Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yann Kermogant - The Contrarian View

Chris Powell has made his 19th signing of the season, bringing in much-needed striker cover in the shape of Yann Kermogant.

The last ball kicked by the Frenchman in English football was a missed play-off penalty for Leicester at Cardiff in 2010.

And it wasn't just any old penalty miss. Displaying typical French flair (surely arrogance? - Ed.), he chose to try a delicate chip which was saved with almost embarrassing ease.

The style is known as the 'Panenka Penalty' after the famous 1976 European Championship winning penalty for Czechoslovakia. It was ok then it seems.

I suspect Antonin Panenka doesn't walk the streets of Prague hassled by locals asking,"...you'd have looked a prat if you'd missed."

However Kermogant was castigated by the Foxes fans, his choice almost certainly ensured his release by the club, and more than a year later his former side languish in the midtable of the Championship, despite being pre-season favourites.

However I wonder whether he hasn't been harshly treated. Readers of this blog would not expect me to take the consensus view of course.

Is there any evidence for example that 'chipped' penalties have a materially lower success ratio than traditional ones?

Either way, this is probably the wrong question. Academic studies suggest that optimal penalty-taking rests upon a combination of unpredictability and obviously execution.

I recall Matt Le Tissier was an expert at both of these, missing only one of 49 spot kicks (the long-term success ratio is only approx 75%).

Two other esteemed spot-kick men (Alan Shearer and Frank Lampard) rely mainly upon the execution aspect, remaining highly predictable throughout.

Shut your eyes and picture them taking a pen.....where's the ball heading? Yep, to the keeper's right almost every time.

The opposing players in a shootout are entering into a simple 'game theory' situation into which each must form a strategy.

Moreover, in a penalty shootout, each kick is always crucial, unlike some taken in open play.

It would be described as a simple two-person zero-sum game ie. Either he scores or misses. The interests of the striker are always exactly the opposite of the keeper's.

Indeed rather neatly, if one ignores the 'chipped' penalty for now, the 75% success ratio can simply be viewed in terms of the fact that there are broadly four places for the ball to go (left/right, high/ low), whilst the keeper can only choose one.

In the real world a handful (maybe 3-4%) miss the target completely.

The keeper can only gain an 'edge' by either acquiring predictability (from prior kicks, run-up etc.), or perhaps by directly influencing the taker's choice (perhaps by standing somewhere slightly off-centre).

I'm willing to assume that 'chipped' penalties are an acceptable 'fifth way', because a number of players choose to take them this way, even in pressure situations (think Thierry Henry for example).

Indeed there is YouTube evidence that Kermogant has successfully scored chipped penalties before (perhaps therein lied his problem, but anyhow).

Being able to take a penalty in this fashion requires confidence, practice and an ability to disguise what you are planning to do.

I am willing to presume he had achieved all three, and none of them come easily.

The key is whether his previous history increased the predictability that he would try 'the chip', or whether it was just another entirely unpredictable tool in his box.

Unfortunately I haven't seen enough of his penalties to judge, but if the latter, then rather than be castigated his skills should be warmly acknowledged.

After all, by adding a fifth penalty strategy to the simple four-way alternative above, the goalkeeper must choose between five as opposed to four alternatives, reducing his chances from 25% to 20%.

After all there is no such thing as a great penalty save, only a good guess (the ball takes 0.3 seconds to reach him, not nearly enough time to react in an unpremeditated way).

Perhaps Cardiff had really done their homework however, and warned their keeper he may try 'the chip'. Somehow I doubt it.

Charlton fans will recall Paolo di Canio's chipped penalty against Arsenal for example. The line between genius and idiot is a fine one it seems, but the Italian's career was built upon his very unpredictability.

It seems what really hurt the Leicester fans was the fact that a missed chipped penalty just looks worse, not that it should make any difference so long as one accepts the theory above.

We probably like to assume players always do the best to improve their team's chances to win matches, but perhaps a rational player is more worried about reputation.

Indeed unlike Nicky Bailey in our own play-off semi final (or Chris Waddle in 1990), at least Kermogant hit the target; the others had no chance yet were feted like some type of flawed hero.

I would compare their vitriol conversely to the warm applause that greets say a 35-yard effort that whistles over the crossbar.

In most cases a team's prospects for scoring would be enhanced if the player tried to make an incisive pass, but given a pass may go astray (to the crowd's frustration), a rational player may conclude a speculative shot will at least save face (and now and again fly in the net).

Welcome Yann...a true club man!


At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Phil said...

NYA, Sir Chris will know him well and we'll have to trust his judgement from working at close quarters with him. There are several clips on Youtube showing him scoring some wicked free kicks and a pretty good individual strike too. Let's hope he still has all that in his locker.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

stuart pearce didn't miss the target, he hit it very hard, but straight at the keeper.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Sorry, Chris Waddle...now changed


At 4:02 PM, Anonymous I'm better than Sean said...

what a load of over-simplified tosh - highly enjoyable tho...

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

You’re right NYA, that Panenka penalty was awesome, especially since Uli Hoeness had just blazed over. Of course, had he missed he may well have had to head for the hills as you say. The brilliant Czech didn’t do the rest of us any favours though; the Germans have only lost one penalty shoot out since in 25 years.

Anyway, I think Kermogant’s problem wasn’t that he missed the penalty or even that he did so with an attempted chip. It was that he appeared to be trying to be clever. I remember Di Canio’s penalty against Arsenal clearly. He may have chipped it, but he did so with real conviction. Kermogant’s strike was barely hard enough to have crossed the line.

The nearest I’ve seen to Kermogant’s woeful effort was Dimitar Berbatov’s miss against Everton in the FA Cup Semi-Final two years ago. Joe Royle described it as “the worst penalty I have ever seen by an international footballer.” Harsh, but again it was the sense that Berbatov was more interested in appearing skilful than in scoring that brought that reaction.

The real issue is whether Kermogant is a decent signing. I’ve really no idea. I do know though that the penalty miss is irrelevant. I’d sign Berbatov in a heartbeat. And Antonin Panenka!!

At 2:07 AM, Blogger New York Addick said...

It was meant to be tongue in cheek, but there was a serious message: if you are going to take a penalty like that, a) execute it better, and b) make sure the keeper isn't expecting it.

At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Rob Killick said...

Interested in this comment in Chris Powell's interview in The Voice,'I did manage to get away on holiday but even then I was meeting my owner!'
Who would that have been?

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Philip said...

Can't wait for Yann to take a penalty for Charlton.


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