Tag Archives: Wilson Palacios

Are Jenas & Palacios the new THud & Luka?

Are you tired of the Stratford / NDP discussions? It’ll all soon be over, or at least that’s what we think. Whatever the decision, legal battles will ensue with what I can only presume will be the clubs money and a fairly substantial amount too I would guess. God forbid we spend that £500k+ (guess) on a really good strikers wages! Anyway, if you feel like I do, that a season of enjoyment and celebration has been overshadowed by handbag swinging, fighting, screaming and biting then take 10 minutes out of your day to read something football related.

Ladies, Gentleman and ESPN subscription holders, I give you Jermaine Jenas. The other day I briefly mentioned a piece I was going to write that would conclusively prove that our injury prone, frustratingly inconsistent JJ is actually the best midfielder in the world. Having spent a decent amount of time sifting through statistics and some footage I’ve come to the conclusion that’s impossible to prove. However, I did want to take a look at something I’ve always wondered with regards to JJ. I’m sure I’m not alone in this but I’ve always felt he plays better with Palacios than he does Huddlestone or Modric. We all have our favoured partnerships and while a Palacios / JJ one doesn’t fill me with pride and confidence I’d rather that than a Modric / JJ one.

So, stats galore coming up and hopefully you’ll find it interesting. At least more interesting than where we may or may not play football in 5 years time. For the purposes of this I looked at only league games from the beginning of the 2008/09 season and only if a player had managed 45 minutes or more in each game. Due largely to injuries and the form of other players JJ didn’t play too many games last season, 6 in total that meet the criteria I’m looking at. The previous season and this have seen him play a lot more so I think I’ve got enough to make a valid conclusion. Well maybe not a valid one, but a conclusion all the same.

JJ with Palacios

I’ll start with my favoured partnership. Of the partnerships I’m looking at it’s been the most commonly used, having played together 14 times from the 44 games I’m looking at. Of those 14 games the team has won 8 times which is a win percentage of 57%. As suspected JJ is the creative force in this partnership making an average of 51 passes a game and scoring a goal every 4.67 games. However, maybe surprisingly his attempted tackling and success rate isn’t any lower than when he’s in a partnership where he’d be considered the more defensive minded player.

JJ with Huddlestone

The most accurate comparison to the Palacios partnership must be JJ’s appearances with THud purely because they’ve played together 13 times. Their win percentage isn’t much less than above, currently standing at 53%. The main difference is JJ’s passing as he attempts 12% fewer passes while playing with Tommy. Maybe not surprising as Huddlestone would be considered the playmaker of the two and I’d hazard a guess this is down to team-mates looking to Tommy, whereas with Palacios they’d understandably look to JJ. The lesser of two evils? His tackles per game are the same as with Wilson but having only scored 1 goal in those 13 games compared to the 3 with WP could it be he doesn’t attack quite as much?

JJ with Modric

My least favourite of the potential partnerships. I absolutely hate this teaming and the reasons why can be seen in this season’s game at Goodison Park. I always feel neither player is sure whether they’re meant to attack or defend and as a result both tend to get lost and as a team we get overrun. The stats support this a little. Having only played 9 games together in the 2½ seasons I’ve looked at it could be argued the sample is too small but a win percentage of only 44% or a total of 13 points from a possible 27 shows even at an early stage that this partnership would need a lot of work to flourish. JJ’s passes per game stands between Palacios’s and Huddlestone’s which should be expected. In the Palacios and Huddlestone partnerships it’s clear who the main playmaker is but with JJ and Modric playing team-mates are more likely to share who they pass too. This on paper is a good thing but it could also lead to a confusion in roles as I’ve already mentioned.

There are a number of games with Didier Zokora and Jamie O’Hara but I haven’t looked at these too closely because of the limited figures.

Top 4

I thought it’s possible these figures are slanted depending on what teams the partnerships have played against. If for example, every time JJ and Modric have played together they’ve been pitted against United at Old Trafford that’s going to have an effect.

The partnership of JJ and Palacios has encountered the Sky 4 (United, Arsenal, Chelsea & Liverpool) 3 times from their 14 games, whereas Huddlestone has met them once and Modric twice. That’s approximately 21% of the time Palacios and JJ play together they’re facing one of the better teams in the country. Modric’s is about the same but the Huddlestone partnership has only had to encounter a top4 side 7% of the time. The only comparison that is against the JJ/WP partnership would be the 3 top 4 games they’ve played have been at White Hart Lane whereas the other two have faced them away. We all know what our away record to that lot is like.

Home or Away?

Obviously this brings up the question of where the games were played. A partnership would have a distinct advantage if it played all their games at home. Looking at the games this isn’t the case though. All have played approximately 45% of their games at home and have similar win % at White Hart Lane. However, when we look at the win percentage away from home there’s quite a large difference.

  • JJ and Palacios – 37.5%
  • JJ and Huddlestone – 28.5%
  • JJ and Modric – 11%

Conclusion

If any conclusion can be made from a fairly small sample of games it’s that I was right ;) . The reason I prefer JJ to play with Palacios is because he plays better and the team get better results. That’s not to say the JJ and Palacios partnership should be our first choice, far from it but if JJ plays there’s only one partner for him. One of the reasons he’s so infuriating is because of his inconsistency but maybe that’s because of who he’s playing with? He should be able to play with quality like Tommy and Luka but clearly he prefers Sgt Wilson. At the moment we’re onto a winner as strange as that sounds because both THud and Moddle are injured but when the Croatian returns we can only hope it’s not JJ who partners him in central midfield.

As a side note and going back to JJ/WP not being our preferred partnership, they don’t come close to our first choice. Huddlestone and Modric formed an understanding last season that was one of the main reason’s we got into the champions league and we’ve missed it badly this time around. Of the 17 games they played 45 minutes or more together last season they won 12 (70.5%), drew 3 and only lost 2 (against United and the last day of the season against Burnley). That’s 39 points from a possible 51, 2.3 points per game or if you prefer, title challenging form. JJ and Palacios will fill in well while you’re away but hurry back guys, we miss you.

Palacios in “Better Than Huddlestone” Shocker

Much has been said about the treatment Wilson Palacios received on Sunday against Liverpool when his passing let him down once again. We’ve all seen his form suffer since the death of his brother, whether that’s coincidence is debatable but there’s no questioning his commitment to the cause and no player in a Spurs shirt deserves to be ridiculed in front of 36,000 fans like he was for a short period of time. Thankfully there were enough sensible fans out there to chant his name once the sarcastic cheers started for which I’m sure he would be grateful. I’m yet to hear someone say they were one of those who partook in the cheers, so quite who those people were I don’t know. It’s like when the team gets booed off the field, no-one ever seems to admit doing it.

I was no different to anyone else when I was watching him misplace pass after pass. I was moaning and groaning with every misplaced pass as I’m sure we all were. Then I decided to look into just how badly he had played. Personally I thought he had a shocker in the first half and had we not already had to make two substitutions due to injury I think he would’ve been taken off, but he got his game together and played well in the second half just as he had done against Arsenal a week earlier when Jenas got injured.

Football is a game based on statistics. Maybe not to the extend a sport like cricket is but they’re being used more by clubs, journalists and fans alike, all for differing reasons. There’s the simple stats that we all know, like top goal scorer and top assists, plus goals against and for, and then there are the stats that look at individual player performances. How many times have we heard this season about Bale’s work rate and how far he runs each game and at what speed. There are hugely successful companies who specialise in it. Who’d heard of Opta a decade ago? As someone on twitter so eloquently put, stats schmats! Statistics can be viewed in different ways. For example I could say Palacios had a higher success rate with his passing than Gareth Bale on Sunday. I wouldn’t be lying, but I’d be bending the truth somewhat and not explaining the stats correctly. Obviously a lot of Bale’s passes were actually crosses so it’s hardly surprising that his success rate was nearly 17% less than Palacios’s who will often spend most of his time passing 5-10 yards.

So to gauge just how bad Wilson was on Sunday we need to compare him to another central midfield player who will often spend large proportions of the game in similar positions to him. Modric is an option, especially as he played in the same game but he doesn’t play in the same position, preferring instead to play a more advanced role. So the only fair player to compare him with is Tommy Huddlestone. Regarded by most Spurs fans and non Spurs fans as one of England’s finest passers of the ball. Unfortunately because Wilson was his (and Jenas’s) replacement it’s impossible to compare in the same game but it is possible to take a look at recent games. The chalkboard below is the closest I can get to compare the two, with Liverpool and Sunderland being a similar team and both games being played in November. It’s also the closest the two become with regards to a pass success rate, both being around 80%. For the record the most recent game Jenas played a full 90 was in November too, in the recent 4-2 win against Blackburn and his success rate was only 75% in a game we largely dominated.


by Guardian Chalkboards

As you can see, both Palacios and Huddlestone play in a similar position and most of their passing is done in and around the centre circle, Palacios is slightly deeper i general but that’s probably more to do with Liverpool’s more offensive style compared to Sunderland who offered very little going foward. The main difference is the direction in which the passes are attempted. Palacios tends to pass sideways and backwards with the occasional forward pass but rarely a long ball, whereas THud looks to keep the ball with simple side and back passes mixed in with defence splitting forward passes, in particular long diagonal balls to the left, where I presume Bale is waiting.

Against Manchester City, Wolves and Aston Villa, the only other home games Tommy’s played he had a worse than 80% passing success rate. Only Wigan at home where he had a brilliant 87% was he better than Palacios was on Sunday. At least with regards to successfully completing the pass. It’s obvious to all that Huddlestone attempts far more advanced passes, passes that have the potential to stretch the opposition. I’m not saying his passing is worse than Palacios’s, far from it, but a long pass that doesn’t find a man in lilywhite is as equally wasteful as a short one isn’t it and is there a possibility that because we view Palacios as a poor passer of the ball, when he does fail in an attempt it’s more obvious than when Huddlestone does the same?

I think we would all agree that passing isn’t really Sgt Wilson’s forté but from what I’ve seen, albeit over a small selection of statistics (approx 5-6 games) it’s not quite as bad as we might think. Yes, he doesn’t look to spray balls from one side of the pitch to the other but then do we expect him to? The problem is the passes he fails to make are one’s we look at and think, “I could pass that” and therefore think it’s easy and should always been made. He’s the midfield enforcer we were crying for for years. His form has dropped admittedly which has seen him go from being the first name on the team sheet to being the 4th choice central midfielder and rightly so. Unfortunately he’s no longer good enough for what we as a team want to achieve and while his form has suffered, others have improved. There’s one more thing I want to look at though only because as I said, passing isn’t what he’s known for. His job is to win the ball back and pass it, if possible, to the technically better players around him. I’ll look at the same games as I did for the passing so it’s at least a fair assessment.


by Guardian Chalkboards

Again, there are different ways to look at the above stats. You could say, during the Sunderland game, Tommy didn’t have many tackles to make because they didn’t show much adventure going forward, whereas Liverpool played with 2 strikers and pushed men forward so the fact Palacios attempted more tackles, winning 5 of them, compared to THud’s two isn’t surprising. You could also say, Palacios is more likely to get into positions where he’ll be able to attempt a tackle and in today’s fast paced league football 5 out of 8 is quite a good return. Of course 2 out of 2 is pretty good, especially if they were the only times Tommy was called into action but when we look at other games throughout the season we notice THud doesn’t actually make that many tackles. Against Man City he made 4, winning 3. Wigan at home saw him attempt 2 tackles compared to Palacios’s 5. There were 2 once again against Wolves, when Jenas who was partnering him this time made 5, winning 2. Against Villa he made 3, winning 2 compared to Modric’s 9 attempts winning 4. This is not a coincidence. Huddlestone doesn’t attempt many tackles, even when playing in a deep position as Palacios does.

This doesn’t make Palacios better than Huddlestone. The title of this piece is obviously tongue firmly in cheek, and as I’ve pointed out, stats can be viewed in many different ways. For the record, Palacios also makes more interceptions, blocks and clearances than Tommy, but then that’s what we should expect because they’re very different players. Palacios will never be able to do what THud does and I don’t expect THud to improve his marking, tackling etc to one day be a tough tackling midfielder. You wouldn’t play THud as a defensive holding midfielder. When he plays, the “ugly” side of the game tends to be shared more with his partner, although so far this season his partner, whoever that may be, has been the one to do the majority of it.

Huddlestone is without doubt one of our first 11 when fit, but we shouldn’t compare the likes of Palacios to him when they play in his place. We know what to expect from Wilson and as annoying as his misplaced passes are they don’t occur more often than others produce the same mistakes, we just notice it more with him. So next time he makes a saving tackle on the edge of the area and runs away with the ball only to pass it straight back to the opposition lets give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s been through things hopefully none of us will ever have to and he wears the cockerel on his chest with the same pride we would. His talent has waned but he’s not as bad as some (including me) may think.

COYS

Half Time – Honours Even?

I’m not going to sit here and knee jerk like so many were last night during the game. Nor am I going to lambast every player in a spurs shirt. I’ll single some out later in the piece. ;-) As ‘Arry said after the game, it was a great defeat.

We Spurs fans can be a pessimistic lot. I’m sure that can be said about fans whoever they support but I would say I’m particularly bad. Very rarely do I think we’ll win, and while I predicted we would last night there was always a nagging doubt in the back of my head that maybe we’d have to settle for a draw instead. I didn’t foresee the first 30 minutes of last night happening though. However, as I trawled the internet while the shambolic performance was taking place and read the various forums and social networking sites I couldn’t quite believe all the negativity. Many suddenly suggesting we would struggle to finish in the top 7 or 8 this season and the good old “Harry must go” chants could be heard in the digital world.

For once in the 20+ years I’ve followed them I just didn’t feel that way. My wife thought I might be ill. Away goals are all important in these games and it was fairly obvious that their first 2 goals had been fortunate, even though they’d played well and we hadn’t. Say we didn’t get the rub of the green, the run of the ball or any other cliche you can think of but it’s true. Their first goal deflected off the arse of an offside player and fell invitingly to the unmarked Senad Lulic who calmly slotted home. The second wasn’t a great through ball as the awful Alan Smith on Sky would have you believe. It was a pass that was miss-controlled by Young Boys striker Henri Bienvenu who then managed to turn Dawson far too easily and again finish efficiently.

There’s no excusing the defending or the manner in which we competed in those first 30 minutes but we were at no stage out of the game. When their third goal was scored it did become a little foreboding but it was the only goal they scored that was genuinely good, plus if we could get ourselves together and get that away goal we could overturn a 2 goal deficit at home.

For those that say Redknapp just sits on the bench doing nothing even when we’re in trouble were put in their place if only for one game last night. Huddlestone was brought on for Benny when we went 3-0 down and it made the world of difference. Some would ask why he wasn’t starting as I did before kick off but it appears, reading between the lines, that big ol’ Tommy didn’t like the artificial pitch and it hurt his knees. If that’s the case, Redknapp didn’t really have much choice in starting him on the bench.

Fortunately just before half time we managed to get that important away goal just as a friend who was in Bern last night text me saying he could hear all the wanderers fans laughing. That text was very shortly followed by another one saying, “about f*cking time”. So we got ourselves a lifeline after what can only be described as the worst performance in a couple of years.

At this point I was settling for a 3-1 defeat.

The second half saw a lot of possession but not much else. Bale didn’t really get into the game at any point although he was still producing our best crosses which unfortunately no-one could get on the end of. Which brings me to the so called “Super Pav”. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been his biggest fan. I didn’t rate him before he signed and very little has changed my opinion on that. I laugh when I read people justifying his inclusion over this striker or that because of what he can offer the team.

If a Russian or Arab billionaire wanted to buy him but needed to see what he could do the simplest thing to do would be to make him watch last night’s game. By far the worst player on the pitch for the entire game and then BANG, top corner with 7 minutes to go and we’ve got 2 away goals and are right back in the tie. His movement is non existent for large periods when he plays, his control lets him down as much as it does for Sgt Wilson, he clearly doesn’t understand the concept of holding the ball up, his passing is ineffective and he can’t tackle. So why does he get this unheralded support from the fans? It doesn’t make sense to me. Once he crosses that line I’ll back him as much as any other player, but in my opinion last night just proved once again that we need a world class striker if we’re to compete at the top table. Having said all that, what a great goal ;-)

Now onto Wilson Palacios. A player I truly believe helped us get to where we are now. However, since the tragedy that he and his family had to suffer he’s just not been the same player. His passing has never been the greatest (see last night’s kamikaze back pass across the edge of the penalty area when we were 3-1 down) but his bulldog spirit and tackling used to make up for that. Now however, that’s gone too. He had a 15 minute spell at the beginning of the second half where he looked like his old self but then he faded again. The partnership of THud and Moddle looks so much better and with Sandro arriving in the next couple of weeks it does look like Sgt Wilson’s time could soon be up. For what he’s given to Tottenham Hotspur and what he’s been through, it should be his name fans sing and not Pav’s.

On a lighter note, it was great to see the little Mexican Gio getting his chance on the right. He showed last night what he can do in a very tough situation. He was running about, winning the ball and was probably the only player to come out of the game with any positives. Given Lennon’s recent form I’d like to see Gio given a run of 6-7 games starting with Stoke on Saturday.

So, we’re still in the tie and it’s probably honours even if not us just leading by a nose. Next Wednesday won’t be easy with Young Boys playing on the break which they showed last night they can do really effectively. But lets be honest, did we really want to go over their, win 3-0 and have our first home Champions League game be an easy one? Nah, that wouldn’t be the Spurs way. It’s set up now for next Wednesday to be a massive game. Under floodlights, the Champions League music will come on and White Hart Lane will come alive. The atmosphere will be electric and all in attendance will get their monies worth.

COYS

The Waiting’s Over – City Preview

It’s been 13 weeks and 5 days since we last played a competitive football match. That’s longer than Steve Coppell stays in most jobs. It’s just over 14 weeks since that fateful night in Manchester when we secured our first ever trip into the Champions League. This is where I should be saying ”how time flies”, but it’s dragged longer than a Bolton v Stoke match. (note to self: don’t mock teams before we’ve played them or it’ll bite you in the arse)

Most spurs fans, including me, thought this was going to be a very exciting summer. It started with the news we’d agreed new contracts with Modric and Bale and then the world cup ruined it all. Wait, wait, wait, once it’s all over ‘Arry will be getting that centre back, goal scoring midfielder and world class striker the team is craving for won’t he? It appears not. The summer for us yids has seen no new signings and disappointment with the players we’ve been linked with; Bellamy, Parker, Richards etc.

However, we’re not the only ones. In fact when you look at the transfer window this season there’s really only one team that’s had some fun and that’s tomorrow’s opponents, Manchester City. It’s said that once the Milner deal goes through, other deals will follow, much like a first time buyer at the bottom of a property ladder. Ireland will go to Villa, Young will come to Spurs, Keane will go to Villa etc. Time will tell.

Of course it’s not all about new signings. We’ve had a decent enough pre-season. A heavy defeat at home to Villareal which in my eyes was actually a blessing in disguise to make sure the players remember what it’s like to lose so they don’t do it too often. Players like Gio and Kyle Walker have given Redknapp something to think about, and even Mr 100 caps for Ireland has scored a few and could start tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s game will depend a lot of how City’s band of new signings gel in their first competitive game together. On paper and the money they’ve spent they look like they should be mounting a serious challenge to the top 3.

Last season our first month of excellent performances and results were on the back of a great win at home to Liverpool, the previous seasons runners up. At the time we didn’t know they wouldn’t get any better so it was a massive win for the fans and the players. Tomorrow could quite easily be the same. Tomorrow isn’t just about tomorrow. It could shape our entire season. I’m not saying if we were to lose we should be looking at another 2 points in 8 games scenario, but you can suddenly see how Stoke away the following week would look even trickier than it is normally.

If we perceive City to be aiming for a top 3 finish would a draw at home be a good result?

Go for the jugular I say. This could be the perfect time to play them. They won’t have liked to see their opening game was away at White Hart Lane. A ground that has become a fortress in recent years (Wolves, Stoke and Hull from last season have been wiped from the records for the purposes of the last comment).

It’ll be interesting to see who starts for Spurs. Bale looks to have recovered from whatever “injury” he had that made him pull out of the Wales squad on Wednesday but will he play at the back or in midfield? The Premier League Fantasy Football classifies him as a midfielder so I presume they’ve spoken to Harry on that subject. What about Gio? Surely based on pre-season form he deserves to start, but where? Left or right midfield? Up front? How about just behind a lone front striker?

Good luck Mr Twitchy trying to work that one out.

Will Keane play at all? What about starting him? Defoe hasn’t really had a pre-season to speak off, at least not many games. As we seem to be actively trying to sell Robbie what better way than to play him and hope he scores a couple?

We finished last season with Kaboul at right back and a central midfield partnership of THud and Moddle. Will Corluka come back in now he’s fit again and what about Palacios? Is he going to play as much as he has in recent seasons? Then of course there’s Sandro when he eventually arrives. Is Sgt Wilson on his way out?

Tomorrow’s game is about more than just 3 points. It can set us up for a great August or make everything suddenly look a lot harder. It’ll give us a better idea of how Redknapp will play this season in certain games and while we won’t be able to tell just how we’re going to do for the rest of the campaign it could give us a better insight into exactly what sort of players, if any, we need to sign before August 31st.

If you’re going to the game, make the lane a cauldron of noise. Refuse to sit when the stewards ask. Make sure you’re loud enough to help the people watching at home drown out the infuriating drone that is Andy Gray. Lift the boys onto another opening day victory, which there have been few in the premier league , because if we’re going to finish in the top 4 again this season we’ll need all the points we can get.

COYS

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