Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Pietersen, again.

"Relationships don't work the way they do on television and in the movies. Will they, won't they, and then they finally do and they're happy forever. Gimme a break. Nine out of ten of 'em end because they weren't right for each other to begin with and half the ones that get married get divorced anyway and I'm telling you right now through all this stuff I have not become a cynic - I haven't ... Bottom line, couples who are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else but the big difference is they don't let it take them down. One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship every time".

I used to really like Scrubs, back when it was as about an accurate representation of a hospital as has ever been shown regularly on US television. (And when the writing/overarching plots didn't stink, so, if you're counting that's about to the end of Season 3). While being funny in many different ways, it also had the uncanny ability to drop truth bombs like a veritaserum-charged cluster weapon. The quote above from Dr. Cox is one of my favourites.

Ten years ago, Kevin Pietersen and the England and Wales Cricket Board decided to commit to one another in a very real - and legally binding - sense. Ten years' shared property and escalating spats over which account pays which bill dutifully followed. When each party could complain to their mates about the other no longer, we all got to experience thee long-expected divorce, one in which the ECB retained sole custody of Alastair Cook and Pietersen kept the loyal-but-crazy family terrier.

Both went into this star-cross'd tryst expecting the other to mellow in response to their charms. Neither ever truly appreciated just how far apart they were on some - or indeed most - issues.

The pair fell out once and for all because they just weren't right for each other in the first place. Pietersen was always too outgoing/free-spirited/much of a wanker for a cricket board renowned for conservatism, uniformity and unleashing Chris Tavare on the world. As much as they may have spooned in public early on, their romance was almost certainly due to end poorly: the ECB wished Pietersen would curtail his silvertail tendencies, while the player just wanted his hem-hawing spouse to get off his back and let him be the man they fell in love with. 

Thirteen or so years after Dr. Cox indirectly predicted it, when each side felt they had compromised enough, neither was willing to take the first step towards reconciliation and risk losing face.

Love disappeared long ago, probably when each side realised they couldn't change the other enough to tolerate coexistence; nor was it worth anyone's time trying. Pietersen and England weren't right for each other in the first place, but mutual success made them (temporarily) brush aside most major concerns until there was simply too much detritus surrounding them.

The ECB will move on, and likely marry someone not quite so ostentatious, less of a good-time guy - but still someone who might have the talent to average 40 or 45 at Test level. Like his buddy Shane Warne, Pietersen will be seen with every flash young thing able to provide him with an ego boost and a quick cheque, starting with the Delhi Daredevils and the Melbourne Stars. 

The accounts are separate and the kids are starting to get to know Mum's new "friend", Gary. But the offspring of this flawed marriage won't ever forget the good times. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014-15 EPL individual player plus/minus

Interested in which player contributes the most - or the least - to your favourite club's wins or losses? You can find out by checking out the 2014-15 EPL individual plus/minus stat pages.

You can also access this information via the Room of Informational Illusions.

(Suggested reading: A Plus/Minus Glossary).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What the numbers said: Cardiff City 2013-14

The following analysis was performed utilizing data from the Individual Plus/Minus series published on the site throughout the year. You can find the full data set in the Room of Informational Illusions.

Should you wish for a glossary of terms used in this article, it can be found here.


Cardiff City didn’t have a great 2014. After an encouraging start, the Bluebirds tailed away almost at the precise the instant owner Vincent Tan began questioning manager Malky Mackay’s job security. When Mackay was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the new manager began rotating their first team and team structure at an alarming rate – with the results you’d expect.

Some players didn’t suffer from their Welsh association. The two players for whom Cardiff City broke their transfer record in 2013 (Gary Medel and Steve Caulker) were perhaps the club’s best players, while two loyal Mackay men – David Marshall and Fraizer Campbell – had seasons that have or still might win them moves back up to the Premiership.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teen millionaire comparison: Luke Shaw vs. Calum Chambers

The £12 million (rising to 16 million) paid for young Southampton right-back Calum Chambers might best exhibit the premium placed on potential in the English Premier League. The nineteen year-old joined the Gunners this week for a fee around half of that paid by Manchester United for line-mate Luke Shaw, who travelled north for a sum thought to be around £30 million.

There are a few subtle differences between the pair, however. Firstly, Chambers can’t possibly expect to earn the reputed £100,000 per week. This is probably in part because he hasn’t yet played for England, nor apparently interested the club he supported as a boy. And – perhaps – finally, while a quality player and precisely no grumbling has accompanied his transfer, Chambers’ performances for the Saints last year didn’t actually inspire a lot of success (he might be fitter, though).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

World Cup: Winners

Germany: They won the World Cup.

Oh, all right. It’s not so much that they won, so much as how. The manner in which they dismembered Brazil was one of the all-time great World Cup events, a real “Where were you when…” type of moment. The pace from the flanks was outstanding – especially from super-sub Schurrle and future great Thomas Muller, while they were along with France the most potent attacking force in the competition. The key elements of the home World Cup team from 2006 were able to finally summit the hump that’s been their seemingly-eternal undoing, while several of their squad seem set for 2016 and beyond – the Germans had an average squad age of 25 years and nine months, and the two senior citizens (Miroslav Klose and Roman Weidenfeller) ranking as two of their more expendable players.

What the numbers said: Aston Villa 2013-14

The following analysis was performed utilizing data from the Individual Plus/Minus series published on the site throughout the year. You can find the full data set in the Room of Informational Illusions. Should you wish for a glossary of terms used in this article, it can be found here.

Villa finished the season in fifteenth position on the EPL table, when, pre-season many expected them to challenge for a top-half berth.

2013-14 was hardly a success for Aston Villa. After assuming control of the midlands club prior to 2012-13, Scotland’s entry for World’s Most Charismatic Man Paul Lambert orchestrated something of a revolution-on-the-cheap by marginalizing the overpaid stars who had taken Villa to the brink of Champions League football and then almost to relegation. Little was heard of Alan Hutton, Darren Bent, Charles N’Zogbia and Jean Il Makoun, while young players from lower divisions like Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood came in as accoutrements to centerpiece Christian Benteke, who was acquired from Genk.

While some Villans – not least captain Ron Vlaar and central midfielder Fabian Delph – had solid seasons, many of the players who finished 2012-13 so promisingly regressed or struggled to impact games in 2013-14 as they had the previous season.

One of the more notable examples was Lowton, who managed only 23 matches for the term. The right-back, who scored the goal of the season against Stoke City the year before, was a defensive liability and spent vast stretches of the season either on the bench or unselected. While Andreas Weimann’s numbers according to the Individual Plus/Minus system compared quite favourably to his teammates, far more was expected from the Villa player to whom the Spiderman Principle most obviously applies.