Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer? Expected Wins 4

Jurgen Klinsmann made a statement the other week about his preference that players working to make the USMNT play in Europe not in America.

Lots of hoo-haw followed with opinions being thrown out there by just about everyone.

As far as I know no-one has, as yet, come up with a way to quantitatively measure which league, leagues, or competitions are higher quality.

This is my attempt to do that using my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

Be prepared for a few charts – sorry – it is what it is and a statement like Klinsmann’s deserves to have some quantitative analysis thrown towards it.

Finally, if you missed Expected Wins 3 here is a link to give you some history on this quantitative analysis.

Now for the grist, first the array of Expected Wins 4 diagrams for each league/competition I cover, Major League Soccer, English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, and the World Cup of 2014.

Major League Soccer – End of Season:

Major League Soccer Expected Wins Four

 English Premier League after 240 Events (120 Games):

English Premier League Expected Wins Four

La Liga after 238 Events (119 Games):

La Liga Expected Wins Four

Bundesliga after 214 Events (107 Games):

Bundesliga Expected Wins Four

UEFA Champions League after Round 5 – 160 Events (80 Games):

UEFA Champions League Expected Wins Four

World Cup 2014 – End of Competition:

World Cup 2014 Expected Wins FourSo what’s it all mean?

In each of the diagrams I highlighted in green the category that had the highest volume for all my PWP Data Points.

For example, just above, in the World Cup of 2014 the winning team had the highest volume of activity for every single PWP data point.

The same holds true for the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, and the English Premier League.

The conclusion here?  Volume speaks volumes…

Greater numbers of passes both outside and within and into the Attacking Final Third (RESULT) in MORE Shots Taken, MORE Shots on Goal and MORE Goals Scored!

In the case of the Bundesliga (an oft mentioned counter-attacking league) it’s the losing teams that offer MORE Possession and MORE overall Passes but when it comes to the Attacking Final Third it’s the winning teams who do MORE with MORE!

With respect to the MLS – a contrast to be sure.  MORE Passing outside and within, and into, the Attacking Final Third gets you LESS when it comes to Shots Taken, Shots on Goal, and Goals Scored.

Why is that?

I’d offer it’s down to playing a game that has less overall ball control from the players – in other words there is less quality on the pitch to take advantage of the MORE for MORE systematic outputs we see from all the other leagues/competitions; others may have a different view.

For me, this is an early indicator that what Jurgen Klinsmann offered is quantitatively accurate!

Before moving on here’s how all the leagues and competitions compare to each other in one diagram for winning teams:

Winners Expected Wins PWP Data Points Four

The UEFA Champions League leads all competitions/leagues in the average volume of Passes Attempted, Passes Completed, Passes Attempted within and into the Final Third, Passes Completed within and into the Final Third, Shots Taken, Shots on Goal, and Goals Scored.

If volume of activity (were?) to be a quantitative measure of quality then it’s pretty clear the UEFA Champions League HAS the highest quality of all these competitions.

And what teams comprise the UEFA Champions League?  Teams from Europe…

But there is more to Possession with Purpose than just volume; here’s how the PWP Data Relationships show:

Winners Expected Wins PWP Data Relationships Four

In looking at the percentages here’s where it gets interesting – and reinforces what I’ve felt and thought all along, patience in creating time and space in the Attacking Final Third has value.

In terms of Possession Percentage, Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch, and percentage of Penetrating Possession within and into the Attacking Final Third the UEFA Champions League, again, exceeds all other competitions.

Where the patience virtue comes in is when it comes to the percentage of Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – the UEFA Champions League is lowest (14.98%).

So in returning back to the volume of Shots Taken per penetrating possession.

The UEFA Champions League has the highest volume of Shots Taken but the lowest percentage rate.

So even with the third worst percentage of Shots on Goal per Shots Taken and the second worst percentage of Goals Scored per Shots on Goal this competition still has the highest volume of Shots on Goal and Goals Scored.

For me this is another quantitative means to substantiate what Jurgen Klinsmann offered about encouraging Americans to get better by playing in Europe.

In Closing:

Questions?

Is it better to play on a winning team in a league where there is less overall control of the ball, on the pitch for 90 minutes?

Or is it better to play on a losing team (for 90 minutes), against top quality players, in a league where there is superb control of the ball across the entire pitch for 90 minutes?

Which competition forces you to concentrate more recognizing that the smallest positional error will completely punish your team?

In other words…

If you were a good player and you wanted to get better, would you prefer to play in a league where there are fewer passes and a more wide open play that doesn’t stretch your talent to control the ball?

Or…. would you rather play in a league where the ball is zipping about (by over 100 to 300 passes more) forcing you, in turn, to zip about yourself to try and better manage that game yourself with your teammates?

Answer:

If I were a player in today’s market there is simply no need to consider answering that question any further – I’d play in Europe OR at least strive to play in Europe!

How about you?

If you’re new to Possession with Purpose and this analytical approach read here for an introduction.

By the way – even if you feel or think you don’t need this type of data to substantiate which leagues or competitions are better today – it will provide a great benchmark in looking at how the future takes shape in MLS.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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