English Premier League – Mid-table Maidens or Muppets?

Like the La Liga article this week I’ll be taking a look at some mid-table maidens and muppets.

And yes, I’m breaking down this week and offering up some analysis on Manchester United.

I’ve delayed long enough I guess so I’ll take a peak at them along with Tottenham, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Stoke City, and Leicester City; all of them on eight points each working from 7th to 12th in the league table.

As usual – to start things my Possession with Purpose Composite PWP Strategic Index through Week 6:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

In picking out those six teams Man United lead in CPWP (5th best); followed by Spurs (9th), Stoke (10th), Leicester City (13th), West Brom (14th), and Crystal Palace (16th); not bunched up like in the league table.

Perhaps there might be some telling team performance indicators in APWP or DPWP that really separate these teams?

The best way to start is to peel back all these teams in APWP:

APWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

The obvious – Man United rest 5th best, Leicester City, perhaps a surprise at 9th best (lest we forget that smashing pumpkin they delivered at Man United’s door two weeks ago), Spurs 11th best (or 10th worst), Crystal Palace 13th best, Stoke 15th best and West Brom 4th worst.

Now for the grist…
Key Strategic Attacking PWP Indicators Week 6

Here’s the six teams in focus plus two balancing agents – Chelsea and Burnley – the top and bottom of the EPL heap…

I could spend the better part of 800 words going over what’s offered here – I’d prefer not to and just point out a few bits and pieces before another diagram on Attacking.

  • Leicester City (blue bars) have one hell of a great parabolic relationship (follows the white dashed parabola of Chelsea going on) – and Man United do as well.  Not quite as pronounced as Chelsea but the pattern of attack is similar in team outputs.
  • The difference there with Leicester City is obviously quality  – less means less for the most part in the EPL – but all things considered not a bad form for Leicester.
  • In considering Man United – plenty of patience (like Chelsea) but the finishing is getting in the way – perhaps Wayne Rooney is not the striker this team needs?
  • Even more worrisome for Man United should be that they’ve played no-one of great concern in the EPL yet – they’ve got Everton next weekend then a potential break with West Brom (but maybe not?) then they have Chelsea and Man City back to back…
  • When looking at the pear-shaped teams it’s West Brom, Spurs, and Stoke City who best follow the pattern (black dashes) set by Burnley.
  • Crystal Palace look to follow the Chelsea parabola but appear to lack goals scored relative to the percentage of shots on goal – perhaps attributed to missing the near or far post?   Still not bad form inside the 18 yard box.
  • Those who chart Expected Goals will know that better than I.

In moving on to my Expected Wins Diagram; here’s the same teams viewing how those percentages of success translate to overall volume: 

EPL Expected Wins after Week 6

 I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting Chelsea in light yellow while highlighting Burnley in light orange.

A few items of note here without 800 odd words of observations:

  • Recall I mentioned that Crystal Palace was a bit lacking in goal scoring percentage compared to shots on goal – well in looking at all these teams, Crystal Palace average the lowest volume of activity in all these categories until – until – you get to Shots on Goal and Goals Scored…  pretty remarkable and perhaps a great example of how an effective attacking performance plays out, statistically, for a team that plays more towards a counter-attacking style than a possession based style.
  • I don’t offer Crystal Palace as being more direct given their lower volume of passes attempted in the Final Third – if their numbers were near Stoke City then I might.
  • Note that Man United exceed all the others in this scrum by a good margin with one exception – Stoke City, who has a considerably less volume in passing but ends up with a higher volume of shots taken.
  • In considering Stoke – note the drop-off in shots on goal and goals scored… even though they have the largest volume of shots taken for these teams.
  • Perhaps this is another great example of a team that looks to play slightly more direct, has less patience on the ball, and as a result, their overall productivity takes a nose-dive when it comes to scoring goals?
  • Oh – had to change the color for Chelsea to light blue given the white background…

I had a request earlier this week to offer up my Expected Wins diagram using a Logarithmic scale – as such I’ve included one below:

EPL Expected Wins after Week 6 Log Scale

The highlighted areas remain the same – but with this approach you can clearly see the negative outcomes for Stoke City and Burnley – while also seeing that the overall data collection points do have a relationship.

The healthy one is clearly the light blue bar for Chelsea – and as noted in Expected Wins 3 – this league works off of volume with the exception of Final Third Passes Attempted… losing teams (now) attempt more passes into the Final Third – pretty much reinforcing that Direct Play just isn’t good enough to cut it in the EPL.

Moving on to Defending PWP: 

DPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

Man United, Stoke, West Brom and Spurs are fall above the mid-table while Leicester City and Crystal Palace are near bottom; again they don’t really bunch up in defending team performance like they do in results.

In looking at the diagram below it’s a wonder Stoke City are as high up as they are – I’ll offer up where Stoke gets hit worst a bit later – for now notice that I’ve replaced Chelsea and Burnley with Southampton and QPR:

Key Strategic Defending PWP Indicators Week 6 EPL

Measuring defending statistics is always hard to do because I have to intuit what doesn’t happen on the pitch; given the lack of clarity in separating  passes and shots between those that are hindered and those that are open… more here on that if interested.

For now the juice in 800 words or less:

  • A bad sign for me in how effective a team is, in defending their 18 yard box, is when the opponent percentage of goals scored, per shots on goal, exceeds the percentage of shots on goal, per shots taken.
  • The team who best represents a lower percentage of goals scored per shots on goal than shots on goal per shots taken is Southampton – currently in second place;  the White dotted line.
  • At this stage their differential is 19.15% – second best is West Ham at 11.71% and third best is Swansea City at 9.22%.
  • Of all the teams in this focus Man United has the best differential (+2.23%).
  • The worst of the lot is Stoke City; a differential of -21.87%; the largest margin by far… either they need a new Goal Keeper or they need better fullbacks and center-backs…
  • What keeps them on the higher end of the DPWP is lower percentages for their opponent in possession and shots on goal per shots taken – so they do a great job in looking to prevent the shots taken reach goal – but when they do reach goal they are high quality shots… I’d attribute this to poor positional play in the 18 yard box and perhaps goals conceded on the counter-attack.
  • Either that or their Goal Keeper simply isn’t that good?
  • As far as penetration goes, we already see Crystal Palace yields possession and space in the midfield – as do West Brom, Crystal Palace, and, for the most part, Leicester City.
  • With higher opponent percentages in possession – coupled with a strong passing league, it’s no wonder when the defense breaks down in the 18 yard box those teams are going to be slightly less effective than someone like Southampton.

In closing:

It should be noted that only Crystal Palace and Leicester City are on the lower end of DPWP – so these teams can score and at this stage it’s their attack that is pushing them to mid-table – can that hold?

Hard to say – one thing is, neither of those teams is as pear-shaped as Newcastle…

Still early days yet but teams are showing tactical trends, seen before in PWP analysis, that separate the possession based teams with those who like to play counterattack or more direct.

Survival of the fittest couldn’t be more clear in this superb league… speaking of Newcastle; how on earth are they so low in the Table?

More to follow on that question in a couple of weeks.

Best, Chris

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Follow on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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