No European team can match the league domination that Bayern Munich has shown this year in the Bundesliga. However, in spite of Die Bayern’s efforts to run away with the title, the German premier division is still awash with fascinating stories.
The race for the remaining Champions League spot could not be closer – five teams are separated by a mere two points. And no, that excludes Dortmund, who are floundering in the relegation zone.
To set the stage here’s the five teams vying for that third and final spot: Bayer Leverkusen; Augsburg, Monchengladbach, FC Schalke, and TSG Hoffenheim.
Here’s where they compare with each other in my Composite Possession with Purpose Index:
From this it would seem pretty obvious that Bayern Munich also stood out way above all others in the CPWP Index.
In addition, it’s good to see the Index also shows a marked difference, in overall team performance, between Wolfsburg and the other five teams battling for the final UEFA Champions League spot.
Of all the leagues I evaluate, using my Possession with Purpose Family of Indices, this League usually shows the best overall correlation.
Meaning, for some, it may be far more predictable – in other words perhaps the Bundesliga is a great league to bet on game results?
If you do that sort of thing here’s what the CPWP Predictability Index looks like:
A reminder – the CPWP Predictability Index was developed after I had some great discussions with folks at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014.
Myself, Ben Knapper (Arsenal FC Head of Stats) and others at PROZONE sports all agreed that the Index ‘could?’ have value as a predictability model if Goals Scored/Against data was removed.
The teams with Green Bars are the five teams battling for the third and final UEFA Champions League spot – the Purple Bar, Borussia Dortmund, is highlighted simply because they ‘should’ be winning – given their talent – but they aren’t!
But… could this be a model to actually reinforce Borussia Dortmund still remain a team who can make UEFA Champions League next year even though they are 13 points behind Bayer Leverkusen? I wonder what the odds are on that?
If you missed my presentation at the WCSS of 2014 here’s a link – in the seven months of this blog it has been my most viewed/read article.
Here again the top two teams are tops in the Index.
For those thinking the best in attack is what drives success it appears FC Schalke and then Bayer Leverkusen are best situated to push forward – while Augsburg slides way back towards Borussia Dortmund.
In taking a look at FC Schalke versus Bayer Leverkusen what separates them in this Index seems pretty interesting.
- Schalke average more total passes by volume (452 to 399) but within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third Leverkusen average more passes (155 to 120).
- To go with that, Leverkusen averages more possession (52% to 50%) but lower overall passing accuracy both within and outside the Opponent’s Defending Final Third (68%/57% compared to Schalke at 76%/61%.
- Meaning Schalke offer more passes, accurately, prior to entering the Final Third while also offering fewer, more accurate passes, once they’ve penetrated.
Looked at from a Leverkusen viewpoint – Bayer actually possesses the ball more – but is less accurate in that possession. In addition they also look to penetrate far more frequently than Schalke.
When digging into the shots area – Schalke show more patience in taking fewer shots by volume and percentage but both teams end up with roughly the same volume of Shots on Goal and Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (36% for Leverkusen and 34% for Schalke).
- Put another way – each team shows different statistical trends in possession, accuracy, penetrating, creating, and taking shots but their overall results are the same.
- Reinforcing, at least in my view, there are a number of different systematic approaches that will get you to the same place.
Before moving on to Defending PWP I think there is value in taking a look at Augsburg. Earlier this week I did an article on Major League Soccer called “Getting More from Less“.
The intent was to see who did better last year, in MLS, in getting better results with lower team performance. My gut-check example to quantifying the results in MLS was West Ham and their Direct Attacking nature.
What I determined was a team who averaged fewer passes than the League Average (both within and outside the Opponent’s Defending Final Third) with less than 50% possession could be reasonably called a Direct Attacking Team.
In looking at Augsburg here’s their attacking data as it fits that mold.
Overall dead on average in Possession at 50%.
Passing Accuracy (entire pitch), 73% – less than the League Average of 74.25%.
Passing Accuracy within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third (56%) – less than the League Average of 57%.
In looking at volume – Total Average Passes for Augsburg was 413 – the League Average was 435
Total Passes within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third for Augsburg was 114 – the League Average 126.
So on the surface it would appear that Augsburg shows the tendency to play more Direct Attacking, as opposed to a Counter-Attacking ‘tactic’, within a Possession-based game.
For Augsburg – they’ve had eight games that have followed the mode of Direct Attacking – they’ve won five of those games. Pretty solid in getting more from less – but can they sustain that?
The West Ham review showed they have won 7 games out of 11 games where their team averages fell into the Direct Attacking mode.
It would seem Augsburg are almost as successful (percentage wise) in matching West Ham when it comes to winning games where their performance falls below League Average… (63.63% for West Ham versus 62.5% for Augsburg).
Augsburg, like West Ham, are pretty high up in the Defending PWP Index (Hammers are 6th best in the EPL DPWP Index versus Augsburg who are 4th best here).
So the value of a higher team performance in defending helps sustain success with the lower volumes offered up in attack.
Meaning the will of Augsburg rides more with a collaborative approach, in overall team play, than strictly an attack dominated performance.
Monchengladbach is next highest here, while TSG Hoffenheim doesn’t seem to shine in either Index.
I’d expect some long odds on TSG making that third and final UEFA Champions League spot…
So what separates Monchengladbach from TSG?
- Goals Against – for Monchemgladbach their GA is .94 – for TSG it’s 1.47 – is that down to Mochengladbach simply having a better Goalie?
- Maybe… their opponent’s actually average more Shots on Goal (5.35) compared to TSG, whose opponent’s average 4.5 Shots on Goal.
Opponents for both teams average total passes, both within and outside the Defending Final Third, greater than the League Average – so by and large most opponents are playing possession based attacking against these two sides.
Where it gets interesting is the volume of successful passes by their opponents after they’ve entered their Defending Final Third.
- In the case of TSG, the opponents average 20 fewer successful passes, with almost the same amount of shots taken and shots on goal.
- Meaning, to me, TSG are finding themselves out of position more often as the screws tighten – hence the greater Goals Against.
In other words one team may be playing more man-to-man while another team may be playing more zonal?
I’m not sure which – those with video or access to X,Y coordinates may know that better?
Anyhow – clearly the data points towards one team having a different defensive scheme that may also include Mochengladbach simply having a much better Goal Keeper.
Half the season remains and while Bayern is basically blowing the Bundesliga away there are others who are still making this league worthy to watch.
Will it be the West Ham of the Bundesliga (Augsburg)? Can Borussia Dortmund pull it back? How about the other challengers who appear more steady, like FC Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, or Monchengladbach?
And does TSG Hoffenhein really have a chance as well? For some I bet UEFA Champions League is the goal for next year – but others might also be shooting for Europa too.
And this doesn’t even broach the topic about who gets relegated – Might that Borussia Dortmund ends up in that race instead? Wow…….
Jürgen Klopp would get clobbered if that happens!
More to follow…
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