Friday, January 21, 2005

6 losses in an unbeaten season?

It's 9 months after the fact, and I still have to listen to people carping on about Arsenal's "magnificent unbeaten season" in 2003-04. I've finally had enough, so I decided to conduct a quick investigation.

Let's compare a few "magnificent" seasons in recent history, and see which one is really the best. I've ignored the charity shield games, as they're classified as friendlies (yeah, right). PPG stands for Points Per Game, assuming wins are 3, draws 1 and losses 0.

Man Utd 1998-9963401941392.21
Arsenal 2003-0458371561262.17
Man Utd 1999-0058381191252.16

Funny how the raw data tells a different story.

Arsenal's so-called glory season was not a patch on United's treble winning season, and in fact, United followed up the treble with a season that all but matched the single great year that Arsenal had - and that despite having to jet all over the world for the European Super Cup, the World Club Championship and the Intercontinental Cup (or whatever that game in Japan was called).

I don't want to detract from Arsenal's achievement in going unbeaten in the Premiership, but the truth is, their season as a whole wasn't even the best in the last 5 years, leave alone history.

Of course, this entire discussion is likely to be moot by the end of May, given that Chelsea have only lost 2 games so far this season, and look to have a real chance of emulating United's 98-99 performance, statistically at least.

Friday, January 07, 2005


It should have been a goal, no question about it. It was plain to see on Roy Carroll's face, even if you didn't see the ball cross the line. Ironic, of course, that nobody is commenting on the fact that United should have had a penalty, rather than a free kick, immediately afterwards (even Paul Robinson said as much). However, that's to be expected under the circumstances. Call it 1-1 and be done with it. Chelsea have the title wrapped up anyway!

I have to say, it's tough to watch a top-flight sportsman caught red-handed as Carroll was. It's the same with a Vieira belly-flop, a sneaky Bergkamp elbow, or a Carragher handball. The thing is, this isn't golf, and footballers don't call their own penalties. We'd have nothing to emote about if they did. So while it made me cringe at the time, the fact is there were three referees, none of whom saw it as a goal.

As I was always taught as a cricketer, the Umpire is right, even when he is wrong. The beauty of sport stems from it's humanity, and we need to be really careful when we start stripping it bare. Having the ability to do something doesn't make it the right thing to do. The premiership does not have to mimic the NFL.

What really irks me though, is those who claim that it never happened, back in the day. Maybe I just need to get my own pair of rose-tinted spectacles, but I'm quite certain it did happen back in the day. The difference was, you and I had no way of knowing, and we focused instead on enjoying the game. Something to consider.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

It's the cover drive that really matters

Apologies to my one reader for the absence. Plenty of others have talked at length about what's going on in the world at large, so I'll just have my quick say on Ricky Ponting and be done with it.

His double century against Pakistan appears to have convinced a lot of pundits once again that he is the best #3 going today, and back on track to go down as one of the all-time greats. Frankly, Peter Roebuck's assertion that Adam Gilchrist bats like Sir Garfield Sobers is more credible.

Ponting is undoubtedly a quality batsman, but he has a massive blot on his record, one that will be hard to shake, and yet is often glossed over by the critics. He averages an scarcely credible 12.28 in India, after 8 Test matches there. He may not ever have an opportunity to rectify that, and even if he does, he's going to need to score a century every time he bats to get that average up into the 40 region. Not likely.

Eight years ago, I watched a batsman named Rahul Dravid score 3, 4, 3 and 11 in his first four ODI outings. I was ridiculed when I asserted after watching those knocks that this was a world class batsman in the making. Today, it is he, not Ponting, who is the premier #3 batsman in world cricket, and in fact arguably the best batsman going, bar none. I say this mostly to illustrate that much like a stopped clock, I am occasionally proven to be correct. I'm still waiting on Ramnaresh Sarwan to provide an encore.

Back on topic, there is one thing I must concede as regards Ricky Ponting. Sadly for this fan, he has indeed proven himself to be a better batsman than Greg Blewett.

Not a more elegant cover driver, though.