Stats are great adjectives, but particularly in soccer, they’re hardly ever nouns. They can be used to describe what you saw happen, but they can’t be trusted to fully describe what you haven’t seen. You have to know what caused the number.
Take today’s game in Belgium. Jupiler League champions Anderlecht more than doubled Olympiacos’s shots (18-8) and held 61 percent of the ball, yet they still lost by three goals. Does that mean the Belgians were unlucky? Hardly. And early goal from Konstantinos Mitroglou (his first of three) meant those numbers were always going to be lopsided, the Greek champions content to play without the ball, particularly with a lead. The final shots on goal were 4-4, but Anderlecht have no blame to being their visitors’ equal.
Then there’s the game in Paris, which saw Benfica put up comparable numbers to Paris Saint-Germain in shots (11-9) and shots on goal (6-4). But they were routed, 3-0. The possession number (71 percent for PSG) hints the hosts controlled the game, gave up some chances, but were set apart by the better execution going toward goal, and while that’s partly true, a better description of the match would cast PSG as dominant in the first half (going into intermission up three) while seeing Benfica even out the shots on goal during a mostly benign second period.
Among the other numbers that stood out today, Bayer Leverkusen bounced back from round one disappointment with a win over Real Sociedad, posting Wednesday highs of 25 shots and 11 shots on goal. PSG’s 71 percent possession was the day’s best, while Galatasaray were able to get two goals in Turin despite holding only 41 percent of the ball. And the day’s most lopsided scoreline, Real Madrid’s 4-0 win over visiting Copenhagen, saw los Blancos put only seven shots on frame.
Here are the rest of the day’s key numbers, courtesy of Opta and WhoScored.com:
||Shakhtar Donetsk-Manchester United
||Bayer Leverkusen-Real Sociedad
||CSKA Moscow-Viktoria Plzen (Final)
||Manchester City-Bayern Munich
Both Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany have nothing to worry about regarding their place in the Manchester City squad, according to manager Pep Guardiola.
Neither was in the starting lineup for the Champions League loss to Barcelona, with Kompany not even in the 18. But according to Guardiola, he had his reasons for both.
“Vincent was not perfectly fit,” Guardiola said. “Sergio, I said after the game, was a tactical decision. If Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision.”
The former Barcelona manager played a striker-less formation against the La Liga giants, employing Kevin De Bruyne as a false 9. It failed, with Barcelona storming through en route to a 4-0 win, with Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick.
Kompany has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, missing all of this season so far, half of last year, a healthy portion of the previous campaign with various injuries from hamstring problems to calf tweaks to groin pulls. According to Guardiola, it has left a permanent mark on the Belgian defender’s psyche.
“One day, in the training session, he said: ‘I didn’t feel like this [good],’” Guardiola said. “In that moment, when his head is not ready and with what happened in the last two years, it is better to stay out. I don’t want to put a lot of pressure about how many games we want him to play or set big, big targets. So it’s just try to train good and after a week of training no injuries, we’ll play a game, and after that another one. And after that we’ll see.”
Hamburg may have made a coaching change, but that didn’t change their immediate fortunes.
Bobby Wood and company fell to fellow USMNTer Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt 3-0 at Volksparkstadion. It was a rough home opener for new Hamburg manager Markus Gisdol, as former Fulham and Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby opened the scoring with an unfortunate own-goal after an ugly giveaway.
Things got worse as Dennis Diekmeier picked up his second yellow card shortly after halftime, and it was gravy from there for Frankfurt as Shani Tarashaj and Haris Seferovic bagged goals to secure the win.
Hamburg, a club that narrowly staved off relegation in a playoff last season, has just a measly two points through eight matches. They fired manager Bruno Labbadia after just a month, but it hasn’t gone much better for Gisdol as a road draw with Borussia Monchengladbach is the only salvageable result through three thus far.
Bobby Wood’s honeymoon start to the league season for Hamburg is long gone. He scored two goals in two games to start the year, but hasn’t hit the back of the net since.
Timmy Chandler, on the other hand, he’s played the full 90 minutes in every game for Frankfurt since the opener, assisting a goal in the 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich last weekend. He’s helped Frankfurt move to fourth in the league, three points behind Bayern and Koln and Red Bull Leipzig between them (what?!).
With Manchester United set to visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the Special One will be returning to his former stomping grounds, a place where he spent six tumultuous seasons spread across two separate reigns.
While Jose Mourinho insisted he has “no hard feelings” for his former club and the way things ended, but did not mince words the subject of his former boss came up.
While Mourinho insisted he has “respect” for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, telling Sky Sports, “We were never friends. We were never close to each other. So he is just a person that I keep very respected.”
Mourinho also said that, even if The Blues wanted to, “They couldn’t delete me from Chelsea history. They belong to my history too. No bad feelings,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. The owner, he decided to sack me…the fans, they have no power. They show day by day, match after match, that they wanted me, but in this profile of club, the fans have no power. In some clubs, especially in some Latin countries, the format of the club, the fans have real power on the board and with the president and owners, but here they have no power so Mr Abramovich decided to sack me, but I left with not one bad word about anyone or anybody at the club.”
The 53-year-old said the titles he won at Chelsea were proof that “I did my job.” He finished by saying that no matter the treatment from fans, he will always hold Chelsea as he does all his other stops. “From me, you are not going to have, ever, a bad word about any one of my previous clubs,” Mourinho said. “I keep always a very good feeling. It doesn’t matter what is going to happen. But, it is my nature. It is my job. It is my new club. On Sunday I will go there to try and do my job.”
In the midst of building a new youth academy, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has laid out his ideal setup for training youth players to be stars for the German giants.
Rummenigge told fans that his club would seek out youngsters to develop, but his strategy differs from the method of recruitment used in England. Heavily.
“We don’t want to bring some 10- or 11-year-old to Munich like the English do,” Rummenigge wrote in the club’s magazine. “You could almost consider it kidnapping and I would have moral reservations about that. I believe 14 is a good age for a youngster to come to Bayern.”
The Bavarians have produced some world-class talent in recent years, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, and current captain Phillip Lahm. However, the club has also become known for poaching top talent across the Bundesliga as well, most recently having snatched Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund and rising young star Josh Kimmich from Stuttgart. This has led to a period of dominance, but at the expense of parity in the Bundesliga title race.
The new academy, located just down the road from Allianz Arena, is expected to be completed next summer.
Rummenigge continued to take shots at English clubs, next targeting the amount of players they train, saying, “Imagine this: Chelsea currently have 41 promising players out on loan, including Andreas Christensen at Borussia Monchengladbach. I know that Manchester City can train up to 250 players at their facility, together with their parents. It’s virtually like a real-life village. But we want to be more cautious. We don’t want a football factory.”
In recent months, a number of top La Liga clubs have been hit with transfer bans for breaking FIFA rules regarding youth transfers, but it seems something has found its way under Rummenigge’s skin with regards to the behavior of English clubs.