Possession with Purpose – Prozone – and more…

No detailed statistics today – just a narrative to pass on a few tidbits as I prepare my End of Season analysis for Europe.

The news:

The European Season is ending.

  • There’s the winners, the losers, and those that stay afloat to live another year.
  • I’ll peel back the results on the English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, and UEFA Champions League in the next few weeks.
  • For now, in La Liga the PWP Composite Index has a .94 correlation coefficient (r) to points earned in the league table; the Bundesliga sits at .92, the English Premier League sits at .94, while the UEFA Champions League sits at .87.
  • All incredibly strong and far stronger than MLS (.61) this year; last year MLS finished at .87.
  • Speaking of MLS, does a league, where winners display more characteristics of counterattacking, versus just possession-based attacking, detract from predictability?
  • In other words does the lower correlation support a League’s ability to achieve “parity” in professional soccer?
  • If so, is that style/type of football attractive enough to continue to grow footy in the States?
  • If not – does that mean the business model currently set up in the States won’t ever achieve a league “status” that matches the “prestige” most seem to attach to the top leagues in Europe?
  • More to follow…

I think these two video presentations by Hector Ruiz and Paul Power, from Prozone, are worth listening to.

  • In this video (tactical profiling) Hector, who attended my presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer last year, talks about his latest efforts that include breaking down the different types of possession in a much greater detail than I ever could with public data.
  • Of note is Hector substantiates my finding that a Head Coach’s tactical approach can be differentiated through tracking possession (passing characteristics) on the pitch.
  • He also helps begin to solve the riddle on measuring which players perform better or worse given those different styles of possession.
  • A soap-box, for me, when looking at my article on ‘Moneyball relative to soccer’, is the inability of modern day soccer statistics to show real value on how well teammates actually influence an individual’s success or failure on the pitch relative to how the team actually plays (what style it works to).
  • Here’s a direct lift from my article referenced above…

Modern day soccer statistics, for the most part, don’t measure the appropriate level of influence teammates, opposing players, and Head Coaching tactics – as such when I say I’m not a Moneyball guy when it comes to soccer it really means I don’t buy all that crap about tackles, clearances, goals scored, etc…

I value players relative to team outputs and I strongly feel and think the more media and supporters who understand this about soccer the less frustration they will (have) in blaming or praising one individual player over another player.

  • In the next video (game intelligence) Paul takes a similar approach in analyzing team behavior like PWP – separating out defensive characteristics from attacking characteristics while also modeling a ‘defensive press’ that measures success or failure in passing based upon whether or not a defender is hindering the attacker.
  • This topic has been one that I have also touched on last year – here’s a direct quote from my article on Hurried Passes.

So what is missing from the generic soccer statistical community to account for the void in Unsuccessful Passes?  Is it another statistic like Tackles Won, Duals Won, Blocked Shots, or Recoveries?

I don’t think so – none of them generated a marked increase in the overall correlation of those three activities already identified.  I think (it) is the physical and spatial pressure applied by the defenders as they work man to man and zone defending efforts.

  • Likewise, Paul also touches on ‘passing vision’ (in my words it’s not the innate vision many of us think of for players) – it’s more a discussion and analyses (I think) on the ‘windows of passing lanes’ available to players and whether or not they have tendencies to play riskier passes versus safer passes in relation to what the defenders are doing.
  • For me this simply means Paul has taken the same defensive pressure data and flipped it to view the success or failure of a player to find another player to pass to or create a shot given the defensive pressure (lanes/vision) that are blocked or open.
  • In simplistic teams (with new event statistics) you can capture and intuit that success or failure by filtering passes as being ‘open or hindered’ and also apply that same filter to create ‘open or hindered’ shots.  My article on this approach was also published some time ago – New Statistics in Soccer (Open Pass and Open Shot)
  • Finally, Paul also speaks to a game of soccer resembling the behavior of a school of fish; I’m not sure I’m convinced that is the best analogy – especially when he talks about under-loading and overloading, but his view does closely resemble mine where the game of soccer perhaps is best represented by a single-cell Amoeba.

All told – two well crafted presentations that begin to open up and really reinforce some of my soap-box issues with soccer statistics since starting my research three years ago.

To be redundant – soccer is not just about scoring goals – there is more to the game than goals scored; these two presentations continue to support my view that the world of soccer statistics needs to continuously get better…

My back-yard / stubby pencil approach to team performance analysis is soon to be published through Rand.

  • I want to express my sincere thanks to Terry Favero – my Co-Author – who helped me navigate the challenging waters of writing an Academic Paper.
  • Terry added considerable value, as well, in researching other works to help set the stage on the differences of PWP versus other efforts developed and published across the globe.
  • Finally, Terry provided superb editorial support – a challenge in that the writing styles one normally sees in a blog are completely unacceptable when writing an Academic Paper.
  • Great fun and the first of at least two to three more.

Last but not least, the Women’s World Cup is beginning.

  • Last year I applied the principles of PWP to the Men’s World Cup – with good order.
  • I’ll refresh everyone on how that took shape and then begin to chart how PWP takes shape for the Women’s World Cup.
  • I wonder what, if any, differences will show in comparing the women’s game to the men’s game?
  • Will the data show the same trends in quality and quantity?
  • Or will we see a reduction in quantity that may end up driving an increase in quality?
  • More to follow.

Best, Chris

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