Being mid-table – a glass half-full – or a glass half-empty?
Still just six weeks in, but there are trends that can be offered with six games, so for this week’s focus I’ll look in on Rayo Vallecano, Almeria (who I looked at in Week 3 also), and Granada.
Respectively those teams are 9th, 10th, and 11th in the League Table; all with eight points.
To get started here’s my traditional Possession with Purpose CPWP Strategic Index after Week 6:
First off – for those keeping track the correlation (R2) for La Liga CPWP, after Week 6, is (.79) to average points in the league table.
The three focus teams (Rayo, Almeria, and Granada) are not bunched up at 9th, 10th and 11th, here they are spread out – where Rayo is 4th best in CPWP, Almeria is 10th best, and Granada is 18th best (3rd worst) – quite a distinctive difference in team performance though the points remain the same.
In peeling those three teams back I’ll begin with APWP:
For the leading side of APWP we have Rayo in 5th, Almeria in 13th, and Granada in 16th…
On taking a surficial glance first thoughts here, without reviewing the data, and using just the goals for and goals against lead me to believe that Rayo are doing a good job of penetrating, creating and scoring goals in comparison to the other two.
While at the same time they are also giving up goals as good as they get them… Rayo (10 for – 10 against) – Almeria (5 for – 5 against) – Granada (4 for 9 against)* (* more later on the asterisk).
So what do the internal team performance statistics offer for these three teams?
- In taking a look at some standard statistics Rayo lead those three with an average passing accuracy of 77.12%; while Almeria is 74.47% and Granada is 73.88%.
- With respect to penetration – Almeria lead those three in penetrating the opponent’s final third (~27% of the time they control the ball they penetrate) – while both Rayo and Granada hover around 17.5%.
- Given that Almeria’s average possession percentage is ~47%; compared to 58% for Rayo and 41.5% for Granada I’d offer the more successful team in playing counter-attacking soccer is Almeria – while the more patient team in penetrating is Rayo and the least effective attacking team is Granada.
- A difference maker, after considering the tactical and penetration characteristics, is obviously testing the waters on their successes in generating shots from penetration as well as how effective they are in putting the ball into the back of the net.
- Rayo leads the three teams by a slim margin in shots taken per penetration (19%) – with the other two hovering at ~18%.
Not much difference in terms of overall success but in looking at the volume of shots both Rayo and Almeria average 12 per game while Granada average just 7 per game.
- Meaning 19% and 18% equals 12 shots taken per game for Rayo and Almeria while 18% yields just seven shots per game for Granada; not ideal – especially when we know “more is better” in La Liga…
- If you have read this article (Expected Wins 3) you’ll know this to be true for La Liga, while it is not true for other European Leagues I evaluate, at this time.
- So how do the shots taken translate to shots on goal? Almeria average the most shots on goal (4.17) versus Rayo at (3.5) and Granada (2.0).
- As with many successful counter-attacking teams – sometimes fewer shots taken generate more shots on goal given the poor position some possession-based teams find themselves in when turning the ball over in the wrong place.
In wrapping up – greater possession percentage and higher passing accuracy don’t drive overall success for Rayo in comparison to Almeria – who posssesses the ball less, and have a lower passing accuracy.
- I wonder what the Midfielder Player Radars, statsbomb develop, look like for Rayo compared to Almeria?
- The November 29th match up against these two teams should provide a great contrast in attacking style – and perhaps one that is worthy to watch for teams scouting the success or failure of counter-attacking teams versus possession-based teams that aren’t as dominant in $$ and skills as a team like Barcleona.
That’s only one-half of a game though – and for those who think defense first – attacking team performance is the less influential half. So how do these three teams compare in DPWP?
First off – I’ve altered the “y” axis scale to reinforce how much of a difference Barcelona has with the rest of La Liga when it comes to possession- based tactics.
Clearly Barcelona not only possess with the intent to score they also possess with the intent to defend… for me this is a great example where – if the opponent doesn’t have the ball they can’t score…
Now for Rayo, Almeria, and Granada; Rayo is 6th best in DPWP, while Almeria is 8th best and Granada is 18th best (3rd worst).
- * The more later on Granada: At first glance I’d offer Granada has been far luckier in garnering their eight points than Almeria or Rayo – but – Granada just got beat by Barcelona six – nil.
- Now that Goals Against is three instead of nine – for a +1 Goal Differential.
- So where would Granada be in DPWP without playing Barcelona?
- Granada would be 9th in overall DPWP if they hadn’t already played Barcelona!
- Further up the DPWP than Almeria and only one place behind Rayo… a GREAT example of how playing just one team – like Barcelona – can impact this Index so early in the season!
- It is what it is… and while it may be fair to eliminate the Granada game against Barcelona (mix apples with apples) I won’t… everyone has to play Barcelona twice.
- If the positive play of Granada continues, exclusive of Barcelona, then that will show up later on this year.
- If it doesn’t, then perhaps this is an early signal that Granada are on a down slide?
However viewed; here’s some takeaways for these three teams, in defending team performance after six weeks:
- Opponent posssession will be just the opposite as attacking possession – in other words opponent’s for Granada will possess the ball more than either Rayo or Almeria.
- And even when removing the Barcelona game against Granada their opponent’s average possession is ~56% per game – still higher than Rayo (42%) and Almeria (52%).
- With respect to penetration, Granada opponent’s penetrate at ~28% while Almeria and Rayo opponent’s gain entry ~24% – the takeaway here indicates that Granada will play slightly deeper than both Almeria and Rayo.
- The difference isn’t that simple though – Almeria are a counter-attacking team given other indications so it’s likely the opponent’s 24% is more associated with the tactic of allowing penetration – whereas with Rayo – a possession-based team – it’s likely the opponent is gaining their penetration based upon mistakes in defending (not getting behind the ball) and those initial mistakes lead to more goals scored.
To test that – let’s take a look at Shots Taken, Shots on Goal, and Goals Scored for the opponent’s of Rayo and Almeria.
- Indeed – Rayo opponent’s generate more shots taken per penetration (21.64%) to Almeria (20.44%) yet that greater percentage sees Rayo actually facing fewer shots taken (10.83) to (13.67), fewer shots on goal (4.00) to (4.17) yet more goals scored against per game (1.67) versus Almeria (.83).
- Those Radar Charts might support this but might not – the funny thing about defensive statistics is that the sum of individual defensive statistics never quite matches up, one-for-one, with the volume of unusccessful passes by an opponent – see here…
- To quantify a bit differently – Almeria opponent’s average 72 successful passes, per game, in the Almeria Defending Final Third – whereas Rayo opponent’s average 55 successful passes, per game, in the Rayo Defending Final Third.
- Lower volume, fewer shots faced, more goals scored against – a pattern I’ve seen in the MLS this year with teams like Portland and New York – teams that (when watching them play) exhibit the habits of teams who make defensive mistakes based upon poor positional play.
- With respect to Granada – they not only face a much higher volume of opponent passes in their own Defending Final Third (115 per game) than Rayo they also yield only 1.5 goals against per game…
- So again, another team with greater activity in their own Defending Final Third does a much better job of not ceding goals against.
If I had to offer an opinion here I’d suggest that in order for Rayo to continue to have a successful year they need to 1) get behind the ball a bit quicker, and perhaps 2) get a better defensive minded midfielders to work better with some (upgraded?) defenders in the back-four.
With respect to Almeria and Granada – finding the right balance between attacking and defending is always hard – it looks to me as if both teams have a prety good balance but could (perhaps?) to add a highly skilled midfielder, with superb vision, to try and eke out that odd goal that doesn’t generate undue risk on the defending side of the pitch…
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If history holds, it’s likely
Noteable for all three is that only Granada have played Barcelona – Rayo have Barcelona next week while Almeria don’t play Barcelona until November 8th.
Aye… the NFL track ‘hurried throws’ – why doesn’t a Statistics agency involved in Soccer track “Hurried Passes”?
I’ll get to that but first I need to set some conditions.
If you’ve read my article on Expected Wins 2 (XpW) it seems reasonable that a teams’ Passing Accuracy in the Final Third has great value in working towards generating quality shots taken that are more likely to be on goal and (therefore) more likely to go in.
So what activities does the defense take to mitigate successful passes (i.e. generate Unsuccessful Passes)?
Before digging in, I’m not the only one looking into Defensive Statistics; Jared Young has put together an interesting article on Individual Defensive Statistics that may be of interest.
Similarities in our work come from collecting ‘like’ defensive activities; Tackles Won, Clearances, Interceptions, etc…
Additional twists in my efforts will be to fold my Opponent team attacking statistics in with my team Defense Activities to see what correlations might be present.
My data comes from the first 71 games in MLS this year (142 events) and my source is the MLS Chalkboard.
Bottom line up front (BLUF) – however this data plays out it needs to make sense so here’s my operating conditions on Team Defensive Activities in the Defending Final Third and which ones I will focus on that can be associated with an Unsuccessful Pass in the Final Third:
- Recoveries – usually associated with ‘loose balls’ generated from some other activity like a deflection, rebound, or perhaps an unsuccessful throw-in that hits a head and deflects away (uncontrolled) that another player latches on to and then makes a move showing control the ball. Therefore Recoveries are not counted as a specific defensive activity that would impede a successful pass – it is the resultant of another activity that impedes a successful pass.
- Clearances – one of the better examples of a defensive activity that impedes a successful pass – especially those generated from crosses but not necessarily called a blocked cross. Therefore Clearances will be counted as a specific defensive activity that impedes a successful pass.
- Interceptions – pretty much self explanatory – an interception impedes a successful pass – therefore Interceptions will be counted as a specific defensive activity that impedes a successful pass.
- Tackles Won – this is a defensive activity that strips the ball from an opponent – so it is a possession lost but not a defensive activity that impedes a successful pass. It won’t be counted as a defensive activity that impedes a successful pass.
- Defender Blocks – this is a defensive activity that blocks a shot taken not a successful pass; therefore it won’t be counted as a defensive activity that impedes a successful pass.
- Blocked Crosess – clearly it is what it is; and since a cross is a pass it will be counted as a defensive activity that impedes a successful pass.
To summarize – Blocked Crosses, Interceptions and Clearances will be counted as defensive activities that should impact the volume of Unsuccessful Passes.
So what are the correlations between those combined Defensive Activities versus Unsuccessful Passes after 142 events?
Final Third Defensive Activities to Unsuccessful Passes = .6864
Final Third Defensive Activities to Unsuccessful Passes when the Defending Activities’ Team Wins = .7833
Final Third Defensive Activities to Unsuccessful Passes when the Defending Activities’ Team Draws = .6005
Final Third Defensive Activities to Unsuccessful Passes when the Defending Activities’ Team Loses = .6378
It seems pretty clear that Teams who win have more Defensive Activities, that in turn increase their Opponents’ Unsuccessful Passes given the higher positive correlation than losing teams – in other words a team that wins generally executes more clearances, interceptions and blocked crosses to decrease the number of Successful Passes their Opponents make.
It also seems pretty clear that all those Defensive Activities don’t account for the total of Unsuccessful Passes generated by the Opponent. If they did then the correlation would be higher than .7833; it’d be near .9898 or so.
So what is missing from the generic soccer statistical community to account for the void in Unsuccessful Passes?
Is it another statistic like Tackles Won, Duals Won, Blocked Shots or Recoveries?
I don’t think so – none of them generated a marked increase in the overall correlation of those three Activities already identified.
I think it is the physical and spatial pressure applied by the defenders as they work man to man and zone defending efforts.
To date I’m not aware of any statistics that log ‘pressure applied’ to the attacking team. A good way to count that would be tracking how many seconds the defending team gives an opponent when they recieve the ball and take action.
My expectation is that the less time, given the opponent, the more likely they will hurry a pass that simply goes awry without any other statistic event to account for that other than – bad pass due to being hurried.
So in other words; like the NFL tracks hurried passes, I think that the Soccer statistical community should also track “hurried passes”…
I’m not sure that completely closes the gap between those three Defensive Activities and Unsuccessful Passes but it does seem to be a relevant statistic that can attempt to quantify panic in an attacker while also quantifying good physical and spatial pressure by a defender. Two relevant items of interest to a coach in weighing the balance on who plays and who doesn’t and who they might like to add to their team or perhaps put on loan/trade elsewhere.
The Official statistic that would get tracked for attacking players is ‘Hurried Passes’ and the statistic that would get tracked for defensive players is ‘Passes Hurried’.
In addition – an increase in hurried passes can become a training topic that drives a Head Coach to develop tailor made passing or turning drills to minimize Hurried Passes (make space) while also providing a Head Coach statistical information to generate tailor made defensive drills that look to increase Passes Hurried. I’d expect the level of the training drills to vary given the level of skill/professional development as well.
So how might someone define a “Hurried Pass”? I’m not sure; there are plenty of smarter people out there in the soccer community than me – if I had to offer up a few suggestions it might be a pass that goes out of bounds given defensive pressure, or maybe a through-ball that goes amiss given pressure from a defender – in other words the timing of the delivery looked bad and given defensive pressure it was off-target.
However defined if judgment can be applied when identifying a pass as a key pass then it stands to reason that judgment can be applied to identify a bad pass as being bad because the defender hurried the attacker.
More to follow…
A more to follow is this recent article entitled New Statistics Open Pass and Open Shot.