Two weeks in and Manchester City pretty much throws the gauntlet down against Liverpool and walks away with a dominating win.
Three other teams have also begun the season with six points (Spurs, Swansea, and Chelsea) but do those four teams show the most consistency with purpose in possession, penetration and creation of shots taken that result in goals scored?
And, do those same four teams show the most consistency in preventing their opponents from doing the same thing to them?
What about the early season dogs (QPR, Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle) – where do they fit?
I’ll try to answer those questions without too much detail given the season is just two weeks old.
So to begin; here’s the Composite PWP (CPWP) Strategic Index after Week 2:
- A quick look at the table sees the top four in the Index as being the top four in the Table – not specifically in order but there it is.
- In looking at the bottom end of the Table the bottom four teams in the Index match exactly the bottom four in the Table.
- I doubt very much the level of accuracy will match the League Table that well throughout the year.
- Of note is that Arsenal, Hull and Aston Villa are next up in the Table but Villa seems to drift down a bit in the CPWP; perhaps the APWP or DPWP might explain that drift compared to Arsenal or Hull City?
- As a reminder – the End State of the Index is to provide an objective view of team performance indicators that don’t include Points in the League Table – in other words it’s a collection of data points, that when combined, can provide value in what team activities are occurring that are directly supporting results on the pitch – sometimes results on the pitch don’t match points earned…
- In leveraging this Index last year in the MLS it was very accurate in reflecting why certain Head Coaches may have been sacked – in a League like the EPL (where everything is expensive) perhaps this Index might have even more value to ownership?
- Movement in the Index – in the MLS, this last year, I have seen teams move up as many as 12 places and down as many as 11 places – after the 4th week – so the Index is not likely to stay constant – there will be changes.
I do not quantify Index outputs specific to individual player acquisition or performance – there is no intent to do this. It’s my belief, good or bad, that even with individual star performances a team is a team is a team – you win as a team and you lose as a team… but this Index isn’t intended to stop others from doing that.
I leave that individual analyses for others who are far better at digging into the weeds than I – for the EPL I’d imagine many folks gravitate to @statsbomb or other @SBNation sites – I respect their individual analyses as I hope they respect my team analyses.
Whether the consistency of value shows itself in assessing team performance in the EPL like it has in Major League Soccer I have no idea – we will follow that journey, in public, together…
Now for Attacking PWP (APWP):
- In recalling Villa’s drift (it is still early) perhaps it’s an early indication that Villa are playing slightly more direct (given past indications analyzing Major League Soccer) – or with a greater lean towards counter-attacking and quick transition?
- In taking a quick look at their average volume of passes per game (305) compared to the rest of the EPL (456) it would seem to indicate Villa are playing more direct football.
- The team with the highest APWP while falling below the average number of passes attempted, per game, is Leicester City; they average 308 passes per game compared to the 456 average of EPL. For me that’s an early indicator that they are making the best use of a direct attacking scheme – others may have a different view?
- The team with the lowest APWP while showing higher than the average number of passes attempted, ~(500 per game), is Stoke City – that might indicate the Potters are looking to possess the ball more with the intent to possess it as opposed to penetrating with it. Folks who follow Stoke a bit closer might be able to add to that as I’ve yet to see them play this year.
- In terms of early form, relative to the six team performance indicators, Chelsea are tops with Everton, Arsenal, and Man City close behind.
- With respect to bottom feeders QPR are bottom in CPWP and bottom in APWP as well; most figured they’d be early favorites for relegation – the PWP Indices seem to lean that way already as well…
- Perhaps the early surprise in APWP is Newcastle? Not sure about that one – last time I lived in England Alan Shearer was their striker and probably the best one in the country at that time… others will no better about what Alan Pardew is up to…
Next up Defending PWP (DPWP):
- Leaders here include Spurs, Man City, Swansea and Newcastle – is this an early indicator that Newcastle has experienced bad luck already? Not sure but three of the bottom dwellers here are three of the four bottom dwellers in CPWP.
- Although not real clear here it might be easy to forget that Arsenal had a blindingly great first game and then eked out a draw against Everton in the last ten minutes; in considering that this data still just represents two games…
- Recall Stoke City – and the potential view that they might be possessing the ball with an intent to possess more-so than penetrate – even with just 1 point in the League Table their DPWP exceeds West Ham, Liverpool, and others who are further up the table.
- Man City showed great nous last year in winning the League and it reaffirmed for many of us the importance of defending – Liverpool were close last year given an awesome attack – players have changed but it’s likely the system/approach has not varied that much. And after two games Liverpool are embedded firmly in the middle of the DPWP pack.
- Can they push higher up the DPWP? And if so, will that climb in the DPWP Index match a climb in the League Table; or vice versa?
Far too early to look for trends but these first few weeks will provide a baseline for future trends.
As noted in my most recent articles on Possession – the more accurate soundbite on whether or not a team is more likely to win has more relevance with respect to Passing Accuracy (>77% in MLS usually means a team is more likely to win) and not Possession.
The margin of winning and losing in MLS is far to muddied when looking at Possession – so as the EPL season continues I will also make it a point to study what ‘soundbite’ has more relevance; Passing Accuracy or Possession.
Other links that may be of interest to you include:
My presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer
New Statistics (Open Shots and Open Passes)
Thanks in advance for your patience.
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The CPWP Predictability Index has been on a pretty good run since starting it up about 3 weeks ago; so if things go well I’d expect about five/six out of eight games being spot on after this weekends games.
For now here’s what I offered last week followed by the outcome:
Aston Villa v Stoke City: Stoke City should earn the points here and this (could?) be the beginning of a stretch where Stoke may maximize 21 points out of 27 in the next nine games.
Stoke City took three points…
Chelsea v Burnley: Chelsea should earn maximum points here but on short rest it is likely the squad taking on Burnley will have a few regular non-starters…
Chelsea “should” ahve earned maximum points but they didn’t – they still got a point however.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal: Arsenal should take maximum points here but given they have Monaco in four days time it is likely, they too, rest a starter or two. Intriguing here is that Monaco is a team who likes to cede possession – with that perhaps Wenger has one or two players going back to back games that we might not normally consider happening. Both games are a must three points given the severity on what’s at stake…
Arsenal earned maximum points.
Hull City v QPR: Hull City should earn points here, I’d expect a happy face from Steve Bruce after this one.
Hull City earned maximum points.
Sunderland v West Brom: Although playing away from home I can still see West Brom earning at least a point here.
West Brom did earn that point.
Swansea City v Man United: United really need to continue taking maximum points and this game may take the shape where Swansea actually wins the possession battle but loses overall control when it comes to goals scored. United earn points in this one.
Swansea lost the possession battle – big time – and took three points!
Man City v Newcastle: Like Arsenal, Man City have their Premier League game first – they need three points here or even the confidence of making Europe next year could come into question… Man City earn points.
Man City took three points in a BIG way.
Spurs v West Ham: Again a wicked good London derby – I see Spurs taking maximum points here but never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce and the Hammers – Sam would be glowing if he got three points but, in the end, I think he would settle for one… I doubt Spurs think the same way on that score…
Never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce – Spurs got a point – but not maximum points.
Everton v Leicester City: Martinez needs his team to take three points here – anything less would begin to fuel the talk that perhaps another leader is needed to manage the blues… or at least it would be crystal clear their current set of strikers really suck…
Martinez failed to take maximum points – they got a point but that’s it… given the past track record in teams performing badly, as rated through PWP (using MLS as an example – as well as Paul Lambert) Martinez may be on his last legs with the Toffies…
Southampton v Liverpool: This is the best game (outside of Spurs/Hammers) this next round – a can’t miss if your any type of football fan! The Saints are not underdogs here – I see them as favorites even though the Pudlians are on a bit of a run… Koeman v Rogers… game on – Saints should earn the points here – if not – then perhaps the chrome fenders are beginning to show some rust?!? As for Rogers – he really needs to get points here to!?!
The chrome fenders may be beginning to rust – but have heart there were some dubious calls in this game and PWP does not account for odd non-call PK’s… anyhow – no excuses Southampton did not earn three points or even one.
All told eight of the ten games showed the CPWP Predictability Index team getting at least a point – that makes the CPWP Predictability record:
- Eight of Ten
- Seven of Ten
- Eight of Ten
- Eight of Ten
- for a combined 31 out of 40… seems like a good bet where the odds show ~75% accuracy in picking the teams who take points…
So how about Week 27? A short week so to speak…
West Ham v Crystal Palace: West Ham should take at least a point here but really should take maximum points – but there may be a slight let down given that late equaliser on the PK rebound against Spurs… That being said Crystal Palace will most certainly play for a point knowing that any sort of mistake by West Ham could see them taking three…
Burnley v Swansea City: Who knows how this will go given the point Burnley stole from Chelsea – that said Swansea should take at least one but very likely three – no thanks to the Ref I might add.
Manchester United v Sunderland: No brainer this one? MUFC take three – if they don’t – wow…..
Newcastle v Aston Villa: I don’t see Tim Sherwood getting any better result here than he did last week – Newcastle should get the point – if not three.
Stoke City v Hull City: This game may be closer than some expect – even with Hull City playing at Stoke City. That said a draw may be the eventual outcome but the initial odds indicate Stoke should be on the pluc end more than Hull.
West Brom v Southampton: Critical mass here for Southampton – three points really is a must – and going against West Brom should get them three; or at least one point at a minimum.
Liverpool v Manchester City: The tough one this week – Liverpool are on a run and I spurned that run last week against Southampton – that said Man City have the best overall team possession statistics of anyone in the BPL – it’s really hard to bet against Man City in this one; even with Liverpool at home. My call is Man City gets at least one point here.
Arsenal v Everton: This game will be even tighter than the Liverpool v Man City game – Everton continue to be one of the top teams in possession-based attacking – what they have lacked is finishing. Given that Monaco just came into London and took three points in the UEFA Champions League I really doubt Wenger will be in the mood to see his team drop three points here. My call is Arsenal takes at least one point – with three points really being the expectation – and another nail in the coffin of Martinez (didn’t I use that phrase the week before Lambert got sacked?).
All to play for this weekend…
PS: When I get time I will go back and try to show how the CPWP Predictability Index has faired for the Bundesliga and La Liga – just finding it hard to find the time.
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I didn’t watch the entire game against West Bromwich Albion today but I did get to see the critical part – the build up to Mirallas missing the Penalty Kick.
I’m not sure what a good definition of a teammate is but I’m pretty sure what he showed, in that game, is what a good teammate isn’t! And it’s on the pitch behavior like that – that never, ever, finds itself in any of the individual statistics folks normally track.
Now I’m not going to go on record that the PWP Family of Indices will directly account for an event like that – but when looking at the tenor of Everton, throughout the course of this year, something just isn’t working… and maybe that behavior is an indicator of some sorts?
However viewed here’s how the CPWP Strategic Index looks through Week 22:
So what isn’t working for Everton that is for some other teams in the top half of the table?
First off – Attacking:
They are a possession-based team – averaging 57.47% Possession per game, with a Passing Accuracy pedigree of 86.65%.
That is 3rd highest in the Barcley’s Premier League in Possession and best overall in Passing Accuracy.
So if they are tops in those two categories it seems reasonable that they’d be up somewhere near the top of the League Table instead of wallowing in 12th place; leading me to this question…
What is Everton not doing that Chelsea, Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Southampton are doing?
When comparing just those five teams Everton is middle of the pack in overall Penetration (26%) compared to 30% for Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal and 23/24% for Southampton and Man United…
They are creating Shots per Penetration at the rate of 12%, compared to 12% for Man City, Man United, Chelsea, and Arsenal while Southampton sits at 14%
For Shots on Goal per Shots Taken they sit at 34%, Man City has 33%, while Southampton, Arsenal have 35%, Man United his 36% and Chelsea has 39%.
When it comes to Goals Scored per Shots on Goal Everton are lowest again at 33% while Arsenal are 36%, Southampton is 38%, Man United is 39%, Man City is 40%, and Chelsea is 44%.
Pretty tight – as the Index shows – their percentages are on par with the top teams… So that’s a look at Quality – what about Quantity?
Total Passes: Only Southampton has fewer passes, on average, at 467 – Everton averages 514 while the rest fall in higher with Man City the highest at 589 per game.
Total Passes Final Third: Man United and Southampton fall below Everton while Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea all average more.
Shots Taken: Everton, Man United, and Southampton all average ~13 per game while Arsenal and Chelsea average ~16 and Man City 17 per game.
Shots on Goal: Everton are lowest at 4.32 with Man United next at 4.36, followed by Southampton at 4.4.5, Man City 5.50, Arsenal 5.55, and Chelsea at 6.00 per game.
Goals Scored: Everton are lowest at 1.36, followed by Man United 1.64, Southampton 1.68, Arsenal 1.77, Man City 2.05, and Chelsea 2.32…
From an attacking viewpoint I’d offer ‘what’s not working’ is down to a few things – those who follow Everton more closely could probably narrow it down to 3-4 players…
Lack of creativity in generating more open time and space in order to have roughly the same volume of shots generate more shots on goal – and therefore more goals scored…. or,
Lack of finishing by their strikers – meaning the time and space is available – it’s just not being used effectively.
After today’s game it would appear the selection of who took the Penalty Kick is more down to using the players on the team effectively…
But Attacking is just one half of the game – what about Defending?
I’ll stick with the same six teams….
Opponent Possession: If they are in the top four of Possession then their Opponent’s are in the bottom four.
Opponent Passing Accuracy: Middle of the pack – opponent’s for Chelsea average 80% while most everyone else sees their opponent’s average about 77/78% Passing Accuracy.
Opponent Penetration: Everton allow the greatest percentage of penetration at 28%; while the rest fall in at ~24% or lower.
Opponent Shots Taken per Penetration: Everton fall in the middle of the pack at 15% with Arsenal and Man City, while Southampton is lower (11%) and Man United, along with Chelsea are higher at 16% and 17% respectively.
Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: Everton opponents are lowest at 25.67% while everyone falls in at 26%-38%.
Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal: Everton sit worst at 43% while the rest all come in at 31% or lower.
In looking at volume:
Opponent Passes Attempted: Everton are second lowest at 376 per game; Man United are lowest at 368 while Southampton are highest at 435 per game.
Opponent Passes Attempted Final Third: Everton are 2nd highest at 126 per game with Southampton being the highest at 129 per game, all the rest fall in between 123 and 103 per game.
Opponent Shots Taken: Everton are highest at 13 per game while the rest all have opponent’s averaging 11 per game or lower.
Opponent Shots on Goal: Everton are mid-table at 3.41 while Man United and Arsenal are slightly higher and the others lower, with Southampton lowest at 2.64 per game.
Opponent Goals Scored: Everton are highest at 1.55 per game while Arsenal is 2nd worst at 1.14, followed by Man City at 1.00, Man United .95, Chelsea .86 and Southampton .73
In considering the opponent’s successes versus Everton team defending:
Everton cede the greatest amount of Penetration while facing just the second lowest volume of Opponent Passes.
Everton opponent’s have the worst overall accuracy putting Shots Taken on Goal but the highest volume of Shots Taken and the highest volume of Goals Against.
So even with a high amount of possession – it’s more like Possession without Purpose as opposed to Possession with Purpose; especially when viewing them against like teams in overall Possession and Passing Accuracy.
Those who follow Everton more closely can probably tag two or three players that have a larger influence in this poor defending team performance.
For me I’d tag the lack of support in midfielders getting back to support the defenders, fullbacks being to far up the pitch when possession is lost, lack of superb central defending and perhaps a keeper past his prime? (Many Americans might not like that – but their Goals Against IS an issue).
Of course, teams are getting pretty good at bunkering in, at least teams like West Brom are – and with more games played, plus Tony Pullis leading the charge it’s no wonder West Brom shut down Everton.
In watching the later stages of that game today it was almost comical on how well West Brom simply stymied the Everton attack…
I call it the umbrella defense – everyone get beneath the raining terror of multiple passes outside the box and simply clog the lanes everywhere.
If there are minimal players on the team who can create space, through superb vision or subtle touches, a team will find it very difficult to score against that type of defending; it’s ugly but effective at times…
For now I would offer that there are weaknesses in the tactical defensive approach and the personnel trying to work the attacking scheme Martinez wants. And I don’t think signing a new striker solves their issues.
Martinez has pedigree and perhaps there are some upcoming tactical changes to try to reduce Goals Against and increase Goals Scored.
I’ve seen it work (statistically) where teams drop deeper in defending, thus driving up the opponent’s possession numbers both inside and outside the attacking final third. That increase in opponent possession and penetration then opens up some time and space for a team on the counter-attack.
The critical piece to that approach is having players with great passing skills – and given Everton has the most accurate team in passing they should be able to handle that defensive change.
Maybe that is something to look for with Everton over the next few weeks???
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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp
The headline is Capt. Obvious; especially when the League Table sees both these teams beginning to separate themselves from the others.
The question for most is who qualifies for Europe in positions three and four while Man City and Chelsea go toe-to-toe for the League Championship.
Too early you say? Not for me.
By Week 19, the Composite Possession with Purpose Index, in Major League Soccer had already nailed the League Champion, LA Galaxy, as being best in overall team attacking and defending performance.
Of course that didn’t translate to the Supporter’s Shield winner, but, then again, Major League Soccer doesn’t have an equal schedule, so the only real measurement to go by is the Champion crowned after the Playoffs are finished.
With that said, there were some teams who did move up and down in the CPWP Index (and MLS League Tables) after the halfway point. So I suppose it’s possible Man United, Arsenal, or someone else could close the gap, and make it a three horse race?!?
In moving on though I’m not seeing that – at least not yet. Why? Well given my CPWP Index after Week 17, just below, it seems pretty clear both Man City and Chelsea are performing much better than the others:
Given that my main focus today is sorting out the picture for the two remaining spots for next years UEFA Champions League.
I’ll call them my Bubble Teams (lacks creativity most likely, but hey… it’s late).
I see five with a chance.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Southampton (really?), West Ham (really?), and Spurs (really?).
At this stage, all five of these teams are within five points of each other at near the half-way point.
Others like Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle, and Swansea aren’t shut out (yet)… but I sense those teams probably need more than one player to give them that edge and Everton blew their chance this weekend in getting thumped 3-nil by Southampton…
As for Liverpool – they need more than a striker in my opinion (they need another defender too) and I just don’t think they have the money to upgrade.
Brendan Rogers can go on all he wants about his team getting their form back – but in my view – he’s giving lip service to save face after that debacle in signing Balotelli.
So with that said – three new diagrams for your consideration; the first being the Game to Game CPWP Index outputs for the five teams under consideration:
The diagram itself – you’ll probably be seeing more of these (with just one or two teams more likely in the future). You can click to enlarge.
The line graphs – most should know by now the CPWP Index is the difference between the Attacking PWP Index and Defending PWP Index. As is always the case with the CPWP Index – Higher is Better.
Note the frequency of change from game to game in some cases. To get a better understanding of how much variation there is for each team, week to week, I calculated the Standard Deviation.
Those numbers are provided at the bottom – in this case the lower the number the better. In other words the lower the number the less deviation a team had, from week to week, in how they performed (in total).
I’ll not offer that Lower = Better Team; at least not yet – but in this case I am going to assume that lower means more consistency. Sometimes being more consistent doesn’t mean better. Chivas USA were one of the most consistent teams last year – sadly that consistency was centered around consistently losing…
With that being the case; West Ham is most consistent (.36) with Spurs next (.52), than Man United (.54), followed by The Arsenal (.58) – then Southampton (.67).
Next up the Attacking PWP Index for my Amber Bubble Bar Teams – I suppose that is a goofy name – I’ll change it next week… suggestions are welcomed!
It’s interesting to note that all five of the teams here are pretty much even at this stage – trending up is Southampton (after that lull for three weeks) while Man United seems to be taking a bit of a dip.
From a consistency standpoint – West Ham again lead the pack here (.24) while Arsenal sits at (.29), Spurs at (.31), followed by Man United (.34) and Southampton, again the least consistent, sitting at (.40). Again – lower is better…
With APWP – I tend to believe that consistency in attacking is a good thing; especially given that rotation of home and away games – for me that shows a team is comfortable in how it attacks.
But…. the drawback here is that consistency in attack also sometimes means a lack of vision in changing things up a bit to play less predictable.
A great example of that this past weekend was The Arsenal going into Liverpool and almost taking three points while playing to an attacking style most would normally attribute to Sam Allardyce…
Moving on to the Defending PWP Index:
In the case of the DPWP Index – Lower is Better; to remind those – this number is the Attacking PWP number of the Opponent as they attack you – if higher is better when you attack – then it stands to reason a good defending team performance means a lower number.
After Week 17 it would appear all but The Arsenal are near each other – that two goals conceded against Liverpool no doubt had influence.
With respect to consistency West Ham (AGAIN) lead the pack in being most consistent (.27); with Spurs next (.37), followed by Man United and The Arsenal tied at (.41) and last (AGAIN) Southampton at .47.
For me, consistency here is good, very good, provided points are being earned in the League Table.
By the way – it’s this deviation or consistency that I also look for in viewing Home and Away games to see if a team changes it’s style.
For example the Standard Deviation for West Ham in Away games is .18 while for Arsenal it’s .42 – indicating that Wenger will change their tactical approach depending upon their opponent while Allardyce won’t.
Since all five of these teams are within five points – it seems reasonable that all these teams are getting points.
So what, in the end, are my thoughts after taking this info in?
Before offering that here’s my traditional Indices starting with the APWP Index:
Spurs are consistent in attack – but not consistent in being strong.
Southampton are not consistent in attack – and they are dropping back further and further compared to about 5 weeks ago.
Man United and Arsenal remain dangerous in attack – and remain consistently dangerous as well.
West Ham continues to remain high up this Index – a challenge to be sure – but what bodes well is they are also consistent in that attacking performance.
Now the Defending PWP Index through Week 17:
A few observations…
While Southampton is not very consistent in team defending – at least for now they are not very consistent in a good way – what happens if that inconsistency begins to swing towards the opponent performing better? A likely slide I’d expect.
West Ham are not only consistent – they remain consistently good – again can that pattern hold?
The Arsenal and Man United remain near the best in team defending performance – quite an achievement given the new approach in Manchester and the injuries in London…
Like in APWP, Spurs lack in overall performance compared to many teams lower in the league table. The real test comes when they entertain Man United and Chelsea at White Hart Lane, on short rest, just after Christmas.
I think all of these teams will be in the mood to shop for a player, two, or three come January.
Who do I think each team looks to add – from an individual, player standpoint, I haven’t got a clue…
But from a team standpoint here’s my initial expectations:
West Ham looks to add another midfielder and another defender – they are solid and the Allardyce style is working – but do they have the legs to compete the entire season? I don’t think so – at least not without at least one more defensive thinking/positioning type player given the Allardyce style of football.
Man United looks to add a defender – most probably a center-back who can handle playing 3 or 4 at the back. But can they afford to? Lots of money spent already but I’d expect at least one new signing during the transfer window.
Southampton looks to add some more firepower by adding an attacking winger and/or striker – goals will need to be scored to keep them afloat if their defending remains inconsistent. I also think they could do with another defender if they really are intent on making a run for Europe.
Spurs – hmmm… tough one here – I could see them adding a defender (maybe two?), and a midfielder/forward – they have points in the league table but their team attacking and defending performance lags far behind many other teams with fewer points.
Arsenal – I’ve already opined I think Arsenal need a new Central Defending Midfielder – I also think they need another Center-back and perhaps some more depth at Fullback.
Finally, I will take another look at the bubble teams in about 3 weeks time – there are plenty of games this holiday season and at least a nine point swing could occur.
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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp
It’s been a couple of weeks since I checked in with the English Premier League so here’s a quick fly-by on who’s leading the league in team performance, exclusive of the League Table.
That’s not to say I’ll ignore the League Table – in summary here’s the top six and the bottom six respectively:
- Chelsea, 32 Points
- Southampton, 26 Points
- Man City, 24 Points
- Man United, 19 Points
- Newcastle, 19 Points
- West Ham, 18 Points
- Swansea City, 18 Points
- QPR, 8 Points
- Burnley, 10 Points
- Leicester City, 10 Points
- Hull City, 11 Points
- Aston Villa, 12 Points
- Crystal Palace, 12 Points
Now for my Composite PWP Strategic Index:
In comparing the top six in the League Table to the top six in my Index Chelsea, Southampton, Man City, Swansea City, and Man United are all in.
Everton and Arsenal continue to ride high in this Index – whether that continues or not is yet to be seen.
The question I have is this — is it the results that end up catching up with the team performances, or is it the team performances that end up catching up with the results?
In Major League Soccer the team performances usually seemed to lag when compared to the results – if that is the case here then I’d expect Everton and Arsenal to drop further in the League Table if there are systemtic attacking or defending issues.
On the other hand – like Newcastle – the team performance lags the results and both Arsenal and Everton should begin winning more games…. more to follow…
As for West Ham, we already know they will be on the shorter end given their more direct style of play but the surprise mover is Newcastle; especially since in Week 5, where they were 6th worst in the Composite Index (see below).
Clearly team performance has improved considerably – not only in results but in team performance; that’s a good thing when considering the viability of the Index. Besides, I don’t read too often anymore where Alan Pardew’s head coaching status is in question.
As for the bottom six; well we have QPR bottom in both, with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Leicester City, and Burnley all in; the odd one out is Hull City.
Might that mean Hull City are more on the ‘lucky’ end of results than their team performance indicates?
I’m not sure but when we peel back APWP and DPWP we might be able to see where the general weaknesses and strengths are that help Hull City stay outside the relegation zone as the season continues.
Attacking PWP Strategic Index:
In considering the top six teams in the League Table it appears to me that the Attacking team performances for Chelsea, Man City, Southampton, Man United, and West Ham are a strength more than a weakness.
Defending PWP Strategic Index:
Not to be missed though is that Southampton, Man City, Chelsea, and Man United are also all in the top six.
The lone wolf, in defending, is West Ham. But we already know from previous analyses that Sam Allardyce likes to play more counter-attacking football – so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them in or around the middle.
It’s when their DPWP starts dipping below the halfway point that those forever blowing bubbles should be considered.
Southampton continues to find success; granted their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa was probably disappointing, but with that 80th minute goal they were able to scratch out at least one point against Villa.
The surprising result to me, and probably most everyone else, was the 3-1 pasting Liverpool took against Crystal Palace.
The most amazing statistics for me out of that game was seeing Palace offer up 15 shots taken with just 71 completed passes in the Liverpool Defending Final Third – and of those – 15 shots were taken with five of them were on goal!
I guess that shouldn’t be surprising to the average stats person given that winning teams in the EPL average just over five shots on goal with at least two goals scored. In this case Palace got three goals.
On the other hand, with 519 passes offered, 460 which were complete, and 96 of those were completed in the Palace Defending Final Third, you’da thought Liverpool would end up with more shots taken and more shots on goal.
They didn’t. What is even worse is they had five of those 12 shots come from prime locations and only one ended up on goal!
For me, this means reinforces two things:
- Time and open space has great value when considering the quality of shots taken, regardless of location, and
- Liverpool have yet to find a striker who can take shots and put them on goal. I would expect Liverpool to be in the market to buy a top striker as soon as possible!
If you’re a betting person; here’s the latest CPWP Predictability Index. This does not yet to into account the differences between team performance on the road versus at home.
It should be noted that teams playing at home, in the EPL, have taken 182 points – versus teams playing on the road have taken 143 points.
In terms of a ‘rough estimate’ that means 56% of all points earned are earned at home games.
Not much of an edge – but – if you’re a team like Crystal Palace, playing a team like Liverpool, who is clearly shaken – and not stirred – there will always be the chance of an upset!
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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:
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:
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):
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:
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):
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:
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.
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.
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Perhaps a few shockers this past weekend – Queens Park Rangers defeating Sunderland 1-nil and Burnley (only?) drawing with Man United nil-nil certainly are intriguing, and from a pure entertainment standpoint the Chelsea game had it all.
But soccer isn’t about one specific week in League competition – it’s about the consistency of purpose in performing week in and week out.
So for the first three weeks my two teams operating at (unexpected) peak performance are Swansea City and Aston Villa.
Now I’m sure others feel or think Chelsea deserve some credit and they do – but at this stage they’re boring as I’d have expected them to do well.
And as for Manchester United – well… I’ll give them a look a bit later during this 2 week break.
For now though a special look at Swansea City and Aston Villa; wrapped up within my Possession with Purpose Strategic Index analysis after Week 3.
With that here’s the tale of the tape in Composite Possession with Purpose after Week three:
The early season form for Swansea City sees them completing ~85% of all their passes with a mid-table ranking, in Final Third completions, at ~67%.
The most telling difference between Swansea and other teams, early on, is their superb ability in putting shots on goal, per shots taken, (55.56% – leading the EPL) and a healthy 39.29% of goals scored, per shot on goal.
And while the location of those shots might have some value – I expect the space and time the strikers had was telling; in checking shot location for Swansea City it appears 50% of their shots originate from outside the 18 yard box with 2 of them scoring; while 4 of their 15 inside the box have resulted in goals.
What’s amazing here is that both Swansea and QPR lead the league in Shots Taken per possession-penetration into the Final Third.
Swansea averages 20.88% shots taken per penetrating-possession – while QPR averages 21.40% (leading the EPL).
Where QPR falters, big time, is they’ve only managed to put 20% of those shots on goal and a measly 8% of those shots on goal have resulted in a goal…
Again, shot location might have value but I’d expect their shot location is okay – where they falter is (perhaps?) more about lack of patience and clear space in order to take quality shots…
A quick check indicates that 24 shots from QPR have come from within the 18 yard box – while 21 shots have come from outside the 18 yard box… seems to reinforce my time and space theory as opposed to strictly looking at shot location… others may have a different view?
Can you say QPR need to buy some strikers?
I would – but perhaps even more important is it appears to me that QPR also need to buy one or two midfielders that have more patience in setting up more shots for their teammates in open space.
Just another example here of why I’d like to see those two new statistics in soccer – Open Pass and Open Shot…
And yes, Swansea have only faced Burnley, Man United, and West Bromich Albion.
At this stage that might not be saying a whole lot but a win is a win is a win – and Swansea have three of them!.
A mid-season win has no more, or less value, than an early season win. So all those second guessing the early season form should recognize nine points is far better than three points; or like Man United, one point!
As for other team performances – it was disappointing to see Man City couldn’t put one past Stoke City this weekend.
They had plenty of possession and penetration, but alas, as Swansea and Chelsea so deftly point out, the full run of the game means you need accuracy in shots taken just as much as accuracy in passing, both inside and outside the Final Third.
Of course, having a player who can dribble-sprint 60 yards, dodge past three players, and meg the keeper, can really help a team – well done Stoke City.
So how do the teams compare in the Attacking PWP Index?
Chelsea – surprised?
Probably not… What a thrilling match that was; nine goals with six of them by Chelsea.
And we shouldn’t ignore Liverpool and that three goal burst against Spurs… a shocker? (perhaps?) but we’ll know if that’s a real shocker sometime later this season.
As for Everton, scoring three goals themselves, don’t pay a penalty in APWP for the lack of scoring goals – where their drop in overall performance comes is in viewing the DPWP Index – here:
Last week Everton were 5th worst in DPWP – rightly so given they had already given up two goals to Arsenal and two goals to Leicester City.
All told that’s 10 goals against in just three games… wow… Martinez is going to have to make some changes (big money changes) if that goals-against rot continues… even now I’d expect them to work very hard during this early season break to fix their defense….
So who’s a great example of how an effective Defense keeps a team shining, even when the attack isn’t the best?
While only three weeks have been played my shining example is Aston Villa.
They are ranked 4th worst in team attacking performance but when it comes to team defense… they’re ranked 4th best. A great example of where strong defense gets you points – they have seven at this stage.
So how does that 4th best translate to success on the pitch?
Opponents are completing ~64% of their passes in the Villa Final Third – 7th lowest in the EPL. Of note is that opponents are possessing the ball better than 60% of the time.
For me that means Villa yield possession, up high, and play slightly deeper and tighter in their own half.
That compact approach, in their defending half/third, sees the opponent completing just under 20% of their total possession in the Villa Final Third.
In other words, even when the opponent has the ball, 80% of that possession is outside the defending third —> (of no major consequence)…
And, even more impressive, is that when the opponent does penetrate – only ~12% of that penetrating possession results in an opponent shot taken. And of that 12% only 29% of those shots taken end up as shots on goal.
Remember those stats from Swansea and QPR and how low QPR was in finishing (8%).
Well, as a team, opponents of Villa have just 11% of their shots on goal resulting in a goal scored against. That is 2nd lowest (best) in the EPL and only Swansea is lower – permitting just 6.67% of their opponents shots on goal scoring a goal.
Clearly these two teams are performing at peak compared to others.
So for a quick comparison – Villa yield possession at 60% (on average), while Swansea do not yield possession; their opponents average 49.19% possession.
So from a defending tactical view Swansea’s game style is not the same as Villa’s.
Swansea appears (data wise) to play a bit higher and yield penetration a bit more.
Opponents penetrate 23.11% of the time they possess the ball and take more shots against than Villa’s opponents who average 15.11%.
So an apparent tighter (man-marking) defensive scheme sees Swansea opponents having fewer shots on goal per shot taken; 19.13% versus Aston Villa at 28.79%.
Bottom line here is the contrast in defending styles can be noted, tracked, and measured without looking at tackles, interceptions, clearances, etc…
In other words it helps scratch that itch of measuring what doesn’t happen on the pitch as opposed to what does happen.
My earlier views on that can be read in this article published earlier.
Still early so no more diagrams – over the next couple of days, after putting together my Bundesliga and La Liga Weekly recaps I’ll go back and pick out some thoughts about Manchester United after three weeks, what weakness and strengths the data behind the Indices might offer.
All for now.
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