Winners Expected Wins PWP Data Relationships Four

Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer? Expected Wins 4

Jurgen Klinsmann made a statement the other week about his preference that players working to make the USMNT play in Europe not in America.

Lots of hoo-haw followed with opinions being thrown out there by just about everyone.

As far as I know no-one has, as yet, come up with a way to quantitatively measure which league, leagues, or competitions are higher quality.

This is my attempt to do that using my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

Be prepared for a few charts – sorry – it is what it is and a statement like Klinsmann’s deserves to have some quantitative analysis thrown towards it.

Finally, if you missed Expected Wins 3 here is a link to give you some history on this quantitative analysis.

Now for the grist, first the array of Expected Wins 4 diagrams for each league/competition I cover, Major League Soccer, English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, and the World Cup of 2014.

Major League Soccer – End of Season:

Major League Soccer Expected Wins Four

 English Premier League after 240 Events (120 Games):

English Premier League Expected Wins Four

La Liga after 238 Events (119 Games):

La Liga Expected Wins Four

Bundesliga after 214 Events (107 Games):

Bundesliga Expected Wins Four

UEFA Champions League after Round 5 – 160 Events (80 Games):

UEFA Champions League Expected Wins Four

World Cup 2014 – End of Competition:

World Cup 2014 Expected Wins FourSo what’s it all mean?

In each of the diagrams I highlighted in green the category that had the highest volume for all my PWP Data Points.

For example, just above, in the World Cup of 2014 the winning team had the highest volume of activity for every single PWP data point.

The same holds true for the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, and the English Premier League.

The conclusion here?  Volume speaks volumes…

Greater numbers of passes both outside and within and into the Attacking Final Third (RESULT) in MORE Shots Taken, MORE Shots on Goal and MORE Goals Scored!

In the case of the Bundesliga (an oft mentioned counter-attacking league) it’s the losing teams that offer MORE Possession and MORE overall Passes but when it comes to the Attacking Final Third it’s the winning teams who do MORE with MORE!

With respect to the MLS – a contrast to be sure.  MORE Passing outside and within, and into, the Attacking Final Third gets you LESS when it comes to Shots Taken, Shots on Goal, and Goals Scored.

Why is that?

I’d offer it’s down to playing a game that has less overall ball control from the players – in other words there is less quality on the pitch to take advantage of the MORE for MORE systematic outputs we see from all the other leagues/competitions; others may have a different view.

For me, this is an early indicator that what Jurgen Klinsmann offered is quantitatively accurate!

Before moving on here’s how all the leagues and competitions compare to each other in one diagram for winning teams:

Winners Expected Wins PWP Data Points Four

The UEFA Champions League leads all competitions/leagues in the average volume of Passes Attempted, Passes Completed, Passes Attempted within and into the Final Third, Passes Completed within and into the Final Third, Shots Taken, Shots on Goal, and Goals Scored.

If volume of activity (were?) to be a quantitative measure of quality then it’s pretty clear the UEFA Champions League HAS the highest quality of all these competitions.

And what teams comprise the UEFA Champions League?  Teams from Europe…

But there is more to Possession with Purpose than just volume; here’s how the PWP Data Relationships show:

Winners Expected Wins PWP Data Relationships Four

In looking at the percentages here’s where it gets interesting – and reinforces what I’ve felt and thought all along, patience in creating time and space in the Attacking Final Third has value.

In terms of Possession Percentage, Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch, and percentage of Penetrating Possession within and into the Attacking Final Third the UEFA Champions League, again, exceeds all other competitions.

Where the patience virtue comes in is when it comes to the percentage of Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – the UEFA Champions League is lowest (14.98%).

So in returning back to the volume of Shots Taken per penetrating possession.

The UEFA Champions League has the highest volume of Shots Taken but the lowest percentage rate.

So even with the third worst percentage of Shots on Goal per Shots Taken and the second worst percentage of Goals Scored per Shots on Goal this competition still has the highest volume of Shots on Goal and Goals Scored.

For me this is another quantitative means to substantiate what Jurgen Klinsmann offered about encouraging Americans to get better by playing in Europe.

In Closing:

Questions?

Is it better to play on a winning team in a league where there is less overall control of the ball, on the pitch for 90 minutes?

Or is it better to play on a losing team (for 90 minutes), against top quality players, in a league where there is superb control of the ball across the entire pitch for 90 minutes?

Which competition forces you to concentrate more recognizing that the smallest positional error will completely punish your team?

In other words…

If you were a good player and you wanted to get better, would you prefer to play in a league where there are fewer passes and a more wide open play that doesn’t stretch your talent to control the ball?

Or…. would you rather play in a league where the ball is zipping about (by over 100 to 300 passes more) forcing you, in turn, to zip about yourself to try and better manage that game yourself with your teammates?

Answer:

If I were a player in today’s market there is simply no need to consider answering that question any further – I’d play in Europe OR at least strive to play in Europe!

How about you?

If you’re new to Possession with Purpose and this analytical approach read here for an introduction.

By the way – even if you feel or think you don’t need this type of data to substantiate which leagues or competitions are better today – it will provide a great benchmark in looking at how the future takes shape in MLS.

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Malaga and Almeria – Two Teams going in Different Directions?

My next installment on La Liga takes a look at Week 12 and compares how things have progressed or digressed for teams since Week 6.

If you’ve not followed my Possession with Purpose analyses in the past here’s a quick link to an Introduction.

Some movers to be sure, so to give the Index some context here’s a quick look at the League Table after Week 12 alongside Week 6:

La Liga League Table Week 6 and Week 12The biggest movers up the League Table have been Malaga +8, Athletic Club +7, Levante +5, and Real Madrid +4.

On the down side both Almeria and Granada CF dropped six places, while Real Sociedad (and their new Head Coach David Moyes) dropped four, and Celta de Vigo, with Espanyol dropped three.

Now for the CPWP Strategic Index after Week 12; followed by how things looked at Week Six:

CPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 12

Now Week Six:

CPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 6

As a reminder, the CPWP Index does not react as quickly as team changes in the League Table – it’s a wee bit slower and more subject to change based upon a consistent change in team performance.

That being said Malaga (who moved up eight positions in the League Table) is 6th in the CPWP Index after Week 12 compared to 11th after Week six.

On the negative side Almeria (who has dropped six places) was 10th after Week six but is now 16th in the Index.

A solid indicator, again, that the Index will keep up with team changes in the League Table.

So what has happened, PWP wise, for Malaga and Almeria that may help us better understand their significant moves in the League Table?

To narrow the scope here’s the APWP Strategic Index for Week 12 followed by Week Six:

APWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 12

APWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 6For Malaga, Week six indicates their overall APWP was 18th worst – now in Week 12 it indicates Malaga’s APWP is 8th best.

A shift of ten positions – it’s likely some attacking indicators have improved – but I’ll check the DPWP too before choosing which to peel back.

As for Almeria, Week six shows them 13th best, while Week 12 shows them 16th best.

Not that much of a change, so perhaps it’s the DPWP key indicators?  Let’s see.

DPWP Strategic Index after Week 12 followed by Week Six:

DPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 12

DPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 6For Malaga they were 5th best in Week six and are 5th best after Week 12; clearly the change in team performance rests with the attacking side of the game.

For Almeria they were 8th best in Week six and are now 14th best, for me that means it’s their DPWP key indicators that have taken a nose dive.

So the grist for Malaga in the APWP Key Indicators:

Possession Percentage:

Week 12 48.46%  /  Week 6 48.84%  (no real change)

Passing Accuracy:

Week 12 73.76%  /  Week 6 72.09%  (about 2% increase in Passing Accuracy)

Penetrating Possession:

Week 12 27.53%  /  Week 6 25.46%  (about a 2% increase in Penetrating Possession)

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Week 12 16.65%  /  Week 6 19.07%  (about a 3% decrease in Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession)

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Week 12 31.02%  /  Week 6 25.68%  (about a 6% increase in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken)

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Week 12 37.40%  /  Week 6 16.67%  (about a 17% increase in Goals Scored per Shots on Goal)

Attacking Summary:

I’d offer Malaga are playing shorter, quicker passes in order to gain penetration – while at the same time they are taking a wee bit more time to be selective in their shots taken.

The resulting outputs clearly indicate that this tactical change has led to more shots on goal and far more goals scored!

And given that the percentage of possession has not changed – I’d offer they have not dropped deeper to cede possession – they’ve simply decided to be more patient in their penetrating attack.

It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues to hold true through the next six weeks.

In moving on to Almeria – a team I’ve looked at a few times this year; here’s how their DPWP key indicators show what’s changed:

Opponent Possession Percentage:

Week 12 53.89%  /  Week 6 52.95% (about 1% increase in opponent Possession)

Opponent Passing Accuracy:

Week 12 76.35%  /  Week 6 77.92% (about a 1% decrease in opponent Passing Accuracy)

Opponent Penetrating Possession:

Week 12 24.34%  /  Week 6 23.96% (about a 1% increase in opponent Penetrating Possession)

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Week 12 19.40%  /  Week 6 20.44% (about a 1% decrease in opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession)

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Week 12 33.96%  /  Week 6 28.20% (about a 5% increase in opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken)

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Week 12 33.43%  /  Week 6 22.69% (about an 11% increase in opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal)

Defending Summary:

There are minor changes in how the opponent performs against Almeria leading up to Shots on Goal and Goals Scored – at that point the success rate of the opponent jumps 5% and then 11%.

While that might not seem like that much of a change, leading up to Shots on Goal and Goals Scored, there are many times in this game where it only takes four or five more passes, that are accurate, to change the outcome.

Given that I’ll also take a look at the volume of opponent activity as well.

What stands out to me is this:

  1. In the last six games the opponent has averaged five more completed passes within and into the Almeria Defending Final Third.
  2. In turn, even with the exact same number of Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession, it’s led to the opponent averaging 5.67 Shots on Goal compared to 4.17 Shots on Goal the first six games.
  3. That change in volume of Shots on Goal as led to 1.50 Goals Against in the last six games compared to .83 Goals Against in the first six games.
  4. Another example, like what we’ve seen in Expected Wins, where the difference between winning and losing can be very small indeed.

Of course, what hasn’t helped is playing Barcelona two weeks ago – that being said – Almeria also gave up two goals to Elche, Villarreal, and Levante in this same six week span  – so it’s not just down to playing Barcelona!

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Terrible Start for Borussia Dortmund

Is Borussia Dortmund really that bad?

Doubtful, but it’s results like these that are a nightmare for supporters, members of the Coaching staff and Front Office types alike.

So with the ability to evaluate team performance (outside of just results) what better team to run through the Possession with Purpose grinder?

(Edit) – Latest sees them lose to Eintracht Frankfurt 2-nil!!!!  Really – oh my!

To begin – my weekly update on the CPWP Strategic Index:

CPWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 12

So… third worst in the League Table Dortmund and sixth worst in the Index.

Not much difference.  So perhaps Dortmund is experiencing more than just bad luck?

The first place I’ll start is team Attacking performance compared to others; here’s the APWP Strategic Index for your consideration:

APWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 12Since they average just 1.17 points at home and .67 points on the road I won’t peel back how they perform home and away – no point – there are poor in team performance either way.  For now the PWP key indicators:

Possession Percentage:

Overall 57.51% (2nd highest in Bundesliga).  Can you say this team has no possession with purpose?

They are 2nd best overall in possession and tied for sixth worst in overall goals scored!

Now a game is not won or lost solely on possession – there is more to PWP, and the game, than that.

Passing Accuracy:

Overall 76.95% (4th highest in Bundesliga).  So with strong possession numbers they also have significantly higher passing accuracy percentages.

In other words they do a great job of passing the ball overall.  Oddly enough that passing accuracy of ~77% is still 1.25% below the average for teams in Major League Soccer.  I wonder… are the majority of players in MLS just as skilled in passing the ball as those in the Bundesliga?

Montreal Impact – who finished 4th worst in the MLS CPWP Strategic Index had an average passing accuracy of 76.90%; only .05% points different than Borussia Dortmund.

Is this an early indicator that the team performance in attacking IS as bad as it looks?

Percentage of Penetration per Possession:

Overall 24.19% (5th highest in Bundesliga).  It should be noted that a partner, at that position, is Werder Bremen, they sit just behind Dortmund at 23.90% and are just one point behind them in the League Table.

So it doesn’t necessarily mean a good thing to penetrate at a high frequency – sometimes lower penetration percentages yield good results.

For example Wolfsburg, who are 2nd best in the League Table, are 12th best (20.49%) yet their average goals scored is 2.00 per game.

Of note, Dortmund’s passing accuracy within and into the Attacking Final Third is 60.76%; that average is still 5th highest in Bundesliga – so it’s not the drop-off in passing accuracy causing issues in attack.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Overall 17.57% (12th highest or 6th worst).

So a remarkably high percentage of penetrating possession yet a lower, than average, percentage of shots taken drops off considerably.  Again, this is not necessarily bad.  For some teams this number is lower, for example Bayern Munich has the lowest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession (13.27%).

And Wolfsburg, who sits 2nd in the League Table sits at 21.26%.

I would submit Dortmund is getting shut down easier as they penetrate the opponents 18 yard box – meaning, for me:

  1. A lack of vision, by a midfielder or two, in creating cutting passes that open up the angles to take better shots, and
  2. A striker, or two, who simply fail to take advantage of time and open space when they find that time and open space.

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 31.28% (6th worst in Bundesliga).

Speaking again to this team not executing well enough to create the appropriate time and open space to take quality shots.  Recall that Bayern Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession was 13.27%; their overall Shots on Goal per Shots Taken shoots up to 40.54%.

Even Wolfsburg, who are 2nd to Bayern sit at 40.31% in this indicator.

Reinforcing, in my opinion, the need for Dortmund to do a better job in creating time and space!

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 18.41% (2nd worst in Bundesliga).

Not much to offer here that hasn’t already been offered – the striking partnerships and attacking midfield support is simply not good enough to work their way past a packed 18 yard box… the quality needs to get better – and perhaps that quality gets better by slowing down the overall volume of passes and penetration.

In other words play the defense back-four a bit deeper in order to lull the opponent into over-committing a bit more…  a typical counter-attacking strategy used by many in the Bundesliga already.

Attacking Summary:

By the way – even Montreal Impact, in the MLS sits at 35.83% when it comes to scoring goals based upon shots on goal!  And no single team in MLS was worse than 19.53% – with the average at 32.81%.

If supporters who follow Montreal Impact are disappointed given how poorly that team performance was I can’t even begin to imagine how disappointed the entire family of Borussia Dortmund is at this stage of the season.

Some significant progress really needs to be made in team performance if this team is to get better results!

In moving on to Defending team performance and the DPWP Strategic Index:

DPWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 12

Borussia Dortmund are 5th worst in the Index – so not strong in attacking nor defending team performance!

Opponent Possession Percentage:

 Overall 42.49% (2nd lowest in Bundesliga).

Noted, but as we’ve seen in all the leagues I analyze possession percentage, alone, is not a good indicator.

Opponent Passing Accuracy:

Overall 69.63% (3rd lowest in Bundesliga).

Given what I feel is a higher amount of counter-attacking football in Bundesliga this percentage is not surprising.

What is more surprising, however, is that the opponent’s for Dortmund have just a 49.33% passing accuracy within the Dortmund Defending Final Third.  That is alos 3rd lowest (best) in Bundesliga.

Basically what this means is the opponents of Dortmund really don’t pass the ball very well – or – they play longer balls or offer quicker play given Dortmund attackers being caught out of position during turnovers (anywhere).

For me, this speaks to Dortmund playing somewhat deeper and somewhat less aggressive in attack – in this case give up the idea of trying to emulate FC Bayern Munich and instead look to play more counter-attacking more often.

Opponent Penetration per Possession:

Overall 18.25% (2nd lowest in Bundesliga).

In adding up the details so far, Dortmund yield the 2nd lowest amount of possession, play opponents who are 3rd worst in passing accuracy and 2nd worst in penetration, yet they give up 1.58 goals against per game!

Wow…

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Overall 20.42% (6th highest in Bundesliga).

Again, the numbers are showing a very poor pattern of team performance.

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 44.85% (2nd highest in Bundesliga).

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 43.69% (2nd highest in Bundesliga).

Defending Summary:

Complete bollocks is what I would offer; their overall team performance really is as bad as their results!

Borussia Dortmund play against opponents who are downright terrible in possession, passing accuracy, and penetration, yet…

When it comes to Defending their own Final Third the opponents are downright SUPERB when it comes to taking shots, that end up as shots on goal and goals scored.

In Closing:

I did some analyses on the Portland Timbers this year – and their early pattern of defense showed the same results as Dortmund.

In the end, after at least two tactical adjustments in defending, the Timbers finally got squared away.  From a tactical viewpoint the corrective action was to drop deeper, roughly 10 yards deeper, and clog the 18 yard box a bit more.

In turn, this adjustment led to an increase in goals scored and a reduction in goals against.

Both of those articles on the Portland Timbers can be found here (Defense) and here (Attacking).

Perhaps this is a reasonable tactic that Dortmund take as this year continues?

I’m not sure, but another diagram to consider is the CPWP Predictability Index shown below:

CPWP Predictability Index Bundesliga Week 12

In looking at the Predictability rating it shows Dortmund’s position excluding goals scored and goals against.  By all accounts this Index tends to support that Dortmund should be doing much better than they are.

One way to interpret this Index is to say that performance, outside and leading into the Final Third (on both sides of the pitch) is solid, where the weaknesses show themselves are in 1) the final creation/finishing, and 2) the final defending/goal keeping.

If that is reasonable then their current issues are not just down to one or two players; it’s more systemic.

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

EPL – Charting progress after 12 Weeks

It’s been a couple of weeks since I checked in with the English Premier League so here’s a quick fly-by on who’s leading the league in team performance, exclusive of the League Table.

That’s not to say I’ll ignore the League Table – in summary here’s the top six and the bottom six respectively:

  1. Chelsea, 32 Points
  2. Southampton, 26 Points
  3. Man City, 24 Points
  4. Man United, 19 Points
  5. Newcastle, 19 Points
  6. West Ham, 18 Points
  7. Swansea City, 18 Points

Bottom Six:

  1. QPR, 8 Points
  2. Burnley, 10 Points
  3. Leicester City, 10 Points
  4. Hull City, 11 Points
  5. Aston Villa, 12 Points
  6. Crystal Palace, 12 Points

Now for my Composite PWP Strategic Index:

CPWP Strategic Index EPL Week 12

 

In comparing the top six in the League Table to the top six in my Index Chelsea, Southampton, Man City, Swansea City, and Man United are all in.

Everton and Arsenal continue to ride high in this Index – whether that continues or not is yet to be seen.

The question I have is this — is it the results that end up catching up with the team performances, or is it the team performances that end up catching up with the results?

In Major League Soccer the team performances usually seemed to lag when compared to the results – if that is the case here then I’d expect Everton and Arsenal to drop further in the League Table if there are systemtic attacking or defending issues.

On the other hand – like Newcastle – the team performance lags the results and both Arsenal and Everton should begin winning more games…. more to follow…

As for West Ham, we already know they will be on the shorter end given their more direct style of play but the surprise mover is Newcastle; especially since in Week 5, where they were 6th worst in the Composite Index (see below).

Clearly team performance has improved considerably – not only in results but in team performance; that’s a good thing when considering the viability of the Index.  Besides, I don’t read too often anymore where Alan Pardew’s head coaching status is in question.

CPWP Strategic Index EPL Week 5

As for the bottom six; well we have QPR bottom in both, with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Leicester City, and Burnley all in; the odd one out is Hull City.

Might that mean Hull City are more on the ‘lucky’ end of results than their team performance indicates?

I’m not sure but when we peel back APWP and DPWP we might be able to see where the general weaknesses and strengths are that help Hull City stay outside the relegation zone as the season continues.

Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index EPL Week 12In considering the top six teams in the League Table it appears to me that the Attacking team performances for Chelsea, Man City, Southampton, Man United, and West Ham are a strength more than a weakness.

Defending PWP Strategic Index:

DPWP Strategic Index EPL Week 12Given that the DPWP for Newcastle is stronger than the APWP, I’d offer that it’s the Defending team performance that is helping to push Newcastle near top of the table.

Not to be missed though is that Southampton, Man City, Chelsea, and Man United are also all in the top six.

The lone wolf, in defending, is West Ham.  But we already know from previous analyses that Sam Allardyce likes to play more counter-attacking football – so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them in or around the middle.

It’s when their DPWP starts dipping below the halfway point that those forever blowing bubbles should be considered.

In Closing:

Southampton continues to find success; granted their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa was probably disappointing, but with that 80th minute goal they were able to scratch out at least one point against Villa.

The surprising result to me, and probably most everyone else, was the 3-1 pasting Liverpool took against Crystal Palace.

The most amazing statistics for me out of that game was seeing Palace offer up 15 shots taken with just 71 completed passes in the Liverpool Defending Final Third – and of those – 15 shots were taken with five of them were on goal!

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising to the average stats person given that winning teams in the EPL average just over five shots on goal with at least two goals scored.  In this case Palace got three goals.

On the other hand, with 519 passes offered, 460 which were complete, and 96 of those were completed in the Palace Defending Final Third, you’da thought Liverpool would end up with more shots taken and more shots on goal.

They didn’t.  What is even worse is they had five of those 12 shots come from prime locations and only one ended up on goal!

For me, this means reinforces two things:

  1. Time and open space has great value when considering the quality of shots taken, regardless of location, and
  2. Liverpool have yet to find a striker who can take shots and put them on goal.  I would expect Liverpool to be in the market to buy a top striker as soon as possible!

If you’re a betting person; here’s the latest CPWP Predictability Index.  This does not yet to into account the differences between team performance on the road versus at home.

It should be noted that teams playing at home, in the EPL, have taken 182 points – versus teams playing on the road have taken 143 points.

In terms of a ‘rough estimate’ that means 56% of all points earned are earned at home games.

Not much of an edge – but – if you’re a team like Crystal Palace, playing a team like Liverpool, who is clearly shaken – and not stirred – there will always be the chance of an upset!

CPWP Perdictability Index EPL Week 12

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

 

What went wrong in Montreal?

It’s way too early to imagine what sort of impact Montreal will have next year – simply too many variables, least of which is the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Nevertheless – in order to get a better idea of how they might impact the Eastern Conference next year here’s my look at how 2014 went and some thoughts on what positional weaknesses they may need to fill to get better.

As always I’ll start with my End of Season Composite PWP Strategic Index to give you a (non-results) view on where the Impact attacking and defending team performance compared to the rest of Major League Soccer:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINEDMontreal (MIFC) are shown here just above San Jose and just beneath Colorado.

If you’ve missed other team analyses links are provided at the end of the article – for now know that I am working worst to first excluding Chivas USA.

In my view that organization was a complete embarrassment to the league (not the players – the owners) as such it’s not worth my time to analyze a team that wasn’t a team…  the sooner they are forgotten, as an organization, the better.

Again – this is not an intent to disparage the players or Wilmer Cabrera – it’s intended to disparage and embarrass the owners!

As with all my end of season analysis I’ll begin with the basic statistics most rely on to tell the immediate (results based) outcomes:

Points Per Game (PPG) = .82; Goals Per Game (GPG) = 1.12; Goals Against Per Game (GAPG) = 1.71; Goal Differntial (GD) = -.59

The worst PPG of any team in MLS this year!

Given the huge disparity in team performance across all of MLS in away games versus home games here’s what those numbers look like for Away and Home Games:

Away:  PPG = .29; GPG = .82; GAPG = 2.00; GD = -1.18 (the worst Away PPG of any team in MLS this year).

Home:  PPG = 1.35; GPG = 1.41; GAPG = 1.41; GD = 0.00 (tied for third worst Home PPG with Colorado and Chicago).

Bottom line here is their results were terrible – a complete and utter failure when it came to results; so is there any light at the end of the tunnel when peeling back their team attacking and defending performances, exclusive of results?  Let’s see…

Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

There’s MIFC, tucked in-between Vancouver and Colorado; interesting – especially since Vancouver made the Playoffs.  Perhaps there is some light that shines within?

Possession Percentage:

Overall 46.92%.  We already know from previous analyses that possession percentage on its own has no relevance – it’s only when you begin to combine that percentage with other key PWP indicators that patterns begin to take shape.

And since my analysis also peels back how teams perform away and at home here’s the info for those categories as well.

Away 48.07% versus Home 45.78%.

Without going further it would appear that the Impact looked to cede possession a bit more at home than on the road – that being said, given the high GAPG (2.00) on the road that higher percentage of possession might be deceiving.

The most reliable way to eliminate wasted possession is to look at passing accuracy and passing volume within and into the Attacking Final Third versus Outside the Attacking Final Third.

In away matches Montreal averaged 94 passes within and into the Final Third from 397 average passes attempted; when playing at home those figures are 93 and 405.

Knowing those figures let’s move on to Passing Accuracy to see what differences there were.

Passing Accuracy:

Overall 76.41%.  12th highest or 8th worst (glass half full – half empty?)   However viewed their passing accuracy was not the best – and the lower the overall passing accuracy the less likely the team will possess the ball for greater lengths of time.

Shorter passing tactics usually mean more passing – great examples include FC Bayern, Barcelona, Chelsea, Galaxy, etc…

Away 75.93% versus Home 76.90%

In away matches passing accuracy within and into the Final Third was 58.96%; while at home it was 62.01%; higher at home – in truth that’s probably 5 more passes completed at home versus on the road.

So… that three percent higher amount of possession, on the road versus at home, was probably down to wasted possession.

In other words they possessed the ball more on the road due to passes being completed outside the attacking final third – not inside the attacking final third.

Penetrating Possession:

Overall 18.36%; the worst percentage of penetrating possession in MLS this year.

In away games their successful penetrating possession with 18.23% while for home games it was 18.49%

Looked at from a different angle – the potential penetrating possession target would have been 24% if successful on all attempts – but they weren’t.

Most probably meaning the passes, attempting to penetrate the attacking final third, were probably harder to complete.

For many that usually indicates a direct attacking approach; i.e. playing longer balls on a more frequent basis.

It might also intuit a less accurate counter-attacking style – (perhaps?) meaning the players being asked to play to a particular style weren’t skilled enough in that style – or…………. the Head Coach chose the wrong tactical approach given the skill level of players on the pitch???

Or… the Head Coach had no choice but to play to that style given the skill levels of players on his team.  But!  Frank Klopas also played that style with Chicago…  so was it by choice given the players – or was it by choice given the inclination of the Head Coach to play direct attacking football?

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Overall 21.37% – the highest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession in MLS!

Away games 22.01% (worst/best?) Home games 20.73% (3rd worst/best?)

What this is showing is that they had the worst penetrating possession in MLS and the highest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession.

In other words they were terrible when it came to penetration and they compounded that ‘terribleness’ by showing no patience what-so-ever in taking shots.

Another nail in the Direct attacking coffin – AGAIN – speaking to either having the wrong style/skill level of players playing a direct attacking tactic – or… the Head Coach played the wrong tactics given the skills of his players?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 36.49% (8th highest)

Away games 35.17% (12th highest) Home games 37.82% (8th highest)

With the high percentage of shots taken per penetration and then a significant drop in shots on goal, given that high percentage, it again reinforces that the Montreal Impact were taking far too many shots that had no real value.

I’m not sure of their shot location selection but this pattern has been seen before with teams like Houston, Chicago, Chivas, and other bottom dwellers…  in this case I’d also offer their strikers were probably less patient on the ball in finding good open space and time to take better shots.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 30.22% (10th highest)

Away games 24.60% (5th lowest) Homes games 35.83% (8th highest).

Not bad at home – but not good on the road.  Reinforcing that the road tactics were worse in getting results than the home tactics.

Attacking summary:

In away games the percentages just get worse and worse – yet they possessed the ball more in away games.

In my view that is pretty much confirming that this team gained no value in having more possession of the ball in away games.

Indeed, I’d offer that they had the wrong tactical approach – throughout the entire season – just like Houston!

As for at home, clearly less possession worked – but they still averaged just 1.41 GPG (5th worst)… meaning that same direct attacking approach was just as ineffective at home.

So – (perhaps?) a more brutal assessment of the Impact is that, in attack, they were ineffective not only in results but in team performance.

Meaning, in my opinion, they either had the wrong style of players to play a direct attacking tactic or they had the wrong tactical approach by the Head Coach.

If thinking about finances… would it be cheaper to find a new Head Coach that will use a more appropriate attacking tactic, to fit the players on the team, or would it be cheaper to bring in a whole new suite of attackers to fit a direct attacking tactic that is way past its shelf-life!

Defending PWP Strategic Index:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Third worst in MLS.

A few thoughts before the details:

With a 2.00 GAPG in away games and a 1.41 GAPG in home games does it seem reasonable that the Impact didn’t have enough players behind the ball, even with a direct attacking approach?

Or does it seem reasonable that the Head Coach have a defensive tactical approach that was pear-shaped?

Before attempting to answer those questions here’s the bottom line on how the opponent performed against Montreal this year:

Opponent Possession Percentage: 53.08% (5th highest)

Opponent Passing Accuracy: 79.50% (2nd highest)

Opponent Penetrating Possession: 22.88% (10th highest) – Opponent Passing Accuracy within and into the Defending Final Third 67.58% (highest).

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession: 17.25% (12th highest)

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: 38.63% (4th highest)

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal: 31.63% (12th highest)

So those are the percentages against – how about the volume against?

Opponents of Montreal averaged 456 passes per game (2nd highest).

They also faced the 5th highest volume of passes within and into their Defending Final Third (123 per game).

In terms of shots taken against – 13.47 (8th highest).

Shots on goal against 5.26 (2nd highest).

Defending summary:

Across the entire spectrum of defending the opponents pretty much possessed the ball when they needed to and had plenty of time and space to make accurate passes; not only outside the Defending Final Third – but inside as well.

That freedom of time and space allowed the opponent more patience in taking better shots that were more often on goal and resulted in more goals scored against.

Given the poor team team performance, and poor results, I’d offer this team needs at least 3-4 new defensive minded players.

In going back to the initial questions about not having enough players behind the ball – it would seem to me, given the high volume and high percentages against, the Impact didn’t have enough players behind the ball.

But the interesting thing is that with a more direct attacking tactic you’d think the Impact would have more players behind the ball because fewer players are used in that attacking tactic!?!

So what went wrong?

In Closing:

I’d offer (perhaps too harshly?) that the tactical approach (in attacking and defending by the Head Coach) is what went wrong.

How can a team have, statistical team performance wise AND results performance wise, so many weaknesses with roughly the same players that made the playoffs the previous season under different leadership?

Easy – the front office made a bad decision in sacking  Marco Schällibaum.

For me this is another great example of how losing organizations, in the front office, fail to hire Head Coaches who are flexible in their attacking and defending tactics.

Frank Klopas is not only the Head Coach but the Director of Player Personnel, meaning his direct attacking style will not only manifest itself on the pitch it will also manifest itself within the bowels of the organization!

While I’m not an Impact ‘hater’ I really have to ask myself how I could continue to support a team like this if I lived near St. Catherine Street in the heart of Montreal.  And yes, I do know the city a wee bit having proposed to my missus, in 1987, at the Old Munich Beer Barrell Hall on St. Denis Street.

In case you missed it – here’s my other MLS End of Season Analysis:

Chicago Fire – Candle Burned at Both Ends

Houston Dynamo – Dynamic Dynamo De-Magnetized as Dominic Departs

San Jose Earthquakes – Earthquakes, Shake, Rattle, and Roll-Over

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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

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