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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Most of the Headlines speak to the Real Madrid victory over the vaunted Barcelona; mine obviously don’t.
For me Valencia is showing strong, and in my view, seems to have struck a great balance in attack and defense as they continues to impress. And even though this early season run of form might not last I do think it’s worthy to dig a bit deeper into their overall performance to see exactly why they are doing so well.
To begin – my standard Composite PWP Strategic Index:
Why are Valencia so high in their overall team performance?
Is it their overall team attacking or defending performance?
At first glance you may think it’s their Attack – to review that here’s the latest Attacking PWP Strategic Index:
Even higher than Barcelona – one of the best attacking teams in the World! Valencia are:
- 7th best in overall possession – 51%; a full 17% less than Barcelona
- 3rd best in overall passing accuracy – 85.97% – still less than Barcelona by 3%
- 17th best (4th worst) in penetration per possession -19.71% – a full 13% below Barcelona
- 9th best in Shots Taken per penetrating possession – 15.84% – this time ~6% higher than Barcelona
- 9th best in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 34.87% – roughly 5% lower than Barcelona
- Finally, and perhaps the single greatest graphic difference is Goals Scored per Shots on Goal; at this point Valencia have scored a HUGE 60.83% of the time they’ve put a Shot on Goal – by comparison Barcelona sit at 31.68%..
In a phrase – Valencia ‘are’ the best team in performing the key indicators in possession with purpose. They may not have the glitz and glamour of a Barcelona or Real Madrid but steady is good.
But before moving on to Defending I think it’s worthy to note their volume of activity not just the percentages above:
- They match the league average in passes attempted (410) what skews that average is Barcelona and Real Madrid. All told only six of the 20 teams in La Liga exceed the league average.
- As noted above their passing accuracy is 3rd best in the league – with that their total completed passes across the entire pitch is 5th best at 349.
- So by volume they are not what would be considered a dominating possession based team.
- And in looking at their overall penetration into the final third Valencia average 107 passes per game – 13th best.
- In other words they’re not really a possession based team, they are more of a counter-attacking team who simply wait for some extremely superb moments to take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses in order to create ideal time and space conditions.
- And to reinforce this view they are slightly lower (10.78 per game) than the league average (11.45) in Shots Taken – but slightly lower in Shots on Goal (3.78) versus the league average of (4.03).
- And that ‘finishing touch’ sees them average 2.22 Goals Scored per game compared to the 1.34 for La Liga and just slightly lower than Barcelona’s average of 2.56 per game!
All told – Valencia are simply a team that is performing at an optimal rate.
But that’s not the complete answer for Valencia – here’s how they stand in the Defending PWP Strategic Index:
They are 3rd best in La Liga in defending team performance; here’s how the key indicators compare to others as well as Barcelona:
- Opponents average 48.68% possession – pretty much meaning the opponent has the ball as much as Valencia – opponents of Barcelona possess the ball just 31.18% of the time.
- Opponents average 77.62% passing accuracy – and I’d offer that is more down to the amount of space Valencia cede outside their Defending Final Third – we’ll take a look at that when reviewing the volume of opponent activity.
- In terms of penetration and shot creation from that penetration their opponents are 10th best at penetrating 24.09% of the time they possess the ball while also generating shots taken 16.21% of the time.
- All told that leads to an opponent accuracy shot rate on goal of 35.53% with 21.67% of those shots on goal scoring a goal.
- Bottom line here is that with average penetration (compared to others in La Liga) and average shots against, Valencia are 4th lowest in facing shots on goal and 4th lowest in seeing those shots on goal score goals.
It would appear they have a very organized defensive system and a very good Goal Keeper.
So how about the volume of attack faced from their opponents?
- At this stage they have faced, on average, the 8th fewest passes per game (388) compared to Barcelona at 300.
- In terms of overall penetration, the opponents have offered up 117 passes per game in the Valencia Defending Final Third – with that being the 10th most in La Liga.
- Statistics would seem to indicate that they do make it easier for their opponents to penetrate – which in turn appears to support what was offered up earlier.
- When it comes down to shots faced they are 9th lowest in that category – while translating that to just 3.78 shots on goal (tied 8th best).
- All told that added volume of penetration sees Valencia with a .89 goals against per game – 3rd best in La Liga.
Bottom line here – like what the percentages offer – Valencia cedes time and space outside the Defending Final Third while doing a great job of closing up shop as the opponent finally gains entry.
Is that the right mix to minimize the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla?
Hard to say at this time – but clearly – going into Week 10 against Villarreal it is likely they should get another three points.
Which brings me to my last Index – the CPWP Predictability Index.
In MLS this Index averaged a 55-65% accuracy in identifying the winner of upcoming games – at times the outputs were pear-shaped while others were spot on.
I have no idea how this will play out this year in Europe but here’s the Index itself and then a quick blurb on how to understand it:
As noted Valencia take on Villarreal this weekend – note that Valencia has a higher number than Villarreal – simply meaning, with the law of averages considered, and the teams perform as they have in the past Valencia should win.
So in looking up the schedule for next weekend; Getafe should edge Deportivo; Real Madrid should defeat Granada; Atletico Madrid should defeat Cordoba; Barcelona should beat Celta de Vigo; Real Sociedad should defeat Malaga; Athletic Club should beat Sevilla; Levante should lose to Almeria; Elche should lose to Espanyol; and Rayo Vallecano should beat Eibar.
By the way – the Predictability Index is made up of all the PWP Data Point Relationships excluding ‘goals scored’ and ‘goals against’ – you really can’t develop a worthy predictability index using goals scored.
That should help explain why Celta de Vigo are higher up the prediction table than Valencia… based upon their overall run of play performances Celta should probably score more goals than they do.
All for now…
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FC Bayern Munchen and Borussia Dortmund take a big leap in working towards the knockout stages as each sit on six points, along with Real Madrid.
Others falling in line for a push into the knockout stages include Roma, Chelsea, Monaco, Paris Saint Germain (stunner that was), Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Porto.
In seeing those results here’s how the Possession with Purpose Strategic Composite Index (CPWP) shows:
Of the teams with six points – all three fall within the top five of the Index, For those on four points, each, only Paris Saint Germain falls in the negative end of the Index.
Clearly the statistical impact of playing Barcelona is painful – and the orange star above Nicosia also highlights how far down the Index they are after that 6-1 thumping in Game 1. Yet now they’ve won their second game and sit on three points…
From a statistical standpoint the CPWP Index, correlation to average points earned, (R2) is .69 – very reasonable given only two games worth of data.
Oddly enough; and this doesn’t happen very much – the DPWP Index R2 (-.60) was slightly stronger than Goals Against (-.53); normally it’s about 5 one-hundreth’s of a point lower.
The Goal Differential R2 is .76; still the single best indicator that reflects results but doesn’t tell you anything about the internal activities of the game like the PWP Family of Indices.
Moving on – Defending PWP first:
Like the other DPWP Indices for the other leagues I analyze – I’ve adjusted the Y axis to begin at 1.5, as opposed to 0, in order to magnify the differences between those teams that don’t perform well versus those teams that do.
Note both Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munchen are 1 -2 in the DPWP Index – while Real Madrid are 11th best – is that an early indicator that Real’s attack (see below) isn’t going to get them past a much tighter defensive network offered by the two German clubs?
As for other observations – I’d say it’s pretty clear that Benfica, Ludogorets, and CSKA Moscow are toast – all three are 7th worst or worse in team defending… nevermind they all sit on nil-pwa.
Moving on to the APWP Index, with some additional diagrams to sweeten the observations:
As noted above, Real Madrid are much better in team performance for attacking versus defending – for the most part teams that defend better advance further in competitions like these. I’d imagine Real will need to play a whole lot tighter if they are to succeed.
And what about Barcelona?
Wow – it’s unlikely they don’t advance but it should be an electrifying wake up call that possession for the sake of possession is not going to cut it in the Champions League this year.
This league is a far cry more skilled than La Liga – a reminder on how Barcelona looks in overall CPWP for La Liga is below… you’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!
Okay – now a few extra diagrams for your consideration:
First off – here’s what the APWP looks like when you filter the teams based upon the volume of passes attempted in the Opponent’s Final Third; in this diagram here’s the teams who have exceeded (the average) of 132 passes attempted.
Those teams with red bars are those that sit on zero or one point; those with yellow bars are teams sitting on two or three points, while those with green bars have four or six points.
Of course it’s unlikely that Barcelona doesn’t advance – but the same can’t be said for Arsenal.
In this diagram Arsenal are 2nd best in APWP – when looking at the diagram for Final Third passes attempted below 132 note where Arsenal is -(last in APWP).
Clearly they perform much better when they attempt to penetrate more – that style of play where more is more in the EPL seems to translate to Arsenal doing better here too.
Whether that holds true for all teams in the Group stages is unclear – I’m sure we’ll see soon enough.
Before moving on; note that there are seven teams in this diagram who exceed 132 passes in at least one game – while four teams sit on one or zero points.
That’s not the case here where the APWP Index is filtered based upon teams/games where passes attempted in the Final Third fall below the average:
Only four teams here have four or six points – actually all four of them sit on four points.
I don’t know (yet) if this is more or less impacted by how the opponent dictates play – nor do I know if this is more or less impacted by how the attacking team dictates play… More to follow on that one.
Note the high volume of teams with red bars in the lower end of APWP when pass attempts in the Final Third fall below 132 – the lone wolf at the bottom end is Arsenal – kind of reaffirming the need for them to sustain a high passing volume game in order to maximize their team attacking talents.
All for now – only two games in and detailed statistical analysis really isn’t worthy at this time – for the most part it is what it is…
The teams not best suited to do well in this competition are beginning to appear – Game three begins 21 October – should be exciting and the special match-ups I see might not be yours.
Here’s the ones that intrigue me given the state of affairs today:
- Roma at home to FC Bayern Munchen
- Barcelolna at home to Ajax
- FC Schalke at home to Sporting Lisbon
- BATE Borisov at home to Shaktar Donetsk
- FC Porto at home to Athletic Club
- Atletico de Madrid at home to Malmo FF
- Liverpool at home to Real Madrid
- Beyer Leverkusen at home to Zenit St Petersburg
Exactly – that’s almost all the games – well you’re right 😉
Looking forward to that round and any upsets that might occur like Paris Saint Germain beating Barcelona 3-2.
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Being mid-table – a glass half-full – or a glass half-empty?
Still just six weeks in, but there are trends that can be offered with six games, so for this week’s focus I’ll look in on Rayo Vallecano, Almeria (who I looked at in Week 3 also), and Granada.
Respectively those teams are 9th, 10th, and 11th in the League Table; all with eight points.
To get started here’s my traditional Possession with Purpose CPWP Strategic Index after Week 6:
First off – for those keeping track the correlation (R2) for La Liga CPWP, after Week 6, is (.79) to average points in the league table.
The three focus teams (Rayo, Almeria, and Granada) are not bunched up at 9th, 10th and 11th, here they are spread out – where Rayo is 4th best in CPWP, Almeria is 10th best, and Granada is 18th best (3rd worst) – quite a distinctive difference in team performance though the points remain the same.
In peeling those three teams back I’ll begin with APWP:
For the leading side of APWP we have Rayo in 5th, Almeria in 13th, and Granada in 16th…
On taking a surficial glance first thoughts here, without reviewing the data, and using just the goals for and goals against lead me to believe that Rayo are doing a good job of penetrating, creating and scoring goals in comparison to the other two.
While at the same time they are also giving up goals as good as they get them… Rayo (10 for – 10 against) – Almeria (5 for – 5 against) – Granada (4 for 9 against)* (* more later on the asterisk).
So what do the internal team performance statistics offer for these three teams?
- In taking a look at some standard statistics Rayo lead those three with an average passing accuracy of 77.12%; while Almeria is 74.47% and Granada is 73.88%.
- With respect to penetration – Almeria lead those three in penetrating the opponent’s final third (~27% of the time they control the ball they penetrate) – while both Rayo and Granada hover around 17.5%.
- Given that Almeria’s average possession percentage is ~47%; compared to 58% for Rayo and 41.5% for Granada I’d offer the more successful team in playing counter-attacking soccer is Almeria – while the more patient team in penetrating is Rayo and the least effective attacking team is Granada.
- A difference maker, after considering the tactical and penetration characteristics, is obviously testing the waters on their successes in generating shots from penetration as well as how effective they are in putting the ball into the back of the net.
- Rayo leads the three teams by a slim margin in shots taken per penetration (19%) – with the other two hovering at ~18%.
Not much difference in terms of overall success but in looking at the volume of shots both Rayo and Almeria average 12 per game while Granada average just 7 per game.
- Meaning 19% and 18% equals 12 shots taken per game for Rayo and Almeria while 18% yields just seven shots per game for Granada; not ideal – especially when we know “more is better” in La Liga…
- If you have read this article (Expected Wins 3) you’ll know this to be true for La Liga, while it is not true for other European Leagues I evaluate, at this time.
- So how do the shots taken translate to shots on goal? Almeria average the most shots on goal (4.17) versus Rayo at (3.5) and Granada (2.0).
- As with many successful counter-attacking teams – sometimes fewer shots taken generate more shots on goal given the poor position some possession-based teams find themselves in when turning the ball over in the wrong place.
In wrapping up – greater possession percentage and higher passing accuracy don’t drive overall success for Rayo in comparison to Almeria – who posssesses the ball less, and have a lower passing accuracy.
- I wonder what the Midfielder Player Radars, statsbomb develop, look like for Rayo compared to Almeria?
- The November 29th match up against these two teams should provide a great contrast in attacking style – and perhaps one that is worthy to watch for teams scouting the success or failure of counter-attacking teams versus possession-based teams that aren’t as dominant in $$ and skills as a team like Barcleona.
That’s only one-half of a game though – and for those who think defense first – attacking team performance is the less influential half. So how do these three teams compare in DPWP?
First off – I’ve altered the “y” axis scale to reinforce how much of a difference Barcelona has with the rest of La Liga when it comes to possession- based tactics.
Clearly Barcelona not only possess with the intent to score they also possess with the intent to defend… for me this is a great example where – if the opponent doesn’t have the ball they can’t score…
Now for Rayo, Almeria, and Granada; Rayo is 6th best in DPWP, while Almeria is 8th best and Granada is 18th best (3rd worst).
- * The more later on Granada: At first glance I’d offer Granada has been far luckier in garnering their eight points than Almeria or Rayo – but – Granada just got beat by Barcelona six – nil.
- Now that Goals Against is three instead of nine – for a +1 Goal Differential.
- So where would Granada be in DPWP without playing Barcelona?
- Granada would be 9th in overall DPWP if they hadn’t already played Barcelona!
- Further up the DPWP than Almeria and only one place behind Rayo… a GREAT example of how playing just one team – like Barcelona – can impact this Index so early in the season!
- It is what it is… and while it may be fair to eliminate the Granada game against Barcelona (mix apples with apples) I won’t… everyone has to play Barcelona twice.
- If the positive play of Granada continues, exclusive of Barcelona, then that will show up later on this year.
- If it doesn’t, then perhaps this is an early signal that Granada are on a down slide?
However viewed; here’s some takeaways for these three teams, in defending team performance after six weeks:
- Opponent posssession will be just the opposite as attacking possession – in other words opponent’s for Granada will possess the ball more than either Rayo or Almeria.
- And even when removing the Barcelona game against Granada their opponent’s average possession is ~56% per game – still higher than Rayo (42%) and Almeria (52%).
- With respect to penetration, Granada opponent’s penetrate at ~28% while Almeria and Rayo opponent’s gain entry ~24% – the takeaway here indicates that Granada will play slightly deeper than both Almeria and Rayo.
- The difference isn’t that simple though – Almeria are a counter-attacking team given other indications so it’s likely the opponent’s 24% is more associated with the tactic of allowing penetration – whereas with Rayo – a possession-based team – it’s likely the opponent is gaining their penetration based upon mistakes in defending (not getting behind the ball) and those initial mistakes lead to more goals scored.
To test that – let’s take a look at Shots Taken, Shots on Goal, and Goals Scored for the opponent’s of Rayo and Almeria.
- Indeed – Rayo opponent’s generate more shots taken per penetration (21.64%) to Almeria (20.44%) yet that greater percentage sees Rayo actually facing fewer shots taken (10.83) to (13.67), fewer shots on goal (4.00) to (4.17) yet more goals scored against per game (1.67) versus Almeria (.83).
- Those Radar Charts might support this but might not – the funny thing about defensive statistics is that the sum of individual defensive statistics never quite matches up, one-for-one, with the volume of unusccessful passes by an opponent – see here…
- To quantify a bit differently – Almeria opponent’s average 72 successful passes, per game, in the Almeria Defending Final Third – whereas Rayo opponent’s average 55 successful passes, per game, in the Rayo Defending Final Third.
- Lower volume, fewer shots faced, more goals scored against – a pattern I’ve seen in the MLS this year with teams like Portland and New York – teams that (when watching them play) exhibit the habits of teams who make defensive mistakes based upon poor positional play.
- With respect to Granada – they not only face a much higher volume of opponent passes in their own Defending Final Third (115 per game) than Rayo they also yield only 1.5 goals against per game…
- So again, another team with greater activity in their own Defending Final Third does a much better job of not ceding goals against.
If I had to offer an opinion here I’d suggest that in order for Rayo to continue to have a successful year they need to 1) get behind the ball a bit quicker, and perhaps 2) get a better defensive minded midfielders to work better with some (upgraded?) defenders in the back-four.
With respect to Almeria and Granada – finding the right balance between attacking and defending is always hard – it looks to me as if both teams have a prety good balance but could (perhaps?) to add a highly skilled midfielder, with superb vision, to try and eke out that odd goal that doesn’t generate undue risk on the defending side of the pitch…
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If history holds, it’s likely
Noteable for all three is that only Granada have played Barcelona – Rayo have Barcelona next week while Almeria don’t play Barcelona until November 8th.
Well, it’s started – the World Cup of League Football for most; at least in my eyes that is.
Who’s going to come out on top and who’s not?
Of course these teams are the best of the best (so-to-speak) and that means I won’t be using words/phrases like sucks, bottom dweller, or some other derogatory term to describe loser.
In other words no comparisons to Chivas USA, Newcastle (sorry lads and I did see Alan Pardew is under fire already), Levante or some other team not starting/doing well in regular season competition.
On to the Family of Indices in Possession with Purpose – but before going there a few obligatory reminders, on things past, in a competition such as the Champions League.
As a refresh, the Composite PWP Strategic Index diagrams are provided below for that prestigious event: How it started…
And… how it ended:
Notice that the trends after Game 2 seem to be pretty consistent (in terms of what teams performed better and worse) all the way through to the final.
The overall R2 (correlation to average points scored) to the Final CPWP Index was .82; Goal Differential was .89. The DPWP Strategic Index R2 was -.81 and the APWP Strategic Index was .65.
The Goals Scored R2 to average points was .69 and the R2 for Goals Against was -.74.
To be sure I was a bit surprised on how well the Family of Indices played out.
I’m hopeful the relationship will be somewhat near the same for the UEFA Champions League competition.
So how do the CPWP, APWP, and DPWP Indices show after Game 1?
Well, it’s a bit earlier than the World Cup Indices but the intent here is to 1) let you know I’m tracking the Champions League this year, and 2) all the Index outputs will be made available for consideration.
CPWP Strategic Index Group Stages Game 1
Seems pretty clear that FC Porto would be where they are given the 6-0 romp over Bate Borisov.
It’s still very early days so we’ll leave it at that and just note that their were five draws.
Here’s the Attacking PWP Strategic Index offering up the first to worst team performances in Attack:
Perhaps a surprise in seeing Roma ahead of FC Porto? Why is that?
A couple of reasons and the last one, in my opinion, is the most telling one on who may proceed a bit further:
- Roma had 91.07% passing accuracy compared to FC Porto’s 86.65%
- Possession was basically equal (~67% each)
- Roma was 55% accurate in scoring goals based upon shots on goal; while FC Porto was 50% accurate.
- Roma had a 69.23% accuracy rating in having their Shots Taken end up on goal, as opposed to FC Porto (also very high) who was 60% accurate.
- Now for the final difference, and most telling in my view — FC Porto generated 23.53% Shots Taken per penetrating possession – while Roma generated just 11.40%.
Why do I have that one last, when it also shows that FC Porto exceeded Roma by over 10%?
The reason why gets back to patience, along with time and space…
Roma was patient. They statistically, give the appearance, that they waited for better opportunities to take shots (more time and space to shoot) and that reduced volume of shots, per penetration, ended up generating a 9.23% difference in goals scored.
This is type of pattern, that good teams continue to show in Possession with Purpose analysis, reinforces for me that the ‘unmeasured’ amount of time and space has as much, if not more value, than the location of the shot taken.
As a reminder – here’s three previous articles speaking to that in better detail…
- Sometimes what doesn’t happen on the pitch has more value than what does happen‘
- New statistics in soccer, Open Shots and Open Passes.
- Expected Wins
On to the Defending PWP Strategic Index and the teams performing best/worst in that area:
Juventus take the top spot – even ahead of the possession and passing mad Barcelona, the biggest difference really comes down to one team defending statistic:
With Juventus, Malmo FF completed only 36% of their passes within the Juventus Defending Final Third.
While APOEL Nicosia were able to complete 56% of their passes within the Barcelona Defending Final Third.
Perhaps this is down to how deep or how shallow the back four for each team lined up in the defending half?
However viewed it should be noted APOEL Nicosia had fewer passes attempted, in total (292) , than Barcelona had attempted in the Nicosia Final Third (303).
Wow… Not unlike the same run of play that Barcelona sees in La Liga. But is that indicative of a team that is going to win the Champions League?
It didn’t work last year… I guess we will see.
It’s only one game – and trends can never be seen with just one game.
They do, however, provide a starting point for a trend.
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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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