11th and 21st May will tell us who amongst Manchester United or Chelsea is the best team this year, but our first point of introspection is – are these two the best teams around?
The English Premier league for some time now is being considered the best league by all parameters – a recent UEFA European leagues ranking; its marketing success while penetrating homes with ease all across Asia to South America; success of Arsenal and Liverpool in the Champions league the past three years; Manchester United and Chelsea locked in a tight EPL finish race till the last day and the same teams again locking horns in Moscow for Champions League silverware. A quick look at the data of all other European clubs suggests not many even come close to these two giants in terms of on field performances this year.
I made a base criterion of qualification as
a) Teams which have averaged more than 2 points gained per game played (in any competition).
b) Teams who were still alive for their respective league race even on the penultimate match day.
Under the above; only four teams challenge the English giants – Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Roma.
Rest of the pack can be straightaway counted out as none were close to winning their home leagues, although Barcelona and Liverpool ran their opponents close in Champions League semi finals. (The league race is considered a correct parameter for consistency check) Looking at the pros and cons of these four pretenders to the throne.
a) Won their Bundesliga much ahead of time.
b) Still alive in the DFB Pokal trophy.
c) Was alive in the UEFA Cup till May 2008, the loss being their major blemish this season.
d) Wasn’t good enough to play Champions league this year.
a) Won their La Liga race much ahead of time
b) Didn’t win or compete in any other silverware.
c) La Liga though is also debated as the toughest league due to the amount of upsets and surprise teams in top five every year (Note, in the EPL it’s basically a monopoly of the top four year after year).
a) Still fighting and favorites for the Serie A trophy
b) Still fighting for a season double, alive in Copa Italia race
c) Done in by a debatable early red card at Anfield, which upset their Champions League campaign.
a) Still alive for the Serie A trophy
b) Still alive in Copa Italia race
c) Lost to Manchester United in the Champions League when their inspirational captain Francesco Totti was missing.
Much of the arguments against Chelsea and Manchester United are, although they meet at Moscow, they had the luck of the draw. None of them were in the group of death, nor faced the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Munich, Juventus, AC Milan or Arsenal enroute to the final.
Their stiffest challengers were a struggling, out of form Barcelona and one of the favorites Liverpool – a team which generally plays for one trophy post Christmas break. The counter argument is that injuries, red cards, poor decisions and luck of the draw are part and parcel of the game and not in any club’s hands. A team needs to get above that and yet prove to be the best, the very best. Manchester United did that. Apart from one loss to Chelsea and one to Manchester City, they haven’t really lost any of their key games this season.
Chelsea had their own share of injuries, loss of players due to African Nations’ cup and a new coach mid season who was continuously under the microscope, yet they prevailed. So let’s get down to comparing the six teams under several on field parameters.
The data here is based on performances in respective leagues
a) Average points gained per match Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan in order make the list. The difference is very marginal here with 2.27 points per match for United and 2.25 points per match for Inter Milan.
b) Goals scored per match. Real Madrid and Manchester United are the runaway leaders here with 2.14 and 2.11 goals scored per match respectively. The next best Roma is a far off 1.92 goals per game
c) Goals conceded per match. The two meanest defenses happen to be Bayern Munich and Manchester United at 0.56 and 0.59 goals conceded per match, respectively. The next best is Inter and Chelsea at 0.67 goals conceded per game.
d) Most away wins Chelsea and Real Madrid top this list.
e) Most wins Manchester United and Real Madrid are the best. Chelsea is next best.
f) Minimum draws + Losses. In order would be Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Manchester United occurs too frequently in the above analysis to be safely considered amongst the best two teams in the world now. But who’s the second one? Bayern Munich were competing for 3 trophies till May 08, Real Madrid feature too frequently above to be neglected, Chelsea are right there too and if Inter or Roma finish up winning the Serie A and Copa Italia, there is no to way to keep them out from this esteemed list.
What do you think?