnet)
Akwasi Asante (Shrewsbury Town)
Ali Al Habsi (Wigan Athletic)
Almen Abdi (Watford)
Andreas Arestidou (Morecambe)
Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal)
Antolín Alcáraz (Wigan Athletic)
Barry Bannan (Aston Villa)
Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County)
Billy Bodin (Torquay United)
Brian Barry-Murphy (Rochdale)
Chris Cohen (Nottingham Forest)
Christopher Chantler (Carlisle United)
Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
Clarke Carlisle (York City & Northampton Town)
Conor Clifford (Portsmouth & Crawley Town)
Courtney Cameron (Rotherham United)
Craig Cathcart (Blackpool)
Craig Clay (Chesterfield)
Craig Conway (Cardiff Dragons)
Craig Curran (Rochdale)
Cyrus Christie (Coventry Dragons)
Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace & Ipswich Town)
Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City)
Darryl Duffy (Cheltenham Town)
David Davis (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
David De Gea (Manchester United)
David Dunn (Blackburn Rovers)
Diego De Girolamo (Sheffield United)
Donervon Daniels (Tranmere Rovers)
Dorian Dervite (Charlton Athletic)
Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Bury)
Frank Fielding (Derby County)
Gábor Gyepes (Portsmouth)
Gaël Givet (Blackburn Rovers)
Gary Gardner (Aston Villa)
Gianluca Gracco (Dagenham & Redbridge)
Gordon Greer (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Harry Hooman (Cheltenham Town)
Heidar Helguson (Cardiff Dragons)
Jake Jervis (Portsmouth, Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United & Birmingham City)
Jake Jones (Walsall)
Jamie Jones (Leyton Orient)
Jermaine Jenas (Nottingham Forest & Queens Park Rangers)
Manchester United were the club who picked up the most Premier League points during 2012. They are followed by their city rivals Manchester City who despite losing the same number of games as United, couldn’t convert many of their draws to wins.
Interestingly Everton picked up more points than both Chelsea and Arsenal during 2012 though this may have something to do with the fact that Everton played more games than both Chelsea and Arsenal during the year. Additionally the contrast between Everton and their neighbours across Stanley Park is stark. Liverpool only won 11 out of their 38 games in 2012. The only two sides who weren’t relegated or promoted during 2012 with a lower points tally than Liverpool were Aston Villa and QPR.
For more statistics related to the 2012 calendar year including stats from the Football League, take a look at the ever excellent Sporting Intelligence.
The close season is traditionally a time where clubs jettison their weak players, replacing them with footballers with the skill to take the club one step further, whether that be to qualify or European competition or avoid another year’s relegation struggle. With that in mind I thought it would be interesting to see which clubs decided a wholesale change would be preferable to keeping faith with the players who toiled their way through the 2011/2012 season.
I took the line-ups from the last day’s action of the twenty Premier League sides of the 2011/2012 season (this includes West Ham, Southampton and Reading’s last Championship game of the season) and compared these line-ups with the opening day of this year’s Premier League season (2012/2013). The headline figure from this process is that 40% of all players who started the first game of the 2012/2013 season did not start in the last game of the 2011/2012 season (or if they did, it was for a different football club). Obviously this 40% is not entirely made up of new signings as it also includes players who were on the squads of their current teams last season but for whatever reason (be that injury or not being selected) did not start the game.
Of the twenty current Premier League clubs no club fielded an identical line-up between the end of last season and the start of this season. However, two clubs made only one change. These two clubs were Everton and Manchester City who fielded ten players on the last day of the 2011/2012 season that also started in the club’s opening fixture this season. The only difference between the Everton XI against Newcastle United in 2011/2012 and their opening day side that started (and defeated) Manchester United is that Sylvian Distin started against Manchester United. Interestingly Distin did play against Newcastle in 2011/2012 when he came on as a substitute for Hetinga. We weren’t to know it at the time but between the minutes of ’70 and ’74 the team Everton had on the field against Newcastle United would be the identical eleven that would start the season against Manchester United over three months later. It’s perhaps ironic (if you enjoy using the term loosely, or incorrectly) that the only change in Manchester City‘s starting line-up for their opening day 3-2 victory over Southampton to their last day win against QPR was the inclusion of Everton’s (another club who enjoy making few changes) Jack Rodwell (a replacement for Gareth Barry).
Two clubs who enjoyed successful seasons in 2011/2012 also made very few changes. Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United only made two changes between the end of last season and the beginning of this. Wigan Athletic brought in new signing Ivan Ramis and burly centre-half Alvaro Alcaraz whilst Alan Pardew also made defensive changes with Danny Simpson and Steve Taylor joining the starting XI. Of all the Premier League clubs it’s only Everton and Newcastle United that fielded starting elevens on the opening day of the 2012/2013 season who were also contracted to the club in the previous season.
Tottenham Hotspur, Reading and Stoke City all started eight players who started last season’s finale. The three clubs had differing reasons for their trio of changes. Spurs were under a new manager in Andre Villas-Boas who was trying to put his own stamp on the side with new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson starting alongside Jermaine Defoe in attack. The Biscuitmen, promoted under Brian McDermott last season, fielded three new signings in Chris Gunter, Danny Guthrie and Pavel Pogrebnyak who they hope will help keep them in the division. Finally Stoke City in an attempt to consolidate their presence in the Premier League started with Marc Wilson, Asmir Begovic and Michael Kightly, none started The Potters’ final game of the 2011/2012 season.
Sunderland, Southampton, Swansea City and West Ham United began the season with seven of the eleven who began the last game of the previous season. Notable signings for these sides included Swansea’s Michu and Chico who have made impacts for differing reasons in the opening weeks of the season for their goalscoring and red card exploits. Similarly to Reading, Saints have signed players they feel are good enough to keep them in the division, both Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne started in their opening 2012/2013 fixture. Martin O’Neil has started his first full season as Sunderland boss and fielded new signing Carlos Cuellar in the Rokerites’ (no I didn’t get the memo) first match of the season.
2011/2012 Premier League runners-up Manchester United fielded five players on the opening day who didn’t start the last game of the previous seaosn. These included the injured Tom Cleverley and Nemanja Vidic as well as new signing Shinji Kigawa. Other clubs who featured five different players were Fulham, Norwich City and West Brom.
QPR and Liverpool were the two sides that fielded five players for the last game of the 2011/2012 season who also started the 2012/2013 season. QPR’s slapdash signings have led to the likes of Fabio, Ji-Sung Park, Robert Green and confused Julian Hoilett playing for the London club whilst Liverpool’s new boss Brendan Rodgers has brought the likes of Joe Allen and Fabio Borini to Anfield.
The four Arsenal players to survive from the last game of last season were Gervinho, Wojciech Szczesny, Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson. The seven players who started this season were Santiago Cazorla, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs. Podolski and Carzola were the two new signings for the north-London club. The other five players were already on the books at Arsenal.
Only three of Chelsea‘s line-up for the final game of the 2011/2012 season started this season’s opener. This can largely be explained by the fact that Roberto di Matteo was resting a lot of his star men in preparation for the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich. I think it’s fair to say that this tactic worked as his Chelsea side were victorious in a penalty shoout-out after a gruelling period of extra-time. For the record, the three Chelsea players who played in last season’s last game and this season’s opener were Ryan Bertrand, captain-fantastic John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.
The other side who only had three players to achieve the feat were Aston Villa. I think this case is a little less surprising than most. Villa sacked their manager Alex McLeish in the summer, replacing him with Norwich boss Paul Lambert. Despite replacing a Scotsman with a Scotsman it appears Lambert has his own ideas on how he wants Aston Villa to play. The only three players who started in McLeish’s last game and Lambert’s first were Stephen Ireland. Ciaran Clark and Shay Given.
The below word cloud was generated using all of Chelsea’s match reports from the BBC website from the 2011/2012 season. The more frequently a word is used, the larger it appears on screen. The image was generated using the wonderful wordle.net.
Click to make bigger
Chelsea had a strange season. It began with the difficulties of the Villas-Boas reign and ended with the club becoming European Champions. Players like Terry, Lampard, Drogba and Torres feature heavily this season as do terms such as manager, champions and perhaps most tellingly penalty.
Following on from the post I made earlier in the week regarding foreign players in the Championship here we have the same information but for the top flight – The Premier League. As you would expect this division features a higher proportion of foreign players than the Championship. However, it’s interesting to note that 68 different nationalities were used in the Premier League during the 2011/2012 season, one fewer – 67 – were used in the Championship.
Of the 522 players that played in the Premier League 212 of them were Englishmen. In my opinion that should be a decent enough pool of players for an England manager to pick from. Talk of sanctions to free up more spaces for average English players over foreign counterparts seems a pointless exercise when that many players are playing top flight football.
The table below shows data on each of the twenty-four clubs in the Premier League and the nationalities who played during the 2011/2012 season. The columns are as follows, Nats: number of nationalities used, Plyrs: total number of players used, Eng: Englishmen used (Sco, Wal, NI, Ire self-explanatory). %Eng is the percentage of the total number of players used who are English whilst %B&I is the percentage of players used who are from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Whilst I understand that Ireland is a foreign country I feel that this metric is useful as players from the Republic of Ireland have been integral parts of squads in the football pyramid for many years.
Premier League nationality breakdown 2011/2012
No team fielded more Englishmen than QPR during the season (19) though it should be remembered that QPR fielded the most players (35) in the same period. Stoke City operated with the smallest (but almost certainly tallest) squad of 23 and it was Wigan Athletic who featured the fewest Englishmen during the season (3).
Wolves’ doomed campaign featured the most Irish players (6), they also fielded 3 Welshmen during the season though Swansea City fielded the most Welsh players (4). Wigan Athletic’s survival was helped along by their 3 Scotsmen whilst both West Brom and Fulham featured 2 Northern Irishmen in their Premier League campaigns for 2011/2012.
Of the players who turned out for Champions League victors Chelsea, only 28% of them were “British & Irish” whilst Norwich City players were 85% “British & Irish”. The team that we can all label “the foreign legion” are Arsenal who featured 22% “British & Irish” players during the 2011/2012 season. Wigan Athletic fielded the lowest percentage of Englishmen with 13% of their players being eligible for England.