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):


(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.


(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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