Barcley’s Premier League Week 26 in Review

The CPWP Predictability Index has been on a pretty good run since starting it up about 3 weeks ago; so if things go well I’d expect about five/six out of eight games being spot on after this weekends games.

For now here’s what I offered last week followed by the outcome:

Aston Villa v Stoke City: Stoke City should earn the points here and this (could?) be the beginning of a stretch where Stoke may maximize 21 points out of 27 in the next nine games.

Stoke City took three points…

Chelsea v Burnley: Chelsea should earn maximum points here but on short rest it is likely the squad taking on Burnley will have a few regular non-starters…

Chelsea “should” ahve earned maximum points but they didn’t – they still got a point however.

Crystal Palace v Arsenal: Arsenal should take maximum points here but given they have Monaco in four days time it is likely, they too, rest a starter or two. Intriguing here is that Monaco is a team who likes to cede possession – with that perhaps Wenger has one or two players going back to back games that we might not normally consider happening. Both games are a must three points given the severity on what’s at stake…

Arsenal earned maximum points.

Hull City v QPR: Hull City should earn points here, I’d expect a happy face from Steve Bruce after this one.

Hull City earned maximum points.

Sunderland v West Brom: Although playing away from home I can still see West Brom earning at least a point here.

West Brom did earn that point.

Swansea City v Man United: United really need to continue taking maximum points and this game may take the shape where Swansea actually wins the possession battle but loses overall control when it comes to goals scored. United earn points in this one.

Swansea lost the possession battle – big time – and took three points!

Man City v Newcastle: Like Arsenal, Man City have their Premier League game first – they need three points here or even the confidence of making Europe next year could come into question… Man City earn points.

Man City took three points in a BIG way.

Spurs v West Ham: Again a wicked good London derby – I see Spurs taking maximum points here but never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce and the Hammers – Sam would be glowing if he got three points but, in the end, I think he would settle for one… I doubt Spurs think the same way on that score…

Never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce – Spurs got a point – but not maximum points.

Everton v Leicester City: Martinez needs his team to take three points here – anything less would begin to fuel the talk that perhaps another leader is needed to manage the blues… or at least it would be crystal clear their current set of strikers really suck…

Martinez failed to take maximum points – they got a point but that’s it…  given the past track record in teams performing badly, as rated through PWP (using MLS as an example – as well as Paul Lambert) Martinez may be on his last legs with the Toffies…

Southampton v Liverpool: This is the best game (outside of Spurs/Hammers) this next round – a can’t miss if your any type of football fan! The Saints are not underdogs here – I see them as favorites even though the Pudlians are on a bit of a run… Koeman v Rogers… game on – Saints should earn the points here – if not – then perhaps the chrome fenders are beginning to show some rust?!? As for Rogers – he really needs to get points here to!?!

The chrome fenders may be beginning to rust – but have heart there were some dubious calls in this game and PWP does not account for odd non-call PK’s… anyhow – no excuses Southampton did not earn three points or even one.

All told eight of the ten games showed the CPWP Predictability Index team getting at least a point – that makes the CPWP Predictability record:

  1. Eight of Ten
  2. Seven of Ten
  3. Eight of Ten
  4. Eight of Ten
  5. for a combined 31 out of 40… seems like a good bet where the odds show ~75% accuracy in picking the teams who take points…

So how about Week 27?  A short week so to speak…

West Ham v Crystal Palace:  West Ham should take at least a point here but really should take maximum points – but there may be a slight let down given that late equaliser on the PK rebound against Spurs…  That being said Crystal Palace will most certainly play for a point knowing that any sort of mistake by West Ham could see them taking three…

Burnley v Swansea City:  Who knows how this will go given the point Burnley stole from Chelsea – that said Swansea should take at least one but very likely three – no thanks to the Ref I might add.

Manchester United v Sunderland:  No brainer this one?  MUFC take three – if they don’t – wow…..

Newcastle v Aston Villa:  I don’t see Tim Sherwood getting any better result here than he did last week – Newcastle should get the point – if not three.

Stoke City v Hull City:  This game may be closer than some expect – even with Hull City playing at Stoke City.  That said a draw may be the eventual outcome but the initial odds indicate Stoke should be on the pluc end more than Hull.

West Brom v Southampton: Critical mass here for Southampton – three points really is a must – and going against West Brom should get them three; or at least one point at a minimum.

Liverpool v Manchester City:  The tough one this week – Liverpool are on a run and I spurned that run last week against Southampton – that said Man City have the best overall team possession statistics of anyone in the BPL – it’s really hard to bet against Man City in this one; even with Liverpool at home.  My call is Man City gets at least one point here.

Arsenal v Everton: This game will be even tighter than the Liverpool v Man City game – Everton continue to be one of the top teams in possession-based attacking – what they have lacked is finishing.  Given that Monaco just came into London and took three points in the UEFA Champions League I really doubt Wenger will be in the mood to see his team drop three points here.  My call is Arsenal takes at least one point – with three points really being the expectation – and another nail in the coffin of Martinez (didn’t I use that phrase the week before Lambert got sacked?).

All to play for this weekend…

PS:  When I get time I will go back and try to show how the CPWP Predictability Index has faired for the Bundesliga and La Liga – just finding it hard to find the time.

Best, Chris

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Can Jozy Altidore bring Toronto to the Playoffs?

I’ll try to offer some thoughts on this a bit later but to first understand a possible answer to this question I felt it worthy to conduct a compare and contrast between two teams –  (LA Galaxy and Toronto FC).

To begin; here’s a reminder on how these two teams finished in the Composite Possession with Purpose Index last year – remembering also that LA ended up with 61 points and Toronto had 41 points:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

If Possession with Purpose is new to you I suggest you read here: Possession with Purpose.  For statistical purposes the R2 (R squared) for the Index compared to points earned was .85.

Next up – the Big Picture:

The Big Picture

Reading from left to right:

  • Average PWP Composite Index – the numbers here represent the difference between the subtracting the PWP Defending Index (grouping 3) from the PWP Attacking Index (grouping 2) for each team; LA being the dark blue bar and Toronto being the red bar.
  • In other words 2.31 from 2.53 = .21 for LA and 2.42 from 2.33 = -.09 for Toronto. (a difference of .30)
  • The 4th grouping – Composite PWP Predictability is the Composite PWP Index (minus) all statistical data associated with a goal scored/goal against – in other words it’s a pure representation of the primary team activities occuring on the pitch exclusive of goals scored.  The R2 for the Predictability Index is .69.
  • Next over is average Goals Scored for each team throughout the year for each game.
  • This is followed by the average Goals Scored by the Opponent against each team throughout the year.
  • Second from last is the average Goal Differential – the same logic applies here that is used to create the Composite PWP Index – subtract Goals Scored by the Opponent Goals Scored against that team.
  • Last and most important – the average points earned for each team for each game.
  • In every case LA exceeded Toronto.

So why were LA better – was it just down to goals scored, higher accuracy in goals scored, or something else?

A way to answer that is by peeling back some differences in team performance.

For example…  In the diagram above the difference between LA and TFC, in APWP (grouping 2), is 2.52 – 2.33  = .19.  Meaning the overall difference in collective team performance of those two teams is 19%.

So where do those percentage point differences occur in looking at the six quality measurements of APWP?

Here’s the APWP diagram that peels back the six primary categories used to create the Index:

Quality Attacking PWP

I’ve highlighted two areas and included a smaller area where the word ‘wash’ appears.

“Wash” simply means those two areas balance each other out – the real differences come from looking at the ligh green shaded areas.  Those areas were:

  • Possession percentage – LA exceeded Toronto by ~6%
  • Passing accuracy – LA exceeded Toronto by ~5%
  • Penetrating the opponents defending final third – LA exceeded Toronto by ~3%
  • Goals scored per shots on goal – LA exceeded Toronto by ~6%

All told roughly 1/4 of the overall difference in team performance (quality) came from goals scored per shots on goal…

Meaning LA performed better in scoring goals but they also performed far better in three other areas, possession, passing accuracy and penetration.

That, alone, may be able to help answer the question about Jozy Altidore but attacking is only one part of the game – how about Defending PWP?

Quality Defending PWP

Toronto were worse than LA by 11% points 2.31 – 2.42 (lower is better)

In looking at the DPWP diagram (above) I’ve taken the same approach – the light green shaded areas show differences while the ‘Wash’ area shows where the teams percentages roughly balance each other out.

The difference in LA team performance, again, comes in preventing their opponents from having more control over the game leading up to (and) preventing goals scored against.

In other words LA simply had better overall team defending performances where goals scored was a wash.

In Closing:

Before offering my final thoughts on Jozy Altidore another quick example.

FC Dallas, who made the Playoffs last year, had similar team performances in quality to Toronto – with one exception.

FC Dallas had a 43.87% accuracy rating in converting shots on goal to goals scored compared to Toronto’s 31.21%.

But FC Dallas didn’t reach the pinnacle.

Bottom line at the Bottom:

My view is this: The addition of Jozy Altidore might help Toronto reach the Playoffs but it is unlikely it will lead to Toronto winning the Championship – if they do the Reds will probably play to the style of FC Dallas – and so far that style of attack has not led to a Championship – at least not in the last four years.

What do you think?

Best, Chris

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Barcley’s Premier League Week 25 in Review and Week 26 Outlook

There appear to be seven teams in the real run-up to who makes Europe next year with the top four going for the major prize and the fifth team relegated, if you will, to the Europa League.  

I’m sure that isn’t ideal for the likes of Arsenal, Southampton, Man City, Man United, Tottenham, or Liverpool but someone’s gonna get fifth and that’s a damn sight better than sixth or seventh!

As for any outsiders squeaking in – perhaps Stoke City has the best chance considering their schedule for the next nine games, but even maximum points, excluding predicted losses to Southampton and Chelsea probably still don’t see them making fifth.

So how did the teams do mid-week and how did that compare to what the CPWP Predictability Index offered?

Of the ten games the Index was only pear-shaped twice – the somewhat stunning loss Swansea had to West Brom and the ever odd-team Sunderland and their loss to QPR.  Otherwise where the Index predicted a team would garner points they did.  Eight of ten and in only two of those matches did the predicted teams take just one point as opposed to three (Newcastle v Crystal Palace and Southampton v West Ham).

So for three weeks now that’s at least seven games each week where the Predictability Index got it right; eight times in the first effort, seven times the second go-round, and eight times this go round.

By the way – here’s what I said last week about Aston Villa…  Figure plenty of faces from Steve Bruce and some tense times for Paul Lambert – it is likely a loss here, to Hull City, will add another nail to his coffin… I wonder how Paul Lambert would do managing a team in Major League Soccer?    Obviously Paul Lambert was sacked – I guess that was the last nail!

Sorry to see Lambert get the sack – he certainly has shown good pedigree – perhaps he finds himself leading another team next year into the Premier League – or perhaps???  he finds himself getting out of the promotion/relegation battle as a Head Coach and works his way across the pond where the chances of leading a team to a championship are more than just who has the biggest wallet…

Before getting to the next BPL week of predictions here’s a diagram on how the teams stack up in the Possession with Purpose Index (through week 25) alongside how the teams line up in the League Table (the R2 at Week 25 is .91):

BPL Standings and Index Through Week 25

 

Now for the next round as the big boys prepare for Europe tomorrow…  here’s the Predictability Index as things stand today:

CPWP Predictability Index Through Week 25

The next round sees:

Aston Villa v Stoke City:  Stoke City should earn the points here and this (could?) be the beginning of a stretch where Stoke may maximize 21 points out of 27 in the next nine games.

Chelsea v Burnley:  Chelsea should earn maximum points here but on short rest it is likely the squad taking on Burnley will have a few regular non-starters…

Crystal Palace v Arsenal:  Arsenal should take maximum points here but given they have Monaco in four days time it is likely, they too, rest a starter or two.  Intriguing here is that Monaco is a team who likes to cede possession – with that perhaps Wenger has one or two players going back to back games that we might not normally consider happening.  Both games are a must three points given the severity on what’s at stake…

Hull City v QPR:  Hull City should earn points here,  I’d expect a happy face from Steve Bruce after this one.

Sunderland v West Brom:  Although playing away from home I can still see West Brom earning at least a point here.

Swansea City v Man United:  United really need to continue taking maximum points and this game may take the shape where Swansea actually wins the possession battle but loses overall control when it comes to goals scored.  United earn points in this one.

Man City v Newcastle:  Like Arsenal, Man City have their Premier League game first – they need three points here or even the confidence of making Europe next year could come into question…  Man City earn points.

Spurs v West Ham:  Again a wicked good London derby – I see Spurs taking maximum points here but never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce and the Hammers – Sam would be glowing if he got three points but, in the end, I think he would settle for one…  I doubt Spurs think the same way on that score…

Everton v Leicester City:  Martinez needs his team to take three points here – anything less would begin to fuel the talk that perhaps another leader is needed to manage the blues…  or at least it would be crystal clear their current set of strikers really suck…

Southampton v Liverpool:  This is the best game (outside of Spurs/Hammers) this next round – a can’t miss if your any type of football fan!  The Saints are not underdogs here – I see them as favorites even though the Pudlians are on a bit of a run…  Koeman v Rogers…  game on – Saints should earn the points here – if not – then perhaps the chrome fenders are beginning to show some rust?!?  As for Rogers – he really needs to get points here to!?!

In closing:

I am expanding my support for other writers later this week as I’ll be providing Ed Bottomley (Dixies Sixty) some grist about Everton so far this year.  I’m not sure how the final article will look but when written I’ll provide a link here.  For now I’d just offer that Everton are the Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga or Borussia Dortmund are the Everton of the Barcley’s Premier League…  neither one are in an enviable position, excluding of course, Dortmund has made it to the next stages of the UEFA Champions League this year.

If you’re writing for your favorite team and your like Tim (@7amkickoff) or Ed (Dixie Sixty) and you’d like some PWP grist for your articles let me know.

Best, Chris

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Barcley’s Premier League Round-up Week 24

In a week with some eye-brow raising results the best surprise, for some, came from Spurs taking three points from Arsenal.  

I won’t dig into that game too much; 7amkickoff.com already do a great job telling the tales for the Gunner supporters.  If you’re a Gunners supporter you should follow Tim @7amkickoff and read what he and Naveen, along with others, provide on a daily basis.

For now I’ll just focus how things went over the weekend and what outcomes you may expect given next week’s games.

In taking a direct lift from last weeks article/prognostications I’ve added whether the team did or didn’t earn points:

Spurs are up against Arsenal – Arsenal should earn the points; they didn’t.

Aston Villa versus Chelsea – Chelsea should earn the points; they did.

Leicester City against Crystal Palace – close one hear but Leicester City should earn the points; they didn’t and their Coach was sacked – wait – oh – no he wasn’t!

Manchester City against Hull City – Manchester City should earn the points; they did – but not maximum points as most EVERYONE in the world would have expected!

QPR versus Southampton – Southampton should earn the points; they did.

Swansea City against Sunderland – Swansea should earn the points – but – Defoe has already scored a goal and the CPWP Index does not accurately account for what influence Defoe may have.  Swansea earning a point and so did Sunderland!

Everton versus Liverpool – Everton should earn the points; they did – but so did Liverpool.

Burnley against West Brom – West Brom should earn the points; they did, but so did Burnley.

Newcastle versus Stoke City – Stoke City should earn the points – but given the fractional difference between the teams a draw is likely as well.  Stoke City did earn a point, AND, as noted from last week this game was a likely draw – it was.

West Ham United against Man United – Man United should earn the points.  They did – but just one, and they eked that out in stoppage time…  a big disappointment for the Hammer supporters I’m sure as it was Manchester blowing bubbles after this one and not West Ham.

All told, the CPWP Predictability Index was correct in identifying seven out of the ten teams to earn points.

That’s two weeks running where the results have come very close to what was predicted.

Some may say using a prediction model to predict points (and not wins) isn’t proper cricket – well it’s not – in my opinion it’s recognizing football for what it is – a game where sometimes getting a point has just as much value as getting three points.

Moving on to the Possession with Purpose Index through Week 24.  Here’s how the teams stand this week:

CPWP Index Through Week 24

The changes from last week include Liverpool moving ahead of Everton and West Brom edging past Aston Villa; otherwise all quiet on the English front.

If we cast back as far as Week 21 Spurs are the team that’s moved the most – shifting up two places moving past both West Ham and Swansea.

For next week:

CPWP Predictability Index Through Week 24

Arsenal v Leicester City:  Arsenal should earn points.

Does anyone really expect the outcome of this match to be in question?  That said perhaps there’s a bow-wave effect with the sacking and unsacking of Nigel (can’t keep a player down, oh yes I can) Pearson…

Hull City v Aston Villa:  Hull City should earn points.

I can see this one ending in a draw given the potential let down Hull has after stealing a point from Man City last week.  Aston Villa have won more times away from home than Hull City has won at home; pathetic.

Figure plenty of faces from Steve Bruce and some tense times for Paul Lambert – it is likely a loss here, to Hull City, will add another nail to his coffin… I wonder how Paul Lambert would do managing a team in Major League Soccer?

Sunderland v QPR:  Sunderland should earn points.  

If you recall from my article on Busting the Myth of Moneyball in Soccer, Sunderland was one of those teams that had a great correlation of earning points relative to worse passing accuracy.  In other words the worse their passing completion rate the more likely they were to win.

That hasn’t changed in the last two weeks – so look for Sunderland to tank a few passes on purpose… and with playing QPR that may be hard to do…  Nevertheless I think Sunderland can do that because QPR simply doesn’t win (at least not since Week 17) and they actually have fewer draws than wins this year… oh my.

Liverpool v Spurs:  Liverpool should earn points.

Liverpool are on a run of late – taking 10 of 12 points and they haven’t dropped three points since game 16 against Man United.  Spurs, on the other hand are getting better at scoring goals relative to shots on goal.  All told that ratio has an R2 of .61 compared to points earned.  Liverpool will need to make an extra effort to contain that guy named Kane.

Man United v Burnley:  Man United should earn points.

Can anyone really expect Burnley to pull at least one point here?  I don’t see it happening.  In looking at their team performance this year there doesn’t appear to be any pattern to them earning points.

Southampton v West Ham:  Southampton should earn points.

The ideal operating conditions for West Ham see them maximizing points earned when they average between 42% and 55% possession – in those 11 games they have taken 26 out of 33 points… perhaps a better predictive model for West Ham is trying to figure out how much possession they will have given their next opponent?

The worst operating conditions for West Ham appear when falling below 42% possession; in those 10 games they have taken just eight points out of 30.  They play Southampton next week and the Saints average 52.61% possession – in looking at that same bell curve (42% – 55%) for Southampton they’ve taken 21 out of 30 possible points.

This could be a great game to watch for tactical nuance, especially since the last time these two played Southampton took all three points with 62% possession.  You can bet Sam Allardyce will have learned from that – now it’s time to see if Koeman can change things up and get three points again… the gum will be madly chewed next week…. anyone got any Bazooka Joe they can spare?  Or do they even sell that anymore???

Chelsea v Everton:  Chelsea should earn points.

Everton are probably the best team at getting nothing from something.  They have just six points out of their last four games and it’s pretty clear they are not making a run for Europe next year.  I wouldn’t expect Chelsea to give them an real opportunities next week – the Blues will probably be chewing Toffee candy for a full 90 minutes.

Stoke City v Man City:  Man City should earn points.

Man City have pulled just 3 points out of their last four games – I’ll not say there is a pattern there but it is intriguing that patience is usually a good thing for Man City – with only breaking 11% once in Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession the last four games I think it is time City start to pull the Shots Taken trigger a bit more.  Otherwise they could take a heavy loss of three points against an under-valued Stoke City.

Crystal Palace v Newcastle:  Newcastle should earn points.  

Crystal Palace do great when they have minimal possession – but they also do crap as well – their accuracy ratings are all over the board but they have won three times in their last four games – perhaps the pattern trying to emerge comes from the new leadership the team has under Alan Pardew?

West Brom v Swansea: Swansea should earn points.

West Brom average winning once in about every 5 games – they took three points in Week 5, Week 10, Week 16, and Week 21.  It’s not Week 26 yet so it’s unlikely Albion take three points here.

In reviewing Swansea, they are a team searching to find a way to win more regularly in the BPL; hopefully they can travel to the midlands and earn some points…  and seeing that they’ve only taken 3 points 3 times in away matches this year this might be a game where West Brom come into it thinking they can take three points themselves…

Should be a good battle even though West Brom have struggled… a draw here would probably see both teams feeling better about not dropping points as neither team can be expected to do anything but finish mid-table or lower.

In closing:

I’ll be putting together some articles later this week looking at the Predictability Indices for La Liga and the Bundesliga.

If you’re a Head Coach in England, and you’re constantly on the hot coals battling job security based upon promotion and relegation, why not pull up your stakes and head to the States…

It’s here, without promotion and relegation, that you are more likely to be able to run the type of tactical system you want to run – and it’s also reasonable to expect that you’ll be able to have a team with roughly the same balance of player skills as everyone else…

Best, Chris

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The losers keep losing – Barcley’s Premier League

The bottom six teams, after Week 23, all lost this week with a combined total of 19 Goals Against and 2 Goals For… Pretty clear that defense simply wasn’t a key topic of interest for those in the relegation battle.

If you follow my efforts I try to stay away from Goals Scored and Goals Against – it’s next to impossible but at least it’s an effort to try and explain what happens on the pitch in addition to just goals scored/against.

To begin this week here’s the Possession with Purpose Index (as a Predictability Model) from last week to compare it with outcomes this week.

In other words, how did the teams (in head to head competition) do against each other compared to the CPWP Predictability Index from last week?

Here’s the Model from last week:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 22

Chelsea and Man City drew – the Index offers that Chelsea should have taken points – they did – but so did Man City.

Southampton lost to Swansea in a game I would have thought everyone would have expected to see Southampton win given their complete domination.

But alas, all the possession simply ended up in frustration – not elation.

As for all the other games…

Liverpool earned points against West Ham – as the Index shows they should have.

Man United earned points against Leicester City – as the Index shows they should have.

Arsenal earned points against Aston Villa – as the Index shows they should have.

Everton earned points against Crystal Palace – as the Index shows they should have.

Spurs earned points against West Brom – as the Index shows they should have.

Stoke City earned points against QPR – as the Index shows they should have.

Newscastle earned points against Hull City – as the Index shows they should have.

Sunderland earned points against Burnley – as the Index shows they should have.

All told – pretty accurate – and the R2 for this Index compared to the League Table (excluding Points AND Goals) is .84; in other words the overall Index is 84% accurate in comparing the position of each team in the Index to their position in the League Table!

Before moving on to the CPWP Predictability Index for next week here’s a quick look at the overall CPWP Composite Index (that includes goals scored) after Week 23; and the R2 (correlation) of this Index to the League Table.

CPWP Index Through Week 23

In comparing Week 22 to Week 23 (Week 22 below):

Arsenal have leapfrogged Southampton and Hull City have moved ahead of West Brom – otherwise no changes given this past weeks’ activity…

It’s understandable that Arsenal would have jumped in front of Southampton – that 5-nil win for the Gunners was a crushing defeat to Paul Lambert’s side and perhaps??? an early nail in the coffin of his Head Coaching reign in the Midlands.

As for Hull City and West Brom – the overall team performance percentages from these two sides is so small you’d be hard pressed to fit a frogs hair in-between the two sides…  Hull City were thrashed this week 3-nil by Newcastle while West Brom were slammed 3-nil by Spurs!

The primary difference, in team performance, this week for those two teams came down to these things:

  • Possession – Hull City had ~52% compared to West Brom at 35%
  • Shots on Goal – Hull City put ~54% of their Shots Taken on Goal while West Brom put ~31% of theirs on Goal…

Sadly neither team could convert — or — more sarcastically, Hull City was far more successful in Possession WITHOUT Purpose than West Brom…

Some might offer that the tactical strategy employed by Steve Bruce was complete bollocks as his team wasted a significant amount of possession and basically got counter-attacked to death…

In other words John Carver carved up Hull City…

CPWP Strategic Index Week 22

In moving on to next week’s schedule and the CPWP Predictability Index after Week 23:

CPWP Predictability Index Through Week 23Before getting into the Index prognostications/expectations:

Possession with Purpose is not about winning and losing; it’s about points earned – so when comparing the two-digit numbers it’s a forecast as to which team is more likely to earn points.

Also – there are no adjustments made in this Index relative to a game being played at home versus away – there are not enough sample points to validate a 95% Confidence Level in the forecast to do that…

And overall, there is no ‘smoothing of any sort’ with any of the statistical analysis used in Possession with Purpose.  What you see is what you get.

Now for the rundown for next week:

Spurs are up against Arsenal – Arsenal should earn the points.

Aston Villa versus Chelsea – Chelsea should earn the points; I’d expect EVERY betting house probably has that too…

Leicester City against Crystal Palace – close one hear but Leicester City should earn the points.

Manchester City against Hull City – Manchester City should earn the points.

QPR versus Southampton – Southampton should earn the points.

Swansea City against Sunderland – Swansea should earn the points – but – Defoe has already scored a goal and the CPWP Index does not accurately account for what influence Defoe may have.

Everton versus Liverpool – Everton should earn the points.

Burnley against West Brom – West Brom should earn the points.

Newcastle versus Stoke City – Stoke City should earn the points – but given the fractional difference between the teams a draw is likely as well.

West Ham United against Man United – Man United should earn the points.

In Closing:

An exciting week for Swansea fans as Jonjo Shelvey certainly nailed a superb game winner while the Gunners completely crushed an ailing Villa…  the plot thickens as the teams begin to feel the pucker factor…

Who makes Europe for next year – who doesn’t – and who gets relegated?

All to play for….

Best, Chris

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An hour with Jamie Clark – Head Coach – University of Washington

I haven’t done this in the past but I felt and thought that the gem of discussion we had with Jamie Clark was worthy to generate a short article about College Soccer.

If you wish to take a listen to our discussion please click here.

First off – a challenge to the NCAA.

Align College Soccer as a League Division 5 (Amateur status league) so that College teams could play in the US Open Cup.

Imagine the huge breadth and depth of how that new status could really change the shape of College Soccer.

Now ask yourself this question with this consideration…  Soccer is not just about technique – it’s also about mentality – and learning.  

Are some of our top players actually, potentially, digressing, by skipping College —and the growth and development of maturity that goes with it?

Also take note of the anecdote provided by Jamie about the makeup of the US Men’s National Team that got the furthest in the World Cup…

I’m not sure about many others but this discussion has really opened the flood gates on what “inordinately large” value College Soccer can bring to the ‘whole player concept’…  

For me, now………., the unlimited subs and abbreviated schedule are probably more noise than substance… and the NCAA may already be taking steps to limit the number of subs and extend the schedule…

Best, Chris

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Real Madrid and Barcelona – Two Horse Race

For me, it’s not the top two that peak my interest this week, it’s the prime movers from mid-table – downwards while looking at the League Table from Week 12 to Week 19.

Here’s how they stand comparing Week 19 to Week 12:

La Liga League Table Through Week 19The teams highlighted in Green and Red I”ll get to in a bit, for now note the positional changes have been significant for many teams in and out of the lower half.

For those interested the CPWP Family of Indices continue to have strong correlation to the League Table without using Points Earned in the calculations.  Here’s how the Indices show things from a team performance standpoint through Week 19:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 19

APWP Strategic Index Week 19

DPWP Strategic Index Week 19Overall the CPWP Strategic Index has an R2 of .89; while the APWP sits at .89 and DPWP sits at -.81.

For those new to the Indices here’s an explanation on how they are created.  No other publicly created set of Indices comes any closer to the League Table – not even Expected Goals – a popular Predictability statistic.

I should point out that these Indices are not Predictability Indices – they are not built to predict the future based upon past data – but……..  this Index, developed from the PWP Process is a Predictability Index:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 19The caution I offer in using it as a forecasting tool is this – when developing a forecasting model you need at “x” amount of samples to reach 95% Confidence Level in your data and its ability to represent trends for the future.

The “x” amount of data needed for this Index is at least 15 games — since games is the primary sample point.  The twist is that since teams behave, for the most part, somewhat differently at home versus on the road you need 15 games of data at home and 15 games of data away from home.

Since this is only Week 19 that threshold has not been reached to substantiate that this predictability portion of this Index hits the 95% Confidence Level limit…

But, you say, the R2 is .77 – agreed – so yes, I would venture that those who like to gamble might want to rely on this tool to help them pick a winner – I did a test run in Major League Soccer, where the home and away statistics are notoriously different and my test run varied in success – straight CPWP PI # of one team compared to another.

That success ran as high as 75% to as low as 30% week to week for about 8 weeks – your choice…  By the way – the Predictability Index created from PWP is simply my Index outputs minus (missing goals scored for or against)…

Back to the movers in La Liga these last seven weeks…

Recall the teams Espanyol (+6), Real Sociedad (+7) (Nice one Moyes!!!), Cordoba (+6), Levante (-6), and Granada (-6)…

In reviewing the APWP Index for each team, from Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-19, only one team has seen their Attacking Index increase, Cordoba – all the other teams have seen their overall attacking performance drop slightly during those two time-frames.

Why has Cordoba shown an increase?

It’s down to improved accuracy in Scoring Goals based upon Shots on Goal – all others have experienced slight decreases in quality; either with respect to percentages of Shots on Goal, Shots Taken per Penetration, or Goals Scored from Shots on Goal.

In reviewing the DPWP Index for each team, from Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-19, two teams have seen their Defending Index decrease, Levante and Granada – all other teams have seen their Defending Index improve , with Cordoba seeing the most improvement by as much as 11%.

Cordoba’s improvement in Defending comes from Opponents having less quality in putting Shots on Goal from Shots Taken and Goals Scored from Shots on Goal.

Clearly Cordoba has improved on both sides of the pitch, while with the others it’s slightly more difficult to pin down a specific area…

A few interesting notes here are:

  1. Cordoba were bottom of the table, and even after having to play Barcelona, Villarreal and Eibar during this stretch they still gained 6 places, and
  2. The CPWP Index had Cordoba rated 12 best after Week 12, and that Index rating has not changed through Week 19 – meaning it is likely the CPWP Index really did a great job of accurately representing the true team performance of Cordoba compared to other teams in La Liga…
  3. Finally, the CPWP Predictability Index (PI) had Cordoba rated 12th best, after week 12 as well… (perhaps??) an independent data point to substantiate that the predictability nature of  the CPWP PI has value???

In Closing? 

Cordoba showed improved performance on both sides of the pitch while the others didn’t…  (perhaps???) this means that some of the new positions, for these teams, are as much a function of how others have gotten better, or worse, as it is a function of how those teams have, themselves, gotten better or worse…

Meaning position in the League Table, even when seeing changes by as much as six or seven places, may not mean that individual team is playing better – it may mean that other teams, with less noticeable drops in position are playing worse…

Reinforcing again that predictability is not solely associated with goal scoring – it’s also a function of not scoring because some teams are doing better, however slightly, with improved defending but not improved attacking…

If you are a writer for any team in the Bundesliga, La Liga, Barcley’s Premier League, or Major League Soccer and you’d like to use outputs from my Possession with Purpose Family of Indices in your articles please let me know…

I can provide a broad range of support that may help you better tell the story, (explain) to your readers, what or how well your team is doing compared to others… or even itself given certain time-frames (before and after a coach gets sacked, player gets injured, etc…)

If you’d like an example of the type of support I can provide please read this latest article by @7amkickoff.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp.

 

Tough Time for the Toffies

I didn’t watch the entire game against West Bromwich Albion today but I did get to see the critical part – the build up to Mirallas missing the Penalty Kick.

I’m not sure what a good definition of a teammate is but I’m pretty sure what he showed, in that game, is what a good teammate isn’t!  And it’s on the pitch behavior like that – that never, ever, finds itself in any of the individual statistics folks normally track.

Now I’m not going to go on record that the PWP Family of Indices will directly account for an event like that – but when looking at the tenor of Everton, throughout the course of this year, something just isn’t working… and maybe that behavior is an indicator of some sorts?

However viewed here’s how the CPWP Strategic Index looks through Week 22:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 22Everton sit sixth in the CPWP Index – one of the few oddities and most likely a strong contributor to the Index having a .91 R2 as opposed to .95 or .96…

So what isn’t working for Everton that is for some other teams in the top half of the table?

First off – Attacking:

APWP Strategic Index Week 22

They are a possession-based team – averaging 57.47% Possession per game, with a Passing Accuracy pedigree of 86.65%.

That is 3rd highest in the Barcley’s Premier League in Possession and best overall in Passing Accuracy.

So if they are tops in those two categories it seems reasonable that they’d be up somewhere near the top of the League Table instead of wallowing in 12th place; leading me to this question…

What is Everton not doing that Chelsea, Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Southampton are doing?

When comparing just those five teams Everton is middle of the pack in overall Penetration (26%) compared to 30% for Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal and 23/24% for Southampton and Man United…

They are creating Shots per Penetration at the rate of 12%, compared to 12% for Man City, Man United, Chelsea, and Arsenal while Southampton sits at 14%

For Shots on Goal per Shots Taken they sit at 34%, Man City has 33%, while Southampton, Arsenal have 35%, Man United his 36% and Chelsea has 39%.

When it comes to Goals Scored per Shots on Goal Everton are lowest again at 33% while Arsenal are 36%, Southampton is 38%, Man United is 39%, Man City is 40%, and Chelsea is 44%.

Pretty tight – as the Index shows – their percentages are on par with the top teams…  So that’s a look at Quality – what about Quantity?

Total Passes:   Only Southampton has fewer passes, on average, at 467 – Everton averages 514 while the rest fall in higher with Man City the highest at 589 per game.

Total Passes Final Third: Man United and Southampton fall below Everton while Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea all average more.

Shots Taken:  Everton, Man United, and Southampton all average ~13 per game while Arsenal and Chelsea average ~16 and Man City 17 per game.

Shots on Goal: Everton are lowest at 4.32 with Man United next at 4.36, followed by Southampton at 4.4.5, Man City 5.50, Arsenal 5.55, and Chelsea at 6.00 per game.

Goals Scored: Everton are lowest at 1.36, followed by Man United 1.64, Southampton 1.68, Arsenal 1.77, Man City 2.05, and Chelsea 2.32…

From an attacking viewpoint I’d offer ‘what’s not working’ is down to a few things – those who follow Everton more closely could probably narrow it down to 3-4 players…

Lack of creativity in generating more open time and space in order to have roughly the same volume of shots generate more shots on goal – and therefore more goals scored…. or,

Lack of finishing by their strikers – meaning the time and space is available – it’s just not being used effectively.

After today’s game it would appear the selection of who took the Penalty Kick is more down to using the players on the team effectively…

But Attacking is just one half of the game – what about Defending?

DPWP Strategic Index Week 22

I’ll stick with the same six teams….

Opponent Possession:  If they are in the top four of Possession then their Opponent’s are in the bottom four.

Opponent Passing Accuracy:  Middle of the pack – opponent’s for Chelsea average 80% while most everyone else sees their opponent’s average about 77/78% Passing Accuracy.

Opponent Penetration:  Everton allow the greatest percentage of penetration at 28%; while the rest fall in at ~24% or lower.

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetration: Everton fall in the middle of the pack at 15% with Arsenal and Man City, while Southampton is lower (11%) and Man United, along with Chelsea are higher at 16% and 17% respectively.

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: Everton opponents are lowest at 25.67% while everyone falls in at 26%-38%.

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:  Everton sit worst at 43% while the rest all come in at 31% or lower.

In looking at volume:

Opponent Passes Attempted:  Everton are second lowest at 376 per game; Man United are lowest at 368 while Southampton are highest at 435 per game.

Opponent Passes Attempted Final Third: Everton are 2nd highest at 126 per game with Southampton being the highest at 129 per game, all the rest fall in between 123 and 103 per game.

Opponent Shots Taken: Everton are highest at 13 per game while the rest all have opponent’s averaging 11 per game or lower.

Opponent Shots on Goal: Everton are mid-table at 3.41 while Man United and Arsenal are slightly higher and the others lower, with Southampton lowest at 2.64 per game.

Opponent Goals Scored: Everton are highest at 1.55 per game while Arsenal is 2nd worst at 1.14, followed by Man City at 1.00, Man United .95, Chelsea .86 and Southampton .73

In considering the opponent’s successes versus Everton team defending:

Everton cede the greatest amount of Penetration while facing just the second lowest volume of Opponent Passes.

Everton opponent’s have the worst overall accuracy putting Shots Taken on Goal but the highest volume of Shots Taken and the highest volume of Goals Against.

So even with a high amount of possession – it’s more like Possession without Purpose as opposed to Possession with Purpose; especially when viewing them against like teams in overall Possession and Passing Accuracy.

Those who follow Everton more closely can probably tag two or three players that have a larger influence in this poor defending team performance.

For me I’d tag the lack of support in midfielders getting back to support the defenders, fullbacks being to far up the pitch when possession is lost, lack of superb central defending and perhaps a keeper past his prime?  (Many Americans might not like that – but their Goals Against IS an issue).

Of course, teams are getting pretty good at bunkering in, at least teams like West Brom are – and with more games played, plus Tony Pullis leading the charge it’s no wonder West Brom shut down Everton.

In watching the later stages of that game today it was almost comical on how well West Brom simply stymied the Everton attack…

I call it the umbrella defense – everyone get beneath the raining terror of multiple passes outside the box and simply clog the lanes everywhere.

If there are minimal players on the team who can create space, through superb vision or subtle touches, a team will find it very difficult to score against that type of defending; it’s ugly but effective at times…

In Closing:

For now I would offer that there are weaknesses in the tactical defensive approach and the personnel trying to work the attacking scheme Martinez wants.  And I don’t think signing a new striker solves their issues.

Martinez has pedigree and perhaps there are some upcoming tactical changes to try to reduce Goals Against and increase Goals Scored.

I’ve seen it work (statistically) where teams drop deeper in defending, thus driving up the opponent’s possession numbers both inside and outside the attacking final third.  That increase in opponent possession and penetration then opens up some time and space for a team on the counter-attack.

The critical piece to that approach is having players with great passing skills – and given Everton has the most accurate team in passing they should be able to handle that defensive change.

Maybe that is something to look for with Everton over the next few weeks???

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Scintillating Saints Stay Strong…

Southampton continues to stay strong in the Barcley’s Premier League, and for me it’s no fluke… in the first part of my two part analyses of the Saints I’ll peel back how they are doing in Attack.

Before digging in, a diagram and to put things into perspective about Southampton and their ‘team’ concept of consistency:

Southampton Points Earned to CPWP Index

Most of you know by now that the Possession with Purpose Family of Indices are some of the most relevant Indices in modern-day soccer statistical calculations.

So when looking at the combined efforts of Southampton (cradle to grave in both Attacking and Defending Team performance) their should be no surprise they are where they are in the League Table.

To help paint a picture of progress for Southampton through their first 22 games here’s a few selected diagrams that peel back some of my more popular statistical relationships.  Three in quick succession:

Southampton in PossessionSouthampton in Passing Accuracy

Southampton in Penetration

Notice that even with declining Possession, and a slight drop in overall Passing Accuracy, their levels of Penetration remain roughly the same – mathematically speaking the trend-line shown for Penetration is y = 0.000x +.231 – meaning there is a slight positive slope, over the course of 22 games as compared to the negative slope (trend-line) for Possession and Passing Accuracy.

For me, I’d offer this is down to better understanding what areas of Penetration are more vital in trying to defeat opponents than simply the pure aesthetics of the game.

Some additional comments:

Although Possession, on the Aggregate has an R2 of .77 for all teams compared to Points in the League Table, Possession – itself – alone – game to game – through the course of 22 games for Southampton, has virtually NO reasonable relationship to Points Earned – the R2 is .059.

In addition, Passing Accuracy, itself, alone, game to game – through the course of 22 games for Southampton has virtually NO reasonable relationship to Points Earned – the R2 is .29

Finally, you guessed it – the R2 for physical penetration, with the ball, has an R2 of -.18 – again, meaning there is NO reasonable relationship to Points Earned.

In comparing the Saints to other teams in the Barcley’s Premier League they are 8th highest in overall Possession, 10th best in overall Passing Accuracy and 7th lowest in overall Penetration.

After Penetration there remains creating shots, putting them on target and scoring goals:

Southampton in Creating Shots Southampton in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken Southampton in Goals Scored per Shots on Goal

Throughout the course of the season the Saints, like in Penetration, have been very consistent in creating shots per penetration – their variation, across 22 games has been 4% from the mean – a similar variation with respect to Penetration as well.

Notice that with the relative consistency of Shots Taken – their percentage of Shots on Goal per Shots Taken has dropped but yet their percentage of Goals Scored per Shots on Goal has increased.

I put this down to making better use of time and space and perhaps??? a slight change in tactics to work from a more counter-attacking approach.  Recall that both Possession percentage and Passing Accuracy have dropped over the course of 22 games.

In studying other teams, with those trends, in Major League Soccer, the Bundesliga, and La Liga, it usually indicates a slight change in Defending tactics to help open up additional time and space in a counter-attacking based approach.

Perhaps??? another thought is that as more teams become aware of Southampton’s ability to ‘win’ consistently the Saints are having to revert to other tactical approaches, outside the standard possession-based approach, used more often by teams like Man City or Chelsea.

In speaking of those two teams – against Chelsea they had 40% possession and took one point while going up against Man City they had ~52% possession and lost.  In the case with those two teams —> less was better…  as it was when they took three points from Arsenal while only having 41% of the possession…

I suppose I sound like a broken record here but time and time again the soccer pundits on TV continue to harp on about Possession (more possession) being a good indicator that a team will win… it simply isn’t true!

In terms of overall averages, compared to the rest of BPL, the Saints are 8th lowest in Shots Taken per Penetration, 3rd highest in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken, and 5th highest in Goals Scored per Shots on Goal.

So even with the marked decrease in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (diagram above) they are still 3rd highest in average compared to the rest of BPL.

Quantity, as opposed to Quality… As indicated in this article (Busting the Myth of Moneyball) the best single indicator for Southampton, in attack, is Goals Scored – here’s the look at their volume of activity, in the Final Third leading to Goals Scored:

Southampton Attempted Passes Final Third Southampton Completed Passes Final Third Southampton Shots TakenSouthampton Shots on GoalSouthampton Goals Scored

Pretty obvious that there is a downward trend across the span of 22 games for Southampton, yet they continue to earn points – in an ideal business environment the best word to represent this type of activity is “efficiency” – getting more with less… and it’s not all about quantity – it’s about quality!

So when viewing Total Shots Ratio and even Expected Goals the trends for Southampton (by volume) are not best represented without first understanding that in order to maximize these attacking outputs the defending approach has changed…

More to follow later this week on the Saints and their quality and quantity in Defending team performance.

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Busting the Myth of Moneyball in Soccer Statistics?

Over the past month or so Tim, @7amkickoff, and I have been having some great discussions about soccer, statistics, and the ways or means in how to use statistics to better communicate what may be happening on the pitch outside of what may normally be seen by supporters.

I’m not sure we’ve cracked the nut completely but these discussions have spurred me to come up with some other ways to show the strengths and weaknesses of statistics in soccer and what key indicators may better tell the story of a team exclusive of Goals Scored or Goals Against.

My article today is an attempt to do that.

In setting the stage, I feel it is worthy to reinforce that the pioneering of soccer statistics is not just about one or two people; I’m aware of many folks trying to help others better understand the nuance of soccer in a variety of different ways.

But with all that hard work, by people across the pond, and now here, recently in the US, I think  some of the well-intended efforts have strayed off the mark.

Why?  As much as it pains me to say this I blame Moneyball.

Soccer is not a game played in series it’s a fluid game played with continuous, sometimes random decision making, all with the intent to possess the ball, retain and move the ball, penetrate, create, take shots, put them on target and score goals.

And at any time, be it a Coaching decision, Referee decision, Assistant Referee decision, or a split second decision, by any player, either with or without the ball, can influence the outcome of a game.

Therefore, statistics, single statistics, simply miss the mark on translating the nuance of soccer to the general supporter, and as such, are – on the surface – flawed if used (alone) to evaluate the market value of a player.

To put this into perspective, ignoring Coaching or Referee decisions, here’s a rundown on the Correlations (R2’s) of the three best Attacking R2’s for each team in the English Premier League.

Caveat:  The statistics are either measured by volume (quantity) or by percentage of accuracy (quality) to Points Earned in the League Table over the span of 21 games, one game at a time; these are not Aggregate R2’s.

Said another way, this is NOT a measurement relative to winning or losing… it’s a measurement relative to winning, drawing, or losing (points earned).

  • Chelsea: Goals Scored (.46) Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (.30) Shots on Goal (.18)
  • Burnley: Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (.46) Goals Scored (.44) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.40)
  • Man City: Opponent Total Passes (.59) Goals Scored (.58) Opponent Total Passes Completed (.54)
  • Newcastle: Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.60) Goals Scored (.52) Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (.49)
  • Southampton: Goals Scored (.58) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.58) Shots Taken per Passes Completed Final 1/3 (.46)
  • Liverpool: Goals Scored (.66) Shots Taken per Passes Completed Final 1/3 (.52) Opponent Possession Percentage (.43)
  • Crystal Palace: Goal Scored (.67) Shots Taken per Passes Completed Final 1/3 (.62) Shots Taken (.53)
  • Arsenal: Goals Scored (.60) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.41) Shots Taken per Passes Completed Final Third (.20)
  • Spurs: Goals Scored (.67) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.65) Shots on Goal (.46)
  • West Ham: Goals Scored (.76) Shots on Goal (.44) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.43)
  • Sunderland: Goals Scored (.61) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.40) Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (.38)
  • West Brom: Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (.45) Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (.45) Goals Scored (.44)
  • Aston Villa: Goals Scored (.76) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.46) Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (.41)
  • Stoke City: Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.81) Goals Scored (.68) Opponent Possession Percentage (.50)
  • Hull City: Goals Scored (.63) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.59) Shots on Goal (.36)
  • QPR: Goals Scored (.68) Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (.56) Shots on Goal (.44)
  • Everton: Shots Taken per Passes Completed Final Third (.71) Goals Scored (.60) Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.34)
  • Leicester City: Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.74) Goals Scored (.53) Opponent Possession Percentage (.31)
  • Swansea: Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (.52) Goals Scored (.48) Shots on Goal (.40)
  • Man United: Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (.69) Goals Scored (.62) Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (.28)

What’s that mean?

For the most part what this means is that no two teams show the same consistency of pattern in what single (game to game) quantity or quality indicators best represent team performance in Attacking.

Therefore – the individual player statistics behind these values have a different meaning (amount of influence) in whether a team wins, draws, or loses.

In addition, while Goals Scored (in bold) appears as a relevant indicator it is not the most relevant indicator for every team.  Reinforcing that teams, in attacking, behave differently with respect to earning points in the League Table.

Of additional note is that the R2 for eight of those teams is less than (.60) and only two teams show an R2 greater than (.70).

Finally, the single indicators (either by volume or by ratio) that fit into the top three, exclusive of Goals Scored, are:

  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (thirteen times)
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (six times)
  • Shots on Goal (six times)
  • Shots Taken per Passes Completed Final 1/3 (five times)
  • Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (four times)
  • Opponent Passing Percentage (three times)
  • Opponent Total Passes (once)
  • Opponent Total Passes Completed (once)
  • Shots Taken (once)

What’s intriguing is that three Defending Indicators appear; Opponent Passing Percentage, Opponent Total Passes and Opponent Total Passes Completed.

With all those variety of different attacking R2 values, it’s pretty clear it simply isn’t all about scoring goals (getting a man on base and moving them forward)… therefore the market value used to assess that players value should be questioned if it doesn’t consider outside factors that influence output…

In other words, it’s about a variety of different ways and means to do well – even (in a small way) about not possessing the ball so even passing accuracy is influenced – somewhat – but a head coaching tactical decision.

But wait, there’s more:

All those indicators above show the top three R2’s for a team when attacking.

There’s a whole side of the game that is missed with those – and that’s defending.

So here’s the top three, best negative (inverse) R2’s compared to Points Earned in the League Table, for each team in the English Premier League:

  • Chelsea: Opponent Goals Scored (-.51) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.43) Opponent % of Success Passes Final 1/3 (-.42)
  • Burnley: Opponent Goals Scored (-.59) Total Passes Completed (-.55) Total Passes (-.54)
  • Man City: Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.67) Opponent Goals Scored (-.53) Opponent Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (-.43)
  • Newcastle: Opponent Goals Scored (-.57) Passing Accuracy (-.44) Total Passes (-.43)
  • Southampton: Opponent Goals Scored (-.72) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.63) Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (-.35)
  • Liverpool: Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.67) Opponent Goals Scored (-.60) Passing Accuracy (-.46)
  • Crystal Palace: Opponent Goal Scored (-.42) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.37) Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (-.41)
  • Arsenal: Opponent Goals Scored (-.86) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.64) Opponent Shots Taken (-.47)
  • Spurs: Opponent Goals Scored (-.52) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.43) Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (-.42)
  • West Ham: Opponent Goals Scored (-.66) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.50) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.48)
  • Sunderland: Opponent Shots Taken (-.50) Total Passes Completed (-.40) Total Passes (-.39)
  • West Brom: Opponent Goals Scored (-.80) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.64) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.57)
  • Aston Villa: Opponent Goals Scored (-.60) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.55) Passing Accuracy (-.37)
  • Stoke City: Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.70) Total Passes (-.60) Total Passes Completed (-.60)
  • Hull City: Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.60) Opponent Goals Scored (-.57) Opponent Total Passes (-.40)
  • QPR: Opponent Goals Scored (-.55) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.42) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.35)
  • Everton: Opponent Goals Scored (-.57) Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (-.56) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.52)
  • Leicester City: Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (-.54) Opponent Goals Scored (-.47) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.42)
  • Swansea: Opponent Goals Scored (-.72) Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.66) Opponent Shots on Goal (-.59)
  • Man United: Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (-.57) Opponent Goals Scored (-.47) Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (-.36)

What’s that mean?

Again, for the most part, no two teams show the same consistency of pattern in what single (game to game) quantity or quality indicators best represent team performance in Defending.

Therefore – the individual player statistics behind these values have a different meaning (amount of influence) in whether a team wins, draws, or loses.

In addition, while Opponent Goals Scored (in bold) appears as a relevant indicator it is not the most relevant indicator for every team.  Reinforcing that teams, in defending, behave differently with respect to earning points in the League Table.

Of additional note is that the R2 for eleven of those teams is less than (-.60) and only four teams show an R2 greater than -.70.

Also, Opponent Goals Scored does not appear in the top three single defending indicators for two teams, Stoke City and Sunderland.

Finally, the single indicators (either by volume or by ratio) that fit into the top three, exclusive of Opponent Goals Scored, are:

  • Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (fourteen times)
  • Opponent Shots on Goal (eight times)
  • Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken (four times)
  • Total Passes (four times)
  • Total Passes Completed (three times)
  • Passing Accuracy (three times)
  • Passes Completed Final 1/3 per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (twice)
  • Opponent Percentage of Successful Passes Final 1/3 (once)
  • Opponent Shots Taken (once)
  • Opponent Total Passes (once)
  • Opponent Passes Completed Final Third per Passes Completed Entire Pitch (once)

A few thoughts here to go with some of these indicators:

Most recognize that a negative R2 means there is an inverse relationship – in other words you get more with less or you get less with more.

What is intriguing is that Attacking Total Passes appears four times while Attacking Total Passes Completed and Attacking Passing Accuracy appear three times.

Meaning, as those teams have less overall Passes Attempted, Passes Completed or lower Accuracy they are more likely to earn points.  Imagine that sort of logic applying to baseball – where a team who, sometimes, puts less men on base is more likely to win!

Finally, with the variety of defending R2 values this also seems pretty clear that earning points is not just about putting a man on base and moving them forward, and in some cases it may even be about not possessing the ball!?!

In Closing:

Single statistics have value – but they should be offered up, in context, with relation to other things that occur in the game of soccer.

Not enough writers do that – they simply offer up individual statistics as if they are the panacea of greatness… the more they do this the more ingrained most soccer supporters become in individual statistics that over-value a player.

And the more the media does it the more likely the supporters will become disenchanted with front office decisions that don’t make sense based upon those high-visibility individual statistics…

I’m not a Moneyball guy for soccer – never have been – and to me that line of thinking is flawed (as it applies to individual statistics in baseball).

What’s that mean??? (Editorial)

After a great question offered up in the comments section I think I should clarify what I mean by that with respect to soccer.

When I read Moneyball I was more focused on the individual statistics part of the game that were used to generate market value than the ‘economic state’ of buying and selling players that might lead to more wins…

That being said, I am not saying that you can’t measure the value of a player in soccer – it can be done but it needs to be done after considering teammates, opposing players, and at least the Head Coach of the team the player plays for.

Modern day soccer statistics, for the most part, don’t measure the appropriate level of influence teammates, opposing players, and Head Coaching tactics – as such when I say I’m not a Moneyball guy when it comes to soccer it really means I don’t buy all that crap about tackles, clearances, goals scored, etc…

I value players relative to team outputs and I strongly feel and think the more media and supporters who understand this about soccer the less frustration they will in blaming or praising one individual player over another player.

I hope that makes sense???

Anyhow, an example if you will…

A player with many tackles or clearances is simply a player with many tackles or clearances – it doesn’t mean they are better or worse than another player with fewer tackles or fewer clearances.

And… actually, I could make a reasonable argument that a player with many tackles or clearances is actually a worse player… why?

For one reason – if an opposing head coach knows that a player on the other side is weak – what do you think that head coach will want his players to do?

Drive or pass the ball towards the weaker player – as such – that increase volume of tackles or clearances will naturally increase that weaker players defending statistics simply because of increased volume!!!!

Bottom line here is that individual tackles or clearances can be over-valued or under-valued – as such – as an individual statistic it’s relevance to a player being better or worse than another player is flawed…

However viewed…

I would offer more individual statistics need to be created for players that better reflect how those statistics relate to points earned.

It’s that type of reporting and analyses that should help others better understand the nuance of soccer and that it isn’t just all about scoring goals.

Best, Chris

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