On this side of the Atlantic, the football news that received quite a bit of attention over the past few days was Friday's FA Cup tie between Everton and Fulham, featuring Clint "Hat Trick" Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard. Everton won, and as SI.com put it,
Landon Donovan etched his name further into Everton lore with two assists in the Toffees' FA Cup victory over Fulham. The match featured Donovan and fellow U.S. alpha dog Clint Dempsey going head-to-head as opponents for the first time since an MLS match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution on May 6, 2006, and unlike that day, when Dempsey's side rolled to a 4-0 victory, Donovan stole the show with his contributions from the right wing.
Coming into the game, you would have been hard pressed to pick a favorite, however. So far this season, both Fulham and Everton have been solidly mid-table teams, sitting on 26 points to date. And when you look at the trends in goals scored and conceded (in the graph below), the two clubs look eerily similar (dots are individual matches, and the lines are the trends over time). The trend over the first 20 weeks of the season puts both of them at just over one goal per match scored and conceded, and the table seems to reflect their similarities.*
Interestingly, the data show that Everton's defense has tightened up somewhat in the second 10 weeks of the campaign, while Fulham's has stayed mainly level (with the exception of the 0-5 home defeat against Manchester United).
One question, of course, is how these very similar records have been produced, so I took a quick peek at shots taken and conceded, along with one of my favorites, offensive and defensive efficiency (as measured by the goals to shots ratios).