For me, it’s not the top two that peak my interest this week, it’s the prime movers from mid-table – downwards while looking at the League Table from Week 12 to Week 19.
Here’s how they stand comparing Week 19 to Week 12:
For those interested the CPWP Family of Indices continue to have strong correlation to the League Table without using Points Earned in the calculations. Here’s how the Indices show things from a team performance standpoint through Week 19:
For those new to the Indices here’s an explanation on how they are created. No other publicly created set of Indices comes any closer to the League Table – not even Expected Goals – a popular Predictability statistic.
I should point out that these Indices are not Predictability Indices – they are not built to predict the future based upon past data – but…….. this Index, developed from the PWP Process is a Predictability Index:
The caution I offer in using it as a forecasting tool is this – when developing a forecasting model you need at “x” amount of samples to reach 95% Confidence Level in your data and its ability to represent trends for the future.
The “x” amount of data needed for this Index is at least 15 games — since games is the primary sample point. The twist is that since teams behave, for the most part, somewhat differently at home versus on the road you need 15 games of data at home and 15 games of data away from home.
Since this is only Week 19 that threshold has not been reached to substantiate that this predictability portion of this Index hits the 95% Confidence Level limit…
But, you say, the R2 is .77 – agreed – so yes, I would venture that those who like to gamble might want to rely on this tool to help them pick a winner – I did a test run in Major League Soccer, where the home and away statistics are notoriously different and my test run varied in success – straight CPWP PI # of one team compared to another.
That success ran as high as 75% to as low as 30% week to week for about 8 weeks – your choice… By the way – the Predictability Index created from PWP is simply my Index outputs minus (missing goals scored for or against)…
Back to the movers in La Liga these last seven weeks…
Recall the teams Espanyol (+6), Real Sociedad (+7) (Nice one Moyes!!!), Cordoba (+6), Levante (-6), and Granada (-6)…
In reviewing the APWP Index for each team, from Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-19, only one team has seen their Attacking Index increase, Cordoba – all the other teams have seen their overall attacking performance drop slightly during those two time-frames.
Why has Cordoba shown an increase?
It’s down to improved accuracy in Scoring Goals based upon Shots on Goal – all others have experienced slight decreases in quality; either with respect to percentages of Shots on Goal, Shots Taken per Penetration, or Goals Scored from Shots on Goal.
In reviewing the DPWP Index for each team, from Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-19, two teams have seen their Defending Index decrease, Levante and Granada – all other teams have seen their Defending Index improve , with Cordoba seeing the most improvement by as much as 11%.
Cordoba’s improvement in Defending comes from Opponents having less quality in putting Shots on Goal from Shots Taken and Goals Scored from Shots on Goal.
Clearly Cordoba has improved on both sides of the pitch, while with the others it’s slightly more difficult to pin down a specific area…
A few interesting notes here are:
- Cordoba were bottom of the table, and even after having to play Barcelona, Villarreal and Eibar during this stretch they still gained 6 places, and
- The CPWP Index had Cordoba rated 12 best after Week 12, and that Index rating has not changed through Week 19 – meaning it is likely the CPWP Index really did a great job of accurately representing the true team performance of Cordoba compared to other teams in La Liga…
- Finally, the CPWP Predictability Index (PI) had Cordoba rated 12th best, after week 12 as well… (perhaps??) an independent data point to substantiate that the predictability nature of the CPWP PI has value???
Cordoba showed improved performance on both sides of the pitch while the others didn’t… (perhaps???) this means that some of the new positions, for these teams, are as much a function of how others have gotten better, or worse, as it is a function of how those teams have, themselves, gotten better or worse…
Meaning position in the League Table, even when seeing changes by as much as six or seven places, may not mean that individual team is playing better – it may mean that other teams, with less noticeable drops in position are playing worse…
Reinforcing again that predictability is not solely associated with goal scoring – it’s also a function of not scoring because some teams are doing better, however slightly, with improved defending but not improved attacking…
If you are a writer for any team in the Bundesliga, La Liga, Barcley’s Premier League, or Major League Soccer and you’d like to use outputs from my Possession with Purpose Family of Indices in your articles please let me know…
I can provide a broad range of support that may help you better tell the story, (explain) to your readers, what or how well your team is doing compared to others… or even itself given certain time-frames (before and after a coach gets sacked, player gets injured, etc…)
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You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp.
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 Toronto Front Office made a decision to sack Ryan Nelsen, on 31 August 2014, after winning just three of his last 13 matches. I don’t know the rationale for that – other than what was offered on the surface – the team wasn’t getting results.
That’s a clear enough reason for most but not for me… I’m a firm believer there is more to this game than just scoring goals; for me it’s about the opponent not scoring goals as much as it is about scoring goals yourself.
To be sure – this isn’t me taking the position that playing negative football is ‘the’ solution – on the contrary – I love attacking football; but part of attacking means great defending.
However viewed I will continue to let the statistics tell me what they offer and not the other way around.
Before digging into Toronto here’s links to my other End of Season Analyses and what Possession with Purpose is all about:
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
Montreal Impact – What went Wrong in Montreal?
Colorado Rapids – The Loss of Drew Moor was More or Less?
My Revised Introduction to Possession with Purpose
For statistical purposes, Ryan Nelsen was sacked on 31 August – that means Games 1-24 were under Nelsen and Games 25-34 were under Craig Vanney.
I’ll include how the team did using those two filters as well as an overall picture on where Toronto finished compared to the rest of MLS.
In closing, I’ll offer up final thoughts on team performance under the leadership of Nelsen versus Vanney – some opinions on that and then opine what positional upgrades may need to be made in order for Toronto to make the Playoffs next year.
To begin, as usual, the CPWP Strategic Index:
Bottom line here they weren’t that good; from Games 1-24 they earned 1.38 Points Per Game (PPG); from Games 25-34 they earned .80 PPG.
In terms of Goals Scored, under Nelson they averaged 1.46 Goals Per Game (GPG) – under Vanney that number dropped to .90 GPG.
From a Defending viewpoint their Opponent GPG went from 1.63 under Nelsen to 1.50 under Vanney.
So while the Vanney led Reds did see a slight decrease in Goals Against – that didn’t make up for the significant decrease in GPG produced in Attack and clearly played a huge role in them dropping more than .5 PPG under Vanney – compared to Nelsen.
From a purely statistical (results) standpoint the sacking of Ryan Nelsen did not appear to give the Reds what they needed to make the Playoffs!
As noted, my viewpoint there is more to soccer than Goals Scored and Goals Against – given that here’s my Family of Possession with Purpose Indicators to see what else is available to consider.
All told, 8th worst in overall Attacking PWP – note that the R2 is .79 – not nearly as high as the overall CPWP Index (.85) but still very strong. Meaning, for me, the parts that comprise this Index have value. So on to the pieces…
An explanation about the following new diagrams below — each PWP Indicator is offered in a Game to Game view with a different colored ‘trend line’; the trend line is offered so that you can see how the team changed, from start to finish, in each area of evaluation.
For the statistical folks I have also included the slope. I won’t reference the slope but some folks have used the slope to predict future expectations.
Clearly Toronto changed their pattern of possession as the season progressed.
Under Vanney their average Possession was 55.84% – with Nelsen it was 46.08%.
Overall they were 10th in MLS – if they had stuck with Nelson the entire season it is likely they would have been 4th or 5th lowest overall – with Vanney at the helm for a full year chances are they would have finished 4th or 5th highest.
I’m not sure a more diametrically opposed tactical approach could be seen given this information – it will be intriguing to see what impacts there are as we dig deeper into team performance.
And when looking specifically into the Attacking Final Third Passing Accuracy increased by almost 2%.
Overall, their volume of passes, per game, also increased from 382 under Nelsen to 463 with Vanney.
Finally, team Passing Accuracy increased from 74% to 81% under Vanney.
Recall that under Nelsen they had a higher GPG and PPG than with Vanney.
So… while they increased possession and accuracy they didn’t increase control of the game in attack.
Penetrating Possession and Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:
Perhaps two of the more difficult PWP Indicators to interpret.
For the Barcley’s Premier League, La Liga, and the UEFA Champions League we already know that Less means Less and More means More.
In other words the less you possess – the less likely you are to take shots, score goals and get points – and the more you possess the more likely you are to take shots, scored goals and take points.
That is not the case, at least for now, in MLS nor in the Bundesliga.
In these two Leagues the less you possess and less effective you are in passing the more likely you are to win. Read here if not convinced.
So bottom line here – these two indicators can be very tricky – for now I’ll just offer that an increase in possession and passing accuracy only led to a very marginal increase in penetration but a marked decrease in shots taken.
Under Nelsen, Penetration Percentage was 22.03% and with Vanney it was 22.96%.
Overall they were 12th highest for the year compared to the rest of MLS.
Under Nelsen, Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession was 21.96%, with Vanney it was 16.09%.
Overall they were fourth highest in MLS at 20.23%.
Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:
So the publicized bottom line, by the Front Office, was all about Points won or lost (results) hmmm……..
Under Nelsen their team percentage was 35.64% – under Vanney it was 30.98%.
To put that in perspective – that percentage (under Vanney) was worse than Chivas USA for all of 2014 – and Chivas USA had the worst Shots on Goal per Shots Taken of any team in MLS…
Is it stating the obvious that under Craig Vanney, the Reds were worse, in finishing, than Chivas? Let’s check again their Goals Scored per Shots on Goal.
Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:
With Nelsen their Goals Scored per Shots on Goal was 34.35% – with Vanney it was 23.67%.
To put this one in perspective – that 23.67% is 8% worse than Chivas USA were the whole year – and yes Chivas USA were worst in all of MLS.
All told they scored just nine goals under Vanney – three of them against Portland in the wild come from behind meltdown by Portland (3 goals in the second half) and three goals against Chivas USA.
Recall the very first diagram on Possession Percentage – bottom line here is while the team itself appeared to control the game more under Vanney – they didn’t.
They actually possessed the ball more but failed to execute that possession with purpose.
In rounding out what positional upgrades may be needed, for me, is pretty clear.
They need an upgrade in strikers and supporting attacking midfielders so that Bradley actually has some talent to work with.
And yes, I got it – the tactical attacking system changed and the new Head Coach will want to bring in ‘his players’ to play ‘his style’; thought Toronto had already been down that road a few times already.
For me, players are players – some are gifted in some areas while others are even more gifted in other areas. But any Head Coach knows that if the intent is to WIN – then the intent should be to develop an attacking tactical system that will help the team win.
In this case Craig Vanney didn’t… so how about Defending – did Craig get it right on the defending side of the pitch?
Fifth worst, overall, in MLS… so were things better or worse under Vanney, versus Nelsen?
Not a great place to start but we already know their Goals Against per Game was lower under Vanney’s leadership than Nelsen’s – so it can’t all be bad.
But 5th worst in MLS does give the indication that although Vanney’s approach helped the team get better they still ceded 1.50 goals per game and that single statistic is still 4th worst across MLS.
Opponent Possession Percentage:
Since we saw that the Possession Percentage of Toronto increased as the season wore on it’s only reasonable to see that the Opponent Possession Percentage declined.
As a reminder – team possession for Opponents under Nelsen was 55.84% while under Vanney it was 46.08%…
So for some that means the opponent had less control over the game than Toronto – but we already know the goals against only dropped marginally – leading me to sense that major upgrades are needed almost across the entire back-four.
Opponent Passing Accuracy:
Under Nelsen it was 77.06% – while under Vanney it was 74.80%.
Overall the opponent’s were 5th worst in completing passes against Toronto – their opponents averaged 76.39%.
Of note is Opponent Passing Accuracy, within their Defending Final Third, was 63.07% under Nelsen and 64.90% under Vanney.
Put another way – Nelsen ceded possession and passing accuracy to the opponent ‘outside’ the Defending Final Third.
Opponent Penetrating Possession and Shots Taken per Penetration:
Like in attack these two indicators can be the hardest to interpret – as such I’ll just offer the statistics with one caveat.
Under Nelsen, Toronto ceded their opponents 25.02% penetrating possession while with Vanney it was 25.06%.
Not much difference here between Nelsen and Vanney led teams – overall they ceded the 2nd highest percentage of penetration in MLS.
With respect to Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession, the Nelsen led team had opponents execute this step at 15.25% – while opponents with the team led by Vanney saw that number increase up to 20.02%.
Overall, their opponents had a success rate of 16.65% – 4th lowest in MLS.
I should add an observation here – low does not mean good sometimes.
What I have found over my two years of analysis is that when the opponent is a bit more patient, in taking their shots, they have a tendency to be more accurate (regardless of location).
This is amplified even more if the defending team plays higher up the pitch – meaning, even with less patience, the opponent is still getting more time and space (given midfielders are caught out of position on quick transitions) – thereby leading to more effective shots on goal.
Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:
What’s interesting here is that under Vanney the opponent percentage was 42.82% – while under Nelsen it was 32.52%.
One would think that the Goals Against would be lower under Nelsen.
Perhaps, in time, it may have been but for that stretch it wasn’t.
In looking at volume; the number of Shots on Goal also increased (Vanney – 5.20 SOG/Game versus 4.17 SOG/Game under Nelsen)!
Yet Goals Against decreased?
Well I ask that a bit tongue in cheek since they were 10th best/worst in this category at 35.55%; meaning however viewed they have plenty of room for improvement.
Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:
So… when it came to the bottom line – with Nelsen, at the helm, Toronto’s opponents averaged 40.71% when it came to Goals Scored per Shots on Goal; with Vanney that bottom line was 29.33%; a clear difference.
That could be heartening for Toronto supporters – if viewed as a glass half-full – that 29% (over the course of a season) would have been 7th best in MLS.
With a glass half-empty the volume and accuracy of the opponents was very high – leading to an overall 1.59 goals against – worst in MLS.
I think it’s reasonable to offer that the overall team performance in defending was not up to scratch under either Head Coach.
While Craig Vanney got the team to reduce the opponents possession – the opponents were still blindingly successful in taking points from Toronto.
Bottom line is the Goals Against got better but the points didn’t…
If the intent is to make the Playoffs, as it has been for over five years now, then I think the Front Office probably needs to suck it up just as much as the team does on the pitch.
Inconsistency, across all facets of Football Operations, is what I see and hear.
And to be brutally honest I think this team probably needs at least 6-7 new starters – three defenders, two midfielders and at least one striker.
Hindsight has some value in soccer – as reviewing video’s to not repeat mistakes on the pitch is an everyday thing…
As such, I submit the Toronto Front Office should review their own decision-making videos, over the course of five seasons, and LEARN from their mistakes too…
If this was an independent club, in a purely capitalistic business model, (promotion/relegation) this team would be down in Division 3 by now… wow!
By the way… in all the games managed by Ryan Nelsen (Games 1-24) Toronto won five games in their first 11 games where they did not exceed 50% Possession, they did not exceed the average Passing Accuracy of 77% and they did not exceed the average Passing Accuracy within the Opponents Defending Final Third by 67%.
Between Games 12 and 24 the other teams in MLS had figured out their approach – and Toronto won zero games, with those same ‘ceding time and space tactics’…
So another view in hindsight might suggest that it really didn’t take too long for the opponent’s to figure out Nelsen’s strategy and beat it…
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If you follow the Rapids I’d expect you hope for a far better season coming up than what you saw in 2014.
Just how ugly was it? Well…… they weren’t near as bad as Houston, San Jose, Chicago, Montreal, or that defunct team called Chivas, but they were pretty bad compared to the rest of the West.
And with the addition of Sporting KC and a newly revamped Houston, led by a very crafty Owen Coyle, the hill to climb will be even tougher.
In saying that my End of Season run continues with the Colorado Rapids; here’s links to my other End of Season Analyses plus my link to what Possession with Purpose Analyses is all about:
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
Montreal Impact – What went Wrong in Montreal?
My Revised Introduction to Possession with Purpose
New for this article, and future End of Season analyses, are my Game to Game Diagrams trending team performance throughout the season. More to follow on that…
In addition, in offering up my information, I’ll look to identify strengths and weaknesses that also include my thoughts on what primary positions the team may need to upgrade in order to be more successful next year.
To begin, as usual, the CPWP Strategic Index:
So in simple terms they weren’t that good.
Meaning Pablo Mastroeni has a multitude of “higher quality” boots he needs to find in order to compete in what should be an extremely tough Western Conference next year; especially with the addition of Kansas City and Houston Dynamo.
Of course the challenge here is that every team is looking to get better next year – and while they’ve added Michael Harrington as a Fullback I’d imagine they need to do “Moor” than just that… anyhow – moving on.
So where to begin on what positional areas need upgrades?
Defense First – here’s a look at where Colorado finished in the Defending PWP Index:
All told, Colorado had the worst Road Goal Differential in MLS (-24) Yet they were only 7th worst in DPWP. Is that an early indicator that they need a new Goal Keeper – or – an early indicator they need more than just one Fullback, along with the return of Drew Moor?
I’m not sure, but here’s their trends from game 1 to game 34 in Defending:
Opponent Possession percentage: (Below)
Throughout the course of the season it seems Colorado had the majority of possession compared to their opponents; indeed the opponent averaged 49.14% possession.
All told the opponent possession percentage was 7th lowest in MLS last year – when on the road the opponent possessed the ball 52% of the time – while at home the opponent possessed the ball 46% of the time.
In general it appears that the opponent was more likely to cede control of the ball, for the most part, when visiting Colorado – while Colorado appears to have ceded control, somewhat, when traveling.
In considering the overall opponent possession percentage I’d offer it was not a significant, single indicator, that drove overall poor team defending performance – we’ll have to look elsewhere.
Quick explanation – I’ve added another statistical calculation into my analyses – in this case, and with all the following diagrams, I’ve added the mathematical equation of the Trend Line for the stretch of 34 games.
What this shows is whether or not there was a trend in team performance – for example – in the Opponent Possession Percentage I’ve indicated there is a Slight Positive Slope – this means, over the course of 34 games the opponent had a tendency to increase their amount of possession (from game 1 to game 34).
For analytical purposes a trend line may be used to spot increases or decreases in team performance – in this case I’ll refer to the loss of Drew Moor (I think around game 23) as a point of interest.
If I had to draw a conclusion it would appear that after game 23 the Rapids opponent possession percentage increased – it did – by a margin of 5% points.
As a point of interest – in EVERY instance except Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession – the opponent’s of Colorado either increased their volume of activity or improved their team percentages in execution from Game 24 to Game 34 versus Game 1 to Game 23!
As I’ve noted many times – I’m not an analyst who digs into how individuals impact their team performance on a regular basis – but it would be rude not to identify such compelling information as this.
By the way – it’s actually “expected” that Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession would decrease – this is a trend for all highly productive teams – to include those super teams in Europe as well…
Opponent Passing Accuracy: (Below)
With Moor – 75%; without Moor – 79%
Overall – not bad – 6th best in MLS at 76.45%
The trending increase isn’t all just down to one Center-back – Midfielders and Fullbacks (with appropriate positional play) have a significant role in decreasing opponent passing accuracy!
Opponent Penetration Percentage: (Below)
With Moor – 21%; without Moor 23%
Overall – 6th best in MLS at 21.55%
This trending increase, like above, is not all down to one Center-back missing; the same applies here for Midfielders and Fullbacks as well…
Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession: (Below)
With Moor – 15,88%; without Moor – 15.80%
Overall – 2nd lowest in MLS at 15.86%
And with a slight negative trend it did mean the opponents offered up fewer shots; but in cases like these the opponents usually ended up putting more shots on goal and more goals scored.
Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: (Below)
With Moor – 39%; without Moor 45%
Overall the worst in MLS at 41.07%
So that overall status is not down to just missing one Central Defender – it’s more than that as they’ve been pretty poor in this category across the entire length of the season.
And yes, reduced Shots Taken does see an increase in Shots on Goal so the real pain begins to show…
Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal: (Below)
With Moor – 29%; without Moor – 49%
Overall 5th worst in MLS at 35% – again confirming that reduced shots taken increases opponent shots on goal and opponent goals scored…
Regardless of the loss of Drew Moor – it shouldn’t be down to the loss of just one player to see such a huge trend in allowing goals scored against… wow… more than the addition of Michael Harrington and the return of Drew Moor is needed here.
As I’ve noted before – rarely do I focus team analyses with respect to the influence of one single player – but in this case an exception needed to be made.
But… these increases in opponent execution are highly unlikely to be down to the loss of one player – Midfielders and Fullback have a role in this effort – and any Head Coach knows that if there is a weakness in one particular area then the rest of the team needs to help steer the opponent out of that area… in looking at this information it would appear to me that Mastroeni failed to get the rest of his starters to do a bit of extra work in defending!
That may be a bit harsh but it’s a team game and the leader of the team is the Head Coach…
Moving on… as with any game – if the defending side of team performance takes a hit it is likely the attacking side of a team performance will take a hit – as I work through the Attacking PWP I’ll offer up the “with and without” Drew Moor there as well.
My hope is that there isn’t that much of a difference… I’ll explain why in my Closing statements…
All told it would appear that the Colorado Rapids fell far short on the Attacking side of team performance – 5th worst, overall, in MLS.
Possession Percentage: (Below)
With Moor – 52%; without Moor – 48%
Overall 7th highest in MLS at 50.86%; but we’ve seen that can be a deceiving statistic when looked at on its own.
Passing Accuracy: (Below)
With Moor – 78%; without Moor – 76%
Overall 9th best in MLS at 77%
A good sign that the loss of Drew Moor did not create a huge impact in overall passing compared to other teams in MLS – but – it is clear that their passing accuracy dropped when Drew got injured…
Penetrating Possession: (Below)
With Moor – 21%; without Moor – 21%
Overall 4th lowest in MLS at 21% – so this was pretty low compared to other teams in MLS regardless of the presence of Drew Moor…
In this case productivity did not drop – it stands to reason, then, that upon entering the Opponents Defending Final Third their productivity in creating Shots Taken, Shots on Goal and Goals Scored should not drop either; let’s see?
Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession: (Below)
With Moor – 20%; without Moor – 21%
Overall 2nd highest in MLS at 20.59% – not a good sign for a team that is supposed to appear like a possession based team – this number should be on the lower end to support patience and drive shots on goal up.
With respect to the presence or non-presence of Drew Moor… in this case their Shots Taken percentage increased – meaning (with a downward trend line) they took more shots with Drew Moor on the pitch than they did without Drew Moor (13.64 without Drew) – (14.09 with Drew)…
And, it also, probably means, they were less patient in their shot taking towards the end of the season – i.e. – playing more Direct Attacking football – again the percentage increase supports that given all the other leagues I analyze showing the same trends.
Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: (Below)
With Moor – 35%; without Moor – 37%
So without Drew Moor they not only took more shots they put more shots on goal – as such team productivity in creating and taking shots did not digress – but – there is a negative slope – which means compared to the earlier part of the season their overall percentages in putting shots on goal did decline.
For me this speaks to weaknesses in attack in addition to the weakness associated with the loss of Drew Moor.
Overall 9th highest in MLS at 36% – above average – which should mean their goals scored was also above average – IF their strikers were doing their job…
The telling indicator here is Goals Scored per Shots on Goal…
Goals Scored per Shots on Goal: (Below)
With Moor – 27%; without Moor – 17%
A considerable drop-off —> especially when considering that Moor is a Central Defender – and unlikely to generate a huge negative impact in the attack.
With the loss of Drew Moor we shouldn’t see that significant of a drop off given he is a Central Defender…
Nevertheless, without knowing their overall position compared to other teams in MLS it does reinforce to me that the Colorado Rapids had significant weaknesses in their attacking tandem. Even more so given that their percentage of shots taken and shot taken that ended up on goal increased considerably as the season wore on.
To confirm… in this category the Rapids were, overall, 3rd worst in MLS at 24%.
Nailing it that this team lacked quality strikers given their higher than average shots on goal, compared to other teams in MLS…
All told, I’d offer that the loss of Drew Moor had minimal impact in the overall lack of attacking team performance, and especially the lack of overall finishing as the Rapids entered the opponent’s defending final third.
This team has more issues in attacking than just the loss of Drew Moor – adding some better Fullbacks and perhaps a wider midfield player (or two) should help as well as revamping their striking tandem.
For me – in my own previous experience – the loss of one player is no excuse – it’s an impact for sure but to be clear…
Head Coaches are paid to make adjustments based upon injuries or game state – given the continued decline with the Colorado defense – I’d offer Pablo Mastroeni failed to make appropriate adjustments based upon the loss of one player.
In addition, I’d also offer that Mastroeni lacked leadership, direction, and effective tactics on the attacking side of the pitch as well.
And those working in the Front Office should be concerned that a patchwork of 3-4 players is not going to put this team into the Playoffs next year
For me, adding Michael Harrington is a patchwork approach – he was pushed out in Sporting KC and pushed out in Portland – both teams were better defensively when he was moved out.
So while the return of Drew Moor will help the defense solidify – it’s still major surgery to really prepare this team for what appears to be a very brutal Western Conference next year.
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Not the best of seasons for San Jose this year – what started as a renewed vision for Mark Watson, this season, has now turned to a renewed vision for Dominic Kinnear next season.
Like Chicago Fire (Candle Burned at Both Ends) and Houston Dynamo (Dynamic Dynamo Demagnatized as Dominic Departs) I’ll be peeling back the good, bad and ugly for San Jose this season with the intent of identifying what positional changes might be needed to help this team get better.
As usual, to set the stage, here’s my Composite PWP Strategic Index for the end of 2014.
There’s San Jose (SJFC), sandwiched near bottom in-between Houston and Montreal.
Before digging into the what’s and why’s of my Possession with Purpose Family of Indices here’s the breakdown on the regular statistics that most people pay attention to; at least those who only focus on results:
All told just .88 Points Per Game (PPG); with Goals Per Game (GPG) at 1.03 and Goals Against Per Game (GAPG) at 1.47.
Not enough goals scored and clearly too many goals scored against. All told their Goal Differential (GD) was -.44 – 5th worst in MLS.
In Away games PPG was .53, GPG .82, GAPG 1.71 and GD -.88 (5th worst in MLS).
For Home games PPG was 1.24 (2nd worst), GPG 1.24, GAPG was 1.24 and GD was 0.00 (2nd worst in MLS).
All told San Jose were near bottom in every basic results driven statistic this year with the Away record (1-6-10) even worse than their paltry Home record (5-6-6).
And they are bringing in Dominic Kinnear? Well I suppose (3-2-12) in Away games and (8-4-5) is better for Home games, from a results perspective.
But how about overall team attacking and defending performance? And is there a light already shining that many may have missed?
Team Attacking (both home and away):
Notice that San Jose fall even lower in overall team attacking than either Chicago or Houston, two teams already evaluated.
If you read those reports you’ll know both were pretty poor in overall attacking. So if you’re a San Jose supporter brace yourself for some pretty ugly numbers.
Overall 48.81% – almost middle of the road and on its own an indicator that won’t offer much given Playoff teams like FC Dallas, Vancouver, DC United, and New England all slid under 50%.
Is there a difference between away games and home games? In away games it was 47.40% vs at home 50.22%.
So IF any early conclusions might be drawn it’s this – they had a better record at home and they averaged more possession at home – is it reasonable to offer that the more possession this team has the better they are? We’ll see…
Overall 76.86% – dead on average (10th) compared to everyone else. Again, teams like FC Dallas, DC United, and New England fell below that number and they all made the playoffs.
In looking at away versus home games; away games 75.94% vs at home 77.78%; a bit higher at home than away – again the same question – does increased possession and increased passing accuracy help plot where San Jose is more successful?
Overall 21.92% – below average (7th worst). Only FC Dallas and DC United fell lower than San Jose.
In looking at away versus home games; in away games 21.93% vs at home 21.91%.
Here’s where the rubber begins to meet the road… notice that with less possession, and less passing accuracy in away games, the Earthquakes actually penetrated more into the opponents Defending Final Third.
This sort of pattern has shown itself with other teams – more often than not it leads to these observations – a more direct attacking style (get in as quickly as you can) and a less impatient approach as the team begins to work towards scoring goals.
In other words their shooting accuracy drops off, as does their goals scored.
Let’s see if this is the case with San Jose.
Shots Taken per penetrating possession:
Overall 16.46% – well below average (4th worst) (or best) depending on a few things – teams with higher passing accuracy usually have lower percentages here, in this case San Jose is on the cusp, if you will.
Their overall percentage seems to indicate more patience when it comes to taking shots – which in turn should mean a higher percentage of shots taken being on goal. That’s not the case though – they are 3rd worst in MLS when it comes to shots taken being on goal (33.93%).
So without knowing the exact locations of the shots taken I’d offer they need a stronger attacking system to generate more time and space to increase their shots on goal and goals scored.
As for away games; their percentage dropped down to 12.81% while at home it was 20.11%. That is a marked difference in percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession. It’s almost like Jekyll and Hyde.
Perhaps that is a big enough difference to say that their attack was so basic (simple) in away games, this past year, that they simply didn’t get that many shots off because they telegraphed what they were trying to do?
In other words they didn’t have enough creativity to generate better chances.
An indicator here may be their passing accuracy.
In the opponents Defending Final Third it was 60.72% for away games – 5th worst. So even though they offered 107 passes per game (10th best in MLS) they could only complete 65 of those passes.
And of those 65 passes completed, only eight of them ended up creating a shot taken! For me speaking to no time, no space, and/or simply no-one willing to take a shot even if a marginal amount of time and space did become available.
Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:
Overall 33.93% (3rd worst).
So not only did they take fewer shots per penetration (far fewer in away games) they were also less accurate than most when it came to putting those shots on goal.
Again, speaking to lack of time and space, and perhaps location too?
In away games 33.05% versus at home 34.81%.
In going back to the ‘more means more’ aspect of San Jose. More possession and better passing accuracy does mean more shots taken and it also means more shots on goal.
In looking at away games less means less – in other words less possession, less passing accuracy, means less shots taken per penetration and less shots on goal.
Not every team behaves like that – some do better with less than more. In considering this output pattern it’s not the same as Houston or Chicago – it’s different – which means the tactical approach is probably different as well. More to follow…
Goal Scored per Shots on Goal:
Overall 22.50% (2nd worst).
In tracking the ‘more means more and less means less’ the percentages for this indicator should be lower in away games and higher in home games.
It is – in away games it’s 20.88% (2nd worst) and for home games it’s 24.12% (still 2nd worst) but a better 2nd worst than the away game outputs!
More meant more for San Jose when at home and less meant less when on the road – but in both cases neither approach provided consistency in getting results.
In other words they didn’t have enough “more” to generate “more” and their less meant less…
All told I submit these attacking issues not only speak to San Jose needing better strikers – they also need better midfielders – those with greater vision, greater patience, but at the same time a wee bit more risk.
With all that offered about Attack – here’s the view from how well the opponents did against them in the same categories:
If there is a good news story here it should be defending – overall their team performance sees them as 9th best in DPWP.
Opponent Possession Percentage:
Overall 51.19% – as noted, possession alone is not an indicator of value without better understanding all the other key indicators to go with it.
In this case it’s pretty clear San Jose is not a possession based team away from home (52.60%) but they are at home – or at least they don’t cede possession (49.78%) for opponents when playing at home.
Opponent Passing Accuracy:
Overall 77.95% – opponents average accuracy is 8th best, against San Jose, in MLS.
In away games opponents average 79.81% (4th highest) and 76.10% when playing in San Jose (8th lowest).
So the Earthquakes cede possession on the road and they also cede a higher opponent passing accuracy – that higher possession and passing accuracy outside the Defending Final Third also translates to having the 5th highest opponent passing accuracy (67.83%) within and into the Defending Final Third.
For home games that opponent passing accuracy drops to 65.40%.
Before moving on – the volumes ceded are quite high as well.
Overall, San Jose opponents average 435 passes per game (9th highest) with 442 by the opponent in road games and 427 for opponents in home game.
As the opponent penetrates that volume equals 124 passes attempted (2nd highest) by opponents visiting San Jose and 124 when facing opponents on the road (5th highest).
So even though passing accuracy for the opponent isn’t that high – the volume, after finally gaining penetration is 2nd and 5th highest in MLS. More to follow on that…
Opponent Penetrating Possession:
Overall 24.60% (5th highest) with that percentage being 24.15% (7th highest) for opponents on the road and 25.05% (2nd highest) for opponents facing San Jose at home.
With that high percentage of penetration better defending teams will begin to show a higher number of shots taken against percentage but in turn a lower shots on goal percentage and, ultimately, a lower goals against percentage.
In other words the better defending teams leverage the reduced space to influence and reduce time and space for the opponent to strike the ball, put it on target and score the goals.
Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:
Overall 19.71% (5th highest) with that percentage being 21.01% (3rd highest) for opponents on the road and 18.41% (8th highest) for opponents facing San Jose at home.
The pattern holds true so far… how about percentages of Shots on Goal per Shots Taken?
Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:
Overall 35.53% (9th lowest) – the trend continues – while on the road opponents average 36.12% (9th lowest) and 34.93% (8th lowest) when opponents face San Jose at home.
Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:
Overall 24.92% (2nd lowest in MLS) – again, the positive defending team performance continues to follow the pattern. In away games it’s 26.11% (3rd lowest) and at home it’s 23.73% (3rd lowest).
Bottom line here (the more to follow from earlier) is that the pattern of strong defending team performance matches that of some of the better teams in MLS – what hurts San Jose are not the overall percentages in execution – it’s the volume that they face in execution.
All told they face the most opponent shots per game (away) at 17.35, the 2nd most shots on goal (away) at 6.24 per game – but only the 9th highest goals against per game.
And when looking at how opponents do in San Jose, it’s 14.65 (highest) shots taken, 5.06 shots on goal (highest) but just 1.24 goals against (9th highest).
The team percentages are indicative of a healthy defending tactical approach – in other words the performance indicators all point to a solid defending approach with one BIG exception.
Volume – while the percentages are good the volume of opponent activity is high – in other words – more volume up front against San Jose results in more volume at the back end…
BUT not as much volume as might be expected; especially when looking at the volume of shots taken and shots on goal – compared to the volume of goals scored. What that indicates to me is that the central part of the defending corps is strong – as is their goal keeper.
More means more is a trend and tendency of teams like Barcelona, FC Bayern, Real Madrid, Chelsea FC, LA Galaxy, and others – but that more is usually where the volumes exceed (in attack) 600 passes per game, 200 passes per game in the opponents defending final third, 16 shots per game, with 6-10 on goal and at least 2 goals scored.
More does not mean “more” when total passes hits just 400, penetrating passes hits just 100, shots taken hits 8 per game with 3-4 on goal and less than a goal scored!
The attacking tactical approach for San Jose was the wrong approach and had the wrong players – will Dominic Kinnear fix that?
Probably – but it may take at least five to six new starters with almost all of them being on the attacking side of the pitch.
On the defending side of the pitch – all indicators seem to point to a healthy relationship.
What is missing, however, is a solution that includes reducing the overall volume of attack by their opponents.
A reasonable way to reduce the volume of attack by your opponents is to increase your own volume of attack; i.e. reduce their possession by increasing your own possession.
But that’s tricky and it’s not always a sure-thing.
We’ve seen that ceding possession can be effective ways of improving defending team performance; perhaps that is the case when the overall technical ability of the defenders lacks compared to a group of four like San Jose have?
I’m not sure but it seems reasonable Dominic Kinnear will shape his team to his style – what will be intriguing is to see if ‘his’ style changes next year compared to how he worked his style this year.
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Twenty eight games in – the screws are tightening and the pucker factor hit the Vancouver Whitecaps big time; see here: Valeri’s vicious volley from Villafana vanquishes Vancouver.
For me though, the real story is how the tables have turned in Philadelphia – I’ll get to that in just a wee bit – for now here’s my usual Possession with Purpose Family of Indices:
At this stage the top ten teams above the red line are the top ten teams in the Index. Good; the End State of trying to match the league table without points seems to be holding steady and the correlation this week (R2) remains a steady and strong .82.
There are at least two key issues this week – who continues to push up the table to make the Playoffs and who continues to push for the Supporter’s Shield – Seattle took a hit this week – but – then again they won the US Open Cup – winning silver is never a bad thing.
In terms of making the Playoffs – tight races for sure. Some teams have a possible 18 points to get while some others have 15 points to get – with that many points available Vancouver, Philadelphia, Colorado, Toronto, Houston, and even San Jose are still in the hunt.
Moving on to the APWP Strategic Index and peeling back changes to the Philadelphia Union:
LA Galaxy continue to be attack mad – and some familiar faces appear up near the top as well – remember Portland and New York from last year? Well… they are still here and still dangerous.
But this isn’t about those three teams – today’s focus is about Philadelphia and how the Union have come together. In order to see that let’s peel back how they differ from earlier this year with John Hackworth leading the cause.
Here’s the statistical details – do they show any changes?
- The average number of total passes with John was 454 per game; under Jim it’s 367 per game – a HUGE difference!
- The average amount of possession with John was 50.85%; under Jim it’s 44.04% – a HUGE difference!
- The average penetration per possession under John was 22.04%; under Jim it’s 26.14% – in terms of volume that also represents a HUGE difference!
- The average Shots Taken per penetrating possession under John was 20.11%; under Jim it’s 19.06% – not big but worthy…
- The average Shots on Goal per Shot Taken under John was 29.83%; under Jim it’s 38.30% – a HUGE difference!
- The average Goals Scored per Shots on Goal under John was 36.78%; under Jim it’s 41.14% – a HUGE difference!
- The average Goals Scored under John was 1.17; under Jim it’s 1.93 – a HUGE difference!
In all, there are considerable differences in team attacking performances under the direction of John Hackworth versus Jim Curtin.
This isn’t offering that one coach is better than the other; what it does offer – however – is that with a slightly different playing style – the output of a team, with the same players, can change.
Top be precise, the volume of passes, and percentages of possession, penetration, shots on goal, and goals scored are considerably different; and those differences do lead to an increase in goals scored and total points.
Said a different way – the Union are possessing the ball less – which in turn means the opponent is possessing the ball more, which, in turn, means there is more time and space in the opponent’s own Defending Final Third if the opponent loses the ball and the Union can capitalize on that open space.
Might the Union Defending team performance indicators support that? Let’s see; here’s the DPWP Strategic Index:
In looking specifically at the Union; here’s the breakdown on the Union Defending team performance outputs under John Hackworth versus Jim Curtin:
- The opponent average number of total passes with John was 440 per game; under Jim it’s 468 per game – a big difference!
- The opponent average amount of possession with John was 48.90%; under Jim it’s 55.96% – a HUGE difference!
- The opponent average penetration per possession under John was 21.26%; under Jim it’s 21.25% – no difference!
- The opponent average volume of passes in the Union Defending Final Third with John was 101.50; under Jim it’s 126.27 – a large increase in volume of penetration.
- The opponent average volume of passes completed in the Union Defending Final Third with John was 69.07; under Jim it’s 81.05 – an increase in volume of completed passes in the Union Defending Final Third.
- The opponent average Shots Taken per penetrating possession under John was 19.49%; under Jim it’s 13.95% – a worthy difference…
- The opponent average Shots on Goal per Shot Taken under John was 39.61%; under Jim it’s 37.78% – a worthy difference…
- The opponent average Goals Scored per Shots on Goal under John was 36.90%; under Jim it’s 34.12% – a worthy difference…
- The opponent average Goals Scored under John was 1.71; under Jim it’s 1.25 – a HUGE difference!
In all, there are worthy differences in team defending performance between John and Jim.
In answering the leading question into DPWP – the answer is yes…
- The volume of penetration has increased markedly under the leadership of Jim Curtin in comparison to John Hackworth – it’s that difference that leads many to believe that the defensive line of the back-four has dropped deeper…
- In addition, with dropping deeper, it’s expected that the space will get tighter – with less space, and time, opponent shots taken and shots on goal volume should decrease.
- Under John, the opponents volume of shots taken was 12.36 per game with 4.79 shots on goal per game – under Jim, shots taken is 11.40 per game while shots on goal is 4.00 per game.
- So they not only decrease in volume, they also decrease in percentage as noted in the bullets above.
- Finally, under John Hackworth, Goals Against were 1.70 per game; under Jim Curtin they are 1.36.
Bottom line here – the Union are simply better in defending, and in turn, their deeper drop, in defending, has led to an improved attack.
For those only interested in Total Points – under John Hackworth – the Philadelphia Union had earned 11 points in 14 games; under the guidance of Jim Curtin (now) the team has 27 points from 15 games.
If that pattern continues (1.8 points per game) the Union could finish with 47 points – and in an Eastern Conference – that just may be enough to make the Playoffs.
All for now …
Later this week, my run down on the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and a special review on Expected Wins looking at all four leagues together…
Looking to answer this question – is comparing individual players on Barcelona to FC Koln, to Southampton, to LA Galaxy worthy given that the four leagues all have different patterns to winning – or do they?
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I’ve no doubt many of the headlines on the English Premier League this week dig into Manchester United’s convincing win over Crystal Palace… That’s probably appropriate for most but I, often times, like to write about the un-obvious.
So even though Angel Di Maria looked great – I’d offer he was a stud playing amongst English school boys… perhaps something like Lionel Messi (Barcelona) playing Levante in La Liga???
Anyhow, well done to Man United – they finally won a game!
The exciting match, for me however, was the Aston Villa (1 – nil) thrilla at the Kop…
Who’da thought the Villans would be sitting where they are after four games? Tom Hanks no doubt… 😉
Well, perhaps in hindsight (after week 10 or so) that run of 10 points, in these four games. might not be quite as much as it seems today.
Bollocks you say – we will see 🙂 A very tough match against Arsenal comes next on Sept 20th, 7 AM PST…
Anyhow, like the latest on the Bundesliga and La Liga, I’ll be taking a look at the early races taking shape on relegation; in particular the four bottom dwellers, and how they compare in the Possession with Purpose Family of Indices.
My analysis on the CPWP Strategic Index, filtered by passes, above and below the league average of 450, will follow in a blog a bit later this week.
For now the Composite (CPWP) Strategic Index through Week four:
Although taking a hit from Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, Swansea City still shows pedigree in the CPWP Strategic Index. Other teams doing well include Man City, Chelsea, and with a rather large move up the Index, Manchester United.
Hovering midtable in the Index, but gathering points, as noted, is Aston Villa – another sleeper (but maybe not) is Southampton.
How soon the have’s and have not’s split up, in this Index, is unclear but I’d expect Week 10 or so will begin to show a bit more clarity in who’s consistently performing well and who isn’t.
In terms of the late starters in the League Table there are four teams; Crystal Palace, Burnley, West Brom, and Newcastle; all sitting on two points.
For the remainder of this article I’ll concentrate some thoughts and observations about them and save some individual analysis on Aston Villa, and Southampton, for my new blog later this week.
Like the Bundesliga and La Liga CPWP Indices, the R2 for this Index, after Week 4, shows well – it’s .73…
Attacking (APWP) Strategic Index:
Given the early season outburst from Chelsea is it any wonder they sit atop this Index – with an average Goals Scored of 3.75 would you really expect my Index not to reflect that amount of fire power?
So how about those teams who’ve started with just two points each in the first four games?
- Crystal Palace – 7th worst in APWP – the telling statistics on this side of the pitch are two things; possession percentage average is 36.69% (3rd worst) and their goals scored per shots on goal is 29.46% (9th worst). What is interesting here is that Southampton sit below Crystal Palace in that statistic (29.17%) but their overall possession percentage is 52.91%. That significant difference in the amount of possession spells the biggest reason why Crystal Palace sits where they sit. In other words the statistics are indicating that if Crystal Palace can retain more possession of the ball they should, by all counts, increase their goal scoring output.
- Burnley – 2nd worst in APWP – the telling statistics here are also two things: shots taken, per penetrating possession, is 7th lowest and their goals scored, per shots on goal, is 3rd worst (12.50%). The striking contrast here is that the other teams who show patience in taking shots, per penetration, (lower averages than Burnley) are Man City (9.18%), Arsenal (9.92%), Man United (10.09%), Spurs (11.1%), Everton (11.13%), and Southampton (12.9%). What this clearly indicates is that the, higher scoring, possession based teams are behaving exactly like some of the higher scoring teams in MLS – they are showing patience in shot selection compared to penetration. With Burnley clearly not a possession based team (43.61%)are they trying to show (patience – perhaps???) where in fact they might produce better results if they simply increase their shot volume per penetration? In other words, with just a glimmer of time and space, as opposed to more acres of time and space, they need to shoot more often???
- West Brom – 3rd worst in APWP – pretty simple to offer up analysis here – they are 4th worst in putting shots on goal, per shots taken, and they are 2nd worst in scoring goals, based upon their volume of shots on goal… Perhaps they need a better striker or two???
- Newcastle – 6th worst in APWP – two things here as well – perhaps??? The most striking observation here, for me, is that Newcastle average 55.7% possession (6th best in the EPL) but when converting that overall possession, to penetration into the opponents defending final third, they are third worst at 21.13%. And that final clarity in gaining penetration also finds itself influencing goals scored – they are 4th worst in goals scored. Perhaps they need a couple of better midfielders???
Moving on to Defending (DPWP) Strategic Index:
Manchester United have moved up top here and clearly, Aston Villa, with that HUGE clean sheet at the Kop, have kept themselves in good stead as well.
In looking at the four bottom dwellers – here’s there positional standing and some key observations too:
- Crystal Palace – 2nd bottom of the DPWP – two things here. Their average opponent possession is 63.31% (3rd worst) and they are also 3rd worst (28.78%) in conceding penetration. Now that might not be a bad thing when working towards a successful counter-attacking approach but they are 9th worst in seeing their opponents put shots taken on goal and 8th worst (36.46%) in seeing those shots on goal get converted to goals scored. The contrast here is Aston Villa; they actually cede more possession (64.39%) than Crystal Palace, but they have the 2nd best defense in limiting opponent shots taken, being on goal, and the best defense in preventing those shots on goal from being goals scored. Perhaps Crystal Palace need better midfielders and defenders, as well as a better Goal Keeper? In other words a whole new defense or a completely different defensive scheme???
- Burnley – 7th best in DPWP – this Index rating might actually be an early indicator that the Burnley record isn’t quite reflecting how well this team is playing. Granted goal scoring is critical – but for most – a strong defense usually sees a team through when fighting relegation. With them being 7th best the only thing that stands out to me is the amount of possession they’ve conceded – opponents average 56.39%. In seeing that, they’ve already played Chelsea, Man United, and Swansea City, a hard slog to be sure. Overall, I’d offer, if they keep their confidence, they should continue to move forward at a better pace than some other bottom dwellers like Cyrstal Palace.
- West Brom – 3rd worst in DPWP – interesting here is that they are 2nd best in limiting opponent penetration into the final third (just 19.04%) but even with that minimal penetration they are 8th worst in conceding shots taken, that are shots on goal, and 4th worst (48.21%) in seeing those opponent shots on goal hit the back of the net. Seems like their defensive approach within the 18 yard box leaves quite a lot to be desired… A team that is successful in clogging the choke point into the final third probably should do better as the amount of defending space naturally gets smaller inside the 18 yard box. Is it too early to say they might need two better centerbacks and a better goal keeper?
- Newcastle – 10th in DPWP – midtable of the Index and some are no doubt scratching their heads on why Newcastle finds itself at bottom of league table. For starters their opponents average just 44.30% possession, and their opponents really don’t penetrate that much compared to some other teams (7th lowest – 21.9%). It appears what is happening is that, even with small amounts of possession and penetration, the opponents are taking a higher volume of shots per penetration; resulting in the 2nd worst percentage of shots on goal, per shots taken, (43.64%) and the 9th worst, goals scored, per shots on goal. Put another way the positional defending, inside and around the 18 yard box (appears??) weak. Perhaps they give their opponents too much time and too much space as they transition in positional defending after the opponent penetrates???
All told, it’s clearly early days but I think patterns are already beginning to develop.
To be honest I’m quite jazzed to be offering up PWP analysis on the EPL – I do wish Blackburn were still in it – and perhaps even Leeds United! More teams from the north!
Anyhow – two sides of the table to review and next week I’ll take a closer look at the top end…
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Consistency of Purpose – as a business analyst I know that organizations usually strive for consistency in performance. The general idea behind this is that before you can really begin to assess what improvements need to be made you first need to have some sort of ‘control’ over the effort.
In laymen’s ‘statistical’ terms – the lower the standard devation of an activity the more control there is in the effort – and therefore a better opportunity to actually improve the output.
For me, this approach should also apply in soccer team performance – the less standard deviation you have (from the mean/norm/average) the better; the worse the variance the more ‘out of control’.
So in keeping with my previous article on Consistency of Purpose (In Attack) I’m offering up the standard deviations for teams as they defend against their opponents.
In preparation for my analysis on Consistency of Purpose a few details to set the stage up front:
- This approach takes a look at Defending only.
- The statistical analysis will measure Standard Deviation.
- Standard Deviation – A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean (also called expected value); a high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values.
- In other words I will look at how consistent the opponents are in my six primary PWP measurements (for each game – for each team) and identify the standard deviation (variation) that team has in being (regularly) near their average versus not being near their average.
- For example, a team’s opponent averages 75% passing accuracy against them – a lower standard deviation would mean that the team regularly comes close to hitting that average (a close pattern say +/-4%). A higher standard deviation would mean the team would have a high difference (say +/- 20-25%) on creating that average.
- At this stage, the variation will not address home versus away games – nor will it filter volume of passes the opponent offers – I’ll do that at the end of the season.
- What this translates to – is consistency of purpose. Are you consistently near a target on a regular basis or are you sporadic and “disorganized” in hitting your target on a regular basis.
- The lower the better when it comes to viewing this as a measure of consistency.
- Areas evaluated in how the opponent performs against you include Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch, Passing Accuracy within the Final Third, Penetration percentage into the Final Third based upon overall possession, Shots taken per penetration percentage, Shots on Goal per Shots Taken, Goals Scored per Shots on Goal, and Goals Against.
Before kickoff here’s how all the teams line up against each other in Composite PWP through Week 27:
LA Galaxy remain atop the CPWP Index – statistically speaking the R2 is .817 – the highest correlation so far this year to Points in the League Table. And from what I have seen, in other statistical analyses approaches, this Index continues to remain the most relevant independent (publicly generated) Index in Soccer…
Of note; my next article to be published, following this one, will againt take a different look with this Index – what I will do is split the Index into two parts – the first CPWP Index will look at how well the teams perform that:
- Exceed 425 Passes per game (the league average) versus
- Fall below 425 Passes per game
The intent will be to look and see what teams perform better or worse given their general volume of passes; the results may surprise some folks…
Anyhow – I digress – here’s the first of seven diagrams plotting the Standard Deviations of team’s as they defend against their opponent with respect to Passing Accuracy:
Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch:
The team with the lowest (best) standard deviation is Houston – as noted earlier in the year Houston made two defensive acquisitions – Garrido and Beasley – in case you missed it I think they have taken seven out of nine points since those players were added.
Chivas USA are next up for consistency – like Houston, consistency here relates to being poor in team defending against opponents passing accuracy – as such it should be pretty easy to point out all the weak links if that level of consistency, in being poor – with respect to final results – continues.
Near the top are both Columbus and LA Galaxy – if you recall from the Consistency of Purpose, in attacking, Columbus were pretty consistent in their own Passing Accuracy (most consistent) – and likewise they are up top again.
As noted in that article, a ‘beat’ writer had labeled them as ‘over-achievers’ – that’s not only complete bollocks when looking at their consistency in attack – it’s also complete bollocks when looking at their consistency in defending…
What’s scary here is that LA Galaxy are 4th best – so with a superb record – they are also superb in consistently managing the opponents passing accuracy… can you say MLS Champion?
At the opposite end is Colorado, and oddly enough, Real Salt Lake – why is that?
For Real Salt Lake, I’d offer that this may relate to the different styles their opponents take when either playing them at home or on the road – more to follow when the season ends on this one.
As for Colorado – they’ve had a number of injuries this year and they will, at times, cede possession to gain better effect on their counter-attack / direct attack – with that I’d expect their team to vary greatly in how well the opponent passes against them.
What to look for is more consistency as the data points narrow down to shot taken, shots on goal, and goals scored. More to follow here…
On the other hand, Portland don’t really look to cede possession to often, so what might be impacting this level of inconsistency in managing the opponents passing accuracy – knowing that their Goals Against is one of the worst in MLS?
Are they more or less consistent in defending as the pitch gets smaller? And might that level of consistency help or hinder their chances of making the playoffs? More to follow…
Opponent Passing Accuracy in the Final Third:
The one that stands out the most is Colorado – so the hope that the variation decreases isn’t occuring with Colorado; they have an even greater deviation, from the norm here, than they do with Passing Accuracy (7% versus 12% here). Is that a surprise?
For me, no. And here’s why…
Also trailing at the end is San Jose – like Colorado they try to play for counterattacking – and since they are also a direct attacking team it’s reasonable that these two teams would be here.
As for Vancouver – hmmm… I’m not sure – perhaps at the end of the season this will take better shape when viewing home and away tactics/outputs a bit more?
In looking again at Columbus – more consistency of purpose – and what makes this even better for the Crew is that where they have one or two players who aren’t performing, it will make it easier to “see” who they are… a much stronger and more reliable way to help the team ‘fix’ what’s not working…
Percentage of Penetration versus Possession:
In looking to understand New England – the most consistent team here – figure the more consistent this team is in defending against penetration the easier it may be for them to plan on what defending tactics they will execute game in and game out.
The more predictable the opponent is in how frequent they penetrate the easier (in theory) it should be to defend against them…
On the other end of the scale we see New York – I suppose, for many, a high variation is no surprise here.
Many would not consider Petke a defensive minded coach – and the tougher it is to manage the midfield, prior to penetration, the tougher it may be to sustain consistency as the opponent looks to score goals.
For me, as a defensive minded guy, it would be this primary statistic I’d look at first. But not until filtering out the differences between home and away as well as volume of passes faced; as noted earlier – I’ll do that at the end of the season.
Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:
Here’s where the real rubber begins to meet the road…
In my view teams that have a wide variance here gets down to what inconsistency that team has in rgularly limiting time and space for shots to be taken – OR – it’s a reflection of how impatient some teams may be against that team in taking shots given more or less opportunity.
In looking at San Jose being the most consistent here I’d offer this gets back to how effective they are in managing the zone defense they have – recall that both San Jose and Colorado were pretty inconsistent when it comes to opponent passing accuracy within and outside the final third – here those numbers translate to more consistency of purpose in managing the opponent as they actually penetrate with the intent to score.
On the flip side Columbus were pretty consistent in managing the opponents passing within and outside the final third – yet that consistency begins to translate to more varation as the opponent looks to take shots.
Do they get better or worse in their variation? More to follow…
Opponent Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken:
Sadly, for Colorado, that consistency seen in looking to manage Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession doesn’t translate to a matching level of consistency in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken.
In other words Colorado is more likely to yield more time and space to the opponent as they take their shots – hence more of their opponents shots are on goal than San Jose – who’s above average in consistency.
The most telling level of consistency here is Portland – and what’s really sad about this is that they are consistently bad – I can say that because their Goals Against is one of the highest in the League.
If there was ever a compelling piece of evidence – given goals against – I’m not sure. Others may have a different view on this.
The flip side to this is that it should make it easier to analyze where the consistency in weakness comes from – therefore menaing it should be easier to correct for the future.
With respect to LA Galaxy, and being the most inconsistent – I’m not sure why that is and perhaps it will show better when I split the analysis up based upon opponent’s passing volume or their home versus away variations.
In considering Philadelphia – a likely impact here is the change in leadership – as Hackworth was replaced perhaps the team made some intergral changes in their defensive approach? Like LA, I’ll look for that when the season ends.
Opponent Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal:
Up near the top, again, in consistency for this indicator is Portland.
Really reinforcing, for me, that their consistency in being bad in defending (poor positional play in ceding time and space) continues… some might even offer that this translates to the need of bringing in a new goal keeper as well???
For me, it also supports the volume of individual mistakes made, consistently, at the wrong time… given their high Goals Against.
There’s San Jose, again near the best when it comes to consistency.
So that consistency in yielding time and space, for the opponent to pass and penetrate, also translates back to consistency in what goals the opponent scores versus Shots on Goal.
I’d offer this should give Watson, and the front office, pretty good background statistical information to fix what defensive issues they may have as the season closes and/or in preparation for next year.
Colorado, on the other hand, who was consistent in yielding time and space for the opponent to move the ball, continues to show how poor they are in managing that opponent consistency as they enter and create/generate shots that score goals.
Perhaps that is down to injuries? I’m not so sure – I’d offer it may be down to an imbalance they have across the back-four; along with support from their midfield.
On the tail end is Real Salt Lake – with the World Cup and injuries I suppose this isn’t too much of a surprise.
But with the fourth lowest Goals Against (35) in MLS, that variation is probably not too much to worry about.
And with Jeff Attinella having over 700 minutes of playing time, compared to Nick Rimando’s 1800 minutes, perhaps that variation is more a reflection of good goal keeping versus great goal keeping?
Note how low Sporting KC is here – perhaps that is more about the volume of red and yellow cards they’ve recieved more than anything else??? As the season ends I’ll peel this back a bit more too…
Opponent Goals Against:
Although Ryan Nelson was sacked, it would appear that his overall approach in managing a consistent level of defending was best in MLS (with respect to results), at this time.
What that means is that – going into most every game – Ryan Nelson could expect, with some level of consistency, how many goals the opponent might score.
That, in turn, should help him devise what attacking approach he might use to maximize points.
Indeed – he was third in the Eastern Conference league table when he got sacked – now Toronto is seventh…
In considering Colorado – things just go from bad to worse – consistency in ceding possession and penetration has not resulted in consistency when it comes to managing the bottom line.
While perhaps somewhat cynical, I’d offer this inconsistency, as the pitch gets smaller, will make it very hard for them to piece together a final playoff push – as in the bottom line – they really can’t rely on a consistent performance from their defense.
In retrospect – with the Timbers being much more consistent in their defensive weaknesses it may actually be easier for Caleb Porter to manage what expectations he has going in… thereby easing the stress; it is what it is…
NOTE: A compelling issue here with respect to ‘standard deviations’ is that there is the potential for the variations to be a FUNCTION of which conference a team is in.
It should be noted that a number of teams play counter-attacking and direct versus those that play possession-based soccer; that is why I will be filtering this data, at the end of the season, by volume of passes.
No doubt the consistency of purpose will look different when teams have completed the season and additional filters are in place (i.e volume of passes faced or home versus away).
But there are patterns and some sense can be made based upon what is seen that is normally unseen…
The screws tighten even more…
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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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Last year the Chicago Fire were within inches of making the Playoffs – and like it or not they sacked Frank Klopas who then moved on to the team that beat them out of the Playoffs – Montreal.
Why Montreal sacked their Head Coach is unclear.
Given the importance so many teams place on making the Playoffs it’s hard to imagine a team booting a Head Coach who got them there.
But this article isn’t about Montreal – been there – done that awhile ago and will visit them again… for now the heat-lamp turns to Chicago, who also fired their Head Coach last year…
There are two other teams that have had roughly the same bad run as Chicago, the aforementioned Montreal and a previous subject of my analysis – Houston Dynamo.
The Dynamo have made it pretty clear (at all levels of management) that new personnel are needed to right the ship – that remains to be seen.
So how about Chicago?
As far as I can tell there are no major new signings and no rumors that I can find – perhaps others know differently. (NOTE: Sanna Nyassi was just obtained in a trade for Dilly Duka).
Given that, and my habit of analzying team performances, here’s the ugly picture on Chicago this year (compared to others in MLS) and where the gaps may exist.
Kickoff – Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index:
Bottom line here is that Chicago are:
- Near the bottom of the League Table (measuring qualitative results) and…
- Near bottom of my Composite Index (measuring quantitative results).
- If you’re a Chicago Fire supporter be prepared for some pretty harsh numbers as additional analysis gets offered below…
Working from the back – forward – Defending first…
Here’s the Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP) Index for starters:
First things first:
Chicago are the worst in team performance when it comes to overall defending – in other words the combined results of their opponents in Possession, Passing Accuracy, Penetration, along with creation of Shots Taken, Shots on Goal and Goals Scored is last; this Index does not measure Points garnered in the League Table.
In terms of racking and stacking the Six Steps measured, one by one, Chicago yield the third highest amount of Possession, to their opponents, of all teams in MLS (55.43% per game).
Now possession, alone, is not a single indicator that tells the whole story but it does give an indication if a team can at least offer up the appearance that they are controlling the flow of the game.
With respect to Opponent Passing Accuracy:
They are actually pretty good in this area compared to others; all told opponents average 75.66% in passing completion rates but let’s take a quick peak at a slightly different angle.
How Chicago compares in the percentage of ‘unsuccessful passes’ across the Entire Pitch versus within their own Defending Final Third:
There they are in the top five…
The takeaway here is that the opponents are not having a great success in passing but the overall team defending is still the worst!
So are Chicago on the tail end in yielding Shots Taken per possession/penetration?
Nope – they are 4th lowest in ceding Shots Taken per penetration at 17.31%.
How about Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken?
Bingo… of all the teams in MLS, Chicago are 2nd worst in allowing Shots on Goal per Shot Taken ( 39.24%) only Philadelphia is worse.
But wait – there’s more…
When it comes to Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal they yield a stunning 43.24% success rate to their opponents; the worst in MLS and a full 11% points higher than the MLS average.
When I did an evaluation of Houston the other day – it was this category that stood out as being one of their better defending categories.
In essence, what this meant was Tally Hall was actually doing a very good job, as the Goal Keeper, compared to their back-four and defending midfielders.
So for Chicago I see a few things going on that are leading to their downfall in defending within the Final Third:
- It would appear that the Fire are trying to play some sort of zonal marking system that looks to disrupt the passing channels but doesn’t do a very good job of putting the defenders in a position to clog the 18 yard box against Shots Taken.
- At this time Chicago are 8th worst in Shots Blocked.
- If they are playing man-marking then they are very slow in responding.
- Hence the higher than average number of Shots Taken that end up being Shots on Goal; more time… more space… more accuracy by the opponent…
- The other primary issue would appear to be of even more concern – Sean Johnson just simply might not be positioning himself in the appropriate places given the higher than expected number of shots on goal that result in a goal scored.
- Why else would that number of goals scored (percentage) actually go up compared to Shots on Goal?
- Most teams see that average decrease from Step 5 to Step 6… at least most of the winning teams do.
- Only five teams see that percentage increase; Toronto, Real Salt Lake, Vancouver, Montreal, and Chicago.
- And to confirm – the increase is 4% – while the league average is -3.82% with DC United having the greatest difference of -15.13%.
In wrapping up the Defending side of the pitch:
Chicago cede possession and appear to do a solid job when it comes to applying pressure and closing down the passing lanes – unfortunately it would appear that when the opponent is successful in penetrating and taking shots they are usually on goal.
For me that translates to too much open space and too much time = i.e. poor positional play.
In addition – the defensive lack of vision in seeing their own weaknesses is also impacting their Goal Keeper; Sean Johnson’s save percentage is 59%; tied for lowest in MLS.
While some may scoff at this suggestion I would offer their back-four needs at least two new players with a bit more vision and speed in closing down gaps as they appear.
I’d also offer thoughts on the midfielders but it appears Frank Yallop runs a 4-4-2; at least the MLS stats indicate that.
But I’d be surprised if that were the case; my impression in watching Chicago was that Jeff Larentowicz played a single pivot CDM and not part of a double pivot tandem.
Others who follow the Fire more closely will know that better than me and may be able to add clarity here?
However viewed, I’m not seeing the addition of Sanna Nyassi as adding great value given what Yallop said in this article… Nyassi was a similar player to Dilly Duka.
Now for the Attacking side of the pitch and APWP:
Some bottom line numbers.
With their opponents averaging the third highest amount of possession it pretty much means the Fire average the 3rd lowest amount of Possession. Usually a great indicator that a team is leaning towards a direct attacking style (or perhaps counter-attacking style) as opposed to a possession-base style.
In looking at Passing Accuracy; all told the Chicago Fire have the worst passing accuracy of any team in MLS.
In considering those first two indicators it really reinforces that the Fire are playing a direct attacking style; usually possession-based teams play shorter passes that are more likely to be completed – given the poor passing accuracy AND poor possession numbers that pattern matches other teams known for playing direct.
So while Frank Yallop might have appeared to veer away from Direct Attack in San Jose it certainly looks like he has had to revert back to that style given the player resources he currently has.
But before moving on to penetration here’s the overall passing accuracy numbers across the Entire Pitch and then just within their Attacking Final Third:
Bottom of the League in both categories…
Wow; this team really has done a poor job in passing this season – and what’s odd is that level of passing accuracy should be correctable on a training pitch – more practice should help make these players more accurate.
If they don’t improve then the team should make them move…
So how about penetration, creation and finishing?
Chicago are in the top half for penetration – again – if they are playing direct attacking football then that is a likely scenario – especially with that poor accuracy in overall passing.
What’s happening is that instead of taking time and patience to move the ball up the pitch they are simply looking to hoof it and hope.
Wasn’t that the same approach Frank Klopas used last year?
And again – with a higher level of direct attack, and less patience in passing the ball, a direct attacking team will tend to take more shots – indeed – Chicago have the third highest number of shots taken per penetration.
That percentage increase also drives an increase in shots on goal – they are 6th best in converting shots taken to shots on goal.
But when it comes to shots on goal resulting in a goal scored they are 8th worst.
Clearly the attacking approach is not working – and if not for being awarded six Penalty Kicks (tied for 2nd most in MLS) it is likely that Goals Scored percentage would be near Houston, who’s at 20%.
By the way… in checking Whoscored.com Dilly Duka’s passing accuracy was 74.3% and Sanna Nyassi’s was 75% – not much difference statistically either…
I’m still scratching my head why Frank Klopas was sacked and Frank Yallop was hired?
NOTE: This is not to intuit that the sacking of Frank Klopas was not a reasonable path forward – I suppose what this really means is the replacement of Klopas with Yallop looks to mean that nothing has really changed between last year and this year…
Might that mean Frank Yallop gets the sack at the end of this year? Probably not – I would have thought he will get at least one more year to sort out the team and shape it to his liking…
Perhaps others who follow Chicago Fire can add some thoughts here? PS: Thanks to @irishoutsider for adding some thoughts to help clarify 🙂
However viewed, the Fire are burning and not burning hot – it’s a cold burn more attuned to frostbite and the winter seen in the Windy City…
It will probably take a complete makeover to sort this team out; and given the general nature of the direct attack that appears to be employed I am very surprised Yallop has not brought in a target striker like “a” Lenhart or Gordon type guy.
LATE EDITORIAL CHANGE: As noted the acronym for Chicago Fire Soccer Club is CFSC not CFFC – please forgive my old english habit of referencing a team as an FC… future articles and analyses will be updated as appropriate.
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