I’ve no doubt many of the headlines on the English Premier League this week dig into Manchester United’s convincing win over Crystal Palace… That’s probably appropriate for most but I, often times, like to write about the un-obvious.
So even though Angel Di Maria looked great – I’d offer he was a stud playing amongst English school boys… perhaps something like Lionel Messi (Barcelona) playing Levante in La Liga???
Anyhow, well done to Man United – they finally won a game!
The exciting match, for me however, was the Aston Villa (1 – nil) thrilla at the Kop…
Who’da thought the Villans would be sitting where they are after four games? Tom Hanks no doubt… 😉
Well, perhaps in hindsight (after week 10 or so) that run of 10 points, in these four games. might not be quite as much as it seems today.
Bollocks you say – we will see 🙂 A very tough match against Arsenal comes next on Sept 20th, 7 AM PST…
Anyhow, like the latest on the Bundesliga and La Liga, I’ll be taking a look at the early races taking shape on relegation; in particular the four bottom dwellers, and how they compare in the Possession with Purpose Family of Indices.
My analysis on the CPWP Strategic Index, filtered by passes, above and below the league average of 450, will follow in a blog a bit later this week.
For now the Composite (CPWP) Strategic Index through Week four:
Although taking a hit from Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, Swansea City still shows pedigree in the CPWP Strategic Index. Other teams doing well include Man City, Chelsea, and with a rather large move up the Index, Manchester United.
Hovering midtable in the Index, but gathering points, as noted, is Aston Villa – another sleeper (but maybe not) is Southampton.
How soon the have’s and have not’s split up, in this Index, is unclear but I’d expect Week 10 or so will begin to show a bit more clarity in who’s consistently performing well and who isn’t.
In terms of the late starters in the League Table there are four teams; Crystal Palace, Burnley, West Brom, and Newcastle; all sitting on two points.
For the remainder of this article I’ll concentrate some thoughts and observations about them and save some individual analysis on Aston Villa, and Southampton, for my new blog later this week.
Like the Bundesliga and La Liga CPWP Indices, the R2 for this Index, after Week 4, shows well – it’s .73…
Attacking (APWP) Strategic Index:
Given the early season outburst from Chelsea is it any wonder they sit atop this Index – with an average Goals Scored of 3.75 would you really expect my Index not to reflect that amount of fire power?
So how about those teams who’ve started with just two points each in the first four games?
- Crystal Palace – 7th worst in APWP – the telling statistics on this side of the pitch are two things; possession percentage average is 36.69% (3rd worst) and their goals scored per shots on goal is 29.46% (9th worst). What is interesting here is that Southampton sit below Crystal Palace in that statistic (29.17%) but their overall possession percentage is 52.91%. That significant difference in the amount of possession spells the biggest reason why Crystal Palace sits where they sit. In other words the statistics are indicating that if Crystal Palace can retain more possession of the ball they should, by all counts, increase their goal scoring output.
- Burnley – 2nd worst in APWP – the telling statistics here are also two things: shots taken, per penetrating possession, is 7th lowest and their goals scored, per shots on goal, is 3rd worst (12.50%). The striking contrast here is that the other teams who show patience in taking shots, per penetration, (lower averages than Burnley) are Man City (9.18%), Arsenal (9.92%), Man United (10.09%), Spurs (11.1%), Everton (11.13%), and Southampton (12.9%). What this clearly indicates is that the, higher scoring, possession based teams are behaving exactly like some of the higher scoring teams in MLS – they are showing patience in shot selection compared to penetration. With Burnley clearly not a possession based team (43.61%)are they trying to show (patience – perhaps???) where in fact they might produce better results if they simply increase their shot volume per penetration? In other words, with just a glimmer of time and space, as opposed to more acres of time and space, they need to shoot more often???
- West Brom – 3rd worst in APWP – pretty simple to offer up analysis here – they are 4th worst in putting shots on goal, per shots taken, and they are 2nd worst in scoring goals, based upon their volume of shots on goal… Perhaps they need a better striker or two???
- Newcastle – 6th worst in APWP – two things here as well – perhaps??? The most striking observation here, for me, is that Newcastle average 55.7% possession (6th best in the EPL) but when converting that overall possession, to penetration into the opponents defending final third, they are third worst at 21.13%. And that final clarity in gaining penetration also finds itself influencing goals scored – they are 4th worst in goals scored. Perhaps they need a couple of better midfielders???
Moving on to Defending (DPWP) Strategic Index:
Manchester United have moved up top here and clearly, Aston Villa, with that HUGE clean sheet at the Kop, have kept themselves in good stead as well.
In looking at the four bottom dwellers – here’s there positional standing and some key observations too:
- Crystal Palace – 2nd bottom of the DPWP – two things here. Their average opponent possession is 63.31% (3rd worst) and they are also 3rd worst (28.78%) in conceding penetration. Now that might not be a bad thing when working towards a successful counter-attacking approach but they are 9th worst in seeing their opponents put shots taken on goal and 8th worst (36.46%) in seeing those shots on goal get converted to goals scored. The contrast here is Aston Villa; they actually cede more possession (64.39%) than Crystal Palace, but they have the 2nd best defense in limiting opponent shots taken, being on goal, and the best defense in preventing those shots on goal from being goals scored. Perhaps Crystal Palace need better midfielders and defenders, as well as a better Goal Keeper? In other words a whole new defense or a completely different defensive scheme???
- Burnley – 7th best in DPWP – this Index rating might actually be an early indicator that the Burnley record isn’t quite reflecting how well this team is playing. Granted goal scoring is critical – but for most – a strong defense usually sees a team through when fighting relegation. With them being 7th best the only thing that stands out to me is the amount of possession they’ve conceded – opponents average 56.39%. In seeing that, they’ve already played Chelsea, Man United, and Swansea City, a hard slog to be sure. Overall, I’d offer, if they keep their confidence, they should continue to move forward at a better pace than some other bottom dwellers like Cyrstal Palace.
- West Brom – 3rd worst in DPWP – interesting here is that they are 2nd best in limiting opponent penetration into the final third (just 19.04%) but even with that minimal penetration they are 8th worst in conceding shots taken, that are shots on goal, and 4th worst (48.21%) in seeing those opponent shots on goal hit the back of the net. Seems like their defensive approach within the 18 yard box leaves quite a lot to be desired… A team that is successful in clogging the choke point into the final third probably should do better as the amount of defending space naturally gets smaller inside the 18 yard box. Is it too early to say they might need two better centerbacks and a better goal keeper?
- Newcastle – 10th in DPWP – midtable of the Index and some are no doubt scratching their heads on why Newcastle finds itself at bottom of league table. For starters their opponents average just 44.30% possession, and their opponents really don’t penetrate that much compared to some other teams (7th lowest – 21.9%). It appears what is happening is that, even with small amounts of possession and penetration, the opponents are taking a higher volume of shots per penetration; resulting in the 2nd worst percentage of shots on goal, per shots taken, (43.64%) and the 9th worst, goals scored, per shots on goal. Put another way the positional defending, inside and around the 18 yard box (appears??) weak. Perhaps they give their opponents too much time and too much space as they transition in positional defending after the opponent penetrates???
All told, it’s clearly early days but I think patterns are already beginning to develop.
To be honest I’m quite jazzed to be offering up PWP analysis on the EPL – I do wish Blackburn were still in it – and perhaps even Leeds United! More teams from the north!
Anyhow – two sides of the table to review and next week I’ll take a closer look at the top end…
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Even when it’s early days there are just some things that already make themselves clear – Barcelona are the team to beat in La Liga.
I’m sure FC Bayern would like that simplicity in the Bundesliga but not so…
How many pretenders are contenders in the English Premier League is also another story… but Chelsea have certainly opened up well.
If you’re reading about Possession with Purpose for the first time click this link to get more details on this comprehensive team attacking and defending Index.
For the first time, this year, I am using this analytical approach to measure team performance in the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, and La Liga.
With that, here’s my Composite PWP Strategic Index on La Liga, after Week 2:
A reminder – the Composite Strategic Index is a measure of the difference between the Attacking PWP Index and Defending PWP Index; as such it’s intent is to offer a comprehensive (strategic) view of how teams perform in those areas without taking into account specific individual accomplishments…
For me, teams win and teams lose, to quantify that one individual has that much power is (usually) inappropriate.
But like Ice Hockey and Wayne Gretzky, there is Lionel Messi in Soccer and – at least for now – it is reasonable to assume that Barcelona are really-really good because he’s on the team.
Fair dues but, here’s the thing, Messi doesn’t usually pass the ball to himself (most of the time) 😉 so there are ten other guys who do touch the ball.
That said there were a number of transfers this past week so some teams are lining up to try and get past Barcelona – I guess we’ll see how that goes. For now though, Barcelona are alone at the top.
If you like statistics know that after Week 2 the R2 for the La Liga CPWP Index is (.64); pretty good, not as solid as the R2 for the MLS CPWP Index (.80) but it does appear to have relevance to the League Table without including points for wins or draws.
Before moving on to the Attacking PWP Index here’s a quick snap shot on team passing accuracy in La Liga after two weeks; that’s not a mathematical calculation error – Barcelona is averaging 90%:
If you read my recent article on the Bundesliga you’ll know that the average Passing Accuracy for the league was 73.98%, in Major League Soccer it’s 77.10%, in the EPL, it’s a whopping 80.87%, while in La Liga it’s 77.59%.
If you had to rack and stack the leagues, given Passing Accuracy as being a top indicator of quality, clearly the EPL has the best average (top to bottom) of those four leagues.
So in getting back to the original question – who’s going to stay with Barcelona this year?
I’d expect Real Madrid for starters – obvious reason they spend loads of money but is there a team hiding in the weeds like Atletico Madrid did last year?
To be honest, I have no clue yet, but consistency of purpose is a good thing and at least two teams have shown some good form, compared to most others early on; Valencia and Athletic Club.
But since they have yet to play Barcelona or Real Madrid it’s almost “mere” speculation.
In looking at the Attacking PWP Index here’s how they stand:
Valencia lead this side of the equation but like the Major League Soccer APWP, this is subject to change as more teams go head-to-head with each other.
Another observation about this Index is that this one is a much better reflection of the opponent played against – in other words there are teams that purposefully cede possession – when that occurs these numbers will be influenced.
For example, through choice or no choice, Villarreal has averaged just ~36% possession with ~74% passing accuracy whereas Real Madrid has averaged ~60% possession with 85% passing accuracy.
Teams that have played those teams will have their Index numbers influenced more, in some areas, than teams like Sevilla or Deportivo, who have averaged near 50% possession with near 75% passing accuracy.
However viewed, early form has just as much value in garnering three points as late form does; if a Head Coach has his team switched on the pressure should really be no different.
Will Valencia, Deportivo and Celta continue to stay near the top in APWP? Hard to say but we will see.
In looking for early season contrasts, in attacking and defending, the team with the biggest Dr. Jeykl and Mr. Hyde appears to be Atletico Madrid:
In team attacking, they are bottom of the Index, in team defending they are 3rd best…
If I had to hazard a guess I’d imagine Atletico Madrid have got the appropriate focus on team defending – what they will need to secure a stronger position will be better team attacking.
I guess we’ll see how that matures, as well, this season.
It’s early days but it’s pretty clear the overwhelming amount of possession, with an extremely high rate of passing accuracy, will keep Barcelona at or near the top – provided they can generate shots and score goals; hard to imagine they won’t given the sheer quantity in quality…
All for now, best, Chris
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