Posts Tagged ‘England’

He’s overshadowed in the Bundesliga by Mario Gomez, while at international level the spotlight falls on Robin van Persie, but is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the best striker in the world?

This does not include Lionel Messi, nor Cristiano Ronaldo. Firstly, because neither are what you would class as an ‘out-and-out’ striker. Secondly, because they are out of this world.

The five top scorers across Europe, with the two mentioned above taken out of the equation, are van Persie, Gomez, Huntelaar, Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Wayne Rooney.

The table below shows their games and goals in their respective leagues, cups and European competitions this season, as well as their goals per minutes and the percentage of their team’s league goals they have scored.*

PREMIER
LEAGUE
DOMESTIC
CUP
EUROPE
NAME APPS GOALS APPS GOALS APPS GOALS GOAL/MINUTE % of team goals (league)
Van Persie 33 27 2 2 8 5 107.2 40.90
Gomez 30 25 4 2 11 12 88.6 36.23
Ibrahimovic 26 23 4 2 8 5 107.9 37.09
Rooney 30 24 2 2 7 5 106.4 29.26
Huntelaar 29 24 4 5 12 14 91.4 36.36

As demonstrated in the table above, only Gomez and van Persie have scored more league goals than ‘The Hunter’. Huntelaar also has more goals in domestic cups, and has scored more in Europe – although all of his have came in the Europa League, as opposed to the more prestigious Champions League.

Only Gomez has a better goals per minute ratio, and both players have considerably better ratios than the rest of their ‘rivals’. While the Bayern man scores more often, it is the Dutchman who has contributed more – albeit marginally – to his side’s league goals tally this season.

At international level, it would appear Huntelaar is again more valuable. He has scored 31 goals in 50 appearances for Holland, compared to his fellow countryman van Persie’s 25 in 62. Wayne Rooney has 28 in 73 for England, while Gomez has played 51 times for Germany, scoring 21 times. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has the worst goals/game record at country level, with 29 goals in 75 appearances for Sweden.

Stefan Bienkowski, of Bundesliga Football and Four Four Two, said: “The only out-and-out striker I could perhaps see above him would be Gomez, but Huntelaar does seem to have more strings to his bow. The Dutchman is often found cutting back and can fit in to the build-up play as well as any playmaker.

“His form and goals have been pivotal for Schalke this season. The club rest very comfortably in third place, which can be put down entirely to the amount of goals the team have amassed this season. Alongside Raul, the Dutchman has flourished and their ability to score certainly saves a rather average defensive record, from any blushes.”

*Stats courtesy of Soccerway.

Mesut Ozil – practically a veteran at 23

Germany have perhaps the greatest pool of young talent currently available to any football playing nation.

However, it wasn’t always this way, and much like the other articles in this series, the way Germany turned things around following their Euro 2000 disappointment is very much something England could and should be looking at.

Just over a decade ago, having looked at poor performances from the national side, clubs in financial meltdowns and an ever-increasing number of foreign players, it was commissioned for 121 national talent centres, for players aged 10-17, to be built throughout Germany; while every club in the top two divisions had to have a youth academy.

Clark Whitney, German football editor of goal.com, said: “There is nothing serendipitous about the quality and quantity of young talent coming from the German first and second divisions. In 2000, after an aging Germany side utterly failed at the European Championship, the DFL made strict requirements for all 1. and 2. Bundesliga clubs to have youth academies, with very specific guidelines regulating their quality.

“There are also periodic sessions in which crops of youngsters are brought together to be trained in the style of the senior national team. The result is a large number of talented players who are well-nurtured, and take very little time to integrate into the senior national team.”

The benefits are clear for all to see. In recent years Germany have won the U17, U19 and U21 European Championships, and are one of the favourites for the senior tournament this summer.

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller and regarded as superstars, yet not one of them is older than 23. Similarly, the likes of Mats Hummels and Marco Reus are ready to burst onto the world stage, and there are plenty more waiting-in-line.

By contrast, England still call upon the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, John Terry and so on – all of whom are at least 30. There are some exceptions – Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker to name a few – but, ultimately, the English national side continues to be an ageing one, filled with players who have experience, and contributed to, past failures.

The fiasco that was no qualifying for Euro 2008, and the woeful performances in 2010’s World Cup were both supposed to lead to a youth revolution, but it is to the old stars Fabio Capello has turned, suggesting the younger players are not good enough.

Germany looks like having a side to challenge for at least the next decade. England may take that long before even attempting to catch-up.

You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Mr_Bundesliga.

In the last ten seasons, three different clubs have won the Premier League; five have won the Bundesliga.

Eight teams have finished inside the top four in the Premier League; ten in the Bundesliga.

It may not seem like much, but it does perhaps make all the difference. While the Premier League is not as much of a two-horse race as La Liga or the SPL, it isn’t exactly wide open either.

The Manchester United/Arsenal rivalry became Man Utd/Chelsea, and now it’s Man Utd/Man City. Tottenham have briefly challenged but fallen away. The challenges from Spurs and Man City represent a shift in power, but also highlight the decline of sides like Liverpool and Arsenal.

One of the reasons the Bundesliga is a more open competition is that clubs are made it live within their means. It receives far less in both matchday and TV revenue, with a licencing agreement meaning all clubs are on more of a level playing field. The Bundesliga receives just under €600m in television income; the Premier League: almost €2bn.

Around 50% of Bundesliga clubs’ revenue is spent on players wages, amongst the lowest in Europe (certainly the lowest of the big five leagues) and well below the 70% outlined by Uefa’s Financial Fair Play.

Raphael Honigstein, German football correspondent for The Guardian, said: “The licensing system levels the playing field somewhat as it forces clubs to live within their means. This does not make everyone the same but increases the chances of bigger teams slipping up as they can’t simply throw money at it in January, for example.”

The counter argument, of course, is that the Bundesliga has less quality. Bayern Munich were the last German side to win the Champions League, and that was back in 2001. Manchester United and Liverpool have both won the competition since then, while Manchester United have reached the final a further two times, Liverpool made another appearance in the final, and Arsenal reached it in 2006.

Clark Whitney, goal.com’s German football editor, expanded on this, saying: “As much as I hate to admit it, quality does play a role. The Bundesliga was relatively poor in the mid-2000s, which made for a more unpredictable league, but one in which there just wasn’t a team with the class to contend. Bayern didn’t have hopes of winning the Champions League, and did just enough in the transfer market to succeed. Of course, they have repeatedly failed to defend their title, primarily due to their refusal to bring in adequate squad depth to take some weight off the stars’ shoulders after a big tournament like Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

“Things are changing now, of course, as teams like Dortmund are able to produce top class line-ups for pennies, thanks to good scouts and the quality of youth being produced all over Germany.

“There are some other differences, however: culturally, clubs see a match against Bayern as an opportunity, not a death sentence. They give an extra 10% in such games – you won’t see opponents fielding reserves in Germany when they face a top side, unlike what we’ve seen at times in England and Spain.”

 

Fans standing - safely - at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion

As calls for safe standing in England get louder, the people at whose feet the decision ultimately lies could do with taking a look at the Bundesliga.

In 1993, the German Football Federation decided against all-seater stadiums, and now the vast majority of Bundesliga clubs have safe standing areas in their stadiums.

Since the Taylor report into the Hillsbrough disaster, all clubs in the top two levels of English football have been required to have all-seater stadiums. This even means that any team who have standing areas, and are then promoted to the Championship, would have to convert their stadium to all-seating.

Bundesliga stadiums feature ‘rail-seating’, called ‘vario’ seats. These are locked in an upright position for Bundesliga matches, but are then brought down for matches in the Champions or Europa League etc – as FIFA and Uefa both recquire stadiums for their competitions to be all-seater.

Andy Hudson, editor of European football website Gannin’ Away, explained this further. He said: “There are metal barriers situated at regular intervals on the terracing. This removes huge gaps of open terracing that many people remember from UK football grounds. As a result of the barriers, there are never too many fans squeezed into a confined space. This eliminates any potential for surges and people tumbling down the terracing.

“Also, ticket numbers are regulated so the standing areas are never full to ‘capacity’. While you could get ‘x’ amount of fans in area, clubs sell less than that volume. This is a practice that’s replicated across many European countries.”

Fans are also allocated a row and a position, which eliminates the theory – and one of the reasons given as to why safe standing has not been implemented in the Premier League – that it’s harder, in standing areas, to identify those causing trouble.

However, despite it being something many fans want – The Football Supporters’ Federation have long campaigned for its introduction – and the obvious benefits (the Bundesliga has higher attendances and a generally better atmosphere at games) it seems unlikely safe standing will be implemented in the Premier League any time soon.

Hillsborough, and the safety of fans, are the excuses given for this. Money, one suspects, is the real reason.

 

You can follow Andy Hudson on Twitter: @HuddoHudson, and check out his Gannin’ Away website here.