Outside the Box: To win the European Cup you must wheel out your old guard

 

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The Independent Football

After ProZone, the statistical tool now widely used by many Premier League clubs, and sabermetrics, the system derived from baseball and featured in the book and film Moneyball, comes...wait for it... analytics from the International Centre for Sports Studies Football Observatory.

It concentrates on squad management, selection and scouting, and the latest findings show that recent Premier League champions have never fielded more than three new signings per match, which would apply to both Manchester clubs this season.

The research suggests that the only area in which United are stronger than City is in dribbling past opponents and that "Manchester City should give priority to recruiting a powerful and fast player with a technical profile close to that of... Nani, Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia".

From a technical perspective, the three players in England most recommended are Jermaine Pennant of Stoke, Matthew Jarvis of Wolves and Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle. As for the Champions' League, all recent winners have on average fielded players who were in the first-team squad for at least four seasons.

Good news for Chelsea and all their old guard but almost equally so for Bayern, five of whose semi-final team have been together for that long.

Bluebirds flap in a red mist

The unpopular proposal by Cardiff City's Malaysian owners to change from the club's blue shirts to Welsh red highlights how rarely such mutations take place, even these days amid the mania for money-making new strips.

Often in the past it has been done to project an entirely new image for a struggling club; with great success in the case of Leeds United, when Don Revie audaciously changed from blue and gold to the all-white of Real Madrid in 1961, and when the equally ambitious Jimmy Hill kitted Coventry City out in sky-blue the following year.

Some of the more dramatic changes include Orient in 1967 making the same change as Cardiff proposed, from blue to red (and temporarily dropping Leyton from their name); and Watford swapping blue for yellow and black to become the Hornets in 1959.

But it could have been even worse for Cardiff fans: a reader points out that in the 19th century the original colours were chocolate and amber quarters. The history of every club's colours can be seen on the superb www.historicalkits.co.uk.

Tears with John at the helm

Many radio and TV commentators are keen to keep their allegiances quiet to avoid accusations of bias. One who has always worn his heart on his Bradford Park Avenue sleeve is the veteran Yorkshireman John Helm, who last weekend joyously described his team's 1-0 victory over FC United to gain promotion to the Blue Square Bet North.

In 1970 one of his duties as a TV reporter was to interview fans on the day Bradford were voted out of the Football League in favour of Cambridge United. On that occasion he "fought back tears". This time he tried to maintain a modicum of impartiality until substitute Tom Greaves, from nearby Baildon like himself, came on and scored the only goal in the 118th minute.

Matthews honoured

A nice touch for today's final match of the season by West Bromwich Albion. Sitting in the dug-out with Roy Hodgson, also for the last time, will be Dave Matthews, who has retired aged 66 after serving the club for 51 years, mainly as kitman, having been diagnosed with cancer. He has helped prepare the players for 2,500 games and is working on an autobiography.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue

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