Tagged: possession

Tough Time for the Toffies

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:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 22Everton sit sixth in the CPWP Index – one of the few oddities and most likely a strong contributor to the Index having a .91 R2 as opposed to .95 or .96…

So what isn’t working for Everton that is for some other teams in the top half of the table?

First off – Attacking:

APWP Strategic Index Week 22

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?

DPWP Strategic Index Week 22

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…

In Closing:

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???

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

What went wrong in Montreal?

It’s way too early to imagine what sort of impact Montreal will have next year – simply too many variables, least of which is the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Nevertheless – in order to get a better idea of how they might impact the Eastern Conference next year here’s my look at how 2014 went and some thoughts on what positional weaknesses they may need to fill to get better.

As always I’ll start with my End of Season Composite PWP Strategic Index to give you a (non-results) view on where the Impact attacking and defending team performance compared to the rest of Major League Soccer:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINEDMontreal (MIFC) are shown here just above San Jose and just beneath Colorado.

If you’ve missed other team analyses links are provided at the end of the article – for now know that I am working worst to first excluding Chivas USA.

In my view that organization was a complete embarrassment to the league (not the players – the owners) as such it’s not worth my time to analyze a team that wasn’t a team…  the sooner they are forgotten, as an organization, the better.

Again – this is not an intent to disparage the players or Wilmer Cabrera – it’s intended to disparage and embarrass the owners!

As with all my end of season analysis I’ll begin with the basic statistics most rely on to tell the immediate (results based) outcomes:

Points Per Game (PPG) = .82; Goals Per Game (GPG) = 1.12; Goals Against Per Game (GAPG) = 1.71; Goal Differntial (GD) = -.59

The worst PPG of any team in MLS this year!

Given the huge disparity in team performance across all of MLS in away games versus home games here’s what those numbers look like for Away and Home Games:

Away:  PPG = .29; GPG = .82; GAPG = 2.00; GD = -1.18 (the worst Away PPG of any team in MLS this year).

Home:  PPG = 1.35; GPG = 1.41; GAPG = 1.41; GD = 0.00 (tied for third worst Home PPG with Colorado and Chicago).

Bottom line here is their results were terrible – a complete and utter failure when it came to results; so is there any light at the end of the tunnel when peeling back their team attacking and defending performances, exclusive of results?  Let’s see…

Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

There’s MIFC, tucked in-between Vancouver and Colorado; interesting – especially since Vancouver made the Playoffs.  Perhaps there is some light that shines within?

Possession Percentage:

Overall 46.92%.  We already know from previous analyses that possession percentage on its own has no relevance – it’s only when you begin to combine that percentage with other key PWP indicators that patterns begin to take shape.

And since my analysis also peels back how teams perform away and at home here’s the info for those categories as well.

Away 48.07% versus Home 45.78%.

Without going further it would appear that the Impact looked to cede possession a bit more at home than on the road – that being said, given the high GAPG (2.00) on the road that higher percentage of possession might be deceiving.

The most reliable way to eliminate wasted possession is to look at passing accuracy and passing volume within and into the Attacking Final Third versus Outside the Attacking Final Third.

In away matches Montreal averaged 94 passes within and into the Final Third from 397 average passes attempted; when playing at home those figures are 93 and 405.

Knowing those figures let’s move on to Passing Accuracy to see what differences there were.

Passing Accuracy:

Overall 76.41%.  12th highest or 8th worst (glass half full – half empty?)   However viewed their passing accuracy was not the best – and the lower the overall passing accuracy the less likely the team will possess the ball for greater lengths of time.

Shorter passing tactics usually mean more passing – great examples include FC Bayern, Barcelona, Chelsea, Galaxy, etc…

Away 75.93% versus Home 76.90%

In away matches passing accuracy within and into the Final Third was 58.96%; while at home it was 62.01%; higher at home – in truth that’s probably 5 more passes completed at home versus on the road.

So… that three percent higher amount of possession, on the road versus at home, was probably down to wasted possession.

In other words they possessed the ball more on the road due to passes being completed outside the attacking final third – not inside the attacking final third.

Penetrating Possession:

Overall 18.36%; the worst percentage of penetrating possession in MLS this year.

In away games their successful penetrating possession with 18.23% while for home games it was 18.49%

Looked at from a different angle – the potential penetrating possession target would have been 24% if successful on all attempts – but they weren’t.

Most probably meaning the passes, attempting to penetrate the attacking final third, were probably harder to complete.

For many that usually indicates a direct attacking approach; i.e. playing longer balls on a more frequent basis.

It might also intuit a less accurate counter-attacking style – (perhaps?) meaning the players being asked to play to a particular style weren’t skilled enough in that style – or…………. the Head Coach chose the wrong tactical approach given the skill level of players on the pitch???

Or… the Head Coach had no choice but to play to that style given the skill levels of players on his team.  But!  Frank Klopas also played that style with Chicago…  so was it by choice given the players – or was it by choice given the inclination of the Head Coach to play direct attacking football?

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Overall 21.37% – the highest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession in MLS!

Away games 22.01% (worst/best?) Home games 20.73% (3rd worst/best?)

What this is showing is that they had the worst penetrating possession in MLS and the highest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession.

In other words they were terrible when it came to penetration and they compounded that ‘terribleness’ by showing no patience what-so-ever in taking shots.

Another nail in the Direct attacking coffin – AGAIN – speaking to either having the wrong style/skill level of players playing a direct attacking tactic – or… the Head Coach played the wrong tactics given the skills of his players?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 36.49% (8th highest)

Away games 35.17% (12th highest) Home games 37.82% (8th highest)

With the high percentage of shots taken per penetration and then a significant drop in shots on goal, given that high percentage, it again reinforces that the Montreal Impact were taking far too many shots that had no real value.

I’m not sure of their shot location selection but this pattern has been seen before with teams like Houston, Chicago, Chivas, and other bottom dwellers…  in this case I’d also offer their strikers were probably less patient on the ball in finding good open space and time to take better shots.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 30.22% (10th highest)

Away games 24.60% (5th lowest) Homes games 35.83% (8th highest).

Not bad at home – but not good on the road.  Reinforcing that the road tactics were worse in getting results than the home tactics.

Attacking summary:

In away games the percentages just get worse and worse – yet they possessed the ball more in away games.

In my view that is pretty much confirming that this team gained no value in having more possession of the ball in away games.

Indeed, I’d offer that they had the wrong tactical approach – throughout the entire season – just like Houston!

As for at home, clearly less possession worked – but they still averaged just 1.41 GPG (5th worst)… meaning that same direct attacking approach was just as ineffective at home.

So – (perhaps?) a more brutal assessment of the Impact is that, in attack, they were ineffective not only in results but in team performance.

Meaning, in my opinion, they either had the wrong style of players to play a direct attacking tactic or they had the wrong tactical approach by the Head Coach.

If thinking about finances… would it be cheaper to find a new Head Coach that will use a more appropriate attacking tactic, to fit the players on the team, or would it be cheaper to bring in a whole new suite of attackers to fit a direct attacking tactic that is way past its shelf-life!

Defending PWP Strategic Index:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Third worst in MLS.

A few thoughts before the details:

With a 2.00 GAPG in away games and a 1.41 GAPG in home games does it seem reasonable that the Impact didn’t have enough players behind the ball, even with a direct attacking approach?

Or does it seem reasonable that the Head Coach have a defensive tactical approach that was pear-shaped?

Before attempting to answer those questions here’s the bottom line on how the opponent performed against Montreal this year:

Opponent Possession Percentage: 53.08% (5th highest)

Opponent Passing Accuracy: 79.50% (2nd highest)

Opponent Penetrating Possession: 22.88% (10th highest) – Opponent Passing Accuracy within and into the Defending Final Third 67.58% (highest).

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession: 17.25% (12th highest)

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: 38.63% (4th highest)

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal: 31.63% (12th highest)

So those are the percentages against – how about the volume against?

Opponents of Montreal averaged 456 passes per game (2nd highest).

They also faced the 5th highest volume of passes within and into their Defending Final Third (123 per game).

In terms of shots taken against – 13.47 (8th highest).

Shots on goal against 5.26 (2nd highest).

Defending summary:

Across the entire spectrum of defending the opponents pretty much possessed the ball when they needed to and had plenty of time and space to make accurate passes; not only outside the Defending Final Third – but inside as well.

That freedom of time and space allowed the opponent more patience in taking better shots that were more often on goal and resulted in more goals scored against.

Given the poor team team performance, and poor results, I’d offer this team needs at least 3-4 new defensive minded players.

In going back to the initial questions about not having enough players behind the ball – it would seem to me, given the high volume and high percentages against, the Impact didn’t have enough players behind the ball.

But the interesting thing is that with a more direct attacking tactic you’d think the Impact would have more players behind the ball because fewer players are used in that attacking tactic!?!

So what went wrong?

In Closing:

I’d offer (perhaps too harshly?) that the tactical approach (in attacking and defending by the Head Coach) is what went wrong.

How can a team have, statistical team performance wise AND results performance wise, so many weaknesses with roughly the same players that made the playoffs the previous season under different leadership?

Easy – the front office made a bad decision in sacking  Marco Schällibaum.

For me this is another great example of how losing organizations, in the front office, fail to hire Head Coaches who are flexible in their attacking and defending tactics.

Frank Klopas is not only the Head Coach but the Director of Player Personnel, meaning his direct attacking style will not only manifest itself on the pitch it will also manifest itself within the bowels of the organization!

While I’m not an Impact ‘hater’ I really have to ask myself how I could continue to support a team like this if I lived near St. Catherine Street in the heart of Montreal.  And yes, I do know the city a wee bit having proposed to my missus, in 1987, at the Old Munich Beer Barrell Hall on St. Denis Street.

In case you missed it – here’s my other MLS End of Season Analysis:

Chicago Fire – Candle Burned at Both Ends

Houston Dynamo – Dynamic Dynamo De-Magnetized as Dominic Departs

San Jose Earthquakes – Earthquakes, Shake, Rattle, and Roll-Over

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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

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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp.com

 

 

 

Possession with Purpose – Revised Introduction

It’s time to offer up another revised version of my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

My intent here is to:

  1. Provide an update that may help simplify this effort, and
  2. Update new links to articles most have found to be of great interest in the last year.

To begin… Possession with Purpose (PWP):

The End State, as always this is good to know up front:

Create an objective Strategic Family of Indices, with publicly made available data, that has relevance and helps identify (explain) the strengths and weaknesses of team performance ‘outside’ the realm of Points in the League Table.

Of note; this analysis has been presented, and received with great interest, at the World Conference on Science and Soccer of 2014.  So it’s not a fly-by-night attempt to offer up analysis that can’t translate back to the soccer and science industry or help inform the general, or well educated, soccer community (both here and across the pond) about Footy…

The Intent:

Create a Family of Indices that measure the ‘bell curve’ of strategic activities that occur in a game of football (soccer); recognizing that in order to score goals the following activities usually need to occur:

  1. Gain possession of the ball
  2. Move the ball
  3. Penetrate the opponents defending final third
  4. Generate a shot taken
  5. That ends up on target and,
  6. Gets past the keeper

From a statistical (measurement) standpoint those activities are organized into these six categories:

  1. Possession percentage
  2. Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passing Percentage within and into the Opponents Final Third compared to overall possession (i.e. = Penetration)
  4. Shots Taken per Percentage of Penetration
  5. Shots on Goal per Shots Taken
  6. Goals Scored per Shots on Goal

It’s not a secret formula but I do retain Copyright.

The Family of Strategic Indices – there are three of them:

  1. Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP)
  2. Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP)
  3. Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP)

APWP Index:  How effective a team is in performing those six process steps throughout the course of a game.  Example:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

DPWP Index:  How effective the opponent is in performing those six process steps, throughout the course of a game, against you.  Example:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX BUNDESLIGA WEEK 17

CPWP Index:  The mathematical difference between the APWP Index and DPWP Index.  Example:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 22

The Analysis:

Simply stated, the analysis stemming from this effort is a comparison and contrast between how a team performs (in the bell curve of these activities) relative to other teams in their league “without” including points in the league table.

Statistical Correlation:

Last year the CPWP Strategic Index Correlation (relationship) to Points in the Table, for Major League Soccer, was .77; this year, at the end Week 26, the R is .85.

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

In returning back to the End State:

“Create an objective Strategic Family of Indices, with publicly made available data, that has relevance and helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of team performance ‘outside’ the realm of Points in the League Table.”

Given the very high level of Correlation these Indices have, I’d say this Family of Indices has considerable statistical relevance; and I should point out that although the PWP approach is an Explanatory Model it can also be leveraged as a Predictability Model.

After speaking with a number of folks at the World Conference on Science and Soccer (2014) it was agreed that the most effective way to turn this into a Predictability Model is to remove Goals Scored (in both Indices) and ‘see’ how the Composite Index takes shape after that.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 22

A word or two of caution…

From a purely statistical viewpoint I do not see this as a Predictability Model that has direct relevance yet… why?

For the simple reason that there have not been 15 games played for all teams both Home and Away – teams show a tendency, for the most part to behave slightly different at home versus on the road…

Why the number 15?  I suppose it comes down to Confidence Level in the number of samples that are needed in order to forecast the future based upon the past…  with 34 games played in Major League Soccer you really need 15 games to reach that 95% Confidence Level limit in samples…

All that said, it is extremely inviting/inticing to see that even when Goals Scored (both for and against) are removed the CPWP Predictability Index still has a correlation (R) of .84…

Links to articles that have had extensive views over the last year and a way to get a taste of how PWP analyses might be able to help you, as a writer (through collaboration with me), better inform your audience about the nuance of soccer:

In Closing:

Others in mainstream media sometimes offer up subjective opinions that may not be substantiated with objective data; I won’t do that.

Every shred of analysis offered here will include some sort of objective data to support an opinion or conclusion.

Like any other mainstream business; statistical analysis provides objective data as a tool to leverage when looking to make business decisions.  It is not a substitute for the seasoned leadership needed to make final decisions.

I don’t advocate that this analysis is the ‘answer’ or the only tool that substantiates one view – in a soccer match, with 40,000 supporters in attendance, I’ve learned that those 40,000 supporters have 40,000 sets of eyes that see things differently.

On this site, this information and analyses presented, is merely my view, from my eyes, in how I see the game – hopefully, in order to make my future articles of better value, others will add their comments, thoughts, and questions.

Finally, I’m not sure how this will develop but I’ve been approached to provide a manuscript for this analytical effort – for publication in a Sports Science Journal.   More to follow on how that goes.  

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

NOTE:  All data used to generate this analysis stems from OPTA through a number of open/public websites across Europe and America.

My thanks to OPTA and all those open websites for helping to facilitate my own analysis and potential improvements that may arise from this effort.

English Premier League Week 3 – Chelsea blow past Everton but it’s not all about Chelsea this week…

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:

CPWP INDEX 2014 WEEK 3 EPL

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?

APWP INDEX 2014 WEEK 3 EPL

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:

DPWP INDEX 2014 WEEK 3 EPLLast 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.

In Closing:

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.

Best, Chris

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Sometimes what doesn’t happen on the pitch has more value than what does happen…

If you watched the Portland Timbers lose to the Seattle Sounders this past weekend some of this analysis might be painful.  If not, and you are simply an interested party in the love of soccer, then this article should get you to really question what statistics have value and where there may be a gap that better defines ‘quality shots’…

For now; if you want some history on my pre-match analysis for the Timbers game yesterday read this report; otherwise please dig in; I think this article and subsequent analysis should stimulate the grey-matter…  😉

Here’s how I ended my pre-match report…

“Sometimes what doesn’t happen on the pitch is more valuable than what does happen…

What didn’t happen is the Timbers didn’t play defense, didn’t close spaces, didn’t close gaps, and didn’t drop back behind the ball when not in possession (i.e. ball watched).

So for this game all those ‘didn’t do things’ are what got Portland in trouble.

Some may believe that the outcome of this game comes as a surprise; although I’d offer, from responses to my tweets throughout the game, the results and the (didn’t happen events) came as no surprise at all.

Why not?

Here’s why.

This is not a one-off for the Timbers (more later), nor… is it against the norm for other teams in Major League Soccer this year.

In all of MLS, this year, teams (when they win) have done so with less than 50% of the possession 47.5% of the time…

Yes, nearly 50% of the time, a team will win with less than 50% of the possession.  And that number creeps up to 48.64% when looking at wins and draws.  We’ll see how that plays out for the Bundesliga and English Premier League later this season.

For now, in the MLS, a team walks away with three points, with less than 50% possession, 76 out of 160 times.

One team has won with 50% possession, and only 83 times has the winning team walked away with an advantage in possession (51.88% of the time).

To be clear – possession is not an indicator that has value when it comes to reinforcing that a team will win (or is more likely to win) – direct play and counter-attacking/quick transition play has almost just as much value as general ‘possession’…

And, at this stage in the season, three of the ten teams currently in a playoff position average less than 50% possession.  Have we forgotten how effective Holland and Costa Rica were in the World Cup already?

A better, general statistic, is passing accuracy across the entire pitch – eight of the current MLS playoff position teams average ~77% or more in passing accuracy; only FC Dallas ~75% and Toronto ~74% average less.

Bottom line here… attaining a passing accuracy of greater than 77% (in MLS) is more likely to better indicate which team has a better chance of winning.  Given that – it’s reasonable that TV pundits offering up analysis should shelve the possession soundbite and instead replace it (in MLS) with the 77% target soundbite.

That number is likely to change for other leagues and we’ll see, in particular, how those numbers play out for the English Premier League and the Bundesliga.

So what really happened in this game?

What really happened is quality again supplanted quantity…

And as much as the greater volume of shots (usually) means the greater the likelihood a team scores just doesn’t get past the fact that, time and space, over volume, remains the most critical (unmeasured) statistic in soccer…

I think a new statistic in soccer should be “number of open shots” – regardless of where; and the build-up statistic to that should be quantifying both the origin and ending location of the pass that created that open shot.

Open shot could be defined as a player having one or two square yards of total space (around the player) that is available to strike the ball, unhindered and an unimpeded by a player who can block the shot before it reaches the keeper.

Any other shot would be considered ‘hindered’…  others may have a different view???

For more on this topic here are two additional articles digging into ‘open shots and open passes’.
New Statistics for soccer.
Portland Timbers finally show up.

If one liked, they could easily develop (Expected Goals) XpG based upon ‘open shots’ versus the general approach used today… I’d offer that XpG would probably be far more accurate than it is now – again – others may have a different view???

Bottom line for yesterday was this… a better team defense won.   So, for me, this isn’t about calling out Will Johnson or Michael Harrington or any other ‘one player’ who appeared to play poorly in defense yesterday – it’s all about calling out the entire team that their defensive posture and positioning, and mentality to go with it, was terrible…

In Closing…

The (more later)…

In all the games the Timbers have played this year (25 of them) the opponent has had less than 50.1% of the possession 14 times – with the sum of goals scored against in those 14 games equaling 21 goals; almost 50% of the goals scored against Portland (21/43).

As for taking points?  The Timbers have taken 20 of their 31 points in games where their opponent possesses the ball less than 50% of the time (66% of their points).

This appears somewhat pear-shaped to me.

While the Timbers have a 66% chance of gaining points in a game, when they possess the ball more, that increase in possession only generates a 50% payback in scoring more goals than the opponent.

In other words, team defense is not winning the Portland Timbers their games; it’s the team attack.

So since Portland are playing Vancouver this weekend what do their team statistics offer up?

Vancouver opponents have had less than 50% of the possession 13 times and they’ve given up 12 of their 31 goals against in those games (~39%).  They’ve won two of those games, lost two, and drawn nine of them for 15 points from 13 games (45% of their points).

In other words, with a 45% chance of taking points it is likely the opponent will score fewer goals 61% of the time (100% – 39%).

Now how about this coming weekend?

Portland like to possess the ball – which means they are likely to try and possess it more than 50% against Vancouver.

So when looking at Vancouver, and when their opponents possess the ball greater than 50.1%, here’s the grist.

Opponents have done that 11 times against Vancouver, with 17 goals scored but… Vancouver have taken 18 of their 33 points from those games (55% chance of Vancouver taking points).

In other words, even when the opponent possesses the ball more against Vancouver, Vancouver have a better chance of taking points even though the opponent has scored 54% of the goals against Vancouver.

Put another way, not pear-shaped…

Reality… if not for the attack of the Portland Timbers (led by Diego Valeri) it is likely this team would be bottom of the Western Conference; given that only Houston and Montreal (the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference) have ceded more goals against this year than the Timbers.

Best, Chris

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English Premier League – Week 1 Possession with Purpose

If you’ve been following my analysis in Major League Soccer you should know that I’ve developed a set of Indices associated with my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

As time permits, and the opportunities present themselves, I will be adding my own analysis on Strategic Team Attacking and Defending PWP for the EPL.

Hope you enjoy the ride as the first week has already kicked out some surprises; at least for me anyway… the most surprising being that six teams won games on the road last weekend; Hull, Villa, Spurs, Swansea, Chelsea, and Man City.

As for whether or not it was reasonable that those teams won, at this stage, versus the other teams we will see – for now that number of teams winning on the road struck me as unusual.

To begin, the Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index after Week 1:

CPWP EPL after Week 1

Like MLS it’s entirely possible, and even practical, that the Index WILL NOT match the League Table; if it did I’d be very surprised.

And after Week 1 the team outputs are a direct reflection of how they did against their opponent… but it does provide an equal footing starting place to begin to track team attacking and defending performance where all statistical analyses are equal – most appropriately re-phrased as ‘unmodified’…

In terms of top fiddle this week – Manchester City – and as duly noted – their opponent, Newcastle, is bottom of the barrel.

So here’s how the teams stacked up in Attacking (APWP):

APWP EPL after Week 1

 

Chelsea lead the pack in attack – while Sunderland and Arsenal also show good value in attack – more in the weeks to follow on what the percentages are behind the Index – for now recognize that this APWP Index is NOT overly biased to possession or passing, my two years worth of analysis in MLS has already shown that.

With respect to Defending (DPWP):

DPWP EPL after Week 1

Again, pretty basic stuff here – but the simplicity of defending is not quite the same as attacking – in this case Man City are still tops in DPWP – while Burnley, getting hammered by Chelsea are bottom.

There will be other statistical indicators I’ll offer up as the season continues and two of them are provided below: (Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third and Opponent Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third).

Passing Accuracy Final Third EPL after Week 1

 

 

 

 

Opponent Passing Accuracy Final Third EPL after Week 1

All for now… simply too early to offer thoughts or opinions on team performance…

Best, Chris

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World Cup 2014 – Possession with Purpose – Nearly done with Round 1…

Draws – bollocks – teams are out to score goals – 43 of them so far – and there are still two games left in Round 1 of Stage 1 – but are the teams scoring the most goals really that dominant?

For many that’s a silly question but seriously – are there trends behind all those goals that might point to who’s advancing to the Finals and who isn’t?

I’ll look to try and answer that and a few others things – for now here’s my traditional Attacking PWP Index racking and stacking the teams against each other.

 

Attacking PWP - Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Attacking PWP – Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Netherlands is up near the top but the most comprehensive attacking display rests with Argentina – why?

  • 60% possession
  • 90% passing accuracy
  • 12 % penetration (patience)
  • 20% shots taken per penetration
  • 17% shots on goal
  • 100% goals scored per shot on goal

Others near the top are Chile, Germany,  and France – interesting that only the Netherlands had less than 50% possession – critical counterattacking and almost demonic in shooting – 71% of their shots taken were on goal  and 50% of those shots went in – no team, so far, has been more brutally perfect in having shots taken hit the target.

Oddly enough the next team who was best in their brutal precision were the United States – converting 50% of their shots taken into shots on goal – pure purpose in penetration – especially when both the USA and Netherlands had less than 38% of the possession.

As for the Germans – a Red Card taints their statistical outputs a wee bit but really – can anyone not expect them to win their group – the Yanks will have something to say about that but their critical game comes next against Portugal… sadly a team more likely to bow out given injuries and Pepe’s head butt.

As for the early World Cup doormats – well Iran and Hondurus really hold up the bottom – Iran had just 29.75% possession with 72% passing accuracy while Hondurus had a startling 28.71% possession with just 8.25% of their total possession within the French final third – can you say Détruit?

In looking at the overall correlation, after most teams have completed their first games, of Attacking PWP to Points is (R2) .79; pretty strong after just one game; how that holds up is hard to say but it’s reasonable to begin with.

Before moving on – a comparison, if you will, 19 of 28 teams have exceeded 80% in passing accuracy so far – in MLS just seven of 19 teams average greater than 80% passing accuracy.

So not only are the skill levels higher than MLS (as expected) but they are higher by at least one to two orders of magnitude – and that should have been evident in the USA win against Ghana.

All told the USA are 3rd worst in passing accuracy across the entire pitch; and in the bottom half when it comes to penetration per possession.

As noted by Alexi Lalas after the game – it was beautiful – and he’s right – given the considerable difference in skill levels between the USA and Ghana it really was beautiful to see the Americans win…  now – can Klinsmann get that to happen again?

In looking to answer my initial question…

I’d offer that a strong trend exists where teams who pass well – win… 28 events so far (14 games) and only four teams with passing accuracy greater than 84% have lost, Nigeria drew and the others, all nine, won…

Unlike the MLS, at least for now, the greater the number of shots taken means the greater number of shots on goal and goals scored – but by a slim margin – of the top 14 teams in shots taken per penetration just seven of them have gone on to win their first game.

But the best indicator is Shots on goal versus shots taken – 10 of the 14 teams who did that the best won their first game; one team drew and three teams lost – so passing accuracy is not the best indicator at this time but it clearly shows relevance…

In case you were wondering the top 14 teams in passing accuracy within the Final Third have won nine times and lost 5 times – slighlty less effective as an indicator but almost as strong as overall passing accuracy.

Perhaps ESPN begins to offer up more individual and team data on passing accuracy as these games continue?

Moving on to the defending side of the pitch…

There’s a hard line to draw here on the defending side of the pitch – are the great defending statistics more a reflection on how big the skill gap is between one team and another or is it down to a smothering approach that shuts down the opponent?

I’ll try to answer that question but first here’s the overall Defending PWP Index…

Defendind PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Defending PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Somewhat deceptive to say the least – Nigeria are best at the moment but their opponent was Iran?  I didn’t watch the game but rumor had it they simply didn’t belong; still they got one point and Portugal didn’t…

That said a different twist on this one – to put this into perspective I have filtered out all the teams that were below 85% in passing accuracy to try and guage the best of the best – so-to-speak.

When doing that there are just 12 teams who faced opponents with >85% passing accuracy; of those 12 teams the one with the lowest DPWP Index was Germany at 1.9898.

Next up were Argentina, Italy, and the Netherlands, every other team who faced an opponent who exceeded 85% in passing accuracy lost!  So for me the high water mark of a top team is one who faces an opponent with > 85% passing accuracy and wins…  Germany, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands.

To begin to compare other teams by this Index, at this time, would be speculation – the only other notable piece of info I see of value is looking at the teams who ceded possession and still won.

Of the 14 teams that all fell below 50% in possession four of them won – the Netherlands, the United States, Costa Rica and Columbia…  Kudo’s should go to the defensive coordinators for those teams – at least for now!

In closing…

Here’s the Composite PWP Index after last night’s games:

Composite PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

Composite PWP Stage 1 Round 1 World Cup 2014

As France sits atop the CPWP; Hondurus sits at the bottom – to say the least the French completely dominated Hondurus; to be blunt France more than doubled the output of Hondurus in every category, total passes (653 to 263), final third passes (190 to 47), shots taken (20 to 4), shots on goal (5 to 1) and goals scored (3 to 0)…

The Correlation of CPWP to Points (R2) so far .86; pretty strong – so we’ll see how well that holds up.

In considering early sleepers that many in the United States might overlook there is Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Ivory Coast, and Switzerland; still sleeping but ever dangerous are Brazil.

The odd ones out include England, Spain, Uruguay, and Portugal – wins in the second round of Stage 2 are must’s for those teams.

For me Bosnia-Herzegovina seems pretty dangerous as well.

I thought they played a very strong game against a very powerful Argentina – 85% passing accuracy, with roughly the same amount of penetration, speaks volumes for that team and given how poorly Nigeria played against Iran, it’s not unrealistic to see them progress out of the Group stages.

More to follow…

Best, Chris