The greatest professional team soccer competition continues…
But before digging into the Possession with Purpose Family of Indices some general news for consideration.
As the PWP Indices have shown such a strong correlation/relationship to the league tables without using points earned, in ALL competitions measured, I want to try a create a quantifiable way to measure “luck”. More to follow…
Anyhow, here’s my updated Strategic Composite PWP Index after the Group Stages are completed:
This way others can get an idea of how their team CPWP, APWP, and DPWP Indices compare.
I won’t go so far as to say that the team expected to win has their color first but I would offer it may give you an inkling of who might be favored to advance.
Finally, the red bars represent those teams that did not move on to the knock-out stages.
The knock-out stage pairings:
Barcelona play Manchester City.
FC Porto play FC Basel.
FC Bayern Munchen play Shakter Donetsk.
Real Madrid play FC Schalke.
Chelsea play Paris Saint Germain.
Borussia Dortmund play Juventus.
Atletico Madrid play Bayer Leverkusen.
Monaco play Arsenal.
So here is how the teams compare in the Strategic Attacking Index:
A few observations…
I’m a firm believer that Defense wins Championships – but I’m also not willing to ignore how effective team attacking performance is in relationship to team defending.
With Barcelona, Bayern, Porto, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Real Madrid being slightly head-and-shoulders above the rest, in attack, it’s likely those teams will put on a great performance.
All told I’d offer those teams will work towards a possession based attack – especially seeing their opponents. I’d also offer up that Juventus is likely to work towards that style as well.
Teams like Schalke, Dortmund, Donetsk, Leverkusen, Man City, and PSG can show willingness to possess the ball but I think they will cede somewhat more this stage than in the Group Stages.
Teams like Atletico Madrid, FC Basel, and Monaco are )highly) likely to continue to cede possession and play for a swift counter-attacking (almost direct attacking) style of soccer.
Now for the Strategic Defending PWP Index:
FC Porto have been best, with Bayern, Monaco, Dortmund, Real Madrid, and Barcelona not far behind…
If there is an anticipated blow-out I’d offer Real Madrid is the team most likely to win big – with Porto next up against Basel and Atletico Madrid handling Bayer pretty easily.
As for the others – way too close to call in my opinion – and I’d imagine a huge audience on telly for the Man City/Barcelona match-up – and you can be sure I’ll be watching The Arsenal take on Monaco!
As I noted going into this competition – all these teams are good – what follows as pucker time nears – is the separation of good from great…
If you want a taste on my approach in measuring luck – consider this – Athletic Club had just seven points earned yet they were 7th best in team defending performance and 13th best in the overall Composite Index performance… if any team was unlucky, in the Group Stages, it was Athletic Club.
On the flip side – if any team was lucky, in the Group Stages, it was FC Basel (who also had just seven points earned) – they were 16th best in team defending performance, 22nd best in team attacking performance, and 20th best in overall Composite Index performance.
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For those not familiar with this phrase – Passing domina temprana (Passing dominates early) – get used to it as my Possession with Purpose analyses moves to La Liga.
I’ll get to the details behind that view a bit later but first a look at the traditional analysis on PWP plus an early focus, like with the Bundesliga, on the slow starters.
The Composite PWP (CPWP) Strategic Index through Week 3:
The clear leader here is Barcelona – as noted last week a team passing Barcelona might find it difficult (both on the pitch and in the league table).
Knowing that I’ll prefer to wait on digging into Valencia, Seville, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid till a bit later.
For now, since this is a relegation league, like everyone else in the World apart from Major League Soccer, let’s take a peak at teams who’ve opened at a snails pace: Levante, Espanyol, Cordoba, Almeria, and Rayo.
- Levante – bottom feeder – the worst in team performance to begin – enough said.
- Espanyol – while they sit on just one point they are near mid-table in CPWP – that means they are either performing pretty good in attack – or they are performing pretty good in defense – or – they are weak in both, but not REALLY weak yet…
- Cordoba – On two points and near bottom; Malaga have four points and are placed further down – perhaps??? the APWP and DPWP will help shine a light on that?
- Almeria – not quite as good in overall performance compared to Espanyol – but they are higher up the CPWP food chain.
- Rayo – like Almeria and Cordoba they are on two points – oddly enough they are on the positive end of the CPWP Index – more to follow on that.
Next up Attacking (APWP) Strategic Index:
As for the bottom feeders… here you go:
- Levante – again – bottom of the pile. They almost look oxygen starved given their major drop off to the right of Villareal…
- Espanyol – mid-table of the Index – so not overly dominant in APWP – perhaps this means they are roughly mid-table in the DPWP Index?
- Cordoba – about 1/3rd the way up from bottom – nothing eye catching at the moment and certainly showing better team attacking than Malaga.
- Almeria – like Cordoba – about 1/3rd of the way from bottom; are both these teams showing early indications they might be better placed, in the league table, a bit later this year? Hard to say – we will have to wait and see.
- Rayo – again, up near the top half – I suppose that means their DPWP leaves a bit to be desired. Of course the other issue might be who they’ve already played so far this year… Elche, Deportivo, and Atletico Madrid… somehow; even without watching this team play I suspect they won’t stay in the bottom third for long… It would be interesting to hear thoughts from those who follow La Liga a bit closer though.
Moving on to Defending (DPWP) Strategic Index:
As expected – a team with huge passing numbers is likely to be in the top half (at least huge by Barcelona standards). More interesting, and good stead for Villareal, is their position near the top of DPWP.
In looking at the early relegation battle here’s how the bottom five look:
- Levante – near bottom; and given past history on some teams in MLS – I’d say they are an early bet to get relegated – even after just three weeks; provided their defense doesn’t perform better compared to others.
- Espanyol – ah… here’s where things get a bit dodgy; they seem okay in attack and overall yet their defense is what is letting them down. Does that continue? We’ll see…
- Cordoba – like Espanyol – they are near bottom in DPWP – that means of course, that the opponents are not only completing good numbers of passes, but it also means they are penetrating, creating and generating shots taken that hit the back of the net – all told they’ve conceded four goals and scored just two.
- Almeria – a bit higher up the DPWP Index, this may provide an early indication that this team is slightly better than the two points that they have. More to follow…
- Rayo – again quite good and not expected given their APWP and CPWP – those two draws against Deportivo and Atletico Madrid have done them well… as noted in the APWP thoughts; I’d offer this team may not stay in the bottom third for long.
Now for the “more to follow” on this league being a passing league – the CPWP Strategic Index for teams where they have exceeded the league average in volume of passes (415):
Note that Rayo and Levante are in this mix… In considering the poor performances for Levante so far this season is it better or worse that they are attempting to mix it up with some of the other teams who are really – really good at passing?
I wonder if Levante also has games that are below the league average of 415 passes?
To answer that question here’s the CPWP Strategic Index where teams’ passing volume has not exceeded the league average:
Only Rayo is not in the mix for the current bottom dwellers – again that seems to reinforce that Rayo may end up being a bit higher in the table as the season plays on.
In addition, note that Villareal were a better team in overall performance (positive ~.4) when exceeding the league average compared to (~-1.2) when falling below the league average. Having played Barcelona skews that Index rating here I’m sure…. On the flip side they defeated Levante and drew nil-nil with Granada.
And of the teams that don’t pass a lot – does this show (already?) that teams like Deportivo, Eibar, Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad are better in counter-attacking and direct attacking than a team like Eiche, Villareal, or Athletic Club?
I’m not sure – but it sure does raise some interesting questions as PWP comes to La Liga.
Before moving on; I wonder how this Index will look at the halfway point of the season… time will tell.
A wrap up of sorts for the five bottom dwellers with a focus on overall passing accuracy:
- Levante – 3rd worst = 70% – the key stat here appears to be goals scored – they have none.
- Espanyol – 8th worst = 75.08% – the key stat here appears to be the opponents ability to put a shot taken on goal – 44.09% – 2nd worst
- Cordoba – 10th worst = 76.62% – the key stat here appears to be lack of penetration (17.27% of their possession results in penetration) 3rd worst
- Almeria – 7th best = 77.72% – the key stat here appears to be controlling time and space in defending – as the opponent percentage of penetration increases so does the percentage of shots taken, shots on goal, and goals scored; in other words their defending percentages get worse as the opponent draws nearer the goal.
- Rayo – 6th best = 78.27% – the key state here appears to an inordinately high percentage of shots on goal faced versus the 2nd lowest amount of possession, by percentage, of their opponents.
Overall, even after just three weeks and the dominant indication on how passing influences CPWP, the Index is still not overly influenced by it when peeling back overall performance.
Still early days though, and the race to avoid relegation has begun.
I’ll not ignore the top half of the table but I’ll also not ignore the bottom half.
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Even when it’s early days there are just some things that already make themselves clear – Barcelona are the team to beat in La Liga.
I’m sure FC Bayern would like that simplicity in the Bundesliga but not so…
How many pretenders are contenders in the English Premier League is also another story… but Chelsea have certainly opened up well.
If you’re reading about Possession with Purpose for the first time click this link to get more details on this comprehensive team attacking and defending Index.
For the first time, this year, I am using this analytical approach to measure team performance in the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, and La Liga.
With that, here’s my Composite PWP Strategic Index on La Liga, after Week 2:
A reminder – the Composite Strategic Index is a measure of the difference between the Attacking PWP Index and Defending PWP Index; as such it’s intent is to offer a comprehensive (strategic) view of how teams perform in those areas without taking into account specific individual accomplishments…
For me, teams win and teams lose, to quantify that one individual has that much power is (usually) inappropriate.
But like Ice Hockey and Wayne Gretzky, there is Lionel Messi in Soccer and – at least for now – it is reasonable to assume that Barcelona are really-really good because he’s on the team.
Fair dues but, here’s the thing, Messi doesn’t usually pass the ball to himself (most of the time) 😉 so there are ten other guys who do touch the ball.
That said there were a number of transfers this past week so some teams are lining up to try and get past Barcelona – I guess we’ll see how that goes. For now though, Barcelona are alone at the top.
If you like statistics know that after Week 2 the R2 for the La Liga CPWP Index is (.64); pretty good, not as solid as the R2 for the MLS CPWP Index (.80) but it does appear to have relevance to the League Table without including points for wins or draws.
Before moving on to the Attacking PWP Index here’s a quick snap shot on team passing accuracy in La Liga after two weeks; that’s not a mathematical calculation error – Barcelona is averaging 90%:
If you read my recent article on the Bundesliga you’ll know that the average Passing Accuracy for the league was 73.98%, in Major League Soccer it’s 77.10%, in the EPL, it’s a whopping 80.87%, while in La Liga it’s 77.59%.
If you had to rack and stack the leagues, given Passing Accuracy as being a top indicator of quality, clearly the EPL has the best average (top to bottom) of those four leagues.
So in getting back to the original question – who’s going to stay with Barcelona this year?
I’d expect Real Madrid for starters – obvious reason they spend loads of money but is there a team hiding in the weeds like Atletico Madrid did last year?
To be honest, I have no clue yet, but consistency of purpose is a good thing and at least two teams have shown some good form, compared to most others early on; Valencia and Athletic Club.
But since they have yet to play Barcelona or Real Madrid it’s almost “mere” speculation.
In looking at the Attacking PWP Index here’s how they stand:
Valencia lead this side of the equation but like the Major League Soccer APWP, this is subject to change as more teams go head-to-head with each other.
Another observation about this Index is that this one is a much better reflection of the opponent played against – in other words there are teams that purposefully cede possession – when that occurs these numbers will be influenced.
For example, through choice or no choice, Villarreal has averaged just ~36% possession with ~74% passing accuracy whereas Real Madrid has averaged ~60% possession with 85% passing accuracy.
Teams that have played those teams will have their Index numbers influenced more, in some areas, than teams like Sevilla or Deportivo, who have averaged near 50% possession with near 75% passing accuracy.
However viewed, early form has just as much value in garnering three points as late form does; if a Head Coach has his team switched on the pressure should really be no different.
Will Valencia, Deportivo and Celta continue to stay near the top in APWP? Hard to say but we will see.
In looking for early season contrasts, in attacking and defending, the team with the biggest Dr. Jeykl and Mr. Hyde appears to be Atletico Madrid:
In team attacking, they are bottom of the Index, in team defending they are 3rd best…
If I had to hazard a guess I’d imagine Atletico Madrid have got the appropriate focus on team defending – what they will need to secure a stronger position will be better team attacking.
I guess we’ll see how that matures, as well, this season.
It’s early days but it’s pretty clear the overwhelming amount of possession, with an extremely high rate of passing accuracy, will keep Barcelona at or near the top – provided they can generate shots and score goals; hard to imagine they won’t given the sheer quantity in quality…
All for now, best, Chris
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