Earthquakes, Shake, Rattle and Roll-Over

Not the best of seasons for San Jose this year – what started as a renewed vision for Mark Watson, this season, has now turned to a renewed vision for Dominic Kinnear next season.

Like Chicago Fire (Candle Burned at Both Ends) and Houston Dynamo (Dynamic Dynamo Demagnatized as Dominic Departs) I’ll be peeling back the good, bad and ugly for San Jose this season with the intent of identifying what positional changes might be needed to help this team get better.

As usual, to set the stage, here’s my Composite PWP Strategic Index for the end of 2014.  

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

There’s San Jose (SJFC), sandwiched near bottom in-between Houston and Montreal.

Before digging into the what’s and why’s of my Possession with Purpose Family of Indices here’s the breakdown on the regular statistics that most people pay attention to; at least those who only focus on results:

All told just .88 Points Per Game (PPG); with Goals Per Game (GPG) at 1.03 and Goals Against Per Game (GAPG) at 1.47.

Not enough goals scored and clearly too many goals scored against.  All told their Goal Differential (GD) was -.44 – 5th worst in MLS.

In Away games PPG was .53, GPG .82, GAPG 1.71 and GD -.88 (5th worst in MLS).

For Home games PPG was 1.24 (2nd worst), GPG 1.24, GAPG was 1.24 and GD was 0.00 (2nd worst in MLS).

All told San Jose were near bottom in every basic results driven statistic this year with the Away record (1-6-10) even worse than their paltry Home  record (5-6-6).

And they are bringing in Dominic Kinnear?  Well I suppose (3-2-12) in Away games and (8-4-5) is better for Home games, from a results perspective.

But how about overall team attacking and defending performance?  And is there a light already shining that many may have missed?

Team Attacking (both home and away):

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Notice that San Jose fall even lower in overall team attacking than either Chicago or Houston, two teams already evaluated.  

If you read those reports you’ll know both were pretty poor in overall attacking.  So if you’re a San Jose supporter brace yourself for some pretty ugly numbers.

Possession Percentage:

Overall 48.81% – almost middle of the road and on its own an indicator that won’t offer much given Playoff teams like FC Dallas, Vancouver, DC United, and New England all slid under 50%.

Is there a difference between away games and home games?  In away games it was 47.40% vs at home 50.22%.

So IF any early conclusions might be drawn it’s this – they had a better record at home and they averaged more possession at home – is it reasonable to offer that the more possession this team has the better they are?  We’ll see…

Passing Accuracy:

Overall 76.86% – dead on average (10th) compared to everyone else.  Again, teams like FC Dallas, DC United, and New England fell below that number and they all made the playoffs.

In looking at away versus home games; away games 75.94% vs at home 77.78%; a bit higher at home than away – again the same question – does increased possession and increased passing accuracy help plot where San Jose is more successful?

Penetrating Possession:

Overall 21.92% – below average (7th worst).  Only FC Dallas and DC United fell lower than San Jose.

In looking at away versus home games; in away games 21.93% vs at home 21.91%.

Here’s where the rubber begins to meet the road…  notice that with less possession, and less passing accuracy in away games, the Earthquakes actually penetrated more into the opponents Defending Final Third.

This sort of pattern has shown itself with other teams – more often than not it leads to these observations – a more direct attacking style (get in as quickly as you can) and a less impatient approach as the team begins to work towards scoring goals.

In other words their shooting accuracy drops off, as does their goals scored.

Let’s see if this is the case with San Jose.

Shots Taken per penetrating possession:

Overall 16.46% – well below average (4th worst) (or best) depending on a few things – teams with higher passing accuracy usually have lower percentages here, in this case San Jose is on the cusp, if you will.

Their overall percentage seems to indicate more patience when it comes to taking shots – which in turn should mean a higher percentage of shots taken being on goal. That’s not the case though – they are 3rd worst in MLS when it comes to shots taken being on goal (33.93%).

So without knowing the exact locations of the shots taken I’d offer they need a stronger attacking system to generate more time and space to increase their shots on goal and goals scored.

As for away games; their percentage dropped down to 12.81% while at home it was 20.11%.  That is a marked difference in percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession.  It’s almost like Jekyll and Hyde.

Perhaps that is a big enough difference to say that their attack was so basic (simple) in away games, this past year, that they simply didn’t get that many shots off because they telegraphed what they were trying to do?

In other words they didn’t have enough creativity to generate better chances.

An indicator here may be their passing accuracy.

In the opponents Defending Final Third it was 60.72% for away games – 5th worst.  So even though they offered 107 passes per game (10th best in MLS) they could only complete 65 of those passes.

And of those 65 passes completed, only eight of them ended up creating a shot taken!  For me speaking to no time, no space, and/or simply no-one willing to take a shot even if a marginal amount of time and space did become available.

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 33.93% (3rd worst).

So not only did they take fewer shots per penetration (far fewer in away games) they were also less accurate than most when it came to putting those shots on goal.

Again, speaking to lack of time and space, and perhaps location too?

In away games 33.05% versus at home 34.81%.

In going back to the ‘more means more’ aspect of San Jose.  More possession and better passing accuracy does mean more shots taken and it also means more shots on goal.

In looking at away games less means less – in other words less possession, less passing accuracy, means less shots taken per penetration and less shots on goal.

Not every team behaves like that – some do better with less than more.  In considering this output pattern it’s not the same as Houston or Chicago – it’s different – which means the tactical approach is probably different as well.  More to follow…

Goal Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 22.50% (2nd worst).

In tracking the ‘more means more and less means less’ the percentages for this indicator should be lower in away games and higher in home games.

It is – in away games it’s 20.88% (2nd worst) and for home games it’s 24.12% (still 2nd worst) but a better 2nd worst than the away game outputs!

Attacking summary:

More meant more for San Jose when at home and less meant less when on the road – but in both cases neither approach provided consistency in getting results.  

In other words they didn’t have enough “more” to generate “more” and their less meant less…

All told I submit these attacking issues not only speak to San Jose needing better strikers – they also need better midfielders – those with greater vision, greater patience, but at the same time a wee bit more risk.

With all that offered about Attack – here’s the view from how well the opponents did against them in the same categories:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

If there is a good news story here it should be defending – overall their team performance sees them as 9th best in DPWP.

Opponent Possession Percentage:

Overall 51.19% – as noted, possession alone is not an indicator of value without better understanding all the other key indicators to go with it.

In this case it’s pretty clear San Jose is not a possession based team away from home (52.60%) but they are at home – or at least they don’t cede possession (49.78%) for opponents when playing at home.

Opponent Passing Accuracy:

Overall 77.95% – opponents average accuracy is 8th best, against San Jose, in MLS.

In away games opponents average 79.81% (4th highest) and 76.10% when playing in San Jose (8th lowest).

So the Earthquakes cede possession on the road and they also cede a higher opponent passing accuracy – that higher possession and passing accuracy outside the Defending Final Third also translates to having the 5th highest opponent passing accuracy (67.83%) within and into the Defending Final Third.

For home games that opponent passing accuracy drops to 65.40%.

Before moving on – the volumes ceded are quite high as well.

Overall, San Jose opponents average 435 passes per game (9th highest) with 442 by the opponent in road games and 427 for opponents in home game.

As the opponent penetrates that volume equals 124 passes attempted (2nd highest) by opponents visiting San Jose and 124 when facing opponents on the road (5th highest).

So even though passing accuracy for the opponent isn’t that high – the volume, after finally gaining penetration is 2nd and 5th highest in MLS.  More to follow on that…

Opponent Penetrating Possession:

Overall 24.60% (5th highest) with that percentage being 24.15% (7th highest) for opponents on the road and 25.05% (2nd highest) for opponents facing San Jose at home.

With that high percentage of penetration better defending teams will begin to show a higher number of shots taken against percentage but in turn a lower shots on goal percentage and, ultimately, a lower goals against percentage.

In other words the better defending teams leverage the reduced space to influence and reduce time and space for the opponent to strike the ball, put it on target and score the goals.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Overall 19.71% (5th highest) with that percentage being 21.01% (3rd highest) for opponents on the road and 18.41% (8th highest) for opponents facing San Jose at home.

The pattern holds true so far… how about percentages of Shots on Goal per Shots Taken?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 35.53% (9th lowest) – the trend continues – while on the road opponents average 36.12% (9th lowest) and 34.93% (8th lowest) when opponents face San Jose at home.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 24.92% (2nd lowest in MLS) – again, the positive defending team performance continues to follow the pattern.  In away games it’s 26.11% (3rd lowest) and at home it’s 23.73% (3rd lowest).

Bottom line here (the more to follow from earlier) is that the pattern of strong defending team performance matches that of some of the better teams in MLS – what hurts San Jose are not the overall percentages in execution – it’s the volume that they face in execution.

All told they face the most opponent shots per game (away) at 17.35, the 2nd most shots on goal (away) at 6.24 per game – but only the 9th highest goals against per game.

And when looking at how opponents do in San Jose, it’s 14.65 (highest) shots taken, 5.06 shots on goal (highest) but just 1.24 goals against (9th highest).

Defending summary:

The team percentages are indicative of a healthy defending tactical approach – in other words the performance indicators all point to a solid defending approach with one BIG exception.

Volume – while the percentages are good the volume of opponent activity is high – in other words – more volume up front against San Jose results in more volume at the back end…

BUT not as much volume as might be expected; especially when looking at the volume of shots taken and shots on goal – compared to the volume of goals scored.  What that indicates to me is that the central part of the defending corps is strong – as is their goal keeper.

In Closing:

More means more is a trend and tendency of teams like Barcelona, FC Bayern, Real Madrid, Chelsea FC, LA Galaxy, and others – but that more is usually where the volumes exceed (in attack) 600 passes per game, 200 passes per game in the opponents defending final third, 16 shots per game, with 6-10 on goal and at least 2 goals scored.

More does not mean “more” when total passes hits just 400, penetrating passes hits just 100, shots taken hits 8 per game with 3-4 on goal and less than a goal scored!

The attacking tactical approach for San Jose was the wrong approach and had the wrong players – will Dominic Kinnear fix that?

Probably – but it may take at least five to six new starters with almost all of them being on the attacking side of the pitch.

On the defending side of the pitch – all indicators seem to point to a healthy relationship.

What is missing, however, is a solution that includes reducing the overall volume of attack by their opponents.

A reasonable way to reduce the volume of attack by your opponents is to increase your own volume of attack; i.e. reduce their possession by increasing your own possession.

But that’s tricky and it’s not always a sure-thing.

We’ve seen that ceding possession can be effective ways of improving defending team performance; perhaps that is the case when the overall technical ability of the defenders lacks compared to a group of four like San Jose have?

I’m not sure but it seems reasonable Dominic Kinnear will shape his team to his style – what will be intriguing is to see if ‘his’ style changes next year compared to how he worked his style this year.

Best, Chris

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La Liga – The Comforts of Home?

In a recent article published about Major League Soccer there were clear indications (read here) where Home teams pretty much dominated the win column.

Here’s a few quick takeaways from that article to give a starting point for La Liga – whether or not the two leagues behave the same – I don’t know – we will see how that plays out together.  In Major League Soccer:

The home team won 151 times this year, had 89 draws, and 77 losses.

Home teams winning at home averaged 2.33 goals per game in those wins – while away teams winning away had to average 2.47 goals per game to win the game.

Home teams losing at home averaged .82 goals per game versus away teams losing away averaged .54 goals per game.  So even while losing, home teams still averaged nearly one goal per game.

Of the 77 games won by the away team this year only 15 were games won 1-nil.

When losing, (at anytime) the home team was only shut out 21 times, and when gaining a draw the home team was shutout just 18 times.  That’s just 39 times, out of 317 games played, where the home team was shut-out.

Meaning, on average, the home team scored at least one goal 88% of the time.

In addition, when adding up the percentages of winning (47%) and drawing (28%) – Home teams had a 75% chance of taking points in home games this year…

In other words – playing at home pretty much meant the home team started the game 1 – nil.

Now for La Liga – and yes it’s just 11 Weeks in – but for the most part each team has had roughly 5 or 6 games each way.  What may be surprising is seeing how the team performances change between the two – I’ll touch on that as well.

For now my standard Composite PWP Strategic Index for La Liga after Week 11:

CPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 11

No surprise for who’s on top and who’s bottom but to set the stage:

Home teams have Won 44 games, Drawn 30 games, and Lost 35 games.

Not that large of a difference in this league, yet, and really not enough to consider an overall league difference.

But for some teams there may be a few differences.

Hence the next two diagrams with one team picked out who performs better at home and one who performs better on the road.

Time to move on to the CPWP Strategic Index filtered only for home team performance:

CPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 11 Home Games

Caveats to begin:

The bright blue bar represents a team whose performance dropped at least nine places between home and away games.

The light green bar represents a team whose performance increased by eight places between home and away games.

I’ll also check to see what their Points per game (PPG), Goals per game (GPG), and Goals Against per game (GAPG) are to see what differences are shown their as well.

If nothing significant pops out I”ll peel back a bit on the PWP Key indicators to see if they tell a story.

Now for the CPWP Index for teams playing Away:

CPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 11 Away Games

 

As noted; the light green bar shows which team performed better, in team performance, on the road versus at home – while the bright blue bar offers up what team performed better at home versus on the road.

Now for the grist on those two teams (Almeria & Cordoba):

Almeria:

(Away) PPG = 1.20  GPG = 0.80  GAPG = 1.20  (Home)  PPG = 0.50  GPG = 0.83  GAPG = 1.33

There isn’t a considerable difference in the results based performance measures; perhaps some differences appear when peeling back the PWP Key Indicators in Defending?

In looking at possession, when at home, the opponent’s possess the ball 4% more.

But this is very deceptive as it includes two games against Atletico Madrid and Barcelona – where both those teams absolutely dominated the game.

So to better understand (see) what is going on I took out the game data for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

So now, when at home, the other fours games point towards Almeria having more possession, with their opponent’s being less accurate and with less penetration into the Almeria defending Final Third.

Sadly, that front-footed attack minded tactic, at home, actually ends up seeing the opponents’, with less possession and penetration, have increased percentages in shots taken, shots on goal that are more accurate and a significant increase in goals scored from shots on goal.

A 37% increase – shooting up from 23% for opponents when Almeria plays on the road to 60.42% when Almeria plays at home.

In away games, Almeria’s opponents are more accurate in their passing and they penetrate more – but – their shots taken, shots on goal and goals scored per shots on goal are all less.

In other words, Almeria’s tactical approach of playing a deeper line, yielding more space outside the Defending Final Third, results in less space and time for the opponent to offer up shots that actually produce fewer goals.  This has also been a successful approach employed by West Ham, Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union.

Bottom line here is the ‘front footed attacking scheme’ employed at home (playing not as deep in defending) has seen a marked increase in goals against (1.25) against lower ranked teams like Cordoba, Elche, Espanyol and Athletic Club.

Bottom line here is the ‘front footed attacking tactic’ employed at home, is less prudent and produces worse results than a more defensive-minded tactic adopted on the road.

Leading me, and perhaps others as well, to believe that in order for Almeria to be more successful this year they need to play games at home as if they were playing on the road.

Cordoba:

(Away)  PPG = .40  GPG = .80  GAPG = 2.20  (Home) PPG = .67  GPG  .67  GAPG = 1.17

So now the opposite for Cordoba – they appear to perform better at home than on the road – what do the PWP Key Indicators offer here?

At Home Cordoba like to possess the ball (58%) therefore their opponents average possession is 42%; when away it’s almost exactly the opposite; the opponents average possession sits at 59%.  Two completely different outputs.

The same can be said for passing accuracy as well; opponents, in away games for Cordoba have an 83% passing accuracy – versus 66.39% when Cordoba is at home.

What’s intriguing here is that’s where the differences end – when it comes to penetration, shots taken per penetration, shots on goal per shots taken and goals scored per shots on goal the overall percentages are nearly the same.  (27% to 28%), (14% to 13%), (39% to 41%), and (36% yo 35%).

What’s that mean?  Well this indicator may help – the opponent passing accuracy within and into the Cordoba Defending Final Third is 55% when Cordoba is at home and it’s 72% when Cordoba is away from home.

For me that speaks volume – in other words the percentages, for the most part, show matches – meaning the volume is the final determinant.  And since La Liga is a volume driven league (Expected Wins 3) this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

When playing away from home the average volume of passes completed by the opponent is 424, with 16 shots taken, 6 shots on goal and 2 goals scored.  In home matches those volumes are 230, 8, 4 and 1.17.  A considerable difference.

In other words, when it comes to defending at home less is better – the less the opponent offers, regardless of overall percentage, the better.  Put another way, the front-footed attacking tactic employed at home is not working on the road – i.e. even though they are ceding possession on the road – perhaps they are not ceding possession in the right place???

Perhaps Cordoba might do well to take the Almeria tactical approach on the road (i.e. playing deeper to cede possession and penetration by volume and percentage) in order to lure the opponent into a position where they can’t manage an effective Cordoba quick counter-attack.  And since Cordoba has such a low goals scored average to begin with (5th worst in La Liga) they really ought to consider that type of approach to maximize time and space needed to score what few goals they can?

In Closing:

Cordoba shows ideal team performance outputs where their home advantage of playing at home works.  That approach does not work for Almeria.

Almeria needs to employ their away tactic at home.

The away tactic for Cordoba is not working – it’s actually less effective than the approach taken by Almeria.

Cordoba should adopt a deeper line, like Almeria, and cede more than just possession, they should make it a point to cede penetration as well.

Not discussed in great detail has been the lack of goal scoring, as whole, for either team.

I’d imagine Cordoba would see good, positive, impact with a new striker, more quickly, than Almeria; especially in a quicker counter-attacking road tactic.  I’d imagine Almeria will need more than just one striker to solidify more points on a regular basis.

Finally, I’d expect to see more granularity as the season continues – how much that differs, in comparison to Major League Soccer is unclear, but for now I’m hedging that we don’t see the stark differences in La Liga that we see MLS; especially since this league seems to support the ‘more is better’ outputs we already see in Expected Wins 3.

Best, Chris

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Hammers hurdle forward and Villa vanquishes backwards

A tale of two teams!

The last time I dug into the English Premier League (Week 6) the League Table had Chelsea 1st (16 points), Southampton (13 points), followed by Man City (11 points), then Aston Villa, Swansea City, and Arsenal all tied for fifth on (10 points).

And here’s how the Composite PWP Index looked at that same time:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

Five of the six teams in league table were part of the top seven teams in the CPWP Index; note how far down the Index Aston Villa was; even on 10 points and tied for 5th place!

Was that an indicator that their early season run was more about luck than strong team attacking and defending across the entire pitch?

I’m not sure – but I’ll take a peak at both West Ham and Aston Villa, in a few, to give you a picture on how those teams performed in the first 6 weeks versus the last 5 weeks.

For now, fast forward to the end of Week 11 and here’s the lay of the land in the League Table:  Chelsea sit on 29 points; Southampton 25 points; Man City 21 points; West Ham 18 points; and Swansea City  18 points.

Moving up from 7 points after week 6 (tied for 13th) to 18 points was West Ham.

While Aston Villa took a complete nose dive (sorry Tom Hanks) to 16th with 11 points.

Here’s how the CPWP Index looks after Week 11:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX WEEK 11 EPL

In looking at the Index West Ham is 8th best, compared to 11th best five weeks ago.  

Southampton and Man City have both shifted past Chelsea (probably related to defending and not attacking) while Swansea has dropped below Man United, Arsenal, and Everton.

I won’t go into the details on those moves this week – even though I probably should given Swansea City just beat The Arsenal 2-1…

I’ll save that for later – just like the mystery about Southampton.

In regards to Aston Villa, they’ve not moved an inch in the Index – suppose one wouldn’t expect it seeing as they’ve only taken one point and it’s hard to drop lower than Burnley or QPR.

Nevertheless – be prepared – there is some grist coming up that may surprise you.

First Off – Attack – Aston Villa (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):

Key Strategic Attacking Indicators Aston VillaObservations:

Clearly the amount of possession has increased (considerably) during these two phases – a 9% jump is considerable in my opinion.

Whether that is a result of the opponent or an internal tactical move is hard to determine at this stage but it should be noted there was a bump (increase) across the board in all the key PWP indicators with one exception – goals scored divided by shots on goal.

In looking at Major League Soccer for two years now the explanation usually goes along the lines of this.

1) The opponents decide to cede possession somewhat by playing deeper against the attacking side… both Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union did that this year and both organizations substantiated (in one shape or another) that tactic.

To reinforce that position – their average total Attacking Final Third passes, per game, in games 1-6 were ~89; that number vaulted to 120, per game, between games 7-11.

Clearly the opponent looks to have taken a different approach in defending against Aston Villa – OR – Aston Villa has tried to step up penetration based upon overall possession; if Villa has attempted the later of the two I’d suggest they revisit their tactical attacking approach.

2) The trend for teams who don’t pass as accurately as the other teams in the league (Villa are in the lower half) seems to be that more possession sometimes includes more penetration and more shots taken, but that volume and percentage increase does not translate to goals given a somewhat higher potential for impatience.

When checking out West Ham there can be an economy of scale – but I think it’s probably more to do with the type and skill of the current players available as opposed to the normal course of events.

Aston Villa in Defending:

Key Strategic Defending Indicators Aston VillaThe change between both phases, in defending, almost seems to match the attacking pattern of West Ham, with two exceptions.

Overall opponent possession did drop, as did passing accuracy, but penetration increased, as did shots taken per penetration, shots on goal per shots taken and goals scored per shots on goal.

Pretty much indicating to me that the opponents worked hard to trap Aston Villa going forward, ceding possession in order to gain critical time and space in quick, purposeful counterattacks!

That may sound a bit early as an observation – but these same trends have shown themselves in the MLS for the last two years – and after awhile it does appear that generic patterns are showing through.

Next West Ham in Attack (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):

Key Strategic Attacking Indicators West Ham

In this diagram there’s almost a direct contrast; where Aston Villa’s numbers pretty much increased across the board, with the exception of Goals Scored – it’s almost the opposite for West Ham.

For West Ham their passing accuracy decreased, possession remained the same, while penetration, and shots on goals versus shots taken decreased.

Only two increases, the percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession and goals scored.

When studying teams in MLS this year – a pattern like this seemed to indicate a team leaning towards a more direct attack in nature.

The primary indicator supporting that, given lower passing accuracy and lower shooting accuracy, is the percentage and volume increase in shots taken per penetration.

For some teams that percentage works better when lower – especially when they have a higher passing accuracy.

But in the case of West Ham, it is likely they are simply looking to take more shots, quicker, and with less penetration.  Working off the philosophy that more is better.

In La Liga we know that more was better, the same held true for the World Cup as well – so this approach may be Sam Allardyce’s way of getting more with less.

When looking at the two separate phases, West Ham averaged 15.20 shots taken per game in games 7-11 versus 13.33 in games 1-6.

In addition, in games 7-11 they averaged 106.4 passes within and into the final third, versus 121.5 in games 1-6.

The other interesting note is that as passing accuracy decreased so did the volume – again speaking to perhaps? harder/longer balls being played in order to move the ball quicker into the final third when the opportunity presented itself; below are the average volumes during these two phases to confirm that.

West Ham total passes attempted (446.83 = 1-6) and passes completed (300 = 1-6)

West Ham total passes attempted (411.80 = 7-11) and passes completed (262.80 = 7-11).

As seen between phases I and II the volume of passes attempted AND passes completed decreased.

In looking at the end results - the percentage of goals scored per shots on goal went up by 18%; that huge increase in percentage only equates to an overall increase in goals scored, per game, of 1.67 to 1.80.

Given that it would appear that the defensive performance has also improved during this stretch.  Here”s the info for West Ham:

Key Strategic Defending Indicators West HamWhat appears to me is the same thing type of pattern that I’ve seen with Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union this year.

The defending tactics seem to indicate the opponent has been ceded time and space outside, and moving into, the defending final third a bit more.

In turn the percentages of penetrating possession and shots taken increase – but with reduced time and space (given a tighter/deeper line) the shots on goal and goals scored percentages have dropped.

When looking at the volume of opponent passes across the entire pitch, it was 446 total passes in the first phase with 363 completed; versus 411, with 262 completed, in the second phase.

Again, it appears the data supports West Ham ceding time and space a bit higher, or, the opponent attacking habits were different compared to the opponents faced in the first phase?

When looking at the volume of opponent passes within the defending final third, the average was 120 passes attempted and 78 completed  in the first phase and 126 passes attempted, with 80 completed, in the second phase.

Not that much of a difference – but in saying that the goals against in phase I was 1.67 per game, while in phase II it was .80 goals against.

All things considered, I’d offer that Allardyce has changed some tactical styles during the first 11 games.  Whether I’ve nailed the time period probably doesn’t matter – the more important thing for West Ham is that they’ve done something of value to increase goals scored and decrease goals against.

In the analyses I’ve done these past two years it would appear to me that the back four is playing a slightly deeper line and with that the attacking tactics are now sharper, and perhaps quicker.  All that going on with a draw to Stoke City and a win at home against Man City.

In Closing:

What may be troubling to the West Hammers is that their other games, in this five game stretch, included matches against Burnley and QPR; teams they should beat if a ‘should win’ is a reality in the English Premier League!

As for Aston Villa; their last five have included Man City, Everton, and Spurs, as well as QPR – a team (perhaps?) they shoulda beat???  and the draw with West Ham.

For all intents and purposes, it does appear that the PWP Key Strategic Indicators have pointed out some items of interest that may point to teams taking different tactical approaches.

The patterns seem to hold based upon what has been seen in MLS.

I wonder if those same patterns will begin to take shape in La Liga and the Bundesliga?

If so, kind of makes you consider that soccer, on both sides of the pond, is not that different at all – (perhaps???) it’s just what money gets spent to purchase top quality players and top quality managers???….

I.e. – if you spend enough money, in any league, it looks as if the tendencies of teams that don’t have higher quality players (spend the same amount of money) is to cede possession and play counter/more direct.

Best, Chris

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Dynamic Dynamo De-Magnetized as Dominic Departs

In the next installment of my End of Season analyses here’s my look at the Houston Dynamo. 

Last week I offered my End of Season analysis on the Chicago Fire (found here:) Candle Burned at Both Ends.

Previous to that I offered up my two part series on the Portland Timbers here (Defense) and here (Attacking).

This is the second article I’ve offered up on Houston this year – my earlier article can be found here:  Disheveled Defense has Dominic’s Dynamo in Disarray.

After working through the info I’ll offer my thoughts, for consideration, on some changes that may need to happen to make this team more competitive.

Like every installment I’ll lead with this Diagram – my Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

If you see a pattern in my approach this year – you’re right – I’ll be working from worst to first excluding the eye-sore – Chivas USA.  No point in my view – Wilbur Cabrera no doubt did the best job he could but since the organization is toast it’s best this black-eye of the MLS Franchise is laid to rest as quickly as possible.

Note that Houston (HDFC) finished third bottom in the Composite Index – pretty much meaning that both their attacking and defending team performance was weak.

The correlation (R2) of this Index to average points earned in MLS is .85.

Now for the Grist… points per game both home and away for Houston this year.

On the Road Houston averaged .65 Points per Game (PPG) 4th worst in MLS  - at home 1.65 PPG  10th best in MLS.

Overall – Houston averaged 1.15 PPG – 6th worst in MLS.

So from a team performance standpoint – dead on average when it came to performing at home this year – the killer, in putting them near bottom, was their road performance.

When looking into the team performance indicators of PWP I’ll make it a special point to peel back home and away outputs.  For now they had eight wins at home with three wins on the road.

It would appear that their inability to get a draw on the road was a stumbling block – just 2 draws to go with three wins – otherwise they lost 12 road games this year…

In those 12 road losses they scored just four goals, in their two road draws – they didn’t score any goals.

Even more pear-shaped is that four of their 12 goals, on the road, came in one game against Chivas USA!  They simply didn’t get results on the road!

Can you say new strikers for next year?

Perhaps – but it’s not all about just striking the ball, there’s passing accuracy, penetration, and as things are beginning to show, patience…

Bottom line here, they really couldn’t score or win on the road…  

Team Performance – first up – given their inability to score goals on the road – Attacking PWP:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Given just four goals scored in their 12 losses and only .71 Goals per Game, on the road as a whole – it shouldn’t be surprising that they fell that low in the Attacking PWP Index.  Kind of makes you wonder about San Jose (2nd worst) and them bringing on Dominic Kinnear to turn that attacking ship around?!?

However viewed there’s six team performance indicators that make up this Index so were they all bad, across the board, or just in finishing?

Possession Percentage:

All told – 48.95% – (9th highest) with Home possession 50.61% and Road possession 47.34%.

Not enough information to really pick out if their home and road styles were different – but enough information to warrant a closer look at volume both inside and outside the final third.

The overall volume of passes offered up at home was 417 per game – while on the road 397 per game – about 20 passes per game fewer.

That 20 passes per game more, at Home, only translated to 6 more passes per game in the Attacking Final Third (117 at home vs 111 on the road).

Again – not a great difference so more data is needed. 

Passing Accuracy:

All told – 76.54% – (11th highest) with Home accuracy 77.41% and Road accuracy 75.68%.

Overall their passing accuracy appeared to suffer on the road versus at home; but neither were particularly good compared to the rest of MLS.

We already know their volume of passes decreased on the road as well – so as their volume decreased their accuracy decreased.

That doesn’t usually follow but I think we saw that trait with Chicago as well – as volume decreased accuracy decreased…

For the Portland Timbers the opposite was true – as volume decreased accuracy increased.

So that relationship seems pretty pear-shaped to me…

I suppose there can be any number of reasons why this might occur – for me, I’d offer at least one observation – with decreased passing and decreased possession they may have been playing more difficult (longer) passes given less control of the game; i.e – showing less patience.  

Penetration per Possession:

All told – 23.82% (5th highest) with Home penetration 24.38% and Road penetration 23.25%

For the most part, in doing this analysis for two years now – a higher percentage of penetration per possession is not that good with a lower passing accuracy percentage.

What that higher number appears to indicate is less patience (with lower overall passing accuracy) and with that less patience in penetration their is usually a corresponding increase in the volume of shots – but the accuracy of those shots is usually lower.

Which then translates to fewer shots on goal and fewer goals scored.

For now, I’d offer that Houston attempted to penetrate with more frequency compared to having less possession – some might say this indicates a more direct attacking style as well.

When looking at the percentage of passes completed, in the Final Third, the Dynamo were accurate 62.44% of the time on the road (7th worst), 67.43% at home (7th best) and 64.94% overall.

Given the lower passing accuracy, and lower volume, as we know from earlier, I’d offer the Dynamo looked to play more direct on the road, and slightly less direct at home.

Put another way (perhaps?) – they were less patient on the road than at home.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

All told – 18.83% (5th highest)  with Home at 19.72% and Road at 17.93%

So 5th highest in both penetrating possession and shots taken per penetration.

As noted above then, the first two trends match other low performers – more penetration usually means more shots per penetration when passing accuracy is on the lower end of the scale.

What’s also interesting is that these last two indicators were lower for Road games than Home games.

And, at the same time, Home games saw the Dynamo more accurate in their passing.

Meaning, it’s likely there is more to their road attacking weakness than strikers; the question taking shape for me do those weaknesses also include lack of good midfielders, or worse yet, a completely pear-shaped away game tactical style?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

We already know that the magic number for most teams, to win in the top leagues, is at least 5-6 Shots on Goal; (read here if not convinced).

For Houston they averaged 33.05% (2nd worst) in this category with Home 34.80% and Road 31.30%.

So the pattern of, less percentages from gaining possession, on-wards, means less percentages all the way through when the Dynamo are on the Road, compared to Home.

And with that percentage being 2nd worst in MLS it’s worthy to check what the average volumes are as well.

Shots Taken (13.29 – Home = 14.49 – Road = 11.65) 10th best overall.

Shots on Goal (4.53 – Home = 5.18 – Road = 3.88)  12th best overall.

Let’s not forget they won eight games at home – so that target of 5.18 seems reasonable.

A couple of things here – if it’s just strikers then chances are the target of 5.18 shots on goal at home is not reached and with 3.88 shots on goal on the road as well, it’s pretty likely that the – so I’d offer it’s more than just strikers.

Bottom line here; before looking at the Goals Scored I’d offer that the consistency in poor passing accuracy, overzealous approach in penetration and shot creation is down to poor midfield play and poor team tactics as opposed to just weaknesses in strikers.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

With over 5.18 Shots on Goal per game at Home the Dynamo should have averaged over 2.00 goals per game – but they didn’t.

So for me that does mean strikers are also accountable for the poor attacking performance.

All told their team performance percentage was 22.14% – the worst in MLS.  Home was 30.19% (8th worst) and Road was 14.08% – a full 16% points below the league average.

In summary:

They not only had poor performance when it came to striking (even at home their overall performance was below average) they were horrendous on the road.

Team road performance percentages (REGULARLY) were lower (in percentage and by volume) across the board, in every single category.

Clearly pointing, in my opinion, to a tactical strategy that was wrong – never-mind the perceived or real weaknesses in their strikers.

If Dominic Kinnear thinks he’s going to be able to take a failed tactical attacking road strategy, in the East, and expect to have it win out West (in a far tougher conference) he needs to rethink.

And San Jose really need to consider what investments will be needed to have Dominic Kinnear transform the 2nd worst attacking team in MLS, when their new Head Coach just completed a year in Houston where his tactical approach led to the third worst attacking team performance in MLS.

Now with those brutal thoughts out of the way for Attack – here’s how the Dynamo performed in Defending PWP:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Not quite as ugly on the defending side of the pitch – but still 6th worst, overall, in MLS.

Opponent Possession Percentage:

All told – 51.02% – we already know based upon their attacking possession percentage the opponent possessed the ball more often than the Dynamo.

That’s not a bad thing for some teams – New England, Vancouver, DC United, and FC Dallas all made the playoffs where the opponent possessed the ball more than they did.

In that, I’d offer the rubber will meet the road a bit later as we dig in on the defensive end.

Opponent Passing Accuracy:

All told 78.47% (4th highest) with Home 77.34% and Road 79.59%.

Not much to draw on without looking into some volumes – so Total Passes faced was 426.03 per game; 9th fewest in MLS – at Home opponents passed 401 times per game – versus when on the road – that number increased by almost 50 passes per game (448.94).

Pretty much indicating to me the Dynamo ceded possession as well as a considerably higher number of overall passes; especially when facing opponents on the road.

Still not enough to draw a conclusion, one way or the other, about weaker play or tactics.

Opponent Penetration per Possession:

All told – 22.19% (12th best) with Home 20.78% and Road 23.59%.

When playing on the Road the opponents (at home) penetrated roughly 3% more of the time than visiting Houston.

The percentage of passing within and into the Houston defending final third was 67.26% on the road and 62.68% at home.

More penetration by opponents when Houston played on the road and better accuracy for the opponents as well.

In considering the opponent volumes, the average number of passes, within and into the defending final third, was 112.65 per game.

Opponents visiting Houston averaged 102 per game. compared to 122.63 when Houston visited them.

An increase in volume by nearly 20 passes per game when on the road.

So far, that means both the volume and accuracy of the opponent, when entertaining Houston got better the closer they got to the Houston goal.

With that I’d expect Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession and Shots on Goals percentages to drop somewhat – reinforcing that as teams did gain penetration they were more likely to show more patience in shots taken – resulting in increased goals scored.

However viewed, I’d offer that the tactics on the road, against the opponent, were not the same as those employed at home.  By volume alone, I’d offer that Houston played slightly higher up the pitch (defensively) at home, and slightly deeper on the road.  My rationale for that comes after doing my analysis on Philadelphia and Portland this year – both teams showed these trends, in volume, and percentages, when playing deeper versus more shallow.

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

All told 19.91% (4th worst) with Home 22.16% (2nd worst) and Road 17.67% (13th worst).

In other words the opponent’s were taking more shots per penetrating possession than opponents against other teams.

What’s interesting is that the percentage for opponents, when Houston played them on the road, dropped – in other words the opponents took fewer shots per penetrating possession.

This is an indicator that the opponents were more frugal with their shot selection – meaning, usually, they sought more time and space in order to increase the end results – accuracy in having shots on goal – score goals.

The higher percentage at Home could mean that the Dynamo were more likely to hurry their opponent into taking shots – with eight wins at home that shouldn’t be surprising.

However viewed, the trends indicating a different tactical approach, given opponent outputs, still continues to show itself in the data.

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

All told 34.90% (6th best) with Home 34.25% and Road 35.55%.

Their average volume of shots on goal, against, is 5th highest in MLS and the average Goals Against was 1.58 (6th highest in MLS).

So regardless of what tactic was employed the opponent’s were finding ways to put their shots on goal.

When on the road, the opponent averages 1.81 goals against Houston – 3rd worst (highest) in MLS.

Meaning, even with decreased shots taken (by percentage) and decreased shots on goal (by percentage) the opponents were pretty accurate.

So in the case of Houston, a perceived deeper line in defending (in away games) did not reduce goals against – it increased goals against.

So the tactic successfully employed by both Philadelphia and Portland did not pan out for Houston.

This could mean any number of things but I’d offer at least two thoughts; 1) the defensive tactic on the road was the wrong defensive tactic (all year), and 2) adding both a central midfielder and left fullback did not heal the wounds, meaning more player personnel moves are likely when viewing the defending side of the pitch.  And yes, I did take a look to see if there were differences in volume or percentage from game one to game 34 – I didn’t see any either viewing the total or just away/home games.

In Closing:

I’d offer the move to change Head Coaches was probably going to happen even if Dominic Kinnear didn’t show his intentions of moving to San Jose.

I’d also offer there could be at least 4-6 new starters for this team next year.  At least one new striker, two new midfielders, two new defenders, plus, we already know, there will be a new Goal Keeper.

I’d also offer there are indicators showing that the overall tactical approach, on the road, was pear-shaped – if Dominic Kinnear expects to use that same approach in San Jose, without some minor upgrades in players, compared to this year, he may have issues.

And he certainly needs to reconsider what road attacking style he adopts as well – with San Jose being 2nd worst in these same categories, across the board, he may have major goal scoring issues.

Finally, some teams seemed to have improved their goals against by playing deeper – while with Houston that does not appear to be the case.  What appears to work for some, might not work for others; it’s a funny game this is.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

Chicago Fire – Candle Burned at Both Ends

I’ve heard rumor that the Chicago Fire are looking to add two Designated Players to their squad this off-season – in my view – it’ll take a whole lot more than that.

In my End of Season analysis here’s some statistics, key indicators and observations for your consideration.

In case you missed it – it should model my previous article on the Fire much earlier this year:  On Fire – or a Candle Burning at Both Ends.

After working through the info I’ll also offer my thoughts, for your consideration, on some changes that may need to happen to make this team more competitive.

To set the tone here’s my standard Index rating for Chicago (CFSC) compared to other teams in MLS:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Note where Chicago line-up in my Index – near bottom – alongside that team who was relegated (erh… disbanded).

If you haven’t seen this Index before here’s a link to some simplified explanations.

If you are a statistics type person know that the Index has a direct correlation to average points earned in the MLS League Table (without using points in the calculations) {R2} of .85.

Now for the Grist… points per game both home and away for Chicago this year.  

Chicago earned 1.06 points per game (PPG) this year – 5th worst in Major League Soccer.

Results like that when Porter came in to replace Spencer saw at least 14 players moved out (quickly) and eventually 9 new starters – is it likely the Fire JUST bring on two new DP’s?

When playing at home – the easiest place to play in MLS – their PPG was 1.35 – tied for 3rd worst in MLS.

They had four wins at home, 11 draws, and two losses.

In the big scheme of things – home teams in MLS this year won 151 games – out of 19 teams – the number of wins Chicago had at home represented just 2.65% of those victories.

When playing away from home – their PPG was .76 – tied for 4th worst in MLS.

In their ten losses they averaged .90 goals per game (GPG); in their 18 draws they averaged 1.11 GPG; and in their six wins they averaged 2 GPG.

All told they averaged just 1.21 goals per game – eight games with 2 goals, 1 game with 3 goals, and 1 game with 5 goals – shutout seven times with 17 games where only one goal was scored.

Bottom line here – they really couldn’t win at home or on the road.

Do you even want to know how things looked from a Goals Against standpoint?  Probably not so to simplify (save space) - their overall Goal Differential was -10, with it being a -12 on the road.

Now for the team Attacking and Defending performance indicators with the Defending PWP Strategic Index first:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

For me this is where the real grist is offered on just how poor the Fire team performance was compared to others in MLS. 

In walking through this information will there be just one key indicator that spells out the reason for bad results, or will there be multiple indicators?  Let’s find out:

Opponent possession – 54.66% – 2nd highest in MLS (in away games 55.71% – at home 52.92%).

Pretty much either way you cut it the Fire ceded possession, either by design of by default.

Not a negative indicator, by any stretch, as many teams ceded possession and did well this year – but given the low PPG – it should be a concern that there may have been many gaps in this team besides one or two DP’s.

Opponent Passing Accuracy –  78.05% – 7th highest in MLS (in away games 78.76% – at home 77.33%).

So, with a good amount of possession the opponents also seemed to be pretty successful in completing their passes across the entire pitch.

What might help shape that opponent possession is this – outside the final third opponents averaged 82.67% passing accuracy – while inside the Fire, final third, they averaged 63.79%.

It would appear that the Fire, regularly, and systematically, in both home and away games ceded space outside their defending final third.

Unlike the Timbers, when they got their defense in gear, it did not translate to a lower goals against.

Given that, it would seem reasonable that there are more issues in the defensive supporting cast in the midfield as well as in the back four itself; more to follow.

Opponent Penetration per Possession – 20.90% – 4th lowest in MLS (in away games 21.86% at home 19.93%) both 4th worst in MLS.

Overall it would appear that a higher line was employed to try to minimize initial penetration – we have seen that tactic used by Hackworth (before being sacked) and by Porter (before realigning his defensive tactics).

In looking at both home and away games spread throughout the season it does not appear that the Fire changed tactics.

So keeping in mind the terrible Goals Against this year – this information continues to reinforce that even with minimal penetration the opponents were still able to put the ball into the back of the net.  

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – 17% – 6th lowest in MLS (in away games 18.41% – at home 15.58%).

In studying other teams this year – those that have higher passing accuracy percentages seem to have lower percentages in this category – intuiting patience in creating time and space to score goals.

What is intriguing here is that this same pattern showed itself with Philadelphia before they dropped deeper.  In other words – once penetration was gained the opponent wasn’t likely to lose it and a result of that shows taking more time to offer up a shot as opposed to systematically looking to hurry the shots.

I’d offer that if the opponent was hurrying their shots they would take them more frequently and be less accurate.  So were the opponents more or less accurate in putting their shots taken on goal?

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 38.76%- 2nd highest in MLS (in away games 37.95% – at home  39.58%).

It would appear that the opponents were more accurate…

As anticipated – based upon other team outputs - their defensive tactics (in probably playing a bit higher up the defensive side of the pitch) didn’t work.

Is that down to player selection, player availability, player talent/skills or the Head Coach?

Hard to say – but in considering the length of time Frank Yallop has coached in the MLS it would seem reasonable that some adjustments might have been made along the way like you can see with the Timbers in this article – or the Union in this article.

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – 37.18% – 3rd worst in MLS (in away games 38.53% – at home 35.82%).

So the tale of the tape is the Fire ceded possession outside their defending final third – appear to have played a high defensive line to try to minimize damaging penetration and while minimizing penetration it also opened up their defense for an even worse overall team performance.

That doesn’t even address what communication issues/tactical issues occurred between their Goal Keeper and back four.

In summation – like the wholesale changes the Timbers made when Porter replaced Spencer – I’d expect wholesale changes for the Fire on the defending side of the pitch.  In my opinion they probably need two DP’s, alone, on the defending end of the ball and a completely new tactical approach as well…

That’s probably been pretty painful for the Fire supporters and I hesitate to offer up team performance in attack; but alas – this is an End of Season analysis – so chocks away on the Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Not as depressing as the defending side of the pitch – but to be real here – they were 4th worst overall in team attacking.  

So without further ado how good were Chicago in the same categories against their opponents were against them?

Possession – 45.68% – 2nd lowest in MLS (in away games 44.29% – at home 47.08%).

As noted in DPWP; the Fire ceded possession, either be design of by default.

Given both home and away games are below 50% it is likely the Fire did not really alter their attacking style (like Seattle has shown) when playing at home versus on the road.

Again, not a negative indicator, but additional attacking performance information should shine more light on whether they altered their tactics playing in different locations.

It is interesting to note that their average (home) possession percentage against Houston was 56.23% – and even against DC United it was 53.86%.

So it does appear some tactical things were occurring in playing those two teams – whether that was driven by Chicago Or Houston/DC United it hard to say.

But I would offer that both Houston and DC United averaged less than 50% possession this year – so it’s not unreasonable to assume that the change in possession against those two teams was more a function of those teams and not the Fire/Yallop.  Others may have a different view?

Passing Accuracy –  74.03% – 2nd worst in MLS (in away games 72% – at home 76.07%).

So an increase in passing accuracy at home; in looking at total passes offered.

The difference in passing accuracy is pretty much down to the Fire offering up more passes outside their attacking final third.  In other words – their average passes in the attacking final third are the same for both home and away games.

Which means the increase in passing accuracy is attributed to passes completed in a less dangerous area – i.e. – those of smaller value.

I suppose it needs to be said here, first, a low passing accuracy usually means one to three things – the team looks to offer longer passes that are less likely to be completed – or – the team doesn’t really have the skilled players or head coach direction to play a shorter, quicker passing game.  For now I’d offer it’s a combination of the three without knowing additional information.

Penetration per Possession – 23.20% – 8th highest in MLS (in away games 23.29% – at home 23.11%).

Their percentage of penetration is pretty high here; mixing with Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, LA Galaxy, Sporting KC, and New York.

So it would appear that the Fire looked to match penetration with the bigger boys in attack – that does seem to indicate that the attacking midfield was doing a pretty good job – but – it can also be deceptive as we know some teams looked to play a bit deeper in order to tighten space within their final third.

That deeper play results in the attacker having a higher percentage of penetrating possession at times.

Those better attacking teams were usually more accurate in their passing once they entered the final third – and that accuracy then translated to higher success rates in shots on goal and goals scored.  Meaning – they had forward talent to match the midfield talent in penetration and creation.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – 20.48% – 3rd highest in MLS (in away games 17.45% – at home 23.50%).

Their home percentage was the highest in MLS – In considering outputs from other teams, this year, it would appear that the Fire were far less patient in generating shots taken given their overall penetrating possession.

Another factor here is the passing accuracy within the final third – for the Fire it was 61.28% (the 2nd lowest in MLS).

This information, coupled with a higher than normal shots taken per penetration, seems to support a more direct attacking approach – one that is less patient and more concerned about getting the shot off instead of taking a bit more time to create that extra time and space.

In looking back to my last observation, about having forward talent to match the attacking midfield talent, they might have that, but it would appear that the tactical approach to play more direct may have had more influence?  I suppose the lights will shine a bit better if their ability to score is higher…

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 35.95%- mid-table in MLS (in away games 37.02% – at home  34.87%).

The 34.87% is the 7th lowest in MLS – and that coupled with the lower than normal passing accuracy, plus the higher rate of shots taken per penetration seems to point, again, to a team playing more direct and taking less time on the ball.

In other words, (perhaps?)  the skill level of the players, or the tactical approach by the head coach, simply didn’t get the job done in putting shots on goal.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – 29.55% – 8th worst in MLS (in away games 31.96% – at home 27.14%).

An intriguing piece of info here might be this – when playing away from home, they had 6% fewer shots per penetration, and they put more of those shots taken on goal (31.96%) and had a much higher percentage of scoring a goal based upon those reduced penetrations (31.96%).

That is a similar pattern to many good attacking teams – except when it came to actually scoring the goal…

All told, they also had the 8th worst Goals Scored on the road (1.12) – which could be reasoned to (perhaps again?) three things, either a poor tactical approach in looking to score more goals on the road – not having good enough players to execute the tactical approach of the head coach, or three – having the wrong tactical approach for the players on the team?

In Closing:

Like the wholesale changes the Timbers made when Porter replaced Spencer – I’d expect wholesale changes for the Fire on the attacking side of the pitch too.

In my opinion they probably need at least one DP on the attacking end of the pitch to go with the two defending DP’s on the other end of the pitch.

This will cost money, big money – and I’d also expect to hear about 10-15 changes in the roster – a similar outcome to the Timbers a couple of years ago.

This (could) probably include a new goal keeper, three new defenders, two to three new midfielders and perhaps a new striker; for starters.

I offer the potential for a new Goal Keeper based upon considering the actions taken by Portland during the Spencer to Porter shift – there was a house cleaning of sorts and although Troy Perkins was a popular player – he was moved – and I think at that time, Perkins had  a better Save percentage then (69%) than Sean Johnson did this year.

Finally, in 2012 Sean Johnson had a 76% save percentage, in 2013 that had dropped to 70% – and this year it has dropped even further to 64%.

I wonder if the team makes up more ground next year by adopting a different tactical approach and trying to make better use of the talent they currently have.

And here’s a $4 Million Dollar question – if Yallop continues to play (apparently)  more direct, as opposed to the shorter, quicker passing game others are using exactly where is he going to get 2-3 DP’s who work more in a direct style attack than counter-attacking, quicker, shorter attack?

It’s my guess that the Chicago Fire Front Office did not expect, nor bargain, to have to completely rebuild this team under Frank Yallop.

And I’d offer they should have known something like this might happen given the poor run of success his tactical approach had in San Jose before he got sacked.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp.com

 

 

 

Road Warriors – Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders have one of the most advanced statistics programs in Major League Soccer. 

And while I don’t have a specific gauge that tracks the effectiveness and efficiency of their statistical analysis it’s a good bet their approach has had some level of influence in how their organization performed this year.

NOTE: Given recent developments this article has been offered up on the SB Nation Blog, as a Fan Post, for the Seattle Sounders.

To read the article, in its entirety, click here.

As always feel free to offer comments here or on the Sounder at Heart SB Nation Fan Post site.

Best, Chris

The Comforts of Home in Major League Soccer

The Playoffs are in full swing and for some a shocker already as New England completely dominated Columbus – in Columbus!

Instead of some specific articles on Playoffs though; a different topic for your consideration — how teams, results and performance wise, competed against each other at Home versus on the Road.

Before digging into the details here’s how the CPWP Strategic Index looks at the End of the Season for 2014:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Like last year nine of the top ten teams in the Index made the Playoffs – but this year the Correlation (R2) is .85 as opposed to .77.

Now for the grist on Home and Away.

First up —> East meets West

Most should know but in case not – each season the teams swap venues – if last years’ game was at home, against one team, that single game is now played (away) in the other teams’ venue – and vice versa.

The average points per game of teams in the East, playing at home, against teams in the West was 1.58.

The average points per game for teams in the West, playing at home, against teams in the East was 1.93.

The sum of points earned by the East, at home, against the West was 71 points.

The sum of points earned by the West, at home, against the East was 87 points.

The average points per game of teams in the East, playing on the road, against teams in the West was .87.

The average points per game of teams in the West, playing on the road, against teams in the East was 1.04.

The sum of points earned by the East, on the road, against the West was 39 points.

The sum of points earned by the West, on the road, against the East was 47 points.

All total the East earned 110 points against the West.

All told the West earned 134 points against the East.

When it came to results, the measurement most feel comfortable with, Western Conference teams were better (24 points better) than Eastern Conference teams.  Regardless of the games being played at home or on the road.

So how about overall results, in general, remembering that even in each conference there is an unbalanced schedule where if you played one team at home twice last year you now played them on the road twice this year.

The home team won 151 times this year, had 89 draws, and 77 losses.

Home teams winning at home averaged 2.33 goals per game in those wins – while away teams winning away had to average 2.47 goals per game to win the game.

Home teams losing at home averaged .82 goals per game versus away teams losing away averaged .54 goals per game.  So even while losing, home teams still averaged nearly one goal per game.

Of the 77 games won by the away team this year only 15 were games won 1-nil.

When losing, (at anytime) the home team was only shut out 21 times, and when gaining a draw the home team was shutout just 18 times.  That’s just 39 times, out of 317 games played, where the home team was shut-out.

Meaning, on average, the home team scored at least one goal 88% of the time.

In addition, when adding up the percentages of winning (47%) and drawing (28%) – Home teams had a 75% chance of taking points in home games this year…

In other words – playing at home pretty much meant the home team started the game 1 – nil.

No doubt a whole Army of people will disagree with that (even I agree a team never starts the game 1-nil) but the percentages are compelling, if not at least somewhat intriguing.

Here’s my Composite PWP Strategic Index 2014 (End of Season) for  Teams On the Road:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 ON THE ROAD

Not what you might say successful for most teams in MLS; five teams stood out in performing well as a team on the road.

Now here’s how that same Index looks for how teams performance at home:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 HOME

A significant difference; not only in results but in team performance as well!

In Closing:

So it’s probably not surprising to see that playing a game at home quite readily feels like (and statistically supports) a better overall performance.

If you were to bet on Major League Soccer it would seem reasonable that every home team shown here, in the blue bars, would probably start with a +1 goal advantage for the bookies.

As the off-season continues I will peel back each team in MLS, excluding Chivas USA – no point – part of that team analysis will include their successes on the Road as well as at Home.

Best, Chris

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp.com

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MLS Playoffs – Predictions with Purpose (Updated)

To the chase…  my PWP Predictability Index leveraging my Possession with Purpose Analysis.  Click here for my latest revision or click here to read the initial revision.

NOTE:  Updates for the Red Bulls v DC United and Sounders v Dallas match are at the end of the article.

The Predictability Index itself is the CPWP Index data minus Goals Scored / Goals Against and is split into two diagrams – Home Predictability versus Away Predictability.

Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams at Home:

CPWP PREDICTABILITY INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 HOME

Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams Away from Home.

CPWP PREDICTABILITY INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 AWAY

Note the significant differences in how the teams are predicted to perform at home versus on the road; four teams really sucked at home this year, while four teams were expected to perform quite well on the road.  

Here’s how it works; I will compare the two digit number of the home team with the two digit number of the away team.

Whichever number is higher it’s that team which is predicted to win… again… based upon their history of team performance in overall attacking and defending, exclusive of goals scored; this year.

And now the PWP Predictions:

FC Dallas versus Vancouver Whitecaps matchup.  FC Dallas at Home (0.00) while Vancouver on the Road (-.11)  FC Dallas wins.

FC Dallas key indicators are ceding possession and creating quick counter-attacking scenarios that use time and space created by Vancouver being too aggressive in attack.

Vancouver key indicators are maintaining patience in possession and not losing position in defending – they are one of the top defending teams in MLS; they will need to be at their best to beat Dallas.

Next up; New York Red Bulls versus Sporting Kansas City.  New York at Home (0.10) while Sporting Kansas City on the Road (0.05) New York wins.

New York key indicators are their attack from a number of different angles.  They are simply one of the top attacking teams in all of MLS – they need to attack, attack, attack, and hope, with all their hope, that they can keep Sporting KC from scoring a goal.

Sporting KC key indicators are their ability to defend; they are still one of the best defending teams in MLS.  If they can control the wide open attack, I’d expect from New York, and their propensity for fouling in their own defending final third, I can see some individual talent from Zusi or some set-pieces giving them the edge to win.

Columbus Crew versus New England Revolution.  Columbus Crew at Home (0.06)  while New England on the Road (-0.08).  Columbus wins game 1.  Columbus Crew on the Road (0.06) while New England at Home (0.23) -> New England wins game 2.  I offer Columbus advances over New England on away goal difference.

Columbus key indicators include being one of the most consistent teams in overall attacking and defending team performance in MLS – with this being a two game set I’d imagine consistency in attacking and penetration as well as consistency in defending the danger spaces will see them through.

New England key indicators are slightly changed with Jones on the pitch – his leadership may give the edge to a Revolution team who are, in my opinion, outgunned in almost every other category.  They are a big under-dog in my opinion but not everybody rates Columbus as strongly as I do…

Real Salt Lake versus LA Galaxy.   Salt Lake at Home (0.33)  while LA Galaxy on the Road (0.12).  RSL wins game 1.   LA Galaxy at Home (0.19)  while Salt Lake on the Road (-0.01).  LA Galaxy wins game 2.  I offer LA Galaxy advance over Real Salt Lake on away goals difference.  

Salt Lake key indicators include, as noted, a stingy defense at home and a propensity to win in Rio Tinto.  They also have pedigree not unlike LA Galaxy, and perhaps an even more veteran line-up when it comes to big games.  Lest we forget Salt Lake could have done much better last year and didn’t – they will have added energy that might surpass the emotions LA bring with them in pushing to help Donovan raise the Cup once more.

LA Galaxy key indicators are pace, possession, penetration and all around purpose that operated at peak performance for almost the entire year.  It should be noted that they didn’t collect the silverware last week and in all likelihood they could stumble here as well as they may look past Real and consider the Cup is theirs…  So arrogance is an enemy as is the continued lack of mental awareness by Gonzalez…

More to follow after the games midweek after seeing who qualifies to play Seattle and DC United…

As for my own personal predictions I can see New York advancing as well as FC Dallas but the Vancouver defense is very good as is the Sporting KC defense.

I will go with Sporting over New York and Vancouver over FC Dallas because I think those team defenses are better – and for me it’s all about defense.

With respect to Columbus – I agree with my PWP Prediction model for that game as well as the game between LA and RSL…  and in this case I also happen to think the defenses for Columbus and LA are better.

More to follow:…

Seattle Sounders at Home (.22) while Dallas on the Road (-.20).  Seattle wins when playing at Home.  FC Dallas at Home (.00) while  Seattle on the Road (-.04).  FC Dallas wins at home.  Seattle advances on away goals difference.

For me, I can see Seattle beating FC Dallas at home and on the road.  Dallas may be a bit tired for game 1 and the Predictability Index hasn’t been built to address ‘tired legs’…

At the end of the day this should be a clean sweep for the Sounders…

DC United at Home (.03) while New York on the Road (-.03).  DC United wins at Home.  New York at Home (.10) while DC United on the Road (-.08).  New York wins at Home.  New York advances on away goals difference.

For me I can see a clean sweep here as well – it may be surprising but I can see New York, riding the wave of Phillips and, most likely, the last season for Thierry Henry, all the way into the Finals.  This is not intended to diss DC United.

They are a very good team but somehow I don’t see the ‘tired legs’ syndrome impacting the Red Bulls as much as Dallas… too much at stake for a team that has invested huge money in their players and program.

Best, Chris

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Getting Better as a Youth Soccer Coach

When I was a Soccer Youth Head Coach, in England and America, I sometimes struggled with how to manage the well-intentioned, high level of energy, that parents and/or guardians brought to the Soccer pitch.

At that time I hadn’t concieved my Possession with Purpose analytical approach, but if I had, I would certainly have followed it.

Why, because I think and feel there is great value in understanding some of the basic activities of soccer, mesauring those activities, and using those results to drive improvement.  And the earlier in the development of soccer the better in understanding that while this game is measured by wins, draws, and losses, it isn’t just about scoring goals – it’s about preventing them too.

If you’re an aspiring soccer Head Coach, new or old, I think this approach in leveraging parents/guardians to help you help the team is a great step towards getting better.

If that resonates with you, or even if it doesn’t, I think it’s worthy you take a few minutes to consider what I offer.

Before digging in, you should know up front, this entire approach works from my Strategic Possession with Purpose Family of Indices; the same analysis offered up at the 2014 World Conference on Science and Soccer.

And the same analysis used to evalute professional team performances within Major League Soccer, the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, World Cup 2014 and the UEFA Champions League.

The End State is to measure team performance – ignoring results (points in the league table) in order to track and trend (analyze) individual and team performance with the intent of driving towards improvement.

In statistical terms the relationship (correlation) of my analyses (the Composite PWP Index to Points in the League Table) without counting points is (R2) .86.

In other words 86% of the time my own Index reflects the outputs in the League Table without counting points.

AND…. 86% of the time the winning teams execute the steps within PWP better than the losing team!

With that said here’s what to do.

  • Split the pitch into thirds and place one parent at the entry point into your own defending final third and one at the entry point into your opponent’s defending final third.
  • Next, place two parents at the middle of the pitch.
  • Then place one parent at or near the end line on your defending side of the pitch and then one parent at the same position on the opponent’s defending side of the pitch.
  • Give each parent a clipboard and pen (waterproof if necessary) and have them begin to count and keep track of certain ‘team’ data points.
  • The two parents in the center of the pitch are to count and document (all) passes attempted and passes completed for each team (throw-ins and free kicks included) across the entire pitch.  If you have four parents then have two track passes attempted and two track passes completed, one for each team.
  • The two parents at the entry to the defending final third are to count and document passes attempted and completed (within and into) the defending final third for each team. This also includes all throw-ins, crosses, corners and free kicks that are not specific shots taken on goal.  If you have four parents/guardians then have one each track passes attempted and passes completed separately for each team.
  • Finally, the two parents on the end lines are to count and document shots taken, shots on goal, and goals scored for each team.

At the end of the game you will have a complete data base (by volume and percentage) that gives you the information to identify your team’s possession percentage, passing accuracy, penetration per possession, ability to generate shots per penetrating possession, what percentage of those shots taken were on goal and what percentage of those shots on goal that scored goals (your team attacking).

And since you collected data on your opponent you will also have all the data on how well your opponent did in those same categories against you (your team defending).

Pretty much meaning you’ve just captured the ENTIRE bell curve of activities I use to measure team performance at the very highest level in the World.

With that data you can now determine, analyze, and document/chart/track ways to improve your attacking as well as defending team performances.  And as each game occurs you continue to build a data.

This information is then used to help you develop new training plans that look to help the team improve where weaknesses exist.

I do not recommend keeping track of individual performance unless you have enough parents and players who are mature enough to deal with individual weaknesses.

This approach should have application at any level of soccer – to include premier, as well as select, recreational, ODP or elsewhere.  As a matter of opinion, I’d offer the closer you are to a higher level of play the more important this approach becomes.

Outcomes from this approach give data to set targets for improvement and the ability to measure the success in that improvement.

In addition, this approach also reinforces that Youth Soccer Development is not all about winning, it’s about getting better while trying to do the things teams need to do in order to win.

If any team wishes to take on this challenge, as a youth club, anywhere in America, send me your data and I will give you one month of analysis that includes preparing products I develop in my analysis of professional football clubs.

I may even publish those products, as examples, for others to learn from in future articles.

And if you are located in the Portland or Beaverton area send me a note and I will make every effort to visit a training session, and or game, to help better explain this approach.

Finally, my general analysis may also include some recommendations on what training plans/programs may help focus your team on key areas to improve.

Bottom line at the bottom:

There is value in understanding and tracking the basic activities that occur in a game of soccer.  It not only helps the players understand their larger role in this team game it also helps the parents understand the greater detail and responsibility you have as a coach to help others get better as a ‘team’.

In case you missed it; this year four Head Coaches from teams who finished near or bottom on the CPWP Strategic Index have already been sacked in MLS:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 31 MLS

And last year five of the six worst teams in performing the PWP steps had the Head Coaches sacked!

End of Season 2013 MLS Coaching Changes

Pretty compelling evidence that teams who perform better have Head Coaches who last longer… if you want to have success as a Youth Head Coach then I strongly suggest you adopt the measurement methods and analysis associated with PWP; with or without using Parents/Guardians.

If there are every any questions please feel free to contact me through Linked-in or through twitter; my twitter is @chrisgluckpwp.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

Valencia – Formula Won… La Liga

Most of the Headlines speak to the Real Madrid victory over the vaunted Barcelona; mine obviously don’t.  

For me Valencia is showing strong, and in my view, seems to have struck a great balance in attack and defense as they continues to impress.  And even though this early season run of form  might not last I do think it’s worthy to dig a bit deeper into their overall performance to see exactly why they are doing so well.

To begin – my standard Composite PWP Strategic Index:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 9

Why are Valencia so high in their overall team performance?

Is it their overall team attacking or defending performance?

At first glance you may think it’s their Attack – to review that here’s the latest Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index Week 9

Even higher than Barcelona – one of the best attacking teams in the World!  Valencia are:

  • 7th best in overall possession – 51%; a full 17% less than Barcelona
  • 3rd best in overall passing accuracy – 85.97% – still less than Barcelona by 3%
  • 17th best (4th worst) in penetration per possession -19.71% – a full 13% below Barcelona
  • 9th best in Shots Taken per penetrating possession  - 15.84% – this time ~6% higher than Barcelona
  • 9th best in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 34.87% – roughly 5% lower than Barcelona
  • Finally, and perhaps the single greatest graphic difference is Goals Scored per Shots on Goal; at this point Valencia have scored a HUGE 60.83% of the time they’ve put a Shot on Goal – by comparison Barcelona sit at 31.68%..

In a phrase – Valencia ‘are’ the best team in performing the key indicators in possession with purpose.  They may not have the glitz and glamour of a Barcelona or Real Madrid but steady is good.

But before moving on to Defending I think it’s worthy to note their volume of activity not just the percentages above:

  • They match the league average in passes attempted (410) what skews that average is Barcelona and Real Madrid.  All told only six of the 20 teams in La Liga exceed the league average.
  • As noted above their passing accuracy is 3rd best in the league – with that their total completed passes across the entire pitch is 5th best at 349.
  • So by volume they are not what would be considered a dominating possession based team.
  • And in looking at their overall penetration into the final third Valencia average 107 passes per game – 13th best.
  • In other words they’re not really a possession based team, they are more of a counter-attacking team who simply wait for some extremely superb moments to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses in order to create ideal time and space conditions.
  • And to reinforce this view they are slightly lower (10.78 per game) than the league average (11.45) in Shots Taken – but slightly lower in Shots on Goal (3.78) versus the league average of (4.03).
  • And that ‘finishing touch’ sees them average 2.22 Goals Scored per game compared to the 1.34 for La Liga and just slightly lower than Barcelona’s average of 2.56 per game!

All told – Valencia are simply a team that is performing at an optimal rate.

But that’s not the complete answer for Valencia – here’s how they stand in the Defending PWP Strategic Index:

DPWP Strategic Index Week 9

They are 3rd best in La Liga in defending team performance; here’s how the key indicators compare to others as well as Barcelona:

  • Opponents average 48.68% possession – pretty much meaning the opponent has the ball as much as Valencia – opponents of Barcelona possess the ball just 31.18% of the time.
  • Opponents average 77.62% passing accuracy – and I’d offer that is more down to the amount of space Valencia cede outside their Defending Final Third – we’ll take a look at that when reviewing the volume of opponent activity.
  • In terms of penetration and shot creation from that penetration their opponents are 10th best at penetrating 24.09% of the time they possess the ball while also generating shots taken 16.21% of the time.
  • All told that leads to an opponent accuracy shot rate on goal of 35.53% with 21.67% of those shots on goal scoring a goal.
  • Bottom line here is that with average penetration (compared to others in La Liga) and average shots against, Valencia are 4th lowest in facing shots on goal and 4th lowest in seeing those shots on goal score goals.

It would appear they have a very organized defensive system and a very good Goal Keeper.

So how about the volume of attack faced from their opponents?  

  • At this stage they have faced, on average, the 8th fewest passes per game (388) compared to Barcelona at 300.
  • In terms of overall penetration, the opponents have offered up 117 passes per game in the Valencia Defending Final Third – with that being the 10th most in La Liga.
  • Statistics would seem to indicate that they do make it easier for their opponents to penetrate – which in turn appears to support what was offered up earlier.
  • When it comes down to shots faced they are 9th lowest in that category – while translating that to just 3.78 shots on goal (tied 8th best).
  • All told that added volume of penetration sees Valencia with a .89 goals against per game – 3rd best in La Liga.

Bottom line here – like what the percentages offer – Valencia cedes time and space outside the Defending Final Third while doing a great job of closing up shop as the opponent finally gains entry.

Is that the right mix to minimize the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla?

Hard to say at this time – but clearly – going into Week 10 against Villarreal it is likely they should get another three points.

Which brings me to my last Index – the CPWP Predictability Index.

In MLS this Index averaged a 55-65% accuracy in identifying the winner of upcoming games – at times the outputs were pear-shaped while others were spot on.

I have no idea how this will play out this year in Europe but here’s the Index itself and then a quick blurb on how to understand it:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 9

As noted Valencia take on Villarreal this weekend – note that Valencia has a higher number than Villarreal – simply meaning, with the law of averages considered, and the teams perform as they have in the past Valencia should win.

So in looking up the schedule for next weekend; Getafe should edge Deportivo; Real Madrid should defeat Granada; Atletico Madrid should defeat Cordoba; Barcelona should beat Celta de Vigo; Real Sociedad should defeat Malaga; Athletic Club should beat Sevilla; Levante should lose to Almeria; Elche should lose to Espanyol; and Rayo Vallecano should beat Eibar.

By the way – the Predictability Index is made up of all the PWP Data Point Relationships excluding ‘goals scored’ and ‘goals against’ – you really can’t develop a worthy predictability index using goals scored.

That should help explain why Celta de Vigo are higher up the prediction table than Valencia… based upon their overall run of play performances Celta should probably score more goals than they do.

All for now…

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp