La Liga – Week 3 – Passing Dominates Early

For those not familiar with this phrase – Passing domina temprana (Passing dominates early) – get used to it as my Possession with Purpose analyses moves to La Liga.

I’ll get to the details behind that view a bit later but first a look at the traditional analysis on PWP plus an early focus, like with the Bundesliga, on the slow starters.

To begin…

The Composite PWP (CPWP) Strategic Index through Week 3:

CPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 3

The clear leader here is Barcelona – as noted last week a team passing Barcelona might find it difficult (both on the pitch and in the league table).

Knowing that I’ll prefer to wait on digging into Valencia, Seville, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid till a bit later.

For now, since this is a relegation league, like everyone else in the World apart from Major League Soccer, let’s take a peak at teams who’ve opened at a snails pace:  Levante, Espanyol, Cordoba, Almeria, and Rayo.

  1. Levante – bottom feeder – the worst in team performance to begin – enough said.
  2. Espanyol – while they sit on just one point they are near mid-table in CPWP – that means they are either performing pretty good in attack – or they are performing pretty good in defense – or – they are weak in both, but not REALLY weak yet…
  3. Cordoba – On two points and near bottom; Malaga have four points and are placed further down – perhaps??? the APWP and DPWP will help shine a light on that?
  4. Almeria – not quite as good in overall performance compared to Espanyol – but they are higher up the CPWP food chain.
  5. Rayo – like Almeria and Cordoba they are on two points – oddly enough they are on the positive end of the CPWP Index – more to follow on that.

 Next up Attacking (APWP) Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 3The surprise here for me is seeing Valencia ahead of Barcelona – for me this reinforces, at least for now, that obnoxiously huge levels of passing numbers don’t over-influence the Index.

As for the bottom feeders… here you go:

  1. Levante – again – bottom of the pile.  They almost look oxygen starved given their major drop off to the right of  Villareal…
  2. Espanyol – mid-table of the Index – so not overly dominant in APWP – perhaps this means they are roughly mid-table in the DPWP Index?
  3. Cordoba – about 1/3rd the way up from bottom – nothing eye catching at the moment and certainly showing better team attacking than Malaga.
  4. Almeria – like Cordoba – about 1/3rd of the way from bottom; are both these teams showing early indications they might be better placed, in the league table, a bit later this year?  Hard to say – we will have to wait and see.
  5. Rayo – again, up near the top half – I suppose that means their DPWP leaves a bit to be desired.  Of course the other issue might be who they’ve already played so far this year…  Elche, Deportivo, and Atletico Madrid… somehow; even without watching this team play I suspect they won’t stay in the bottom third for long…  It would be interesting to hear thoughts from those who follow La Liga a bit closer though.

Moving on to Defending (DPWP) Strategic Index:

DPWP Strategic Index La Liga Week 3As expected – a team with huge passing numbers is likely to be in the top half (at least huge by Barcelona standards).  More interesting, and good stead for Villareal, is their position near the top of DPWP.

In looking at the early relegation battle here’s how the bottom five look:

  1. Levante – near bottom; and given past history on some teams in MLS – I’d say they are an early bet to get relegated – even after just three weeks; provided their defense doesn’t perform better compared to others.
  2. Espanyol – ah… here’s where things get a bit dodgy; they seem okay in attack and overall yet their defense is what is letting them down.  Does that continue?  We’ll see…
  3. Cordoba – like Espanyol – they are near bottom in DPWP – that means of course, that the opponents are not only completing good numbers of passes, but it also means they are penetrating, creating and generating shots taken that hit the back of the net – all told they’ve conceded four goals and scored just two.
  4. Almeria – a bit higher up the DPWP Index, this may provide an early indication that this team is slightly better than the two points that they have.  More to follow…
  5. Rayo – again quite good and not expected given their APWP and CPWP – those two draws against Deportivo and Atletico Madrid have done them well… as noted in the APWP thoughts; I’d offer this team may not stay in the bottom third for long.

Now for the “more to follow” on this league being a passing league – the CPWP Strategic Index for teams where they have exceeded the league average in volume of passes (415):

DPWP Strategic Index La Liga Passes Greater Than 415 Week 3In terms of overall performance it would appear that there are roughly eight teams that average more than 415 passes while also generating other positive attacking outcomes.

Note that Rayo and Levante are in this mix… In considering the poor performances for Levante so far this season is it better or worse that they are attempting to mix it up with some of the other teams who are really – really good at passing?

I wonder if Levante also has games that are below the league average of 415 passes?

To answer that question here’s the CPWP Strategic Index where teams’ passing volume has not exceeded the league average:

DPWP Strategic Index La Liga Passes Less Than 415 Week 3In answer to the leading question, yes Levante have games where their total passes fall below the league average.  And like when they exceed that figure they are near the bottom.

Only Rayo is not in the mix for the current bottom dwellers – again that seems to reinforce that Rayo may end up being a bit higher in the table as the season plays on.

In addition, note that Villareal were a better team in overall performance (positive ~.4) when exceeding the league average compared to (~-1.2) when falling below the league average.  Having played Barcelona skews that Index rating here I’m sure…. On the flip side they defeated Levante and drew nil-nil with Granada.

And of the teams that don’t pass a lot – does this show (already?) that teams like Deportivo, Eibar, Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad are better in counter-attacking and direct attacking than a team like Eiche, Villareal, or Athletic Club?

I’m not sure – but it sure does raise some interesting questions as PWP comes to La Liga.

Before moving on; I wonder how this Index will look at the halfway point of the season… time will tell.

In Closing…

A wrap up of sorts for the five bottom dwellers with a focus on overall passing accuracy:

  1. Levante – 3rd worst = 70% – the key stat here appears to be goals scored – they have none.
  2. Espanyol – 8th worst = 75.08% – the key stat here appears to be the opponents ability to put a shot taken on goal – 44.09% – 2nd worst
  3. Cordoba – 10th worst = 76.62% – the key stat here appears to be lack of penetration (17.27% of their possession results in penetration) 3rd worst
  4. Almeria – 7th best = 77.72% – the key stat here appears to be controlling time and space in defending – as the opponent percentage of penetration increases so does the percentage of shots taken, shots on goal, and goals scored; in other words their defending percentages get worse as the opponent draws nearer the goal.
  5. Rayo – 6th best = 78.27% – the key state here appears to an inordinately high percentage of shots on goal faced versus the 2nd lowest amount of possession, by percentage, of their opponents.

Overall, even after just three weeks and the dominant indication on how passing influences CPWP, the Index is still not overly influenced by it when peeling back overall performance.

Still early days though, and the race to avoid relegation has begun.

I’ll not ignore the top half of the table but I’ll also not ignore the bottom half.

Best, Chris

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