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December 24, 2004

When 'just about ok' is better than genius

It is the British football fan's greatest puzzle this season: why are Everton, a hitherto unheralded side, doing so well (currently third in the Premiership and ahead of Manchester United and Liverpool FC)?

Of course, most fans supporting clubs without a shout for the title (excepting Liverpool fans) are hoping for an upset come May. All the more so because Everton sold wonderboy Wayne Rooney to Manchester United in the summer. 'Haha! Ja-boo sucks to you!' This is British sporting schadenfreude at its most appealing.

The question, though, that interested me more, and should be of interest to non-sporting fans, is whether there is a link between offloading a supremely talented player and doing better in the league. According to Danny Finkelstein in a Times article from last month, there is:

When Everton had Rooney in the side they were much less effective at nicking the points than when they did not. In the games since the start of the 2002-03 season that Rooney started, Everton scored an average 1.21 goals and conceded 1.21 goals. You would expect them to pick up an average 1.35 points per game. They picked up only an average of 1.06 points.

Now look at the games he did not start. Everton scored an average 1.22 goals and conceded 1.05 goals. You would expect an average 1.45 points per game, instead it was 1.78 points per game. It’s official. Everton are better off, far better off, without Wayne Rooney.

So there you have it: because of his sheer abundance of sporting ability, young Wayne was tipping the team off balance. Everton manager, David Moyes, seems to understand what has happened and, though he has £25 million to spend in the Christmas transfer market from the sale of Rooney, he is thought not to want to buy anyone. Why? His team is balanced and, as Finkelstein says, 'better, far better off' as a result.

December 24, 2004 in Observations, Sports | Permalink


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