Valencia – Formula Won… La Liga

Most of the Headlines speak to the Real Madrid victory over the vaunted Barcelona; mine obviously don’t.  

For me Valencia is showing strong, and in my view, seems to have struck a great balance in attack and defense as they continues to impress.  And even though this early season run of form  might not last I do think it’s worthy to dig a bit deeper into their overall performance to see exactly why they are doing so well.

To begin – my standard Composite PWP Strategic Index:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 9

Why are Valencia so high in their overall team performance?

Is it their overall team attacking or defending performance?

At first glance you may think it’s their Attack – to review that here’s the latest Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index Week 9

Even higher than Barcelona – one of the best attacking teams in the World!  Valencia are:

  • 7th best in overall possession – 51%; a full 17% less than Barcelona
  • 3rd best in overall passing accuracy – 85.97% – still less than Barcelona by 3%
  • 17th best (4th worst) in penetration per possession -19.71% – a full 13% below Barcelona
  • 9th best in Shots Taken per penetrating possession  – 15.84% – this time ~6% higher than Barcelona
  • 9th best in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 34.87% – roughly 5% lower than Barcelona
  • Finally, and perhaps the single greatest graphic difference is Goals Scored per Shots on Goal; at this point Valencia have scored a HUGE 60.83% of the time they’ve put a Shot on Goal – by comparison Barcelona sit at 31.68%..

In a phrase – Valencia ‘are’ the best team in performing the key indicators in possession with purpose.  They may not have the glitz and glamour of a Barcelona or Real Madrid but steady is good.

But before moving on to Defending I think it’s worthy to note their volume of activity not just the percentages above:

  • They match the league average in passes attempted (410) what skews that average is Barcelona and Real Madrid.  All told only six of the 20 teams in La Liga exceed the league average.
  • As noted above their passing accuracy is 3rd best in the league – with that their total completed passes across the entire pitch is 5th best at 349.
  • So by volume they are not what would be considered a dominating possession based team.
  • And in looking at their overall penetration into the final third Valencia average 107 passes per game – 13th best.
  • In other words they’re not really a possession based team, they are more of a counter-attacking team who simply wait for some extremely superb moments to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses in order to create ideal time and space conditions.
  • And to reinforce this view they are slightly lower (10.78 per game) than the league average (11.45) in Shots Taken – but slightly lower in Shots on Goal (3.78) versus the league average of (4.03).
  • And that ‘finishing touch’ sees them average 2.22 Goals Scored per game compared to the 1.34 for La Liga and just slightly lower than Barcelona’s average of 2.56 per game!

All told – Valencia are simply a team that is performing at an optimal rate.

But that’s not the complete answer for Valencia – here’s how they stand in the Defending PWP Strategic Index:

DPWP Strategic Index Week 9

They are 3rd best in La Liga in defending team performance; here’s how the key indicators compare to others as well as Barcelona:

  • Opponents average 48.68% possession – pretty much meaning the opponent has the ball as much as Valencia – opponents of Barcelona possess the ball just 31.18% of the time.
  • Opponents average 77.62% passing accuracy – and I’d offer that is more down to the amount of space Valencia cede outside their Defending Final Third – we’ll take a look at that when reviewing the volume of opponent activity.
  • In terms of penetration and shot creation from that penetration their opponents are 10th best at penetrating 24.09% of the time they possess the ball while also generating shots taken 16.21% of the time.
  • All told that leads to an opponent accuracy shot rate on goal of 35.53% with 21.67% of those shots on goal scoring a goal.
  • Bottom line here is that with average penetration (compared to others in La Liga) and average shots against, Valencia are 4th lowest in facing shots on goal and 4th lowest in seeing those shots on goal score goals.

It would appear they have a very organized defensive system and a very good Goal Keeper.

So how about the volume of attack faced from their opponents?  

  • At this stage they have faced, on average, the 8th fewest passes per game (388) compared to Barcelona at 300.
  • In terms of overall penetration, the opponents have offered up 117 passes per game in the Valencia Defending Final Third – with that being the 10th most in La Liga.
  • Statistics would seem to indicate that they do make it easier for their opponents to penetrate – which in turn appears to support what was offered up earlier.
  • When it comes down to shots faced they are 9th lowest in that category – while translating that to just 3.78 shots on goal (tied 8th best).
  • All told that added volume of penetration sees Valencia with a .89 goals against per game – 3rd best in La Liga.

Bottom line here – like what the percentages offer – Valencia cedes time and space outside the Defending Final Third while doing a great job of closing up shop as the opponent finally gains entry.

Is that the right mix to minimize the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla?

Hard to say at this time – but clearly – going into Week 10 against Villarreal it is likely they should get another three points.

Which brings me to my last Index – the CPWP Predictability Index.

In MLS this Index averaged a 55-65% accuracy in identifying the winner of upcoming games – at times the outputs were pear-shaped while others were spot on.

I have no idea how this will play out this year in Europe but here’s the Index itself and then a quick blurb on how to understand it:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 9

As noted Valencia take on Villarreal this weekend – note that Valencia has a higher number than Villarreal – simply meaning, with the law of averages considered, and the teams perform as they have in the past Valencia should win.

So in looking up the schedule for next weekend; Getafe should edge Deportivo; Real Madrid should defeat Granada; Atletico Madrid should defeat Cordoba; Barcelona should beat Celta de Vigo; Real Sociedad should defeat Malaga; Athletic Club should beat Sevilla; Levante should lose to Almeria; Elche should lose to Espanyol; and Rayo Vallecano should beat Eibar.

By the way – the Predictability Index is made up of all the PWP Data Point Relationships excluding ‘goals scored’ and ‘goals against’ – you really can’t develop a worthy predictability index using goals scored.

That should help explain why Celta de Vigo are higher up the prediction table than Valencia… based upon their overall run of play performances Celta should probably score more goals than they do.

All for now…

Best, Chris

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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