Perhaps a few shockers this past weekend – Queens Park Rangers defeating Sunderland 1-nil and Burnley (only?) drawing with Man United nil-nil certainly are intriguing, and from a pure entertainment standpoint the Chelsea game had it all.
But soccer isn’t about one specific week in League competition – it’s about the consistency of purpose in performing week in and week out.
So for the first three weeks my two teams operating at (unexpected) peak performance are Swansea City and Aston Villa.
Now I’m sure others feel or think Chelsea deserve some credit and they do – but at this stage they’re boring as I’d have expected them to do well.
And as for Manchester United – well… I’ll give them a look a bit later during this 2 week break.
For now though a special look at Swansea City and Aston Villa; wrapped up within my Possession with Purpose Strategic Index analysis after Week 3.
With that here’s the tale of the tape in Composite Possession with Purpose after Week three:
The early season form for Swansea City sees them completing ~85% of all their passes with a mid-table ranking, in Final Third completions, at ~67%.
The most telling difference between Swansea and other teams, early on, is their superb ability in putting shots on goal, per shots taken, (55.56% – leading the EPL) and a healthy 39.29% of goals scored, per shot on goal.
And while the location of those shots might have some value – I expect the space and time the strikers had was telling; in checking shot location for Swansea City it appears 50% of their shots originate from outside the 18 yard box with 2 of them scoring; while 4 of their 15 inside the box have resulted in goals.
What’s amazing here is that both Swansea and QPR lead the league in Shots Taken per possession-penetration into the Final Third.
Swansea averages 20.88% shots taken per penetrating-possession – while QPR averages 21.40% (leading the EPL).
Where QPR falters, big time, is they’ve only managed to put 20% of those shots on goal and a measly 8% of those shots on goal have resulted in a goal…
Again, shot location might have value but I’d expect their shot location is okay – where they falter is (perhaps?) more about lack of patience and clear space in order to take quality shots…
A quick check indicates that 24 shots from QPR have come from within the 18 yard box – while 21 shots have come from outside the 18 yard box… seems to reinforce my time and space theory as opposed to strictly looking at shot location… others may have a different view?
Can you say QPR need to buy some strikers?
I would – but perhaps even more important is it appears to me that QPR also need to buy one or two midfielders that have more patience in setting up more shots for their teammates in open space.
Just another example here of why I’d like to see those two new statistics in soccer – Open Pass and Open Shot…
And yes, Swansea have only faced Burnley, Man United, and West Bromich Albion.
At this stage that might not be saying a whole lot but a win is a win is a win – and Swansea have three of them!.
A mid-season win has no more, or less value, than an early season win. So all those second guessing the early season form should recognize nine points is far better than three points; or like Man United, one point!
As for other team performances – it was disappointing to see Man City couldn’t put one past Stoke City this weekend.
They had plenty of possession and penetration, but alas, as Swansea and Chelsea so deftly point out, the full run of the game means you need accuracy in shots taken just as much as accuracy in passing, both inside and outside the Final Third.
Of course, having a player who can dribble-sprint 60 yards, dodge past three players, and meg the keeper, can really help a team – well done Stoke City.
So how do the teams compare in the Attacking PWP Index?
Chelsea – surprised?
Probably not… What a thrilling match that was; nine goals with six of them by Chelsea.
And we shouldn’t ignore Liverpool and that three goal burst against Spurs… a shocker? (perhaps?) but we’ll know if that’s a real shocker sometime later this season.
As for Everton, scoring three goals themselves, don’t pay a penalty in APWP for the lack of scoring goals – where their drop in overall performance comes is in viewing the DPWP Index – here:
Last week Everton were 5th worst in DPWP – rightly so given they had already given up two goals to Arsenal and two goals to Leicester City.
All told that’s 10 goals against in just three games… wow… Martinez is going to have to make some changes (big money changes) if that goals-against rot continues… even now I’d expect them to work very hard during this early season break to fix their defense….
So who’s a great example of how an effective Defense keeps a team shining, even when the attack isn’t the best?
While only three weeks have been played my shining example is Aston Villa.
They are ranked 4th worst in team attacking performance but when it comes to team defense… they’re ranked 4th best. A great example of where strong defense gets you points – they have seven at this stage.
So how does that 4th best translate to success on the pitch?
Opponents are completing ~64% of their passes in the Villa Final Third – 7th lowest in the EPL. Of note is that opponents are possessing the ball better than 60% of the time.
For me that means Villa yield possession, up high, and play slightly deeper and tighter in their own half.
That compact approach, in their defending half/third, sees the opponent completing just under 20% of their total possession in the Villa Final Third.
In other words, even when the opponent has the ball, 80% of that possession is outside the defending third —> (of no major consequence)…
And, even more impressive, is that when the opponent does penetrate – only ~12% of that penetrating possession results in an opponent shot taken. And of that 12% only 29% of those shots taken end up as shots on goal.
Remember those stats from Swansea and QPR and how low QPR was in finishing (8%).
Well, as a team, opponents of Villa have just 11% of their shots on goal resulting in a goal scored against. That is 2nd lowest (best) in the EPL and only Swansea is lower – permitting just 6.67% of their opponents shots on goal scoring a goal.
Clearly these two teams are performing at peak compared to others.
So for a quick comparison – Villa yield possession at 60% (on average), while Swansea do not yield possession; their opponents average 49.19% possession.
So from a defending tactical view Swansea’s game style is not the same as Villa’s.
Swansea appears (data wise) to play a bit higher and yield penetration a bit more.
Opponents penetrate 23.11% of the time they possess the ball and take more shots against than Villa’s opponents who average 15.11%.
So an apparent tighter (man-marking) defensive scheme sees Swansea opponents having fewer shots on goal per shot taken; 19.13% versus Aston Villa at 28.79%.
Bottom line here is the contrast in defending styles can be noted, tracked, and measured without looking at tackles, interceptions, clearances, etc…
In other words it helps scratch that itch of measuring what doesn’t happen on the pitch as opposed to what does happen.
My earlier views on that can be read in this article published earlier.
Still early so no more diagrams – over the next couple of days, after putting together my Bundesliga and La Liga Weekly recaps I’ll go back and pick out some thoughts about Manchester United after three weeks, what weakness and strengths the data behind the Indices might offer.
All for now.
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