Two weeks in and Manchester City pretty much throws the gauntlet down against Liverpool and walks away with a dominating win.
Three other teams have also begun the season with six points (Spurs, Swansea, and Chelsea) but do those four teams show the most consistency with purpose in possession, penetration and creation of shots taken that result in goals scored?
And, do those same four teams show the most consistency in preventing their opponents from doing the same thing to them?
What about the early season dogs (QPR, Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle) – where do they fit?
I’ll try to answer those questions without too much detail given the season is just two weeks old.
So to begin; here’s the Composite PWP (CPWP) Strategic Index after Week 2:
- A quick look at the table sees the top four in the Index as being the top four in the Table – not specifically in order but there it is.
- In looking at the bottom end of the Table the bottom four teams in the Index match exactly the bottom four in the Table.
- I doubt very much the level of accuracy will match the League Table that well throughout the year.
- Of note is that Arsenal, Hull and Aston Villa are next up in the Table but Villa seems to drift down a bit in the CPWP; perhaps the APWP or DPWP might explain that drift compared to Arsenal or Hull City?
- As a reminder – the End State of the Index is to provide an objective view of team performance indicators that don’t include Points in the League Table – in other words it’s a collection of data points, that when combined, can provide value in what team activities are occurring that are directly supporting results on the pitch – sometimes results on the pitch don’t match points earned…
- In leveraging this Index last year in the MLS it was very accurate in reflecting why certain Head Coaches may have been sacked – in a League like the EPL (where everything is expensive) perhaps this Index might have even more value to ownership?
- Movement in the Index – in the MLS, this last year, I have seen teams move up as many as 12 places and down as many as 11 places – after the 4th week – so the Index is not likely to stay constant – there will be changes.
I do not quantify Index outputs specific to individual player acquisition or performance – there is no intent to do this. It’s my belief, good or bad, that even with individual star performances a team is a team is a team – you win as a team and you lose as a team… but this Index isn’t intended to stop others from doing that.
I leave that individual analyses for others who are far better at digging into the weeds than I – for the EPL I’d imagine many folks gravitate to @statsbomb or other @SBNation sites – I respect their individual analyses as I hope they respect my team analyses.
Whether the consistency of value shows itself in assessing team performance in the EPL like it has in Major League Soccer I have no idea – we will follow that journey, in public, together…
Now for Attacking PWP (APWP):
- In recalling Villa’s drift (it is still early) perhaps it’s an early indication that Villa are playing slightly more direct (given past indications analyzing Major League Soccer) – or with a greater lean towards counter-attacking and quick transition?
- In taking a quick look at their average volume of passes per game (305) compared to the rest of the EPL (456) it would seem to indicate Villa are playing more direct football.
- The team with the highest APWP while falling below the average number of passes attempted, per game, is Leicester City; they average 308 passes per game compared to the 456 average of EPL. For me that’s an early indicator that they are making the best use of a direct attacking scheme – others may have a different view?
- The team with the lowest APWP while showing higher than the average number of passes attempted, ~(500 per game), is Stoke City – that might indicate the Potters are looking to possess the ball more with the intent to possess it as opposed to penetrating with it. Folks who follow Stoke a bit closer might be able to add to that as I’ve yet to see them play this year.
- In terms of early form, relative to the six team performance indicators, Chelsea are tops with Everton, Arsenal, and Man City close behind.
- With respect to bottom feeders QPR are bottom in CPWP and bottom in APWP as well; most figured they’d be early favorites for relegation – the PWP Indices seem to lean that way already as well…
- Perhaps the early surprise in APWP is Newcastle? Not sure about that one – last time I lived in England Alan Shearer was their striker and probably the best one in the country at that time… others will no better about what Alan Pardew is up to…
Next up Defending PWP (DPWP):
- Leaders here include Spurs, Man City, Swansea and Newcastle – is this an early indicator that Newcastle has experienced bad luck already? Not sure but three of the bottom dwellers here are three of the four bottom dwellers in CPWP.
- Although not real clear here it might be easy to forget that Arsenal had a blindingly great first game and then eked out a draw against Everton in the last ten minutes; in considering that this data still just represents two games…
- Recall Stoke City – and the potential view that they might be possessing the ball with an intent to possess more-so than penetrate – even with just 1 point in the League Table their DPWP exceeds West Ham, Liverpool, and others who are further up the table.
- Man City showed great nous last year in winning the League and it reaffirmed for many of us the importance of defending – Liverpool were close last year given an awesome attack – players have changed but it’s likely the system/approach has not varied that much. And after two games Liverpool are embedded firmly in the middle of the DPWP pack.
- Can they push higher up the DPWP? And if so, will that climb in the DPWP Index match a climb in the League Table; or vice versa?
Far too early to look for trends but these first few weeks will provide a baseline for future trends.
As noted in my most recent articles on Possession – the more accurate soundbite on whether or not a team is more likely to win has more relevance with respect to Passing Accuracy (>77% in MLS usually means a team is more likely to win) and not Possession.
The margin of winning and losing in MLS is far to muddied when looking at Possession – so as the EPL season continues I will also make it a point to study what ‘soundbite’ has more relevance; Passing Accuracy or Possession.
Other links that may be of interest to you include:
My presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer
New Statistics (Open Shots and Open Passes)
Thanks in advance for your patience.
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The CPWP Predictability Index has been on a pretty good run since starting it up about 3 weeks ago; so if things go well I’d expect about five/six out of eight games being spot on after this weekends games.
For now here’s what I offered last week followed by the outcome:
Aston Villa v Stoke City: Stoke City should earn the points here and this (could?) be the beginning of a stretch where Stoke may maximize 21 points out of 27 in the next nine games.
Stoke City took three points…
Chelsea v Burnley: Chelsea should earn maximum points here but on short rest it is likely the squad taking on Burnley will have a few regular non-starters…
Chelsea “should” ahve earned maximum points but they didn’t – they still got a point however.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal: Arsenal should take maximum points here but given they have Monaco in four days time it is likely, they too, rest a starter or two. Intriguing here is that Monaco is a team who likes to cede possession – with that perhaps Wenger has one or two players going back to back games that we might not normally consider happening. Both games are a must three points given the severity on what’s at stake…
Arsenal earned maximum points.
Hull City v QPR: Hull City should earn points here, I’d expect a happy face from Steve Bruce after this one.
Hull City earned maximum points.
Sunderland v West Brom: Although playing away from home I can still see West Brom earning at least a point here.
West Brom did earn that point.
Swansea City v Man United: United really need to continue taking maximum points and this game may take the shape where Swansea actually wins the possession battle but loses overall control when it comes to goals scored. United earn points in this one.
Swansea lost the possession battle – big time – and took three points!
Man City v Newcastle: Like Arsenal, Man City have their Premier League game first – they need three points here or even the confidence of making Europe next year could come into question… Man City earn points.
Man City took three points in a BIG way.
Spurs v West Ham: Again a wicked good London derby – I see Spurs taking maximum points here but never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce and the Hammers – Sam would be glowing if he got three points but, in the end, I think he would settle for one… I doubt Spurs think the same way on that score…
Never-ever doubt the will of Allardyce – Spurs got a point – but not maximum points.
Everton v Leicester City: Martinez needs his team to take three points here – anything less would begin to fuel the talk that perhaps another leader is needed to manage the blues… or at least it would be crystal clear their current set of strikers really suck…
Martinez failed to take maximum points – they got a point but that’s it… given the past track record in teams performing badly, as rated through PWP (using MLS as an example – as well as Paul Lambert) Martinez may be on his last legs with the Toffies…
Southampton v Liverpool: This is the best game (outside of Spurs/Hammers) this next round – a can’t miss if your any type of football fan! The Saints are not underdogs here – I see them as favorites even though the Pudlians are on a bit of a run… Koeman v Rogers… game on – Saints should earn the points here – if not – then perhaps the chrome fenders are beginning to show some rust?!? As for Rogers – he really needs to get points here to!?!
The chrome fenders may be beginning to rust – but have heart there were some dubious calls in this game and PWP does not account for odd non-call PK’s… anyhow – no excuses Southampton did not earn three points or even one.
All told eight of the ten games showed the CPWP Predictability Index team getting at least a point – that makes the CPWP Predictability record:
- Eight of Ten
- Seven of Ten
- Eight of Ten
- Eight of Ten
- for a combined 31 out of 40… seems like a good bet where the odds show ~75% accuracy in picking the teams who take points…
So how about Week 27? A short week so to speak…
West Ham v Crystal Palace: West Ham should take at least a point here but really should take maximum points – but there may be a slight let down given that late equaliser on the PK rebound against Spurs… That being said Crystal Palace will most certainly play for a point knowing that any sort of mistake by West Ham could see them taking three…
Burnley v Swansea City: Who knows how this will go given the point Burnley stole from Chelsea – that said Swansea should take at least one but very likely three – no thanks to the Ref I might add.
Manchester United v Sunderland: No brainer this one? MUFC take three – if they don’t – wow…..
Newcastle v Aston Villa: I don’t see Tim Sherwood getting any better result here than he did last week – Newcastle should get the point – if not three.
Stoke City v Hull City: This game may be closer than some expect – even with Hull City playing at Stoke City. That said a draw may be the eventual outcome but the initial odds indicate Stoke should be on the pluc end more than Hull.
West Brom v Southampton: Critical mass here for Southampton – three points really is a must – and going against West Brom should get them three; or at least one point at a minimum.
Liverpool v Manchester City: The tough one this week – Liverpool are on a run and I spurned that run last week against Southampton – that said Man City have the best overall team possession statistics of anyone in the BPL – it’s really hard to bet against Man City in this one; even with Liverpool at home. My call is Man City gets at least one point here.
Arsenal v Everton: This game will be even tighter than the Liverpool v Man City game – Everton continue to be one of the top teams in possession-based attacking – what they have lacked is finishing. Given that Monaco just came into London and took three points in the UEFA Champions League I really doubt Wenger will be in the mood to see his team drop three points here. My call is Arsenal takes at least one point – with three points really being the expectation – and another nail in the coffin of Martinez (didn’t I use that phrase the week before Lambert got sacked?).
All to play for this weekend…
PS: When I get time I will go back and try to show how the CPWP Predictability Index has faired for the Bundesliga and La Liga – just finding it hard to find the time.
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The headline is Capt. Obvious; especially when the League Table sees both these teams beginning to separate themselves from the others.
The question for most is who qualifies for Europe in positions three and four while Man City and Chelsea go toe-to-toe for the League Championship.
Too early you say? Not for me.
By Week 19, the Composite Possession with Purpose Index, in Major League Soccer had already nailed the League Champion, LA Galaxy, as being best in overall team attacking and defending performance.
Of course that didn’t translate to the Supporter’s Shield winner, but, then again, Major League Soccer doesn’t have an equal schedule, so the only real measurement to go by is the Champion crowned after the Playoffs are finished.
With that said, there were some teams who did move up and down in the CPWP Index (and MLS League Tables) after the halfway point. So I suppose it’s possible Man United, Arsenal, or someone else could close the gap, and make it a three horse race?!?
In moving on though I’m not seeing that – at least not yet. Why? Well given my CPWP Index after Week 17, just below, it seems pretty clear both Man City and Chelsea are performing much better than the others:
Given that my main focus today is sorting out the picture for the two remaining spots for next years UEFA Champions League.
I’ll call them my Bubble Teams (lacks creativity most likely, but hey… it’s late).
I see five with a chance.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Southampton (really?), West Ham (really?), and Spurs (really?).
At this stage, all five of these teams are within five points of each other at near the half-way point.
Others like Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle, and Swansea aren’t shut out (yet)… but I sense those teams probably need more than one player to give them that edge and Everton blew their chance this weekend in getting thumped 3-nil by Southampton…
As for Liverpool – they need more than a striker in my opinion (they need another defender too) and I just don’t think they have the money to upgrade.
Brendan Rogers can go on all he wants about his team getting their form back – but in my view – he’s giving lip service to save face after that debacle in signing Balotelli.
So with that said – three new diagrams for your consideration; the first being the Game to Game CPWP Index outputs for the five teams under consideration:
The diagram itself – you’ll probably be seeing more of these (with just one or two teams more likely in the future). You can click to enlarge.
The line graphs – most should know by now the CPWP Index is the difference between the Attacking PWP Index and Defending PWP Index. As is always the case with the CPWP Index – Higher is Better.
Note the frequency of change from game to game in some cases. To get a better understanding of how much variation there is for each team, week to week, I calculated the Standard Deviation.
Those numbers are provided at the bottom – in this case the lower the number the better. In other words the lower the number the less deviation a team had, from week to week, in how they performed (in total).
I’ll not offer that Lower = Better Team; at least not yet – but in this case I am going to assume that lower means more consistency. Sometimes being more consistent doesn’t mean better. Chivas USA were one of the most consistent teams last year – sadly that consistency was centered around consistently losing…
With that being the case; West Ham is most consistent (.36) with Spurs next (.52), than Man United (.54), followed by The Arsenal (.58) – then Southampton (.67).
Next up the Attacking PWP Index for my Amber Bubble Bar Teams – I suppose that is a goofy name – I’ll change it next week… suggestions are welcomed!
It’s interesting to note that all five of the teams here are pretty much even at this stage – trending up is Southampton (after that lull for three weeks) while Man United seems to be taking a bit of a dip.
From a consistency standpoint – West Ham again lead the pack here (.24) while Arsenal sits at (.29), Spurs at (.31), followed by Man United (.34) and Southampton, again the least consistent, sitting at (.40). Again – lower is better…
With APWP – I tend to believe that consistency in attacking is a good thing; especially given that rotation of home and away games – for me that shows a team is comfortable in how it attacks.
But…. the drawback here is that consistency in attack also sometimes means a lack of vision in changing things up a bit to play less predictable.
A great example of that this past weekend was The Arsenal going into Liverpool and almost taking three points while playing to an attacking style most would normally attribute to Sam Allardyce…
Moving on to the Defending PWP Index:
In the case of the DPWP Index – Lower is Better; to remind those – this number is the Attacking PWP number of the Opponent as they attack you – if higher is better when you attack – then it stands to reason a good defending team performance means a lower number.
After Week 17 it would appear all but The Arsenal are near each other – that two goals conceded against Liverpool no doubt had influence.
With respect to consistency West Ham (AGAIN) lead the pack in being most consistent (.27); with Spurs next (.37), followed by Man United and The Arsenal tied at (.41) and last (AGAIN) Southampton at .47.
For me, consistency here is good, very good, provided points are being earned in the League Table.
By the way – it’s this deviation or consistency that I also look for in viewing Home and Away games to see if a team changes it’s style.
For example the Standard Deviation for West Ham in Away games is .18 while for Arsenal it’s .42 – indicating that Wenger will change their tactical approach depending upon their opponent while Allardyce won’t.
Since all five of these teams are within five points – it seems reasonable that all these teams are getting points.
So what, in the end, are my thoughts after taking this info in?
Before offering that here’s my traditional Indices starting with the APWP Index:
Spurs are consistent in attack – but not consistent in being strong.
Southampton are not consistent in attack – and they are dropping back further and further compared to about 5 weeks ago.
Man United and Arsenal remain dangerous in attack – and remain consistently dangerous as well.
West Ham continues to remain high up this Index – a challenge to be sure – but what bodes well is they are also consistent in that attacking performance.
Now the Defending PWP Index through Week 17:
A few observations…
While Southampton is not very consistent in team defending – at least for now they are not very consistent in a good way – what happens if that inconsistency begins to swing towards the opponent performing better? A likely slide I’d expect.
West Ham are not only consistent – they remain consistently good – again can that pattern hold?
The Arsenal and Man United remain near the best in team defending performance – quite an achievement given the new approach in Manchester and the injuries in London…
Like in APWP, Spurs lack in overall performance compared to many teams lower in the league table. The real test comes when they entertain Man United and Chelsea at White Hart Lane, on short rest, just after Christmas.
I think all of these teams will be in the mood to shop for a player, two, or three come January.
Who do I think each team looks to add – from an individual, player standpoint, I haven’t got a clue…
But from a team standpoint here’s my initial expectations:
West Ham looks to add another midfielder and another defender – they are solid and the Allardyce style is working – but do they have the legs to compete the entire season? I don’t think so – at least not without at least one more defensive thinking/positioning type player given the Allardyce style of football.
Man United looks to add a defender – most probably a center-back who can handle playing 3 or 4 at the back. But can they afford to? Lots of money spent already but I’d expect at least one new signing during the transfer window.
Southampton looks to add some more firepower by adding an attacking winger and/or striker – goals will need to be scored to keep them afloat if their defending remains inconsistent. I also think they could do with another defender if they really are intent on making a run for Europe.
Spurs – hmmm… tough one here – I could see them adding a defender (maybe two?), and a midfielder/forward – they have points in the league table but their team attacking and defending performance lags far behind many other teams with fewer points.
Arsenal – I’ve already opined I think Arsenal need a new Central Defending Midfielder – I also think they need another Center-back and perhaps some more depth at Fullback.
Finally, I will take another look at the bubble teams in about 3 weeks time – there are plenty of games this holiday season and at least a nine point swing could occur.
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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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