Tagged: DPWP

English Premier League – Possession with Purpose – Week 2

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:

CPWP EPL AFTER WEEK 2

Observations:

  1. 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.
  2. In looking at the bottom end of the Table the bottom four teams in the Index match exactly the bottom four in the Table.
  3. I doubt very much the level of accuracy will match the League Table that well throughout the year.
  4. 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?
  5. 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…
  6. 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?
  7. 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):

APWP EPL AFTER WEEK 2

Observations:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. In terms of early form, relative to the six team performance indicators, Chelsea are tops with Everton, Arsenal, and Man City close behind.
  6. 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…
  7. 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):

DPWP EPL AFTER WEEK 2

Observations:

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

In Closing:

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:

Possession with Purpose

My presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer

New Statistics (Open Shots and Open Passes)

Thanks in advance for your patience.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

Hammers hurdle forward and Villa vanquishes backwards

A tale of two teams!

The last time I dug into the English Premier League (Week 6) the League Table had Chelsea 1st (16 points), Southampton (13 points), followed by Man City (11 points), then Aston Villa, Swansea City, and Arsenal all tied for fifth on (10 points).

And here’s how the Composite PWP Index looked at that same time:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

Five of the six teams in league table were part of the top seven teams in the CPWP Index; note how far down the Index Aston Villa was; even on 10 points and tied for 5th place!

Was that an indicator that their early season run was more about luck than strong team attacking and defending across the entire pitch?

I’m not sure – but I’ll take a peak at both West Ham and Aston Villa, in a few, to give you a picture on how those teams performed in the first 6 weeks versus the last 5 weeks.

For now, fast forward to the end of Week 11 and here’s the lay of the land in the League Table:  Chelsea sit on 29 points; Southampton 25 points; Man City 21 points; West Ham 18 points; and Swansea City  18 points.

Moving up from 7 points after week 6 (tied for 13th) to 18 points was West Ham.

While Aston Villa took a complete nose dive (sorry Tom Hanks) to 16th with 11 points.

Here’s how the CPWP Index looks after Week 11:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX WEEK 11 EPL

In looking at the Index West Ham is 8th best, compared to 11th best five weeks ago.  

Southampton and Man City have both shifted past Chelsea (probably related to defending and not attacking) while Swansea has dropped below Man United, Arsenal, and Everton.

I won’t go into the details on those moves this week – even though I probably should given Swansea City just beat The Arsenal 2-1…

I’ll save that for later – just like the mystery about Southampton.

In regards to Aston Villa, they’ve not moved an inch in the Index – suppose one wouldn’t expect it seeing as they’ve only taken one point and it’s hard to drop lower than Burnley or QPR.

Nevertheless – be prepared – there is some grist coming up that may surprise you.

First Off – Attack – Aston Villa (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):

Key Strategic Attacking Indicators Aston VillaObservations:

Clearly the amount of possession has increased (considerably) during these two phases – a 9% jump is considerable in my opinion.

Whether that is a result of the opponent or an internal tactical move is hard to determine at this stage but it should be noted there was a bump (increase) across the board in all the key PWP indicators with one exception – goals scored divided by shots on goal.

In looking at Major League Soccer for two years now the explanation usually goes along the lines of this.

1) The opponents decide to cede possession somewhat by playing deeper against the attacking side… both Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union did that this year and both organizations substantiated (in one shape or another) that tactic.

To reinforce that position – their average total Attacking Final Third passes, per game, in games 1-6 were ~89; that number vaulted to 120, per game, between games 7-11.

Clearly the opponent looks to have taken a different approach in defending against Aston Villa – OR – Aston Villa has tried to step up penetration based upon overall possession; if Villa has attempted the later of the two I’d suggest they revisit their tactical attacking approach.

2) The trend for teams who don’t pass as accurately as the other teams in the league (Villa are in the lower half) seems to be that more possession sometimes includes more penetration and more shots taken, but that volume and percentage increase does not translate to goals given a somewhat higher potential for impatience.

When checking out West Ham there can be an economy of scale – but I think it’s probably more to do with the type and skill of the current players available as opposed to the normal course of events.

Aston Villa in Defending:

Key Strategic Defending Indicators Aston VillaThe change between both phases, in defending, almost seems to match the attacking pattern of West Ham, with two exceptions.

Overall opponent possession did drop, as did passing accuracy, but penetration increased, as did shots taken per penetration, shots on goal per shots taken and goals scored per shots on goal.

Pretty much indicating to me that the opponents worked hard to trap Aston Villa going forward, ceding possession in order to gain critical time and space in quick, purposeful counterattacks!

That may sound a bit early as an observation – but these same trends have shown themselves in the MLS for the last two years – and after awhile it does appear that generic patterns are showing through.

Next West Ham in Attack (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):

Key Strategic Attacking Indicators West Ham

In this diagram there’s almost a direct contrast; where Aston Villa’s numbers pretty much increased across the board, with the exception of Goals Scored – it’s almost the opposite for West Ham.

For West Ham their passing accuracy decreased, possession remained the same, while penetration, and shots on goals versus shots taken decreased.

Only two increases, the percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession and goals scored.

When studying teams in MLS this year – a pattern like this seemed to indicate a team leaning towards a more direct attack in nature.

The primary indicator supporting that, given lower passing accuracy and lower shooting accuracy, is the percentage and volume increase in shots taken per penetration.

For some teams that percentage works better when lower – especially when they have a higher passing accuracy.

But in the case of West Ham, it is likely they are simply looking to take more shots, quicker, and with less penetration.  Working off the philosophy that more is better.

In La Liga we know that more was better, the same held true for the World Cup as well – so this approach may be Sam Allardyce’s way of getting more with less.

When looking at the two separate phases, West Ham averaged 15.20 shots taken per game in games 7-11 versus 13.33 in games 1-6.

In addition, in games 7-11 they averaged 106.4 passes within and into the final third, versus 121.5 in games 1-6.

The other interesting note is that as passing accuracy decreased so did the volume – again speaking to perhaps? harder/longer balls being played in order to move the ball quicker into the final third when the opportunity presented itself; below are the average volumes during these two phases to confirm that.

West Ham total passes attempted (446.83 = 1-6) and passes completed (300 = 1-6)

West Ham total passes attempted (411.80 = 7-11) and passes completed (262.80 = 7-11).

As seen between phases I and II the volume of passes attempted AND passes completed decreased.

In looking at the end results – the percentage of goals scored per shots on goal went up by 18%; that huge increase in percentage only equates to an overall increase in goals scored, per game, of 1.67 to 1.80.

Given that it would appear that the defensive performance has also improved during this stretch.  Here”s the info for West Ham:

Key Strategic Defending Indicators West HamWhat appears to me is the same thing type of pattern that I’ve seen with Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union this year.

The defending tactics seem to indicate the opponent has been ceded time and space outside, and moving into, the defending final third a bit more.

In turn the percentages of penetrating possession and shots taken increase – but with reduced time and space (given a tighter/deeper line) the shots on goal and goals scored percentages have dropped.

When looking at the volume of opponent passes across the entire pitch, it was 446 total passes in the first phase with 363 completed; versus 411, with 262 completed, in the second phase.

Again, it appears the data supports West Ham ceding time and space a bit higher, or, the opponent attacking habits were different compared to the opponents faced in the first phase?

When looking at the volume of opponent passes within the defending final third, the average was 120 passes attempted and 78 completed  in the first phase and 126 passes attempted, with 80 completed, in the second phase.

Not that much of a difference – but in saying that the goals against in phase I was 1.67 per game, while in phase II it was .80 goals against.

All things considered, I’d offer that Allardyce has changed some tactical styles during the first 11 games.  Whether I’ve nailed the time period probably doesn’t matter – the more important thing for West Ham is that they’ve done something of value to increase goals scored and decrease goals against.

In the analyses I’ve done these past two years it would appear to me that the back four is playing a slightly deeper line and with that the attacking tactics are now sharper, and perhaps quicker.  All that going on with a draw to Stoke City and a win at home against Man City.

In Closing:

What may be troubling to the West Hammers is that their other games, in this five game stretch, included matches against Burnley and QPR; teams they should beat if a ‘should win’ is a reality in the English Premier League!

As for Aston Villa; their last five have included Man City, Everton, and Spurs, as well as QPR – a team (perhaps?) they shoulda beat???  and the draw with West Ham.

For all intents and purposes, it does appear that the PWP Key Strategic Indicators have pointed out some items of interest that may point to teams taking different tactical approaches.

The patterns seem to hold based upon what has been seen in MLS.

I wonder if those same patterns will begin to take shape in La Liga and the Bundesliga?

If so, kind of makes you consider that soccer, on both sides of the pond, is not that different at all – (perhaps???) it’s just what money gets spent to purchase top quality players and top quality managers???….

I.e. – if you spend enough money, in any league, it looks as if the tendencies of teams that don’t have higher quality players (spend the same amount of money) is to cede possession and play counter/more direct.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Dynamic Dynamo De-Magnetized as Dominic Departs

In the next installment of my End of Season analyses here’s my look at the Houston Dynamo. 

Last week I offered my End of Season analysis on the Chicago Fire (found here:) Candle Burned at Both Ends.

Previous to that I offered up my two part series on the Portland Timbers here (Defense) and here (Attacking).

This is the second article I’ve offered up on Houston this year – my earlier article can be found here:  Disheveled Defense has Dominic’s Dynamo in Disarray.

After working through the info I’ll offer my thoughts, for consideration, on some changes that may need to happen to make this team more competitive.

Like every installment I’ll lead with this Diagram – my Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

If you see a pattern in my approach this year – you’re right – I’ll be working from worst to first excluding the eye-sore – Chivas USA.  No point in my view – Wilbur Cabrera no doubt did the best job he could but since the organization is toast it’s best this black-eye of the MLS Franchise is laid to rest as quickly as possible.

Note that Houston (HDFC) finished third bottom in the Composite Index – pretty much meaning that both their attacking and defending team performance was weak.

The correlation (R2) of this Index to average points earned in MLS is .85.

Now for the Grist… points per game both home and away for Houston this year.

On the Road Houston averaged .65 Points per Game (PPG) 4th worst in MLS  – at home 1.65 PPG  10th best in MLS.

Overall – Houston averaged 1.15 PPG – 6th worst in MLS.

So from a team performance standpoint – dead on average when it came to performing at home this year – the killer, in putting them near bottom, was their road performance.

When looking into the team performance indicators of PWP I’ll make it a special point to peel back home and away outputs.  For now they had eight wins at home with three wins on the road.

It would appear that their inability to get a draw on the road was a stumbling block – just 2 draws to go with three wins – otherwise they lost 12 road games this year…

In those 12 road losses they scored just four goals, in their two road draws – they didn’t score any goals.

Even more pear-shaped is that four of their 12 goals, on the road, came in one game against Chivas USA!  They simply didn’t get results on the road!

Can you say new strikers for next year?

Perhaps – but it’s not all about just striking the ball, there’s passing accuracy, penetration, and as things are beginning to show, patience…

Bottom line here, they really couldn’t score or win on the road…  

Team Performance – first up – given their inability to score goals on the road – Attacking PWP:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Given just four goals scored in their 12 losses and only .71 Goals per Game, on the road as a whole – it shouldn’t be surprising that they fell that low in the Attacking PWP Index.  Kind of makes you wonder about San Jose (2nd worst) and them bringing on Dominic Kinnear to turn that attacking ship around?!?

However viewed there’s six team performance indicators that make up this Index so were they all bad, across the board, or just in finishing?

Possession Percentage:

All told – 48.95% – (9th highest) with Home possession 50.61% and Road possession 47.34%.

Not enough information to really pick out if their home and road styles were different – but enough information to warrant a closer look at volume both inside and outside the final third.

The overall volume of passes offered up at home was 417 per game – while on the road 397 per game – about 20 passes per game fewer.

That 20 passes per game more, at Home, only translated to 6 more passes per game in the Attacking Final Third (117 at home vs 111 on the road).

Again – not a great difference so more data is needed. 

Passing Accuracy:

All told – 76.54% – (11th highest) with Home accuracy 77.41% and Road accuracy 75.68%.

Overall their passing accuracy appeared to suffer on the road versus at home; but neither were particularly good compared to the rest of MLS.

We already know their volume of passes decreased on the road as well – so as their volume decreased their accuracy decreased.

That doesn’t usually follow but I think we saw that trait with Chicago as well – as volume decreased accuracy decreased…

For the Portland Timbers the opposite was true – as volume decreased accuracy increased.

So that relationship seems pretty pear-shaped to me…

I suppose there can be any number of reasons why this might occur – for me, I’d offer at least one observation – with decreased passing and decreased possession they may have been playing more difficult (longer) passes given less control of the game; i.e – showing less patience.  

Penetration per Possession:

All told – 23.82% (5th highest) with Home penetration 24.38% and Road penetration 23.25%

For the most part, in doing this analysis for two years now – a higher percentage of penetration per possession is not that good with a lower passing accuracy percentage.

What that higher number appears to indicate is less patience (with lower overall passing accuracy) and with that less patience in penetration their is usually a corresponding increase in the volume of shots – but the accuracy of those shots is usually lower.

Which then translates to fewer shots on goal and fewer goals scored.

For now, I’d offer that Houston attempted to penetrate with more frequency compared to having less possession – some might say this indicates a more direct attacking style as well.

When looking at the percentage of passes completed, in the Final Third, the Dynamo were accurate 62.44% of the time on the road (7th worst), 67.43% at home (7th best) and 64.94% overall.

Given the lower passing accuracy, and lower volume, as we know from earlier, I’d offer the Dynamo looked to play more direct on the road, and slightly less direct at home.

Put another way (perhaps?) – they were less patient on the road than at home.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

All told – 18.83% (5th highest)  with Home at 19.72% and Road at 17.93%

So 5th highest in both penetrating possession and shots taken per penetration.

As noted above then, the first two trends match other low performers – more penetration usually means more shots per penetration when passing accuracy is on the lower end of the scale.

What’s also interesting is that these last two indicators were lower for Road games than Home games.

And, at the same time, Home games saw the Dynamo more accurate in their passing.

Meaning, it’s likely there is more to their road attacking weakness than strikers; the question taking shape for me do those weaknesses also include lack of good midfielders, or worse yet, a completely pear-shaped away game tactical style?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

We already know that the magic number for most teams, to win in the top leagues, is at least 5-6 Shots on Goal; (read here if not convinced).

For Houston they averaged 33.05% (2nd worst) in this category with Home 34.80% and Road 31.30%.

So the pattern of, less percentages from gaining possession, on-wards, means less percentages all the way through when the Dynamo are on the Road, compared to Home.

And with that percentage being 2nd worst in MLS it’s worthy to check what the average volumes are as well.

Shots Taken (13.29 – Home = 14.49 – Road = 11.65) 10th best overall.

Shots on Goal (4.53 – Home = 5.18 – Road = 3.88)  12th best overall.

Let’s not forget they won eight games at home – so that target of 5.18 seems reasonable.

A couple of things here – if it’s just strikers then chances are the target of 5.18 shots on goal at home is not reached and with 3.88 shots on goal on the road as well, it’s pretty likely that the – so I’d offer it’s more than just strikers.

Bottom line here; before looking at the Goals Scored I’d offer that the consistency in poor passing accuracy, overzealous approach in penetration and shot creation is down to poor midfield play and poor team tactics as opposed to just weaknesses in strikers.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

With over 5.18 Shots on Goal per game at Home the Dynamo should have averaged over 2.00 goals per game – but they didn’t.

So for me that does mean strikers are also accountable for the poor attacking performance.

All told their team performance percentage was 22.14% – the worst in MLS.  Home was 30.19% (8th worst) and Road was 14.08% – a full 16% points below the league average.

In summary:

They not only had poor performance when it came to striking (even at home their overall performance was below average) they were horrendous on the road.

Team road performance percentages (REGULARLY) were lower (in percentage and by volume) across the board, in every single category.

Clearly pointing, in my opinion, to a tactical strategy that was wrong – never-mind the perceived or real weaknesses in their strikers.

If Dominic Kinnear thinks he’s going to be able to take a failed tactical attacking road strategy, in the East, and expect to have it win out West (in a far tougher conference) he needs to rethink.

And San Jose really need to consider what investments will be needed to have Dominic Kinnear transform the 2nd worst attacking team in MLS, when their new Head Coach just completed a year in Houston where his tactical approach led to the third worst attacking team performance in MLS.

Now with those brutal thoughts out of the way for Attack – here’s how the Dynamo performed in Defending PWP:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Not quite as ugly on the defending side of the pitch – but still 6th worst, overall, in MLS.

Opponent Possession Percentage:

All told – 51.02% – we already know based upon their attacking possession percentage the opponent possessed the ball more often than the Dynamo.

That’s not a bad thing for some teams – New England, Vancouver, DC United, and FC Dallas all made the playoffs where the opponent possessed the ball more than they did.

In that, I’d offer the rubber will meet the road a bit later as we dig in on the defensive end.

Opponent Passing Accuracy:

All told 78.47% (4th highest) with Home 77.34% and Road 79.59%.

Not much to draw on without looking into some volumes – so Total Passes faced was 426.03 per game; 9th fewest in MLS – at Home opponents passed 401 times per game – versus when on the road – that number increased by almost 50 passes per game (448.94).

Pretty much indicating to me the Dynamo ceded possession as well as a considerably higher number of overall passes; especially when facing opponents on the road.

Still not enough to draw a conclusion, one way or the other, about weaker play or tactics.

Opponent Penetration per Possession:

All told – 22.19% (12th best) with Home 20.78% and Road 23.59%.

When playing on the Road the opponents (at home) penetrated roughly 3% more of the time than visiting Houston.

The percentage of passing within and into the Houston defending final third was 67.26% on the road and 62.68% at home.

More penetration by opponents when Houston played on the road and better accuracy for the opponents as well.

In considering the opponent volumes, the average number of passes, within and into the defending final third, was 112.65 per game.

Opponents visiting Houston averaged 102 per game. compared to 122.63 when Houston visited them.

An increase in volume by nearly 20 passes per game when on the road.

So far, that means both the volume and accuracy of the opponent, when entertaining Houston got better the closer they got to the Houston goal.

With that I’d expect Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession and Shots on Goals percentages to drop somewhat – reinforcing that as teams did gain penetration they were more likely to show more patience in shots taken – resulting in increased goals scored.

However viewed, I’d offer that the tactics on the road, against the opponent, were not the same as those employed at home.  By volume alone, I’d offer that Houston played slightly higher up the pitch (defensively) at home, and slightly deeper on the road.  My rationale for that comes after doing my analysis on Philadelphia and Portland this year – both teams showed these trends, in volume, and percentages, when playing deeper versus more shallow.

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

All told 19.91% (4th worst) with Home 22.16% (2nd worst) and Road 17.67% (13th worst).

In other words the opponent’s were taking more shots per penetrating possession than opponents against other teams.

What’s interesting is that the percentage for opponents, when Houston played them on the road, dropped – in other words the opponents took fewer shots per penetrating possession.

This is an indicator that the opponents were more frugal with their shot selection – meaning, usually, they sought more time and space in order to increase the end results – accuracy in having shots on goal – score goals.

The higher percentage at Home could mean that the Dynamo were more likely to hurry their opponent into taking shots – with eight wins at home that shouldn’t be surprising.

However viewed, the trends indicating a different tactical approach, given opponent outputs, still continues to show itself in the data.

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

All told 34.90% (6th best) with Home 34.25% and Road 35.55%.

Their average volume of shots on goal, against, is 5th highest in MLS and the average Goals Against was 1.58 (6th highest in MLS).

So regardless of what tactic was employed the opponent’s were finding ways to put their shots on goal.

When on the road, the opponent averages 1.81 goals against Houston – 3rd worst (highest) in MLS.

Meaning, even with decreased shots taken (by percentage) and decreased shots on goal (by percentage) the opponents were pretty accurate.

So in the case of Houston, a perceived deeper line in defending (in away games) did not reduce goals against – it increased goals against.

So the tactic successfully employed by both Philadelphia and Portland did not pan out for Houston.

This could mean any number of things but I’d offer at least two thoughts; 1) the defensive tactic on the road was the wrong defensive tactic (all year), and 2) adding both a central midfielder and left fullback did not heal the wounds, meaning more player personnel moves are likely when viewing the defending side of the pitch.  And yes, I did take a look to see if there were differences in volume or percentage from game one to game 34 – I didn’t see any either viewing the total or just away/home games.

In Closing:

I’d offer the move to change Head Coaches was probably going to happen even if Dominic Kinnear didn’t show his intentions of moving to San Jose.

I’d also offer there could be at least 4-6 new starters for this team next year.  At least one new striker, two new midfielders, two new defenders, plus, we already know, there will be a new Goal Keeper.

I’d also offer there are indicators showing that the overall tactical approach, on the road, was pear-shaped – if Dominic Kinnear expects to use that same approach in San Jose, without some minor upgrades in players, compared to this year, he may have issues.

And he certainly needs to reconsider what road attacking style he adopts as well – with San Jose being 2nd worst in these same categories, across the board, he may have major goal scoring issues.

Finally, some teams seemed to have improved their goals against by playing deeper – while with Houston that does not appear to be the case.  What appears to work for some, might not work for others; it’s a funny game this is.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

Chicago Fire – Candle Burned at Both Ends

I’ve heard rumor that the Chicago Fire are looking to add two Designated Players to their squad this off-season – in my view – it’ll take a whole lot more than that.

In my End of Season analysis here’s some statistics, key indicators and observations for your consideration.

In case you missed it – it should model my previous article on the Fire much earlier this year:  On Fire – or a Candle Burning at Both Ends.

After working through the info I’ll also offer my thoughts, for your consideration, on some changes that may need to happen to make this team more competitive.

To set the tone here’s my standard Index rating for Chicago (CFSC) compared to other teams in MLS:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Note where Chicago line-up in my Index – near bottom – alongside that team who was relegated (erh… disbanded).

If you haven’t seen this Index before here’s a link to some simplified explanations.

If you are a statistics type person know that the Index has a direct correlation to average points earned in the MLS League Table (without using points in the calculations) {R2} of .85.

Now for the Grist… points per game both home and away for Chicago this year.  

Chicago earned 1.06 points per game (PPG) this year – 5th worst in Major League Soccer.

Results like that when Porter came in to replace Spencer saw at least 14 players moved out (quickly) and eventually 9 new starters – is it likely the Fire JUST bring on two new DP’s?

When playing at home – the easiest place to play in MLS – their PPG was 1.35 – tied for 3rd worst in MLS.

They had four wins at home, 11 draws, and two losses.

In the big scheme of things – home teams in MLS this year won 151 games – out of 19 teams – the number of wins Chicago had at home represented just 2.65% of those victories.

When playing away from home – their PPG was .76 – tied for 4th worst in MLS.

In their ten losses they averaged .90 goals per game (GPG); in their 18 draws they averaged 1.11 GPG; and in their six wins they averaged 2 GPG.

All told they averaged just 1.21 goals per game – eight games with 2 goals, 1 game with 3 goals, and 1 game with 5 goals – shutout seven times with 17 games where only one goal was scored.

Bottom line here – they really couldn’t win at home or on the road.

Do you even want to know how things looked from a Goals Against standpoint?  Probably not so to simplify (save space) – their overall Goal Differential was -10, with it being a -12 on the road.

Now for the team Attacking and Defending performance indicators with the Defending PWP Strategic Index first:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

For me this is where the real grist is offered on just how poor the Fire team performance was compared to others in MLS. 

In walking through this information will there be just one key indicator that spells out the reason for bad results, or will there be multiple indicators?  Let’s find out:

Opponent possession – 54.66% – 2nd highest in MLS (in away games 55.71% – at home 52.92%).

Pretty much either way you cut it the Fire ceded possession, either by design of by default.

Not a negative indicator, by any stretch, as many teams ceded possession and did well this year – but given the low PPG – it should be a concern that there may have been many gaps in this team besides one or two DP’s.

Opponent Passing Accuracy –  78.05% – 7th highest in MLS (in away games 78.76% – at home 77.33%).

So, with a good amount of possession the opponents also seemed to be pretty successful in completing their passes across the entire pitch.

What might help shape that opponent possession is this – outside the final third opponents averaged 82.67% passing accuracy – while inside the Fire, final third, they averaged 63.79%.

It would appear that the Fire, regularly, and systematically, in both home and away games ceded space outside their defending final third.

Unlike the Timbers, when they got their defense in gear, it did not translate to a lower goals against.

Given that, it would seem reasonable that there are more issues in the defensive supporting cast in the midfield as well as in the back four itself; more to follow.

Opponent Penetration per Possession – 20.90% – 4th lowest in MLS (in away games 21.86% at home 19.93%) both 4th worst in MLS.

Overall it would appear that a higher line was employed to try to minimize initial penetration – we have seen that tactic used by Hackworth (before being sacked) and by Porter (before realigning his defensive tactics).

In looking at both home and away games spread throughout the season it does not appear that the Fire changed tactics.

So keeping in mind the terrible Goals Against this year – this information continues to reinforce that even with minimal penetration the opponents were still able to put the ball into the back of the net.  

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – 17% – 6th lowest in MLS (in away games 18.41% – at home 15.58%).

In studying other teams this year – those that have higher passing accuracy percentages seem to have lower percentages in this category – intuiting patience in creating time and space to score goals.

What is intriguing here is that this same pattern showed itself with Philadelphia before they dropped deeper.  In other words – once penetration was gained the opponent wasn’t likely to lose it and a result of that shows taking more time to offer up a shot as opposed to systematically looking to hurry the shots.

I’d offer that if the opponent was hurrying their shots they would take them more frequently and be less accurate.  So were the opponents more or less accurate in putting their shots taken on goal?

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 38.76%- 2nd highest in MLS (in away games 37.95% – at home  39.58%).

It would appear that the opponents were more accurate…

As anticipated – based upon other team outputs – their defensive tactics (in probably playing a bit higher up the defensive side of the pitch) didn’t work.

Is that down to player selection, player availability, player talent/skills or the Head Coach?

Hard to say – but in considering the length of time Frank Yallop has coached in the MLS it would seem reasonable that some adjustments might have been made along the way like you can see with the Timbers in this article – or the Union in this article.

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – 37.18% – 3rd worst in MLS (in away games 38.53% – at home 35.82%).

So the tale of the tape is the Fire ceded possession outside their defending final third – appear to have played a high defensive line to try to minimize damaging penetration and while minimizing penetration it also opened up their defense for an even worse overall team performance.

That doesn’t even address what communication issues/tactical issues occurred between their Goal Keeper and back four.

In summation – like the wholesale changes the Timbers made when Porter replaced Spencer – I’d expect wholesale changes for the Fire on the defending side of the pitch.  In my opinion they probably need two DP’s, alone, on the defending end of the ball and a completely new tactical approach as well…

That’s probably been pretty painful for the Fire supporters and I hesitate to offer up team performance in attack; but alas – this is an End of Season analysis – so chocks away on the Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Not as depressing as the defending side of the pitch – but to be real here – they were 4th worst overall in team attacking.  

So without further ado how good were Chicago in the same categories against their opponents were against them?

Possession – 45.68% – 2nd lowest in MLS (in away games 44.29% – at home 47.08%).

As noted in DPWP; the Fire ceded possession, either be design of by default.

Given both home and away games are below 50% it is likely the Fire did not really alter their attacking style (like Seattle has shown) when playing at home versus on the road.

Again, not a negative indicator, but additional attacking performance information should shine more light on whether they altered their tactics playing in different locations.

It is interesting to note that their average (home) possession percentage against Houston was 56.23% – and even against DC United it was 53.86%.

So it does appear some tactical things were occurring in playing those two teams – whether that was driven by Chicago Or Houston/DC United it hard to say.

But I would offer that both Houston and DC United averaged less than 50% possession this year – so it’s not unreasonable to assume that the change in possession against those two teams was more a function of those teams and not the Fire/Yallop.  Others may have a different view?

Passing Accuracy –  74.03% – 2nd worst in MLS (in away games 72% – at home 76.07%).

So an increase in passing accuracy at home; in looking at total passes offered.

The difference in passing accuracy is pretty much down to the Fire offering up more passes outside their attacking final third.  In other words – their average passes in the attacking final third are the same for both home and away games.

Which means the increase in passing accuracy is attributed to passes completed in a less dangerous area – i.e. – those of smaller value.

I suppose it needs to be said here, first, a low passing accuracy usually means one to three things – the team looks to offer longer passes that are less likely to be completed – or – the team doesn’t really have the skilled players or head coach direction to play a shorter, quicker passing game.  For now I’d offer it’s a combination of the three without knowing additional information.

Penetration per Possession – 23.20% – 8th highest in MLS (in away games 23.29% – at home 23.11%).

Their percentage of penetration is pretty high here; mixing with Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, LA Galaxy, Sporting KC, and New York.

So it would appear that the Fire looked to match penetration with the bigger boys in attack – that does seem to indicate that the attacking midfield was doing a pretty good job – but – it can also be deceptive as we know some teams looked to play a bit deeper in order to tighten space within their final third.

That deeper play results in the attacker having a higher percentage of penetrating possession at times.

Those better attacking teams were usually more accurate in their passing once they entered the final third – and that accuracy then translated to higher success rates in shots on goal and goals scored.  Meaning – they had forward talent to match the midfield talent in penetration and creation.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – 20.48% – 3rd highest in MLS (in away games 17.45% – at home 23.50%).

Their home percentage was the highest in MLS – In considering outputs from other teams, this year, it would appear that the Fire were far less patient in generating shots taken given their overall penetrating possession.

Another factor here is the passing accuracy within the final third – for the Fire it was 61.28% (the 2nd lowest in MLS).

This information, coupled with a higher than normal shots taken per penetration, seems to support a more direct attacking approach – one that is less patient and more concerned about getting the shot off instead of taking a bit more time to create that extra time and space.

In looking back to my last observation, about having forward talent to match the attacking midfield talent, they might have that, but it would appear that the tactical approach to play more direct may have had more influence?  I suppose the lights will shine a bit better if their ability to score is higher…

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 35.95%- mid-table in MLS (in away games 37.02% – at home  34.87%).

The 34.87% is the 7th lowest in MLS – and that coupled with the lower than normal passing accuracy, plus the higher rate of shots taken per penetration seems to point, again, to a team playing more direct and taking less time on the ball.

In other words, (perhaps?)  the skill level of the players, or the tactical approach by the head coach, simply didn’t get the job done in putting shots on goal.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – 29.55% – 8th worst in MLS (in away games 31.96% – at home 27.14%).

An intriguing piece of info here might be this – when playing away from home, they had 6% fewer shots per penetration, and they put more of those shots taken on goal (31.96%) and had a much higher percentage of scoring a goal based upon those reduced penetrations (31.96%).

That is a similar pattern to many good attacking teams – except when it came to actually scoring the goal…

All told, they also had the 8th worst Goals Scored on the road (1.12) – which could be reasoned to (perhaps again?) three things, either a poor tactical approach in looking to score more goals on the road – not having good enough players to execute the tactical approach of the head coach, or three – having the wrong tactical approach for the players on the team?

In Closing:

Like the wholesale changes the Timbers made when Porter replaced Spencer – I’d expect wholesale changes for the Fire on the attacking side of the pitch too.

In my opinion they probably need at least one DP on the attacking end of the pitch to go with the two defending DP’s on the other end of the pitch.

This will cost money, big money – and I’d also expect to hear about 10-15 changes in the roster – a similar outcome to the Timbers a couple of years ago.

This (could) probably include a new goal keeper, three new defenders, two to three new midfielders and perhaps a new striker; for starters.

I offer the potential for a new Goal Keeper based upon considering the actions taken by Portland during the Spencer to Porter shift – there was a house cleaning of sorts and although Troy Perkins was a popular player – he was moved – and I think at that time, Perkins had  a better Save percentage then (69%) than Sean Johnson did this year.

Finally, in 2012 Sean Johnson had a 76% save percentage, in 2013 that had dropped to 70% – and this year it has dropped even further to 64%.

I wonder if the team makes up more ground next year by adopting a different tactical approach and trying to make better use of the talent they currently have.

And here’s a $4 Million Dollar question – if Yallop continues to play (apparently)  more direct, as opposed to the shorter, quicker passing game others are using exactly where is he going to get 2-3 DP’s who work more in a direct style attack than counter-attacking, quicker, shorter attack?

It’s my guess that the Chicago Fire Front Office did not expect, nor bargain, to have to completely rebuild this team under Frank Yallop.

And I’d offer they should have known something like this might happen given the poor run of success his tactical approach had in San Jose before he got sacked.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp.com

 

 

 

Road Warriors – Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders have one of the most advanced statistics programs in Major League Soccer. 

And while I don’t have a specific gauge that tracks the effectiveness and efficiency of their statistical analysis it’s a good bet their approach has had some level of influence in how their organization performed this year.

NOTE: Given recent developments this article has been offered up on the SB Nation Blog, as a Fan Post, for the Seattle Sounders.

To read the article, in its entirety, click here.

As always feel free to offer comments here or on the Sounder at Heart SB Nation Fan Post site.

Best, Chris

Valencia – Formula Won… La Liga

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:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 9

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:

APWP Strategic Index Week 9

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:

DPWP Strategic Index Week 9

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:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 9

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…

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

MLS – Week 32 – Down to One Battle (Portland or Vancouver)?

The Playoffs are all but settled barring the final team to advance out of the Great Northwest… is it Vancouver or Portland?

Given that I’ll spend a few minutes on each team offering up some strengths and weaknesses but first; as usual the Possession with Purpose Family of Indices beginning with the Composite Index:

CPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 32

Note that like last year the teams with a positive CPWP Index rating are all in the Playoffs.

In addition – the correlation (R2) of this Index to Average Points in the League Table remains .85…  better than last year’s .77.

The pear-shaped anomaly is Portland versus Vancouver, at this time…

If Portland squeak in then the Index is ten for ten…  that’s two reasons why I think Portland still advances; the other is I just simply love following and watching the Timbers play… apart from when their defense melts.

Anyhow – I digress…  the main reason why Portland is so high in this Index comes down to one thing – Attack – and like last week and for the better part of this season they are third best in their overall attack as seen below:

APWP Strategic Index MLS Week 32

The most obvious reason for this high rating is down to Goals Scored – but:

They are also 6th best in overall possession (52.12%) compared to Vancouver who are 7th worst.

That is deceiving though – worst is probably the incorrect word and here’s why.

Paul Robinson plays to a different style than Caleb Porter… Paul likes to run counter-attacking a bit more and is willing to cede possession in order to generate time and space based upon the opponent making mistakes.

On the other hand Caleb is more willing to let his more aggressive attacking scheme generate that needed time and space a bit more…

With respect to passing accuracy – not much between these two teams… Portland averages 67.35% while Vancouver averages 67.00% – that’s after 33 games and 6513 passes for Portland and 6534 passes for Vancouver…

In looking at Possession with the intent to Penetrate – Portland sits at 23.80% while Vancouver sits at 23.47% – so that pretty much means – with two different styles both teams penetrate roughly the same amount based upon almost exactly the same amount of passes.

And the differences aren’t that much as the teams look to score either; Portland takes shots 37.66% of the time they penetrate while Vancouver takes shots 35.15% of the time they penetrate.  And if you read this article you may see why the Timbers didn’t score against Real Salt Lake last Friday.

So here’s where the big difference takes shape – and the real attacking talent of the Timbers separates itself from Vancouver.

Portland average 36.33% of their Shots Taken being on Goal – while Vancouver average just 26.32%.

That difference, in overall shooting accuracy, sees Portland averaging 1.79 goals per game while Vancouver averages just 1.24 goals per game.

Yet… Vancouver are on the leading edge of making the Playoffs – why is that?  Defense.  And here’s the DPWP Strategic Index to begin to highlight the difference:

DPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 32

So what are the details?

We already know that opponents of the Timbers possess the ball less than opponents of the Whitecaps – so volume of possession is not the issue here.

In terms of passing accuracy, opponents of the Timbers average 76.09% passing accuracy while opponents of Vancouver average 77.48% passing accuracy.

What’s that mean?

Well one view, my view, is that with added possession, the opponent for the Whitecaps is seeing an increase in their own passing accuracy because they have more time and space outside the Vancouver Defending Final Third.  Those passes are easier and perhaps more frequent than those inside the Whitecaps Defending Final Third.

What about penetration?

Opponents of Vancouver penetrate 23.33% of the time they possess the ball while opponents of Portland penetrate 26.95% of the time they possess the ball.

Realistically what this is indicating is the Whitecaps yield possession outside their Defending Final Third (FAR) better than Portland.

Portland opponents have less possession, by almost 4% points compared to Vancouver opponent’s, and yet the Timbers also cede penetration by as much as 3% more…

In other words Portland’s line is probably playing too high… or their defenders are too exposed given their higher rate of attack?

There may be other reasons but those two are usually worthy ones to consider… perhaps others have a different view?

As an example… on altering the defensive line and how it can alter Goals Against can be found here: Philadelphia Union.

So how about Shots Taken per penetrating possession?

Opponents of Portland also generate more shots taken per penetration (18.16%) versus Vancouver opponent’s at 16.97%.  So, again not only is the volume higher the percentage is higher…

In addition, the opponent’s are more accurate against Portland (35.32%) in putting those shots on goal.

Whereas Whitecaps opponents put just 32.10% on goal.  And likewise here – not only is the percentage higher but the volume is higher – a lose-lose situation for Portland in comparison to Vancouver.

Finally, the Timbers opponent’s end up with 29.32% of those Shots on Goal scoring, for a Goals Against of 1.58.  While the Whitecaps are again lower with an opponent success rate of 26.17% with a Goals Against of 1.21.

In Closing:

I’m not sure the picture can be any more clear than that…

Sadly, or happily, depending on who you follow – the Vancouver Whitecaps, at this time, reinforce that a team who defends better will go further in a Championship run than a team who attacks better.

And given that complete dominance in defensive difference it’s highly unlikely that just one or two players have fixed the defense compared to how bad it was last year.

However viewed, Rosenstadt Til I Die!

Rosenstadt Til I Die

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

English Premier League – Mid-table Maidens or Muppets?

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:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

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:

APWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

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.

Now for the grist…
Key Strategic Attacking PWP Indicators Week 6

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: 

EPL Expected Wins after Week 6

 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:

EPL Expected Wins after Week 6 Log Scale

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: 

DPWP Strategic Index Week 6 EPL

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:

Key Strategic Defending PWP Indicators Week 6 EPL

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.

In closing:

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.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, ALL Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

Follow on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

La Liga…. Thru Week 6; Establishing a stronger position or early signs of fading away?

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: 

CPWP Strategic Index Week 9 La Liga

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:

APWP Strategic Index Week 9 La Liga

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?

DPWP Strategic Index Week 9 La Liga

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.

In Closing:

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…

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Bundesliga – Who’s best after four weeks?

Perhaps still too early?  I don’t think so – at least not with who’s the best – clearly FC Bayern Munchen are firing on all cylinders.  So…………

What to do?

Well, I’ll be ignoring FC Bayern Munchen in this effort because they are simply head and shoulders above everyone else…  give me about another month or so and I’ll do a special week on Bayern.

For now my focus goes to FSV Mainz (eight points), TSG Hoffenheim (eight points) and FC Paderborn (eight points).

And yes, there are games being played this week where the data you are offered will not be up-to-date —> I gotta have a stop/start point somewhere – so I chose Monday evening… 🙂

Now, to begin, here’s my customary link for those new or wanting a refresh on Possession with Purpose – An Introduction and Explanations…

And now my CPWP Strategic Index through Week 4:

CPWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 4

CPWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 4

I’m not sure the clarity can be any more clear that Bayern is clearly the leader in PWP.

For now it’s worthy to note that my PWP End State, ””try to match the league table as close as possible without using points”’ looks pretty good as the 6 best teams in CPWP match the six best teams in the Bundelisga League Table – not one-for-one, but close enough to again lend credence to this effort.

Statistically speaking, the correlation (R2) to average points in the league table is .75; still strong.

Will these teams stay in these positions as the season wears on?  Maybe Bayern will but the others?  Probably not – but it helps to begin peeling back info on certain teams now to get a better sense of their progress (success or failure) for the future…

Anyhow – time to peel back the attack of Hoffenheim, Paderborn, and Mainz in my APWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 4

APWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 4

It should be worthy to note that Hoffenheim, Mainz, and Paderborn fall below Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin, and Wolfsburg – in short what that means is the three teams I’m focusing on have better team defending performances than those other three teams… 

Defense usually wins out when both teams are good in attack – so it will be interesting to see how these teams compare as the season progresses; for now here’s some key attacking statistics I’ve seen w/r/t Hoffenheim, Mainz, and Paderborn:

  • Passing Accuracy – a surprise here for me is that all three of these teams, average in passing accuracy, falls below the league average of 74.13%; Hoffenheim ~66%, Mainz ~72%, and Paderborn ~71%.
  • At first glance, without watching any of their games, I’d offer these three teams tend to play counter-attacking football where the intent is to take advantage of the opponent getting out of position.  Another indicator to support that is overall possession – Mainz sits on ~49%; while Paderborm and Hoffenheim are lowest and 3rd lowest in the Bundesliga, respectively (37.69% and 42.96%).
  • Without looking ahead, a key indicator to me that supports my initial view is the volume of passes the opponent has in their Defending Final Third – more later…
  • In terms of Shots Taken per penetrating possession – Hoffenheim are below average (resembling teams that I’d attribute the word patience to) at 15.38%, while both Mainz and Paderborn are slightly above average (21.75% and 22.03% respectively).
  • When it comes to converting Shots Taken to Shots on Goal – Hoffenheim, again, is below average (~28%) while both Mainz and Paderborn are above average (~48% and ~38% respectively).
  • In looking at Goals Scored – all the teams are above average with Hoffenheim the highest (~60%) – while Paderborn is next up at ~40% and Mainz (9th overall) at ~33%.

What’s all that mean?

  • Well it appears to me that Hoffenheim best represent a team who counter-attacks but does so with caution/patience – in other words there isn’t as much ‘abandon’ in their run of play when penetrating…  i.e.  they look to catch their opponent out of position, and when they do they are very good at executing in that small window of opportunity.
  • Perhaps someone who watches Hoffenheim more closely can add some thoughts in the comments section?
  • With respect to Paderborn and Mainz; again, without seeing them play, I’d offer they adopt a slightly riskier (more direct?) approach to penetration when they can.
  • And that increase in risk may drive down their patience and accuracy in creation and generation of shots – which in turn drives down their efficiency in goal scoring based upon their volume of shots on goal.

It should be noted, however, that all three teams have eight points after four games – and given those apparent strategies is it surprising to see that FSV Mainz and Paderborn drew 2-2 the first game of the season?

In moving on to my DPWP Strategic Index:

DPWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 4

DPWP Strategic Index Bundesliga Week 4

Recall that Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen, and Wolfsburg were all stronger in APWP than the three teams I’m focusing on this week – when viewing DPWP, Hertha is bottom, Werder Bremen is 2nd bottom and Wolfsburg are almost near mid-Index…

On the other hand Paderborn, TSG Hoffeneheim, and FSV Mainz are all in the top half… kind of continues to reinforce that a team who defends better will get better results…

So here’s a look at the volume of passes and passing accuracy percentage for their opponent’s in their Defending Final Third.

  • Here, I expected these numbers to be slightly higher than others – to indicate some ceding of possession and space higher up the defending final third.
  • Of the three, Paderborn had the lowest percentage of opponent penetration in their defending final third (19.46%) while ceding the 6th highest volume of passes in their defending final third (131 per game)
  • Hoffenheim yields the 5th highest percentage of opponent penetration in their own defending third (24.68%) while yielding the 4th highest volume of passes (134.50 per game) in their own final third.
  • Mainz yields the 6th highest percentage of opponent penetration in their own defending third (24.40%) while yielding the 11th highest volume of passes in their own defending final third.

All told it would appear that all three teams do cede possession and penetration into their defending final third more than most other teams.

In looking at the bottom line (opponent goals scored per game) Hoffenheim average .5 Goals Against while Mainz and Paderborn (before the Bayern thrashing) averaged 1.00 Goals Against per game.

In Closing:

What is missing?

  • Borussia Dortmund… wow – talk about a slot start.
  • How well these teams perform on the road versus at home – not enough data yet really.
  • How each of the teams do against FC Bayern Munchen – playing Bayern will (usually) negatively impact performance.
  • Actually being able to watch the games to pulse the statistical expectations based upon lessons learned from tracking statistics and watching the English Premier League and Major League Soccer – this is where I need your help.
  • Overall, simply more data – it’s almost rude to expect that four games of data is going to provide anything other than a great start point to begin trending as week 12 or 13 approaches.
  • Can you Adam and Eve it on this strike by Moritz Stoppelkamp, a player from FC Paderborn, – statistics simply can’t account for a goal scored like that!

Next up a look at La Liga and then Expected Wins 3… a statistical look at differences between teams that win, lose or draw in the EPL, MLS, Bundeliga, La Liga, that includes a review of the World Cup 2014 outputs…

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark