Thursday 5 May 2016

Okazaki and Schwarzer

Interestingly much has been made of the fact that Schwarzer will be the first player in EPL history to "win" back-to-back titles for two different clubs.....and get this.....not only winning back-to-back titles for two different clubs, but winning at each club without playing a single minute in the EPL.

What "winning" means is interesting because, as I understand it, a player needs to play in at least 5 EPL matches (which can include time on as a substitute) to qualify for a Winner's Medal. Nonetheless, I suppose "winning" here just means being part of the winning squad, even if in the reserves and even if no medal is received as such. I note that Jose Mourinho was kind enough to buy Mark Schwarzer a replica medal anyway to recognise his contribution as an excellent reserve goalkeeper. I hope Claudio Ranieri does the same.

I did find it amusing that Schwarzer could now be viewed as a "lucky charm" for Chelsea's and Leicester's success --- to test this theory perhaps we should send Schwarzer over to one of Liverpool or Arsenal next season, ensuring he doesn't play a single minute. If that team in receipt of Schwarzer wins next season I expect Schwarzer's transfer price to shoot through the roof as all clubs scramble to secure their next title through his purchase :)

Shinji Okazaki's contribution

Another interesting thing is Shinji Okazaki.

True it may be that he scored less goals than Vardy or Mahrez, and true it is that he seems to have less league starts than many of the others in the team, but as one fine example of the Leicester teamwork and spirit that has won them the title, look at all the games Okazaki has scored in:

West Ham 1-2 Leicester City
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Leicester City
Newcastle United 0-3 Leicester City
Everton 2-3 Leicester City
Aston Villa 1-1 Leicester City
Leicester City 1-0 Newcastle United

With the exception of the away trip to Newcastle United - and this is indicative of Leicester's season of winning by tight margins or drawing matches - all of Shinji's goals were critical in securing points.

He scored the winning goal at home against Newcastle and I think he also scored the winner in another match.

He helped to convert draws into wins.

He contributed to Leicester obtaining draws instead of losses.

In total, by my count, that's about 14 points secured by Leicester where Okazaki was involved in those matches.

In terms of Okazaki's direct contribution to those points, if we say he helped Leicester earn 2 points for every match that was won by a single goal difference (ie. 'converting a draw into a win'), and 1 point for every match that was drawn (ie. 'converting a loss into a draw'), then by my count he earned at least 8 points for his team!! (and that's being conservative and not giving him credit for the away win at Newcastle --- on the basis that they would have won anyway even if he didn't score)

Certainly he did not score as many goals as he would probably have liked as a striker but that's not what matters - what matters is that he chipped in when it was important to chip in. Another oft-cited contribution of Okazaki's is his defensive duties. All season long Leicester have been known to sit back, with only about 40% possession, until an opportune moment arises to hit back with a fast counter-attack (usually resulting in a long ball from Drinkwater to Vardy). Okazaki is regarded as having put in his fair share in that respect.

That's the beauty, and, perhaps, overlooked importance, of teamwork.

Andre Lim

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