It’s been a couple of weeks since I checked in with the English Premier League so here’s a quick fly-by on who’s leading the league in team performance, exclusive of the League Table.
That’s not to say I’ll ignore the League Table – in summary here’s the top six and the bottom six respectively:
- Chelsea, 32 Points
- Southampton, 26 Points
- Man City, 24 Points
- Man United, 19 Points
- Newcastle, 19 Points
- West Ham, 18 Points
- Swansea City, 18 Points
- QPR, 8 Points
- Burnley, 10 Points
- Leicester City, 10 Points
- Hull City, 11 Points
- Aston Villa, 12 Points
- Crystal Palace, 12 Points
Now for my Composite PWP Strategic Index:
In comparing the top six in the League Table to the top six in my Index Chelsea, Southampton, Man City, Swansea City, and Man United are all in.
Everton and Arsenal continue to ride high in this Index – whether that continues or not is yet to be seen.
The question I have is this — is it the results that end up catching up with the team performances, or is it the team performances that end up catching up with the results?
In Major League Soccer the team performances usually seemed to lag when compared to the results – if that is the case here then I’d expect Everton and Arsenal to drop further in the League Table if there are systemtic attacking or defending issues.
On the other hand – like Newcastle – the team performance lags the results and both Arsenal and Everton should begin winning more games…. more to follow…
As for West Ham, we already know they will be on the shorter end given their more direct style of play but the surprise mover is Newcastle; especially since in Week 5, where they were 6th worst in the Composite Index (see below).
Clearly team performance has improved considerably – not only in results but in team performance; that’s a good thing when considering the viability of the Index. Besides, I don’t read too often anymore where Alan Pardew’s head coaching status is in question.
As for the bottom six; well we have QPR bottom in both, with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Leicester City, and Burnley all in; the odd one out is Hull City.
Might that mean Hull City are more on the ‘lucky’ end of results than their team performance indicates?
I’m not sure but when we peel back APWP and DPWP we might be able to see where the general weaknesses and strengths are that help Hull City stay outside the relegation zone as the season continues.
Attacking PWP Strategic Index:
In considering the top six teams in the League Table it appears to me that the Attacking team performances for Chelsea, Man City, Southampton, Man United, and West Ham are a strength more than a weakness.
Defending PWP Strategic Index:
Not to be missed though is that Southampton, Man City, Chelsea, and Man United are also all in the top six.
The lone wolf, in defending, is West Ham. But we already know from previous analyses that Sam Allardyce likes to play more counter-attacking football – so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them in or around the middle.
It’s when their DPWP starts dipping below the halfway point that those forever blowing bubbles should be considered.
Southampton continues to find success; granted their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa was probably disappointing, but with that 80th minute goal they were able to scratch out at least one point against Villa.
The surprising result to me, and probably most everyone else, was the 3-1 pasting Liverpool took against Crystal Palace.
The most amazing statistics for me out of that game was seeing Palace offer up 15 shots taken with just 71 completed passes in the Liverpool Defending Final Third – and of those – 15 shots were taken with five of them were on goal!
I guess that shouldn’t be surprising to the average stats person given that winning teams in the EPL average just over five shots on goal with at least two goals scored. In this case Palace got three goals.
On the other hand, with 519 passes offered, 460 which were complete, and 96 of those were completed in the Palace Defending Final Third, you’da thought Liverpool would end up with more shots taken and more shots on goal.
They didn’t. What is even worse is they had five of those 12 shots come from prime locations and only one ended up on goal!
For me, this means reinforces two things:
- Time and open space has great value when considering the quality of shots taken, regardless of location, and
- Liverpool have yet to find a striker who can take shots and put them on goal. I would expect Liverpool to be in the market to buy a top striker as soon as possible!
If you’re a betting person; here’s the latest CPWP Predictability Index. This does not yet to into account the differences between team performance on the road versus at home.
It should be noted that teams playing at home, in the EPL, have taken 182 points – versus teams playing on the road have taken 143 points.
In terms of a ‘rough estimate’ that means 56% of all points earned are earned at home games.
Not much of an edge – but – if you’re a team like Crystal Palace, playing a team like Liverpool, who is clearly shaken – and not stirred – there will always be the chance of an upset!
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A tale of two teams!
The last time I dug into the English Premier League (Week 6) the League Table had Chelsea 1st (16 points), Southampton (13 points), followed by Man City (11 points), then Aston Villa, Swansea City, and Arsenal all tied for fifth on (10 points).
And here’s how the Composite PWP Index looked at that same time:
Five of the six teams in league table were part of the top seven teams in the CPWP Index; note how far down the Index Aston Villa was; even on 10 points and tied for 5th place!
Was that an indicator that their early season run was more about luck than strong team attacking and defending across the entire pitch?
I’m not sure – but I’ll take a peak at both West Ham and Aston Villa, in a few, to give you a picture on how those teams performed in the first 6 weeks versus the last 5 weeks.
For now, fast forward to the end of Week 11 and here’s the lay of the land in the League Table: Chelsea sit on 29 points; Southampton 25 points; Man City 21 points; West Ham 18 points; and Swansea City 18 points.
Moving up from 7 points after week 6 (tied for 13th) to 18 points was West Ham.
While Aston Villa took a complete nose dive (sorry Tom Hanks) to 16th with 11 points.
Here’s how the CPWP Index looks after Week 11:
In looking at the Index West Ham is 8th best, compared to 11th best five weeks ago.
Southampton and Man City have both shifted past Chelsea (probably related to defending and not attacking) while Swansea has dropped below Man United, Arsenal, and Everton.
I won’t go into the details on those moves this week – even though I probably should given Swansea City just beat The Arsenal 2-1…
I’ll save that for later – just like the mystery about Southampton.
In regards to Aston Villa, they’ve not moved an inch in the Index – suppose one wouldn’t expect it seeing as they’ve only taken one point and it’s hard to drop lower than Burnley or QPR.
Nevertheless – be prepared – there is some grist coming up that may surprise you.
First Off – Attack – Aston Villa (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):
Clearly the amount of possession has increased (considerably) during these two phases – a 9% jump is considerable in my opinion.
Whether that is a result of the opponent or an internal tactical move is hard to determine at this stage but it should be noted there was a bump (increase) across the board in all the key PWP indicators with one exception – goals scored divided by shots on goal.
In looking at Major League Soccer for two years now the explanation usually goes along the lines of this.
1) The opponents decide to cede possession somewhat by playing deeper against the attacking side… both Portland Timbers and Philadelphia Union did that this year and both organizations substantiated (in one shape or another) that tactic.
To reinforce that position – their average total Attacking Final Third passes, per game, in games 1-6 were ~89; that number vaulted to 120, per game, between games 7-11.
Clearly the opponent looks to have taken a different approach in defending against Aston Villa – OR – Aston Villa has tried to step up penetration based upon overall possession; if Villa has attempted the later of the two I’d suggest they revisit their tactical attacking approach.
2) The trend for teams who don’t pass as accurately as the other teams in the league (Villa are in the lower half) seems to be that more possession sometimes includes more penetration and more shots taken, but that volume and percentage increase does not translate to goals given a somewhat higher potential for impatience.
When checking out West Ham there can be an economy of scale – but I think it’s probably more to do with the type and skill of the current players available as opposed to the normal course of events.
Aston Villa in Defending:
Overall opponent possession did drop, as did passing accuracy, but penetration increased, as did shots taken per penetration, shots on goal per shots taken and goals scored per shots on goal.
Pretty much indicating to me that the opponents worked hard to trap Aston Villa going forward, ceding possession in order to gain critical time and space in quick, purposeful counterattacks!
That may sound a bit early as an observation – but these same trends have shown themselves in the MLS for the last two years – and after awhile it does appear that generic patterns are showing through.
Next West Ham in Attack (weeks one through six, and weeks seven through 11):
In this diagram there’s almost a direct contrast; where Aston Villa’s numbers pretty much increased across the board, with the exception of Goals Scored – it’s almost the opposite for West Ham.
For West Ham their passing accuracy decreased, possession remained the same, while penetration, and shots on goals versus shots taken decreased.
Only two increases, the percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession and goals scored.
When studying teams in MLS this year – a pattern like this seemed to indicate a team leaning towards a more direct attack in nature.
The primary indicator supporting that, given lower passing accuracy and lower shooting accuracy, is the percentage and volume increase in shots taken per penetration.
For some teams that percentage works better when lower – especially when they have a higher passing accuracy.
But in the case of West Ham, it is likely they are simply looking to take more shots, quicker, and with less penetration. Working off the philosophy that more is better.
In La Liga we know that more was better, the same held true for the World Cup as well – so this approach may be Sam Allardyce’s way of getting more with less.
When looking at the two separate phases, West Ham averaged 15.20 shots taken per game in games 7-11 versus 13.33 in games 1-6.
In addition, in games 7-11 they averaged 106.4 passes within and into the final third, versus 121.5 in games 1-6.
The other interesting note is that as passing accuracy decreased so did the volume – again speaking to perhaps? harder/longer balls being played in order to move the ball quicker into the final third when the opportunity presented itself; below are the average volumes during these two phases to confirm that.
West Ham total passes attempted (446.83 = 1-6) and passes completed (300 = 1-6)
West Ham total passes attempted (411.80 = 7-11) and passes completed (262.80 = 7-11).
As seen between phases I and II the volume of passes attempted AND passes completed decreased.
In looking at the end results – the percentage of goals scored per shots on goal went up by 18%; that huge increase in percentage only equates to an overall increase in goals scored, per game, of 1.67 to 1.80.
Given that it would appear that the defensive performance has also improved during this stretch. Here”s the info for West Ham:
The defending tactics seem to indicate the opponent has been ceded time and space outside, and moving into, the defending final third a bit more.
In turn the percentages of penetrating possession and shots taken increase – but with reduced time and space (given a tighter/deeper line) the shots on goal and goals scored percentages have dropped.
When looking at the volume of opponent passes across the entire pitch, it was 446 total passes in the first phase with 363 completed; versus 411, with 262 completed, in the second phase.
Again, it appears the data supports West Ham ceding time and space a bit higher, or, the opponent attacking habits were different compared to the opponents faced in the first phase?
When looking at the volume of opponent passes within the defending final third, the average was 120 passes attempted and 78 completed in the first phase and 126 passes attempted, with 80 completed, in the second phase.
Not that much of a difference – but in saying that the goals against in phase I was 1.67 per game, while in phase II it was .80 goals against.
All things considered, I’d offer that Allardyce has changed some tactical styles during the first 11 games. Whether I’ve nailed the time period probably doesn’t matter – the more important thing for West Ham is that they’ve done something of value to increase goals scored and decrease goals against.
In the analyses I’ve done these past two years it would appear to me that the back four is playing a slightly deeper line and with that the attacking tactics are now sharper, and perhaps quicker. All that going on with a draw to Stoke City and a win at home against Man City.
What may be troubling to the West Hammers is that their other games, in this five game stretch, included matches against Burnley and QPR; teams they should beat if a ‘should win’ is a reality in the English Premier League!
As for Aston Villa; their last five have included Man City, Everton, and Spurs, as well as QPR – a team (perhaps?) they shoulda beat??? and the draw with West Ham.
For all intents and purposes, it does appear that the PWP Key Strategic Indicators have pointed out some items of interest that may point to teams taking different tactical approaches.
The patterns seem to hold based upon what has been seen in MLS.
I wonder if those same patterns will begin to take shape in La Liga and the Bundesliga?
If so, kind of makes you consider that soccer, on both sides of the pond, is not that different at all – (perhaps???) it’s just what money gets spent to purchase top quality players and top quality managers???….
I.e. – if you spend enough money, in any league, it looks as if the tendencies of teams that don’t have higher quality players (spend the same amount of money) is to cede possession and play counter/more direct.
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For most Manchester United, AGAIN, probably made most of the Headlines – and AGAIN – I’ll blow them off in my weekly update – kinda like Leicester City did! Imagine dropping four goals in the second half against Leicester City – can you Adam and Eve it???
What on earth is going on at Man United?
I’ll look at that later this week – maybe – for now the real credit on sustained team performance goes to three teams – Chelsea, Southampton and Aston Villa.
Granted Aston Villa took one on the chin against Arsenal – three goals all within the space of three minutes saw them drop three points – a trifecta of sorts – but not one that most would have bet on.
How they progress as the season continues is hard to tell – for now I won’t go into details on the Villa – did that last week here.
Since Villa got vanquished my two focus teams will be Chelsea and Southampton.
To help set the stage my usual link to Possession with Purpose is here; followed by my traditional look at the CPWP Strategic Index:
Arsenal are now top in CPWP – trifecta pesonified – great result for the Gunners coming off a not so great result against Borussia Bortmund in the Champions League.
So how about Chelsea and Southampton?
Well I watched the Chelsea match and to be honest I thought the draw was deserved for both teams – even as a Man City fan it was hard to argue, with some level of sanity, that Pablo Zabaleta didn’t deserve either Yellow Card issued by Mike Dean.
He did and with ten men the storybook ending nearly saw Frank Lampard net a brace in the closing minutes. Pure class he is for not celebrating the equalizer – what a great addition and example of professionalism he will bring to Major League Soccer!
In the finer points of team performance we have APWP and DPWP – below is the APWP Index and then my breakout on some of the highlights where Chelsea and Southampton are performing better than others as they sit atop the table:
Clearly the obvious, Chelsea lead the league in APWP; more on why in a minute – first some general tendencies of the English Premier League after five weeks:
Teams that possess the ball more have a greater tendency of winning – at this stage teams that win average 10 more passes per game than teams who lose.
- That same trend applies to passing accuracy too.
- Where the trend differs between winners and losers comes in percentage of penetration based upon the volume of overall passing – winning teams – with more completed passes as a whole – penetrate less often than losing teams with fewer completed passes as a whole.
- What that means is winning teams (in general) appear to be more selective about penetrating.
- And that appeared patience leads to more successful passes completed in the Final Third, as well as more Shots Taken, more Shots on Goal, and more Goals Scored – to the tune of almost 2 goals more per game.
Given those general tendencies how do Chelsea and Southampton attacking team performance indicators match up with the league averages?
- Southampton and Chelsea both average greater than 50% possession and both teams average passing accuracy exceeds 82%; with Chelsea having the edge in completion percentage in the Attacking Final Third (77.18% to 69.06%).
- With respect to penetration – here’s where the fork in the road appears and presents a great contrast.
- Chelsea penetration per possessoin is nearly 30% (highest in EPL), while Southampton’s penetration rate is 23.11% (6th lowest) – Chelsea clearly penetrate more.
- In terms of shots taken per penetrating possession the teams converge again – Southampton’s at 12.21% while Chelsea is at 13.36%.
- To put that in context – the teams averaging lower percentages in these categories include Manchester United, Everton, Spurs, Manchester City, and Arsenal — it might be reasonable to offer that more patient teams in this league – when considering overall volume and accuracy recognize that less is sometimes more.
- What is interesting is that both teams show different characteristics in their penetration but both have the same basic outputs when it comes to shots taken.
- As for shots on goal – Southampton have the highest percentage of shots on goal per shots taken in the EPL (46.78%); while Chelsea sits 5th best (38.57%).
- The obnoxious statistic here is the average goals scored for Chelsea – 3.2 per game; Southampton sits with four others at 1.8 goals per game – intriguing is that of those teams with lower percentages in penetration per percentage of possession only Spurs has 1.40 goals per game or less.
A few other observations before moving on to DPWP:
- Both teams have played Swansea City – in both games Southampton and Chelsea averaged 56% possession with passing accuracy exceeding 85%.
- Chelsea penetration per possession, into the Attacking Final Third was ~41% – while Southampton’s was ~25% – Southampton defeated Swansea City 1-nil – while Chelsea defeated Swansea City 4-2.
- If I have to offer a takeaway here it would be that – the increased percentage of penetrating possession by Chelsea had an impact/influence in their defense being out of position where Swansea City was able to score two goals.
- The challenge for Chelsea this year may just be how good they are in outscoring their opponents…
DPWP Strategic Index:
Well….. Southampton leads all in Defending team performance indicators; and there’s Chelsea near bottom – kind of reinforces that Chelsea are more about attack so far and what’s getting Southampton more points is their defensive output.
Now one thing I don’t do is count tackles, interceptions, clearances and the like because they can be interpreted two different ways – a greater volume of those statistics might indicate a great defender but it might also indicate a defender who is ‘attacked’ by the opponent on a more regular basis… hence my team approach to try and account for ‘what doesn’t happen on the pitch‘ as much as what does happen…
With that said – here’s some similarities and differences between Southampton, Chelsea, and the rest of the EPL:
- Neither team dominates possession on their end like Arsenal (~65%) and neither team gets dominated like Crystal Palace (~34%) – as such both cede about 45-46% possession.
- With respect to passing accuracy – opponents of Southampton are accurate (across the entire pitch) ~80% of the time while with Chelsea oppnents complete ~81% of their passes.
- The difference begins to appear as penetration occurs – opponents for Southampton complete ~61% of their passes in the Southampton defending final third while opponents of Chelsea are slightly more accurate (~66%).
- The greater accuracy (perhaps less marking upon entry – or a deeper line by Southampton) results in Chelsea opponents penetration at ~25% whereas Southampton opponents have a penetration of 18%.
- That reduced penetration results in a reduced percentage of shots taken per penetration (11,68%) for Southampton, compared to Chelsea’s 18.85%.
- Southampton are a tad higher (than Chelsea) for opponent shots on goal per shots taken (36.98%) to Chelsea’s (36.01%),
- And where it matters the most – Southampton opponent’s only convert 18% of their shots on goal to goals scored – while Chelsea opponent’s convert ~37% of their shots on goal to goals scored.
And even when looking at the game both had against Swansea City…
- Both teams faced roughly the same amount of passes (410 versus 393) – and we already know Chelsea ceded 2 goals against while Southampton had the clean sheet.
- Bottom line here is that the defensive posture of Southampton (likely playing a bit deeper) means the opponent’s have less time and space within and around the 18 yard box.
- Note: I have yet to watch Southampton play this year but similar patterns do appear when analyzing teams in Major League Soccer and those patterns, when watching those teams, do take the shape of a team playing slightly deeper.
- I’d be interested to hear feedback from a devout Southampton follower.
- Oh… and lest I forget – Goals Against – per game for Southampton is .60; for Chelsea it’s 1.4…
These two teams don’t go head to head until December, 28 – quite a bit of time between now and then to see if Southampton (and yes) Chelsea are contenders or pretenders.
More to follow this week on the Bundesliga, La Liga, and then an update on Expected Wins (3)…
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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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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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