Avram Grant showed Thomas Tuchel how to avoid Man Utd misery in Champions League final
Chelsea’s biggest game of the campaign is approaching, with the Blues set to qualify for the Champions League against Manchester City on Saturday night.
Considering the two recent meetings between the two outfits, the next clash is almost certain to be close; Thomas Tuchel has beaten Pep Guardiola twice since his appointment in January, but with each victory a single goal.
Both sides have gained strength thanks to their defensive stability since the start of the year, with Chelsea and City mostly showing ultimate control.
If such a contest comes to fruition in Portugal on Saturday, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the final could follow a similar theme to the Europa League final on Wednesday night.
Manchester United fought Villarreal for 120 minutes, only to lose a penalty shootout by 11-10 after David de Gea failed to convert his kick.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after the contest that “ anything can happen ” in these situations, with popular belief suggesting that the winners are determined by little more than luck.
While much of this is presumably true, subtle benefits can still be gained around penalties if the relevant information is known and applied in advance, which requires some degree of confidence in the power of the data.
Chelsea have explored such discoveries in the past, and they might benefit from doing the same this time around given the silverware that’s at stake.
Professor Ignacio Palacios-Huerta – who is Athletic Bilbao’s former talent identification manager – has researched the subject in the past, and he has been used as an enemy of United in preparation before. of the 2008 Champions League final.
Palacios-Huerta worked at the behest of Avram Grant – who was in charge of Chelsea at the time – for a period of approximately two weeks and was tasked with writing a report using data attached to penalty shooters from United, in case the upcoming meeting is undecided. after extra time.
The economics professor found that two of Sir Alex Ferguson’s players had specific biases, these being Edwin van der Sar and Cristiano Ronaldo; the former had a very strong tendency to dive to the right for right-handed people and to the left for left-handed people, while the latter almost always shot to the right when he stuttered in his run for the ball.
Although the Blues ultimately lost the shootout, Palacios-Huerta was right about both his predictions, with Nicolas Anelka missing the decisive penalty after going against the data and shooting the side of his favorite foot, allowing Van Der Sar to stop. .
Additionally, after the final whistle at the PGE Arena on Wednesday, Bruno Fernandes won the toss, but decided Villarreal should kick first, which is actually recognized as an advantage below the box. .
After the Gdansk game Solskjaer said: “I didn’t ask Bruno who won the draw, I let him do it, we had penalty shooters with confidence, we made some changes to bring them up and take the penalties. “
If United had applied the penalty results to the clash, perhaps Fernandes would have been told that around 60% of teams that kick first tend to win shootouts.
According to Palacios-Huerta, this is because of how the main and lagging asymmetry affects performance; it is simply better to lead than to continue.
Former Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez took advantage of data mining ahead of a final, with his most successful night at the helm of Liverpool taking place in large part thanks to the enforcement of penalty knowledge in Istanbul; The Reds managed to defeat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final after Jerzy Dudek made a series of life-saving saves.
Want all the latest Chelsea Football Club news straight to your inbox?
Of course you do.
By signing up for our Chelsea newsletter you will receive an email twice a day, focusing on all the latest news from Stamford Bridge.
And, not only that, but you’ll get exclusive content from our club writers Sam Inkersole and Adam Newson before anyone else.
You will not miss anything when it comes to the Blues.
How do you register?
It’s easy and only takes a few seconds.
Just type your email address in the box at the top of this article – or any article in the Chelsea section of football.london in fact – tagged “Get the Greatest Daily Stories by Email” and hit “Subscribe.”
You can also click here and check the Chelsea box to subscribe to our Blues newsletter.
If you later decide that you no longer want to receive the emails, just follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we don’t think you will.
Speaking years later, Benitez said: “Of the five penalty shooters (from Milan) only Jon Dahl Tomasson we didn’t have any penalties, the others we got the penalties. Champions League and people say ‘oh you were lucky’ but no we did because we had more control over the shootout. “
A football game can be decided in a number of ways and while it is unlikely that sanctions will ultimately be invoked, it is always a possibility and the notorious failures of Solskjaer and United should serve as a warning for Chelsea.
Ultimately, Tuchel would benefit from following in the meticulous footsteps of the man who led the Blues in 2008.