Two weeks in and Manchester City pretty much throws the gauntlet down against Liverpool and walks away with a dominating win.
Three other teams have also begun the season with six points (Spurs, Swansea, and Chelsea) but do those four teams show the most consistency with purpose in possession, penetration and creation of shots taken that result in goals scored?
And, do those same four teams show the most consistency in preventing their opponents from doing the same thing to them?
What about the early season dogs (QPR, Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle) – where do they fit?
I’ll try to answer those questions without too much detail given the season is just two weeks old.
So to begin; here’s the Composite PWP (CPWP) Strategic Index after Week 2:
- A quick look at the table sees the top four in the Index as being the top four in the Table – not specifically in order but there it is.
- In looking at the bottom end of the Table the bottom four teams in the Index match exactly the bottom four in the Table.
- I doubt very much the level of accuracy will match the League Table that well throughout the year.
- Of note is that Arsenal, Hull and Aston Villa are next up in the Table but Villa seems to drift down a bit in the CPWP; perhaps the APWP or DPWP might explain that drift compared to Arsenal or Hull City?
- As a reminder – the End State of the Index is to provide an objective view of team performance indicators that don’t include Points in the League Table – in other words it’s a collection of data points, that when combined, can provide value in what team activities are occurring that are directly supporting results on the pitch – sometimes results on the pitch don’t match points earned…
- In leveraging this Index last year in the MLS it was very accurate in reflecting why certain Head Coaches may have been sacked – in a League like the EPL (where everything is expensive) perhaps this Index might have even more value to ownership?
- Movement in the Index – in the MLS, this last year, I have seen teams move up as many as 12 places and down as many as 11 places – after the 4th week – so the Index is not likely to stay constant – there will be changes.
I do not quantify Index outputs specific to individual player acquisition or performance – there is no intent to do this. It’s my belief, good or bad, that even with individual star performances a team is a team is a team – you win as a team and you lose as a team… but this Index isn’t intended to stop others from doing that.
I leave that individual analyses for others who are far better at digging into the weeds than I – for the EPL I’d imagine many folks gravitate to @statsbomb or other @SBNation sites – I respect their individual analyses as I hope they respect my team analyses.
Whether the consistency of value shows itself in assessing team performance in the EPL like it has in Major League Soccer I have no idea – we will follow that journey, in public, together…
Now for Attacking PWP (APWP):
- In recalling Villa’s drift (it is still early) perhaps it’s an early indication that Villa are playing slightly more direct (given past indications analyzing Major League Soccer) – or with a greater lean towards counter-attacking and quick transition?
- In taking a quick look at their average volume of passes per game (305) compared to the rest of the EPL (456) it would seem to indicate Villa are playing more direct football.
- The team with the highest APWP while falling below the average number of passes attempted, per game, is Leicester City; they average 308 passes per game compared to the 456 average of EPL. For me that’s an early indicator that they are making the best use of a direct attacking scheme – others may have a different view?
- The team with the lowest APWP while showing higher than the average number of passes attempted, ~(500 per game), is Stoke City – that might indicate the Potters are looking to possess the ball more with the intent to possess it as opposed to penetrating with it. Folks who follow Stoke a bit closer might be able to add to that as I’ve yet to see them play this year.
- In terms of early form, relative to the six team performance indicators, Chelsea are tops with Everton, Arsenal, and Man City close behind.
- With respect to bottom feeders QPR are bottom in CPWP and bottom in APWP as well; most figured they’d be early favorites for relegation – the PWP Indices seem to lean that way already as well…
- Perhaps the early surprise in APWP is Newcastle? Not sure about that one – last time I lived in England Alan Shearer was their striker and probably the best one in the country at that time… others will no better about what Alan Pardew is up to…
Next up Defending PWP (DPWP):
- Leaders here include Spurs, Man City, Swansea and Newcastle – is this an early indicator that Newcastle has experienced bad luck already? Not sure but three of the bottom dwellers here are three of the four bottom dwellers in CPWP.
- Although not real clear here it might be easy to forget that Arsenal had a blindingly great first game and then eked out a draw against Everton in the last ten minutes; in considering that this data still just represents two games…
- Recall Stoke City – and the potential view that they might be possessing the ball with an intent to possess more-so than penetrate – even with just 1 point in the League Table their DPWP exceeds West Ham, Liverpool, and others who are further up the table.
- Man City showed great nous last year in winning the League and it reaffirmed for many of us the importance of defending – Liverpool were close last year given an awesome attack – players have changed but it’s likely the system/approach has not varied that much. And after two games Liverpool are embedded firmly in the middle of the DPWP pack.
- Can they push higher up the DPWP? And if so, will that climb in the DPWP Index match a climb in the League Table; or vice versa?
Far too early to look for trends but these first few weeks will provide a baseline for future trends.
As noted in my most recent articles on Possession – the more accurate soundbite on whether or not a team is more likely to win has more relevance with respect to Passing Accuracy (>77% in MLS usually means a team is more likely to win) and not Possession.
The margin of winning and losing in MLS is far to muddied when looking at Possession – so as the EPL season continues I will also make it a point to study what ‘soundbite’ has more relevance; Passing Accuracy or Possession.
Other links that may be of interest to you include:
My presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer
New Statistics (Open Shots and Open Passes)
Thanks in advance for your patience.
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The CPWP Predictability Index has been on a pretty good run since starting it up about 3 weeks ago; so if things go well I’d expect about five/six out of eight games being spot on after this weekends games.
For now here’s what I offered last week followed by the outcome:
Aston Villa v Stoke City: Stoke City should earn the points here and this (could?) be the beginning of a stretch where Stoke may maximize 21 points out of 27 in the next nine games.
Stoke City took three points…
Chelsea v Burnley: Chelsea should earn maximum points here but on short rest it is likely the squad taking on Burnley will have a few regular non-starters…
Chelsea “should” ahve earned maximum points but they didn’t – they still got a point however.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal: Arsenal should take maximum points here but given they have Monaco in four days time it is likely, they too, rest a starter or two. Intriguing here is that Monaco is a team who likes to cede possession – with that perhaps Wenger has one or two players going back to back games that we might not normally consider happening. Both games are a must three points given the severity on what’s at stake…
Arsenal earned maximum points.
Hull City v QPR: Hull City should earn points here, I’d expect a happy face from Steve Bruce after this one.
Hull City earned maximum points.
Sunderland v West Brom: Although playing away from home I can still see West Brom earning at least a point here.
West Brom did earn that point.
Swansea City v Man United: United really need to continue taking maximum points and this game may take the shape where Swansea actually wins the possession battle but loses overall control when it comes to goals scored. United earn points in this one.
Swansea lost the possession battle – big time – and took three points!
Man City v Newcastle: Like Arsenal, Man City have their Premier League game first – they need three points here or even the confidence of making Europe next year could come into question… Man City earn points.
Man City took three points in a BIG way.
Spurs v West Ham: Again a wicked good London derby – I see Spurs taking maximum points here but never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce and the Hammers – Sam would be glowing if he got three points but, in the end, I think he would settle for one… I doubt Spurs think the same way on that score…
Never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce – Spurs got a point – but not maximum points.
Everton v Leicester City: Martinez needs his team to take three points here – anything less would begin to fuel the talk that perhaps another leader is needed to manage the blues… or at least it would be crystal clear their current set of strikers really suck…
Martinez failed to take maximum points – they got a point but that’s it… given the past track record in teams performing badly, as rated through PWP (using MLS as an example – as well as Paul Lambert) Martinez may be on his last legs with the Toffies…
Southampton v Liverpool: This is the best game (outside of Spurs/Hammers) this next round – a can’t miss if your any type of football fan! The Saints are not underdogs here – I see them as favorites even though the Pudlians are on a bit of a run… Koeman v Rogers… game on – Saints should earn the points here – if not – then perhaps the chrome fenders are beginning to show some rust?!? As for Rogers – he really needs to get points here to!?!
The chrome fenders may be beginning to rust – but have heart there were some dubious calls in this game and PWP does not account for odd non-call PK’s… anyhow – no excuses Southampton did not earn three points or even one.
All told eight of the ten games showed the CPWP Predictability Index team getting at least a point – that makes the CPWP Predictability record:
- Eight of Ten
- Seven of Ten
- Eight of Ten
- Eight of Ten
- for a combined 31 out of 40… seems like a good bet where the odds show ~75% accuracy in picking the teams who take points…
So how about Week 27? A short week so to speak…
West Ham v Crystal Palace: West Ham should take at least a point here but really should take maximum points – but there may be a slight let down given that late equaliser on the PK rebound against Spurs… That being said Crystal Palace will most certainly play for a point knowing that any sort of mistake by West Ham could see them taking three…
Burnley v Swansea City: Who knows how this will go given the point Burnley stole from Chelsea – that said Swansea should take at least one but very likely three – no thanks to the Ref I might add.
Manchester United v Sunderland: No brainer this one? MUFC take three – if they don’t – wow…..
Newcastle v Aston Villa: I don’t see Tim Sherwood getting any better result here than he did last week – Newcastle should get the point – if not three.
Stoke City v Hull City: This game may be closer than some expect – even with Hull City playing at Stoke City. That said a draw may be the eventual outcome but the initial odds indicate Stoke should be on the pluc end more than Hull.
West Brom v Southampton: Critical mass here for Southampton – three points really is a must – and going against West Brom should get them three; or at least one point at a minimum.
Liverpool v Manchester City: The tough one this week – Liverpool are on a run and I spurned that run last week against Southampton – that said Man City have the best overall team possession statistics of anyone in the BPL – it’s really hard to bet against Man City in this one; even with Liverpool at home. My call is Man City gets at least one point here.
Arsenal v Everton: This game will be even tighter than the Liverpool v Man City game – Everton continue to be one of the top teams in possession-based attacking – what they have lacked is finishing. Given that Monaco just came into London and took three points in the UEFA Champions League I really doubt Wenger will be in the mood to see his team drop three points here. My call is Arsenal takes at least one point – with three points really being the expectation – and another nail in the coffin of Martinez (didn’t I use that phrase the week before Lambert got sacked?).
All to play for this weekend…
PS: When I get time I will go back and try to show how the CPWP Predictability Index has faired for the Bundesliga and La Liga – just finding it hard to find the time.
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It’s been a couple of weeks since I checked in with the English Premier League so here’s a quick fly-by on who’s leading the league in team performance, exclusive of the League Table.
That’s not to say I’ll ignore the League Table – in summary here’s the top six and the bottom six respectively:
- Chelsea, 32 Points
- Southampton, 26 Points
- Man City, 24 Points
- Man United, 19 Points
- Newcastle, 19 Points
- West Ham, 18 Points
- Swansea City, 18 Points
- QPR, 8 Points
- Burnley, 10 Points
- Leicester City, 10 Points
- Hull City, 11 Points
- Aston Villa, 12 Points
- Crystal Palace, 12 Points
Now for my Composite PWP Strategic Index:
In comparing the top six in the League Table to the top six in my Index Chelsea, Southampton, Man City, Swansea City, and Man United are all in.
Everton and Arsenal continue to ride high in this Index – whether that continues or not is yet to be seen.
The question I have is this — is it the results that end up catching up with the team performances, or is it the team performances that end up catching up with the results?
In Major League Soccer the team performances usually seemed to lag when compared to the results – if that is the case here then I’d expect Everton and Arsenal to drop further in the League Table if there are systemtic attacking or defending issues.
On the other hand – like Newcastle – the team performance lags the results and both Arsenal and Everton should begin winning more games…. more to follow…
As for West Ham, we already know they will be on the shorter end given their more direct style of play but the surprise mover is Newcastle; especially since in Week 5, where they were 6th worst in the Composite Index (see below).
Clearly team performance has improved considerably – not only in results but in team performance; that’s a good thing when considering the viability of the Index. Besides, I don’t read too often anymore where Alan Pardew’s head coaching status is in question.
As for the bottom six; well we have QPR bottom in both, with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Leicester City, and Burnley all in; the odd one out is Hull City.
Might that mean Hull City are more on the ‘lucky’ end of results than their team performance indicates?
I’m not sure but when we peel back APWP and DPWP we might be able to see where the general weaknesses and strengths are that help Hull City stay outside the relegation zone as the season continues.
Attacking PWP Strategic Index:
In considering the top six teams in the League Table it appears to me that the Attacking team performances for Chelsea, Man City, Southampton, Man United, and West Ham are a strength more than a weakness.
Defending PWP Strategic Index:
Not to be missed though is that Southampton, Man City, Chelsea, and Man United are also all in the top six.
The lone wolf, in defending, is West Ham. But we already know from previous analyses that Sam Allardyce likes to play more counter-attacking football – so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them in or around the middle.
It’s when their DPWP starts dipping below the halfway point that those forever blowing bubbles should be considered.
Southampton continues to find success; granted their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa was probably disappointing, but with that 80th minute goal they were able to scratch out at least one point against Villa.
The surprising result to me, and probably most everyone else, was the 3-1 pasting Liverpool took against Crystal Palace.
The most amazing statistics for me out of that game was seeing Palace offer up 15 shots taken with just 71 completed passes in the Liverpool Defending Final Third – and of those – 15 shots were taken with five of them were on goal!
I guess that shouldn’t be surprising to the average stats person given that winning teams in the EPL average just over five shots on goal with at least two goals scored. In this case Palace got three goals.
On the other hand, with 519 passes offered, 460 which were complete, and 96 of those were completed in the Palace Defending Final Third, you’da thought Liverpool would end up with more shots taken and more shots on goal.
They didn’t. What is even worse is they had five of those 12 shots come from prime locations and only one ended up on goal!
For me, this means reinforces two things:
- Time and open space has great value when considering the quality of shots taken, regardless of location, and
- Liverpool have yet to find a striker who can take shots and put them on goal. I would expect Liverpool to be in the market to buy a top striker as soon as possible!
If you’re a betting person; here’s the latest CPWP Predictability Index. This does not yet to into account the differences between team performance on the road versus at home.
It should be noted that teams playing at home, in the EPL, have taken 182 points – versus teams playing on the road have taken 143 points.
In terms of a ‘rough estimate’ that means 56% of all points earned are earned at home games.
Not much of an edge – but – if you’re a team like Crystal Palace, playing a team like Liverpool, who is clearly shaken – and not stirred – there will always be the chance of an upset!
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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp
Like the La Liga article this week I’ll be taking a look at some mid-table maidens and muppets.
And yes, I’m breaking down this week and offering up some analysis on Manchester United.
I’ve delayed long enough I guess so I’ll take a peak at them along with Tottenham, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Stoke City, and Leicester City; all of them on eight points each working from 7th to 12th in the league table.
As usual – to start things my Possession with Purpose Composite PWP Strategic Index through Week 6:
In picking out those six teams Man United lead in CPWP (5th best); followed by Spurs (9th), Stoke (10th), Leicester City (13th), West Brom (14th), and Crystal Palace (16th); not bunched up like in the league table.
Perhaps there might be some telling team performance indicators in APWP or DPWP that really separate these teams?
The best way to start is to peel back all these teams in APWP:
The obvious – Man United rest 5th best, Leicester City, perhaps a surprise at 9th best (lest we forget that smashing pumpkin they delivered at Man United’s door two weeks ago), Spurs 11th best (or 10th worst), Crystal Palace 13th best, Stoke 15th best and West Brom 4th worst.
Here’s the six teams in focus plus two balancing agents – Chelsea and Burnley – the top and bottom of the EPL heap…
I could spend the better part of 800 words going over what’s offered here – I’d prefer not to and just point out a few bits and pieces before another diagram on Attacking.
- Leicester City (blue bars) have one hell of a great parabolic relationship (follows the white dashed parabola of Chelsea going on) – and Man United do as well. Not quite as pronounced as Chelsea but the pattern of attack is similar in team outputs.
- The difference there with Leicester City is obviously quality – less means less for the most part in the EPL – but all things considered not a bad form for Leicester.
- In considering Man United – plenty of patience (like Chelsea) but the finishing is getting in the way – perhaps Wayne Rooney is not the striker this team needs?
- Even more worrisome for Man United should be that they’ve played no-one of great concern in the EPL yet – they’ve got Everton next weekend then a potential break with West Brom (but maybe not?) then they have Chelsea and Man City back to back…
- When looking at the pear-shaped teams it’s West Brom, Spurs, and Stoke City who best follow the pattern (black dashes) set by Burnley.
- Crystal Palace look to follow the Chelsea parabola but appear to lack goals scored relative to the percentage of shots on goal – perhaps attributed to missing the near or far post? Still not bad form inside the 18 yard box.
- Those who chart Expected Goals will know that better than I.
In moving on to my Expected Wins Diagram; here’s the same teams viewing how those percentages of success translate to overall volume:
I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting Chelsea in light yellow while highlighting Burnley in light orange.
A few items of note here without 800 odd words of observations:
- Recall I mentioned that Crystal Palace was a bit lacking in goal scoring percentage compared to shots on goal – well in looking at all these teams, Crystal Palace average the lowest volume of activity in all these categories until – until – you get to Shots on Goal and Goals Scored… pretty remarkable and perhaps a great example of how an effective attacking performance plays out, statistically, for a team that plays more towards a counter-attacking style than a possession based style.
- I don’t offer Crystal Palace as being more direct given their lower volume of passes attempted in the Final Third – if their numbers were near Stoke City then I might.
- Note that Man United exceed all the others in this scrum by a good margin with one exception – Stoke City, who has a considerably less volume in passing but ends up with a higher volume of shots taken.
- In considering Stoke – note the drop-off in shots on goal and goals scored… even though they have the largest volume of shots taken for these teams.
- Perhaps this is another great example of a team that looks to play slightly more direct, has less patience on the ball, and as a result, their overall productivity takes a nose-dive when it comes to scoring goals?
- Oh – had to change the color for Chelsea to light blue given the white background…
I had a request earlier this week to offer up my Expected Wins diagram using a Logarithmic scale – as such I’ve included one below:
The highlighted areas remain the same – but with this approach you can clearly see the negative outcomes for Stoke City and Burnley – while also seeing that the overall data collection points do have a relationship.
The healthy one is clearly the light blue bar for Chelsea – and as noted in Expected Wins 3 – this league works off of volume with the exception of Final Third Passes Attempted… losing teams (now) attempt more passes into the Final Third – pretty much reinforcing that Direct Play just isn’t good enough to cut it in the EPL.
Moving on to Defending PWP:
Man United, Stoke, West Brom and Spurs are fall above the mid-table while Leicester City and Crystal Palace are near bottom; again they don’t really bunch up in defending team performance like they do in results.
In looking at the diagram below it’s a wonder Stoke City are as high up as they are – I’ll offer up where Stoke gets hit worst a bit later – for now notice that I’ve replaced Chelsea and Burnley with Southampton and QPR:
Measuring defending statistics is always hard to do because I have to intuit what doesn’t happen on the pitch; given the lack of clarity in separating passes and shots between those that are hindered and those that are open… more here on that if interested.
For now the juice in 800 words or less:
- A bad sign for me in how effective a team is, in defending their 18 yard box, is when the opponent percentage of goals scored, per shots on goal, exceeds the percentage of shots on goal, per shots taken.
- The team who best represents a lower percentage of goals scored per shots on goal than shots on goal per shots taken is Southampton – currently in second place; the White dotted line.
- At this stage their differential is 19.15% – second best is West Ham at 11.71% and third best is Swansea City at 9.22%.
- Of all the teams in this focus Man United has the best differential (+2.23%).
- The worst of the lot is Stoke City; a differential of -21.87%; the largest margin by far… either they need a new Goal Keeper or they need better fullbacks and center-backs…
- What keeps them on the higher end of the DPWP is lower percentages for their opponent in possession and shots on goal per shots taken – so they do a great job in looking to prevent the shots taken reach goal – but when they do reach goal they are high quality shots… I’d attribute this to poor positional play in the 18 yard box and perhaps goals conceded on the counter-attack.
- Either that or their Goal Keeper simply isn’t that good?
- As far as penetration goes, we already see Crystal Palace yields possession and space in the midfield – as do West Brom, Crystal Palace, and, for the most part, Leicester City.
- With higher opponent percentages in possession – coupled with a strong passing league, it’s no wonder when the defense breaks down in the 18 yard box those teams are going to be slightly less effective than someone like Southampton.
It should be noted that only Crystal Palace and Leicester City are on the lower end of DPWP – so these teams can score and at this stage it’s their attack that is pushing them to mid-table – can that hold?
Hard to say – one thing is, neither of those teams is as pear-shaped as Newcastle…
Still early days yet but teams are showing tactical trends, seen before in PWP analysis, that separate the possession based teams with those who like to play counterattack or more direct.
Survival of the fittest couldn’t be more clear in this superb league… speaking of Newcastle; how on earth are they so low in the Table?
More to follow on that question in a couple of weeks.
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I’ve no doubt many of the headlines on the English Premier League this week dig into Manchester United’s convincing win over Crystal Palace… That’s probably appropriate for most but I, often times, like to write about the un-obvious.
So even though Angel Di Maria looked great – I’d offer he was a stud playing amongst English school boys… perhaps something like Lionel Messi (Barcelona) playing Levante in La Liga???
Anyhow, well done to Man United – they finally won a game!
The exciting match, for me however, was the Aston Villa (1 – nil) thrilla at the Kop…
Who’da thought the Villans would be sitting where they are after four games? Tom Hanks no doubt… 😉
Well, perhaps in hindsight (after week 10 or so) that run of 10 points, in these four games. might not be quite as much as it seems today.
Bollocks you say – we will see 🙂 A very tough match against Arsenal comes next on Sept 20th, 7 AM PST…
Anyhow, like the latest on the Bundesliga and La Liga, I’ll be taking a look at the early races taking shape on relegation; in particular the four bottom dwellers, and how they compare in the Possession with Purpose Family of Indices.
My analysis on the CPWP Strategic Index, filtered by passes, above and below the league average of 450, will follow in a blog a bit later this week.
For now the Composite (CPWP) Strategic Index through Week four:
Although taking a hit from Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, Swansea City still shows pedigree in the CPWP Strategic Index. Other teams doing well include Man City, Chelsea, and with a rather large move up the Index, Manchester United.
Hovering midtable in the Index, but gathering points, as noted, is Aston Villa – another sleeper (but maybe not) is Southampton.
How soon the have’s and have not’s split up, in this Index, is unclear but I’d expect Week 10 or so will begin to show a bit more clarity in who’s consistently performing well and who isn’t.
In terms of the late starters in the League Table there are four teams; Crystal Palace, Burnley, West Brom, and Newcastle; all sitting on two points.
For the remainder of this article I’ll concentrate some thoughts and observations about them and save some individual analysis on Aston Villa, and Southampton, for my new blog later this week.
Like the Bundesliga and La Liga CPWP Indices, the R2 for this Index, after Week 4, shows well – it’s .73…
Attacking (APWP) Strategic Index:
Given the early season outburst from Chelsea is it any wonder they sit atop this Index – with an average Goals Scored of 3.75 would you really expect my Index not to reflect that amount of fire power?
So how about those teams who’ve started with just two points each in the first four games?
- Crystal Palace – 7th worst in APWP – the telling statistics on this side of the pitch are two things; possession percentage average is 36.69% (3rd worst) and their goals scored per shots on goal is 29.46% (9th worst). What is interesting here is that Southampton sit below Crystal Palace in that statistic (29.17%) but their overall possession percentage is 52.91%. That significant difference in the amount of possession spells the biggest reason why Crystal Palace sits where they sit. In other words the statistics are indicating that if Crystal Palace can retain more possession of the ball they should, by all counts, increase their goal scoring output.
- Burnley – 2nd worst in APWP – the telling statistics here are also two things: shots taken, per penetrating possession, is 7th lowest and their goals scored, per shots on goal, is 3rd worst (12.50%). The striking contrast here is that the other teams who show patience in taking shots, per penetration, (lower averages than Burnley) are Man City (9.18%), Arsenal (9.92%), Man United (10.09%), Spurs (11.1%), Everton (11.13%), and Southampton (12.9%). What this clearly indicates is that the, higher scoring, possession based teams are behaving exactly like some of the higher scoring teams in MLS – they are showing patience in shot selection compared to penetration. With Burnley clearly not a possession based team (43.61%)are they trying to show (patience – perhaps???) where in fact they might produce better results if they simply increase their shot volume per penetration? In other words, with just a glimmer of time and space, as opposed to more acres of time and space, they need to shoot more often???
- West Brom – 3rd worst in APWP – pretty simple to offer up analysis here – they are 4th worst in putting shots on goal, per shots taken, and they are 2nd worst in scoring goals, based upon their volume of shots on goal… Perhaps they need a better striker or two???
- Newcastle – 6th worst in APWP – two things here as well – perhaps??? The most striking observation here, for me, is that Newcastle average 55.7% possession (6th best in the EPL) but when converting that overall possession, to penetration into the opponents defending final third, they are third worst at 21.13%. And that final clarity in gaining penetration also finds itself influencing goals scored – they are 4th worst in goals scored. Perhaps they need a couple of better midfielders???
Moving on to Defending (DPWP) Strategic Index:
Manchester United have moved up top here and clearly, Aston Villa, with that HUGE clean sheet at the Kop, have kept themselves in good stead as well.
In looking at the four bottom dwellers – here’s there positional standing and some key observations too:
- Crystal Palace – 2nd bottom of the DPWP – two things here. Their average opponent possession is 63.31% (3rd worst) and they are also 3rd worst (28.78%) in conceding penetration. Now that might not be a bad thing when working towards a successful counter-attacking approach but they are 9th worst in seeing their opponents put shots taken on goal and 8th worst (36.46%) in seeing those shots on goal get converted to goals scored. The contrast here is Aston Villa; they actually cede more possession (64.39%) than Crystal Palace, but they have the 2nd best defense in limiting opponent shots taken, being on goal, and the best defense in preventing those shots on goal from being goals scored. Perhaps Crystal Palace need better midfielders and defenders, as well as a better Goal Keeper? In other words a whole new defense or a completely different defensive scheme???
- Burnley – 7th best in DPWP – this Index rating might actually be an early indicator that the Burnley record isn’t quite reflecting how well this team is playing. Granted goal scoring is critical – but for most – a strong defense usually sees a team through when fighting relegation. With them being 7th best the only thing that stands out to me is the amount of possession they’ve conceded – opponents average 56.39%. In seeing that, they’ve already played Chelsea, Man United, and Swansea City, a hard slog to be sure. Overall, I’d offer, if they keep their confidence, they should continue to move forward at a better pace than some other bottom dwellers like Cyrstal Palace.
- West Brom – 3rd worst in DPWP – interesting here is that they are 2nd best in limiting opponent penetration into the final third (just 19.04%) but even with that minimal penetration they are 8th worst in conceding shots taken, that are shots on goal, and 4th worst (48.21%) in seeing those opponent shots on goal hit the back of the net. Seems like their defensive approach within the 18 yard box leaves quite a lot to be desired… A team that is successful in clogging the choke point into the final third probably should do better as the amount of defending space naturally gets smaller inside the 18 yard box. Is it too early to say they might need two better centerbacks and a better goal keeper?
- Newcastle – 10th in DPWP – midtable of the Index and some are no doubt scratching their heads on why Newcastle finds itself at bottom of league table. For starters their opponents average just 44.30% possession, and their opponents really don’t penetrate that much compared to some other teams (7th lowest – 21.9%). It appears what is happening is that, even with small amounts of possession and penetration, the opponents are taking a higher volume of shots per penetration; resulting in the 2nd worst percentage of shots on goal, per shots taken, (43.64%) and the 9th worst, goals scored, per shots on goal. Put another way the positional defending, inside and around the 18 yard box (appears??) weak. Perhaps they give their opponents too much time and too much space as they transition in positional defending after the opponent penetrates???
All told, it’s clearly early days but I think patterns are already beginning to develop.
To be honest I’m quite jazzed to be offering up PWP analysis on the EPL – I do wish Blackburn were still in it – and perhaps even Leeds United! More teams from the north!
Anyhow – two sides of the table to review and next week I’ll take a closer look at the top end…
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Perhaps a few shockers this past weekend – Queens Park Rangers defeating Sunderland 1-nil and Burnley (only?) drawing with Man United nil-nil certainly are intriguing, and from a pure entertainment standpoint the Chelsea game had it all.
But soccer isn’t about one specific week in League competition – it’s about the consistency of purpose in performing week in and week out.
So for the first three weeks my two teams operating at (unexpected) peak performance are Swansea City and Aston Villa.
Now I’m sure others feel or think Chelsea deserve some credit and they do – but at this stage they’re boring as I’d have expected them to do well.
And as for Manchester United – well… I’ll give them a look a bit later during this 2 week break.
For now though a special look at Swansea City and Aston Villa; wrapped up within my Possession with Purpose Strategic Index analysis after Week 3.
With that here’s the tale of the tape in Composite Possession with Purpose after Week three:
The early season form for Swansea City sees them completing ~85% of all their passes with a mid-table ranking, in Final Third completions, at ~67%.
The most telling difference between Swansea and other teams, early on, is their superb ability in putting shots on goal, per shots taken, (55.56% – leading the EPL) and a healthy 39.29% of goals scored, per shot on goal.
And while the location of those shots might have some value – I expect the space and time the strikers had was telling; in checking shot location for Swansea City it appears 50% of their shots originate from outside the 18 yard box with 2 of them scoring; while 4 of their 15 inside the box have resulted in goals.
What’s amazing here is that both Swansea and QPR lead the league in Shots Taken per possession-penetration into the Final Third.
Swansea averages 20.88% shots taken per penetrating-possession – while QPR averages 21.40% (leading the EPL).
Where QPR falters, big time, is they’ve only managed to put 20% of those shots on goal and a measly 8% of those shots on goal have resulted in a goal…
Again, shot location might have value but I’d expect their shot location is okay – where they falter is (perhaps?) more about lack of patience and clear space in order to take quality shots…
A quick check indicates that 24 shots from QPR have come from within the 18 yard box – while 21 shots have come from outside the 18 yard box… seems to reinforce my time and space theory as opposed to strictly looking at shot location… others may have a different view?
Can you say QPR need to buy some strikers?
I would – but perhaps even more important is it appears to me that QPR also need to buy one or two midfielders that have more patience in setting up more shots for their teammates in open space.
Just another example here of why I’d like to see those two new statistics in soccer – Open Pass and Open Shot…
And yes, Swansea have only faced Burnley, Man United, and West Bromich Albion.
At this stage that might not be saying a whole lot but a win is a win is a win – and Swansea have three of them!.
A mid-season win has no more, or less value, than an early season win. So all those second guessing the early season form should recognize nine points is far better than three points; or like Man United, one point!
As for other team performances – it was disappointing to see Man City couldn’t put one past Stoke City this weekend.
They had plenty of possession and penetration, but alas, as Swansea and Chelsea so deftly point out, the full run of the game means you need accuracy in shots taken just as much as accuracy in passing, both inside and outside the Final Third.
Of course, having a player who can dribble-sprint 60 yards, dodge past three players, and meg the keeper, can really help a team – well done Stoke City.
So how do the teams compare in the Attacking PWP Index?
Chelsea – surprised?
Probably not… What a thrilling match that was; nine goals with six of them by Chelsea.
And we shouldn’t ignore Liverpool and that three goal burst against Spurs… a shocker? (perhaps?) but we’ll know if that’s a real shocker sometime later this season.
As for Everton, scoring three goals themselves, don’t pay a penalty in APWP for the lack of scoring goals – where their drop in overall performance comes is in viewing the DPWP Index – here:
Last week Everton were 5th worst in DPWP – rightly so given they had already given up two goals to Arsenal and two goals to Leicester City.
All told that’s 10 goals against in just three games… wow… Martinez is going to have to make some changes (big money changes) if that goals-against rot continues… even now I’d expect them to work very hard during this early season break to fix their defense….
So who’s a great example of how an effective Defense keeps a team shining, even when the attack isn’t the best?
While only three weeks have been played my shining example is Aston Villa.
They are ranked 4th worst in team attacking performance but when it comes to team defense… they’re ranked 4th best. A great example of where strong defense gets you points – they have seven at this stage.
So how does that 4th best translate to success on the pitch?
Opponents are completing ~64% of their passes in the Villa Final Third – 7th lowest in the EPL. Of note is that opponents are possessing the ball better than 60% of the time.
For me that means Villa yield possession, up high, and play slightly deeper and tighter in their own half.
That compact approach, in their defending half/third, sees the opponent completing just under 20% of their total possession in the Villa Final Third.
In other words, even when the opponent has the ball, 80% of that possession is outside the defending third —> (of no major consequence)…
And, even more impressive, is that when the opponent does penetrate – only ~12% of that penetrating possession results in an opponent shot taken. And of that 12% only 29% of those shots taken end up as shots on goal.
Remember those stats from Swansea and QPR and how low QPR was in finishing (8%).
Well, as a team, opponents of Villa have just 11% of their shots on goal resulting in a goal scored against. That is 2nd lowest (best) in the EPL and only Swansea is lower – permitting just 6.67% of their opponents shots on goal scoring a goal.
Clearly these two teams are performing at peak compared to others.
So for a quick comparison – Villa yield possession at 60% (on average), while Swansea do not yield possession; their opponents average 49.19% possession.
So from a defending tactical view Swansea’s game style is not the same as Villa’s.
Swansea appears (data wise) to play a bit higher and yield penetration a bit more.
Opponents penetrate 23.11% of the time they possess the ball and take more shots against than Villa’s opponents who average 15.11%.
So an apparent tighter (man-marking) defensive scheme sees Swansea opponents having fewer shots on goal per shot taken; 19.13% versus Aston Villa at 28.79%.
Bottom line here is the contrast in defending styles can be noted, tracked, and measured without looking at tackles, interceptions, clearances, etc…
In other words it helps scratch that itch of measuring what doesn’t happen on the pitch as opposed to what does happen.
My earlier views on that can be read in this article published earlier.
Still early so no more diagrams – over the next couple of days, after putting together my Bundesliga and La Liga Weekly recaps I’ll go back and pick out some thoughts about Manchester United after three weeks, what weakness and strengths the data behind the Indices might offer.
All for now.
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