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Dead-ball demons

Martin Tyler - Martin Tyler Posted 7th April 2008 view comments

Martin Tyler's stats and facts column is back for 2008 and will be here offering you statistical gems for the remainder of the season.

Sky Sports' voice of football and his back-up team of experts are here to answer your questions and queries on all things statistical and historical from the beautiful game.

It could be on a side in the Premier League or Football League, international scene or European competitions - or it could be about an individual player or manager.

Larsson: dead-ball demon

Larsson: dead-ball demon

If you have spotted something from a game or have been stumped by a pub quiz question, simply Email here and Martin will do his best to answer.

Or use the feedback form at the bottom of the page....

Tyler's Starting Stat - Cup run not over

Well, where else to start this week than with the FA Cup semi-finals? I was at Wembley on Saturday and Sunday to see Portsmouth and Cardiff book their places back there on May 17th. I'll start with Cardiff City, who made it there thanks to Joe Ledley's first goal in seven FA Cup ties. It will be City's third cup final appearance and first for 81 years; in 1925 they lost 1-0 to Sheffield United and two years later in 1927, beat Arsenal 1-0. What makes their feat more remarkable is that for the last four seasons, they had gone out in the third round. As for Portsmouth, Kanu's goal was his eighth in 25 FA Cup appearances and it kept an incredible scoring sequence going for Harry Redknapp's side. They have now scored in their last 19 FA Cup ties going back to the third round defeat at Sunderland in December 1999 and away from Fratton Park, they have now scored once in each of their last nine cup ties. And if they continue that run in the final, it might complete a memorable scoring sequence in this season's competition, Pompey having won 1-0 at Ipswich, 1-0 at Preston, 1-0 at Manchester United and 1-0 at Wembley against West Brom! Portsmouth have three former winners Sol Campbell (2002, 2005), Kanu (2002, 2003) and Lauren (2002, 2003, 2005) on their books, as well as David James, who will be looking to make it third time lucky having lost his previous two finals with Liverpool (1996) and Aston Villa (2000) - when Cardiff keeper Peter Enckelman was his back-up! Robbie Fowler also lost with James in 1996, but won it in 2001 with Liverpool, while Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the only other Bluebird with any final experience, having been part of the Chelsea side that lost to Arsenal in 2002.

Martin, odd question, but I was just curious... when was the last time two sides who wear blue made it to the FA Cup final? Rick Wilson
What a good question Rick, if a little bit unusual. I have had a thumb back through my cup final record books and as far as I can see, it's not often that teams with blue shirts have faced each other in a final - especially royal blue as is the case with both Cardiff and Portsmouth. But the last time I can find two teams who normally play in blue facing each other is the 1969 final when Leicester played Manchester City - although of course, City do - and did - play in sky blue. That day, Leicester wore their traditional blue shirts and white shorts, while City, who won 1-0, played in the red and black striped second kit. While on the subject of kits at Wembley, Cardiff could well play in their black and yellow strip having decided to stick with that following the quarter-final win at Middlesbrough. Black and yellow, or gold, are the colours of the flag of St David, in case anyone is wondering where that combination came from.

Hi Martin, I have a question that's been burning a hole in me. We all know Ronaldo is perhaps the most stunning free-kick taker in the league, but who's the most accurate from free-kicks? I'm guessing that Sebastian Larsson of Birmingham is one of them as he always seems to work the goalkeeper. Many thanks, Lawrie Neal, Birmingham
Well, Lawrie let me put out that fire and fill that hole! You are right to single out Sebastian Larsson as a fine exponent of the free-kick, although he has only had eight attempts on goal compared to the 20 that Cristiano Ronaldo has fired in this season. But, thanks to the boffins at Opta and some simple mathematics at our end, I have come up with some sort of performance chart when it comes to taking free-kicks and testing the goalkeeper. Larsson's accuracy of 75 per cent puts him top of the table, ahead of Ronaldo with 65 per cent - although the Manchester United man leads the scoring charts with four free-kick goals, compared to Larsson's two. David Bentley has not scored that many, but has hit the target 10 times in 17 attempts, while Jason Koumas, Nico Kranjcar and Nobby Solano can all boast a 50 per cent success rate when it comes to getting them on target. At the other end of things, Everton's Mikel Arteta has the most off-target having sent 10 of 14 wide of the mark, Man City's Martin Petrov has missed with eight of 15, and Ronaldo and Bentley have both failed to test the keeper seven times. Here are the leading exponents of the free-kick so far this season...

Sebastian LarssonBirmingham8675%
Cristiano RonaldoMan United201365%
David BentleyBlackburn171059%
Jason KoumasWigan Ath10550%
Nico KranjcarPortsmouth8450%
Nolberto SolanoWest Ham8450%

Hi Martin, I was just wondering if Arsenal can take any hope from the stats ahead of tomorrow's game at Liverpool. How many times have the team who played at home first and drew 1-1 progressed in the Champions League please? Henry BrennanMARTIN SAYS:
Of course we go from FA Cup to Champions League this week on Sky Sports, although I will not be at Anfield on Tuesday to see if Arsenal can indeed buck the trend and make it through to the semi-finals. Down the years in the knockout stages of the competition the first leg has ended 1-1 17 times - and 11 of those times the side away from home in the second leg, as the Gunners are this time, have ended up going out. The last side to do what Arsenal are hoping to do is in fact Chelsea, who drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in last season's quarter-final against Valencia but managed to go through thanks to a 2-1 win in the Mestalla in the second leg. And if you are an Arsenal fan looking for encouragement Henry, cast your mind back to 2004 when your side drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge only to crash out to that Wayne Bridge winner, 2-1 at home in the second leg. At least Arsenal do not need to look far to see it can be done, even if overall, just 35 per cent of sides have gone through a knockout game having drawn 1-1 at home in the first leg.

Martin, I reckon Chelsea are going to get 85 points but I still think they are going to finish second behind United in the Premier League. Would this be the highest number of points a side has got without ending up as champions? Neil
Well Neil, I can't really comment on your estimation of Chelsea's points tally come the end of the season, but I can tell you that were they to get 85 points, or indeed 84, it will indeed be the highest total a side has accrued yet failed to be crowned Premier League champions. Thanks to our good friends at Opta, I can tell you that 83 is currently the highest total for a non title-winning side, achieved by Chelsea last season, Manchester United in 2005-06 and Arsenal in 2004-05 - the last three seasons. On all three occasions, those sides finished runners-up, over a 38-game season. Before the Premier League reduced its numbers and had a 42-game season, the highest total was 88 points, which Manchester United finished with in 1994-95 when they were pipped by Blackburn Rovers. Here are the leading points totals, over 38 games, without winning the league.

Man Utd05/0638832nd

Martin, I am sure I heard someone say that following Middlesbrough's 2-2 draw with United on Sunday, they have the best record this season against the big four of United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. By my calculation we have only taken six points from three draws and a win - surely someone has done better than that? Melanie NortonMARTIN SAYS:
Melanie, I think I heard the stat you are referring to over the weekend, and it was based over the last 12 home games in the Premier League when Boro have won five, drawn five and lost just two of their 12 games against Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. They have beaten Arsenal twice and drawn once, drawn all three with Liverpool, won two and lost one against Chelsea and won, drawn and lost against United following Sunday's exciting 2-2 draw. As for this season Melanie, you are right, Boro's is not the the best record against the so-called big four. That honour currently belongs to Manchester City who, thanks to that double over Manchester United and a 0-0 home draw with Liverpool, have taken seven points from as many games with the top four - with the return trip to Anfield still to come. West Ham, who have beaten both Manchester United and Liverpool, will equal that should they get a draw at Old Trafford on May 3, or better it if they can repeat last season's famous victory. Here, courtesy of Opta, are the best records this season against the teams currently occupying the top four positions in the Premier League.

Manchester City72144137
Aston Villa813412196
West Ham72059136

Hi Martin, I always thought it was a cliche when they said "Michael Owen just needs one to go in off his backside and then he won't stop scoring" - yet lo and behold he has scored four in four. I was just wondering if he does indeed go on a scoring spree every season... any stats to back it up? Chris MaloneMARTIN SAYS:
It is something we have heard down the years many, many times and as usual, Michael Owen does indeed put together the sort of scoring run that makes us wonder what all the fuss was about! But after going three games without scoring for Newcastle, Michael does indeed have four in four although the goal that started the current run - away at Birmingham - was a striker's tap-in, and certainly didn't come off his behind! But Premier League defenders should beware because that goal ended a three-game drought and there have been several examples down the years of Owen ending barren spells with impressive runs in front of goal. For instance, nine years ago in the 1998-99 season he went three games without a goal for Liverpool but hit back with seven in seven games while in 2001, after seven games without scoring, he then plundered 10 in the next six, including a hat-trick against Newcastle, and doubles against Chelsea and Arsenal, the latter seeing Liverpool come from behind to win the FA Cup. The following season, after a disappointing start to the campaign and four games without a goal, a hat-trick at Manchester City and one at Spartak Moscow in the Champion League, as well as a double at home to West Ham saw Owen grab 10 goals in eight Liverpool games in all competitions. And even when he left these shores for that season at Real Madrid, he did not leave the scoring sprees behind. Despite not scoring in his first six games, he went on a run of five goals in six games that eventually helped endear him to the Bernabeu faithful and establish a decent return in his only season in La Liga. For Newcastle, his best run came in 2005-06 when he hit seven in seven Premier League games between September and December, culminating in a hat-trick at West Ham.

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