No European team can match the league domination that Bayern Munich has shown this year in the Bundesliga. However, in spite of Die Bayern’s efforts to run away with the title, the German premier division is still awash with fascinating stories.
The race for the remaining Champions League spot could not be closer – five teams are separated by a mere two points. And no, that excludes Dortmund, who are floundering in the relegation zone.
To set the stage here’s the five teams vying for that third and final spot: Bayer Leverkusen; Augsburg, Monchengladbach, FC Schalke, and TSG Hoffenheim.
Here’s where they compare with each other in my Composite Possession with Purpose Index:
From this it would seem pretty obvious that Bayern Munich also stood out way above all others in the CPWP Index.
In addition, it’s good to see the Index also shows a marked difference, in overall team performance, between Wolfsburg and the other five teams battling for the final UEFA Champions League spot.
Of all the leagues I evaluate, using my Possession with Purpose Family of Indices, this League usually shows the best overall correlation.
Meaning, for some, it may be far more predictable – in other words perhaps the Bundesliga is a great league to bet on game results?
If you do that sort of thing here’s what the CPWP Predictability Index looks like:
A reminder – the CPWP Predictability Index was developed after I had some great discussions with folks at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014.
Myself, Ben Knapper (Arsenal FC Head of Stats) and others at PROZONE sports all agreed that the Index ‘could?’ have value as a predictability model if Goals Scored/Against data was removed.
The teams with Green Bars are the five teams battling for the third and final UEFA Champions League spot – the Purple Bar, Borussia Dortmund, is highlighted simply because they ‘should’ be winning – given their talent – but they aren’t!
But… could this be a model to actually reinforce Borussia Dortmund still remain a team who can make UEFA Champions League next year even though they are 13 points behind Bayer Leverkusen? I wonder what the odds are on that?
If you missed my presentation at the WCSS of 2014 here’s a link – in the seven months of this blog it has been my most viewed/read article.
Here again the top two teams are tops in the Index.
For those thinking the best in attack is what drives success it appears FC Schalke and then Bayer Leverkusen are best situated to push forward – while Augsburg slides way back towards Borussia Dortmund.
In taking a look at FC Schalke versus Bayer Leverkusen what separates them in this Index seems pretty interesting.
- Schalke average more total passes by volume (452 to 399) but within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third Leverkusen average more passes (155 to 120).
- To go with that, Leverkusen averages more possession (52% to 50%) but lower overall passing accuracy both within and outside the Opponent’s Defending Final Third (68%/57% compared to Schalke at 76%/61%.
- Meaning Schalke offer more passes, accurately, prior to entering the Final Third while also offering fewer, more accurate passes, once they’ve penetrated.
Looked at from a Leverkusen viewpoint – Bayer actually possesses the ball more – but is less accurate in that possession. In addition they also look to penetrate far more frequently than Schalke.
When digging into the shots area – Schalke show more patience in taking fewer shots by volume and percentage but both teams end up with roughly the same volume of Shots on Goal and Goals Scored per Shots on Goal (36% for Leverkusen and 34% for Schalke).
- Put another way – each team shows different statistical trends in possession, accuracy, penetrating, creating, and taking shots but their overall results are the same.
- Reinforcing, at least in my view, there are a number of different systematic approaches that will get you to the same place.
Before moving on to Defending PWP I think there is value in taking a look at Augsburg. Earlier this week I did an article on Major League Soccer called “Getting More from Less“.
The intent was to see who did better last year, in MLS, in getting better results with lower team performance. My gut-check example to quantifying the results in MLS was West Ham and their Direct Attacking nature.
What I determined was a team who averaged fewer passes than the League Average (both within and outside the Opponent’s Defending Final Third) with less than 50% possession could be reasonably called a Direct Attacking Team.
In looking at Augsburg here’s their attacking data as it fits that mold.
Overall dead on average in Possession at 50%.
Passing Accuracy (entire pitch), 73% – less than the League Average of 74.25%.
Passing Accuracy within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third (56%) – less than the League Average of 57%.
In looking at volume – Total Average Passes for Augsburg was 413 – the League Average was 435
Total Passes within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third for Augsburg was 114 – the League Average 126.
So on the surface it would appear that Augsburg shows the tendency to play more Direct Attacking, as opposed to a Counter-Attacking ‘tactic’, within a Possession-based game.
For Augsburg – they’ve had eight games that have followed the mode of Direct Attacking – they’ve won five of those games. Pretty solid in getting more from less – but can they sustain that?
The West Ham review showed they have won 7 games out of 11 games where their team averages fell into the Direct Attacking mode.
It would seem Augsburg are almost as successful (percentage wise) in matching West Ham when it comes to winning games where their performance falls below League Average… (63.63% for West Ham versus 62.5% for Augsburg).
Augsburg, like West Ham, are pretty high up in the Defending PWP Index (Hammers are 6th best in the EPL DPWP Index versus Augsburg who are 4th best here).
So the value of a higher team performance in defending helps sustain success with the lower volumes offered up in attack.
Meaning the will of Augsburg rides more with a collaborative approach, in overall team play, than strictly an attack dominated performance.
Monchengladbach is next highest here, while TSG Hoffenheim doesn’t seem to shine in either Index.
I’d expect some long odds on TSG making that third and final UEFA Champions League spot…
So what separates Monchengladbach from TSG?
- Goals Against – for Monchemgladbach their GA is .94 – for TSG it’s 1.47 – is that down to Mochengladbach simply having a better Goalie?
- Maybe… their opponent’s actually average more Shots on Goal (5.35) compared to TSG, whose opponent’s average 4.5 Shots on Goal.
Opponents for both teams average total passes, both within and outside the Defending Final Third, greater than the League Average – so by and large most opponents are playing possession based attacking against these two sides.
Where it gets interesting is the volume of successful passes by their opponents after they’ve entered their Defending Final Third.
- In the case of TSG, the opponents average 20 fewer successful passes, with almost the same amount of shots taken and shots on goal.
- Meaning, to me, TSG are finding themselves out of position more often as the screws tighten – hence the greater Goals Against.
In other words one team may be playing more man-to-man while another team may be playing more zonal?
I’m not sure which – those with video or access to X,Y coordinates may know that better?
Anyhow – clearly the data points towards one team having a different defensive scheme that may also include Mochengladbach simply having a much better Goal Keeper.
Half the season remains and while Bayern is basically blowing the Bundesliga away there are others who are still making this league worthy to watch.
Will it be the West Ham of the Bundesliga (Augsburg)? Can Borussia Dortmund pull it back? How about the other challengers who appear more steady, like FC Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, or Monchengladbach?
And does TSG Hoffenhein really have a chance as well? For some I bet UEFA Champions League is the goal for next year – but others might also be shooting for Europa too.
And this doesn’t even broach the topic about who gets relegated – Might that Borussia Dortmund ends up in that race instead? Wow…….
Jürgen Klopp would get clobbered if that happens!
More to follow…
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Perhaps still too early? I don’t think so – at least not with who’s the best – clearly FC Bayern Munchen are firing on all cylinders. So…………
What to do?
Well, I’ll be ignoring FC Bayern Munchen in this effort because they are simply head and shoulders above everyone else… give me about another month or so and I’ll do a special week on Bayern.
For now my focus goes to FSV Mainz (eight points), TSG Hoffenheim (eight points) and FC Paderborn (eight points).
And yes, there are games being played this week where the data you are offered will not be up-to-date —> I gotta have a stop/start point somewhere – so I chose Monday evening… 🙂
Now, to begin, here’s my customary link for those new or wanting a refresh on Possession with Purpose – An Introduction and Explanations…
And now my CPWP Strategic Index through Week 4:
I’m not sure the clarity can be any more clear that Bayern is clearly the leader in PWP.
For now it’s worthy to note that my PWP End State, ””try to match the league table as close as possible without using points”’ looks pretty good as the 6 best teams in CPWP match the six best teams in the Bundelisga League Table – not one-for-one, but close enough to again lend credence to this effort.
Statistically speaking, the correlation (R2) to average points in the league table is .75; still strong.
Will these teams stay in these positions as the season wears on? Maybe Bayern will but the others? Probably not – but it helps to begin peeling back info on certain teams now to get a better sense of their progress (success or failure) for the future…
Anyhow – time to peel back the attack of Hoffenheim, Paderborn, and Mainz in my APWP Strategic Index:
It should be worthy to note that Hoffenheim, Mainz, and Paderborn fall below Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin, and Wolfsburg – in short what that means is the three teams I’m focusing on have better team defending performances than those other three teams…
Defense usually wins out when both teams are good in attack – so it will be interesting to see how these teams compare as the season progresses; for now here’s some key attacking statistics I’ve seen w/r/t Hoffenheim, Mainz, and Paderborn:
- Passing Accuracy – a surprise here for me is that all three of these teams, average in passing accuracy, falls below the league average of 74.13%; Hoffenheim ~66%, Mainz ~72%, and Paderborn ~71%.
- At first glance, without watching any of their games, I’d offer these three teams tend to play counter-attacking football where the intent is to take advantage of the opponent getting out of position. Another indicator to support that is overall possession – Mainz sits on ~49%; while Paderborm and Hoffenheim are lowest and 3rd lowest in the Bundesliga, respectively (37.69% and 42.96%).
- Without looking ahead, a key indicator to me that supports my initial view is the volume of passes the opponent has in their Defending Final Third – more later…
- In terms of Shots Taken per penetrating possession – Hoffenheim are below average (resembling teams that I’d attribute the word patience to) at 15.38%, while both Mainz and Paderborn are slightly above average (21.75% and 22.03% respectively).
- When it comes to converting Shots Taken to Shots on Goal – Hoffenheim, again, is below average (~28%) while both Mainz and Paderborn are above average (~48% and ~38% respectively).
- In looking at Goals Scored – all the teams are above average with Hoffenheim the highest (~60%) – while Paderborn is next up at ~40% and Mainz (9th overall) at ~33%.
What’s all that mean?
- Well it appears to me that Hoffenheim best represent a team who counter-attacks but does so with caution/patience – in other words there isn’t as much ‘abandon’ in their run of play when penetrating… i.e. they look to catch their opponent out of position, and when they do they are very good at executing in that small window of opportunity.
- Perhaps someone who watches Hoffenheim more closely can add some thoughts in the comments section?
- With respect to Paderborn and Mainz; again, without seeing them play, I’d offer they adopt a slightly riskier (more direct?) approach to penetration when they can.
- And that increase in risk may drive down their patience and accuracy in creation and generation of shots – which in turn drives down their efficiency in goal scoring based upon their volume of shots on goal.
It should be noted, however, that all three teams have eight points after four games – and given those apparent strategies is it surprising to see that FSV Mainz and Paderborn drew 2-2 the first game of the season?
In moving on to my DPWP Strategic Index:
Recall that Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen, and Wolfsburg were all stronger in APWP than the three teams I’m focusing on this week – when viewing DPWP, Hertha is bottom, Werder Bremen is 2nd bottom and Wolfsburg are almost near mid-Index…
On the other hand Paderborn, TSG Hoffeneheim, and FSV Mainz are all in the top half… kind of continues to reinforce that a team who defends better will get better results…
So here’s a look at the volume of passes and passing accuracy percentage for their opponent’s in their Defending Final Third.
- Here, I expected these numbers to be slightly higher than others – to indicate some ceding of possession and space higher up the defending final third.
- Of the three, Paderborn had the lowest percentage of opponent penetration in their defending final third (19.46%) while ceding the 6th highest volume of passes in their defending final third (131 per game)
- Hoffenheim yields the 5th highest percentage of opponent penetration in their own defending third (24.68%) while yielding the 4th highest volume of passes (134.50 per game) in their own final third.
- Mainz yields the 6th highest percentage of opponent penetration in their own defending third (24.40%) while yielding the 11th highest volume of passes in their own defending final third.
All told it would appear that all three teams do cede possession and penetration into their defending final third more than most other teams.
In looking at the bottom line (opponent goals scored per game) Hoffenheim average .5 Goals Against while Mainz and Paderborn (before the Bayern thrashing) averaged 1.00 Goals Against per game.
What is missing?
- Borussia Dortmund… wow – talk about a slot start.
- How well these teams perform on the road versus at home – not enough data yet really.
- How each of the teams do against FC Bayern Munchen – playing Bayern will (usually) negatively impact performance.
- Actually being able to watch the games to pulse the statistical expectations based upon lessons learned from tracking statistics and watching the English Premier League and Major League Soccer – this is where I need your help.
- Overall, simply more data – it’s almost rude to expect that four games of data is going to provide anything other than a great start point to begin trending as week 12 or 13 approaches.
- Can you Adam and Eve it on this strike by Moritz Stoppelkamp, a player from FC Paderborn, – statistics simply can’t account for a goal scored like that!
Next up a look at La Liga and then Expected Wins 3… a statistical look at differences between teams that win, lose or draw in the EPL, MLS, Bundeliga, La Liga, that includes a review of the World Cup 2014 outputs…
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