Spurs' Acquisition of Soldado

Every time I think of the Roberto Soldado transfer to Spurs I can’t help but think the North London club could have done better.

Perhaps in the modern game money doesn't really matter and clubs are determined to get their target regardless of the asking price.  However, call me old fashioned, but I like to get value for my money and thus I'll appraise Soldado in terms of how Tottenham did in terms of Value For Money.

Yes, he scored 24 goals last season in Spain's top flight and on the basis that Tottenham expect someone other than Gareth Bale to score their goals they needed someone who could put the ball in the net with a little more regularity than Jermaine Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor have been able to in recent times.

But my over-riding belief is that they could have put the transfer fee of £26.5m to better use in my opinion.

Why do I say that?

He is 28 years old, and he still has a decent few years playing time left but given his age he's unlikely to improve much and he will certainly have a minimal resale value at the end of his contract.

But that’s not the main reason for my dissatisfaction; my main gripe is the fact that his conversion rates really aren’t overly special.  And special conversion rates are what I would expect from someone who I'm paying close to £30m for, even more so when he's not being bought for his creativity (with less than 1 key pass per90 last season).

It might seem strange to say that his conversion rate is nothing special given that last season he converted his 100 shots at a clip of 24%.

On the face of it, this favourably compares to Van Persie (18%), Bale (13%) and Lukaku (17%).  In fact in the Big 5 Leagues last season, of the players to score more than 15 goals only Cvitanich, Messi and Higuain had a higher conversion rate than the former Valencia striker.

The Quality of his Attempts

However, regular readers of my pieces will know that we need to provide a little more context than just the player’s raw conversion rates. We need to compare the conversion rate against what their conversion rates should have been when accounting for the shots that the players attempted.

On this “shot quality” adjusted measure Soldado no longer sits atop of the rankings.  His ExpG Eff rate (as discussed in this previous piece) was 1.01.

Don’t get me wrong, 1.01 means that he finished his shots a tiny bit better than the average player did but it’s pretty damn close to being just an average conversion rate of the chances he attempted.

The reason for the barely average rate when adjusted for shot quality given his astonishingly high apparent raw conversion percentage is immediately apparent when we see the positions of Soldado’s shots:


When I was at school I would have been called a “moocher” if I had those shot locations. 59% of Soldado’s shots were struck from centrally within the penalty area, and he only had 10 shots from outside the penalty area.

In his defence, it is great that he was there to attempt those shots, and he puts them away with decent, nay average, aplomb.

But I feel that the raw conversion rates that he has posted drove the transfer fee to a higher range than it otherwise should have been.  He didn’t score any more goals than the average player would have done if they had been lucky enough (or perhaps good enough) to be presented with those opportunities.

Credit undoubtedly needs to be given to him for being in the right place at the right time, but all I'm asking for is that the location of his shots are taken into account when attempting to analyse his shooting performance from last season.

The Extent of Soldado’s chances

The measure that Constantinos Chappas and I have created that objectively rates the quality of chances that a team or player is presented with is the Average ExpG.  This quantifies the probability of the average shot taken by the team or player in question.

According to my records, 102 players in the Big 5 leagues scored more than 10 goals last season.  Rather interestingly, Soldado’s Average ExpG value is 2nd highest out of those 102 players.  The quality of the chances he attempted was second only to Pazzini of Milan. Just let that settle in for a second....... The chances he attempted were from the 2nd most attractive locations in the Big 5 leagues.

That fact is ultra-important but it has generally been overlooked in most of the analysis of Soldado’s transfer that I have seen.  And that is the primary reason why if I ran a football club I wouldn’t have spent £26.5m on taking him from Valencia.

I read with interest the suggestion made by Ted Knutson in his preview of Tottenham on this site that, in a worst case, the acquisition of Soldado may ensure that Spurs get a much more interest Adebayor. I guess that may just be true, but if so, you would have hoped that Spurs could have come up with a cheaper performance management system!!!

As a general point, I want to make the readers aware that I would have loved to be able to go back and include data from before the start of last season and see what his shots were like then.  But unfortunately I am limited to the data that Squawka provides us with, and that is only one season at this stage.

Tottenham's Style of Play

One other thing that I'm not totally at ease with is how Soldado's style appears to be polar opposite to how Spurs has played in the recent past.

You can see that Soldado thrives on putting away very good chances.  I wonder if he is aware how Spurs played football last season?

He is moving to the only team in the Premier League who took more than 50% of their shots from outside the penalty area.  Working the ball into areas that most people would feel are good shooting opportunities certainly wasn't top of Tottenham’s “How to Play Football” manual last season.

Perhaps his signing suggests that Gareth Bale is indeed leaving White Hart Lane this summer and thus Soldado is more likely to receive the sort of service that he has been used to.

However, in the event that Bale does stay with Spurs for another season I would fear that Roberto Soldado could cut a rather frustrated figure as he ducks to get out of the way of Bale’s long range efforts.

Wrap Up

OK, so it’s easier to criticise an action than it is to do something positive yourself.  So after claiming that Spurs could have done better in their search for a striker I think that it is only fair if I suggest a few alternatives as to how Levy’s £26.5m could have been better spent.

In my next piece I will outline a pool of strikers that I would procure from if I was tasked with doing so.

Corners Part II: Shots And PDO

In Corners Part 1 (link),I looked at the corner count of each team and the goals scored for and against. A quick re-cap: United were brilliant, Newcastle were s*%$.

This is the second and final part on the corners topic. Today I am going to look at each Premier League team and the volume of shots generated from their corners. Once we have shots from corners, we can then look at each team's efficiency in getting shots away from their corners, and we can also look at scoring%, prevention% and corner PDO.

This will hopefully be a pretty comprehensive single-season look at corners and teams' ability to generate offense from those corners. And we'll all be happier when it is over!

Shots From Corners

This table shows the number of shots for and against for each team. It's pretty clear that certain teams are able to generate a far bigger number of shots than others. Why is this? Again: delivery, attacking scheme and positions of attackers and maybe a little luck.

The fault of that table above is that it doesn't factor in how many corners each team had taken or faced. If we simply divide the amount of shots for or against by the amount of corners for or against we arrive at percentage chance that a teams corner would result in a shot.

Percentage Chance Of A Corner Resulting In A Shot


Once we have readjusted the numbers into a percentage chance of likelihood, we see some interesting things: United are the best team in the league at not only scoring goals from corners, but having each corner result in a shot. Every United corner had ~24% chance of creating a shot. The best goals team is also the best shots from corners team - schemes and delivery.

It gets interesting at the bottom of the chart. Tottenham and Arsenal are the two clubs who recorded the worst percentage chance of a corner creating a shot, Arsenal with just an 11.5% chance of a shot for resulting from a corner.

Chelsea are a curious team: they boast the best defensive number on that chart, but the third poorest number in creating shots for. How can a club, Chelsea in this case, be the third worst shots from corners team and the second best goals from corners team? Corner scoring%.

Corner PDO

The first column (scoring%) is how Chelsea managed to score 11 goals from corners last season. They registered just 36 shots from corners and scored 11 goals. That scoring% may not be sustainable.

It must also be said that Man United's scoring% isn't too far off Chelsea's, but I would feel more comfortable about United's scoring% due to their ability to generate shots from corners.

Looking at Save/Prevention% or whatever the hell it is that I called it, Chelsea, Sunderland, Norwich and Arsenal are really good. Tottenham, on the other hand are just terrible. Like, something was seriously wrong with their defensive setup when defending corners and it needs fixing.

Are we all familiar with PDO? Scoring% + Save%? Good. The third column on that chart deals with PDO from corners. Chelsea, with a strong Save/Prevention% and an other worldly scoring% boast 2012/13's best PDO score. Sunderland are hot on the heels of Chelsea, and that corner PDO may have helped in some small way in preserving Sunderland's Premier League status.

United rock up in 3rd place. Tottenham, who post a horrible PDO score, are bottom once again.


Corners aren't the most important facet of a football game. Hell, only ~3% of corners result in a goal. Only ~19% of corners result in a shot. We are talking about small percentages here. And yet some teams excel at corners, it is understood that chances and goals can be created with the right blend of attacking setup, and Man United proved this in 2012/13.

United scored ~17% of their PL goals from corner kicks. United also registered ~20% of their prime location shots from corners alone (that figure rises to ~26% if we include all dead ball situations) and clearly that is a big contribution to United's offensive output from just the humble corner.

Chelsea were another team who excelled at corners, but this time defending the opposition's corners. They were able to restrict shots against whilst at the attacking end convert their shots from corners into goals at a frightening rate.

A quick word on Tottenham, who were dire at corners in 2012/13. A very basic expectancy has Tottenham at -5 goals from corners. If Tottenham had posted an average corner PDO, then you do wonder if those goals may have had an impact on their final league position?

Small margins. They all add up, and corners - however unfashionable they may be - are part of that teams performance equation.

Corners Part I: Goals For And Against

Corners: Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em and Avon Barksdale wants them back already!

A corner is a set piece play that usually sees ~16 of the 22 players on the field of play have the chance to influence the game during the 3 0r 4 seconds from the point the corner is taken. The attacking team can score a vital goal, the defending team can safely clear their zone and launch a potentially devastating counter attack.

The delivery of a corner is an interesting thing in itself: Does a team punt the ball into a zone and hope luck is on their side and the corner kick falls to an attacking player? Would that last sentence be disrespectful to the complex attacking schemes that certain clubs employ at corners? Maybe the success of a corner kick for the attacking team isn't so much about luck but more about the skill of the delivery which can be almost viewed as a hard accurate pass?

What about the positions of the players and the runs they make? What about the type of corners - short, long, in-swing - and the the success rate of each type?

I think you can see where I am going here.

Corners are complex, they can also be brutally simple in their effectiveness. There are so many variables to consider on every single corner kick that it becomes virtually impossible to explain why some teams are better at them than others. Some of a teams ability is luck, some of it is skill and some of it is unexplained. And let's leave it at that for now.

What I want to write about today is each teams corner count and the number of goals for and against from corners in the Premier League in 2012/13.

Corner Count


Liverpool are the corners champ with 285 and 174 against - good for 1st and 2nd place in the league last year. The top 7 in corners are the teams we would expect to be there. Some teams - United and Chelsea - look to be a little shy of the totals we may expected them to have posted, but score effects probably accounts for some of the difference between expected and actual.

Man United had the 5th fewest total number of corners. Curious.

Goals For And Against


Man United have have had the 5th lowest total of corners in 2012/13 but they had by far the highest total goals from corners; 15 for and 6 against. Let us focus on United's 15 goals for from corners. That is 17.4% of Man United's total goal output and whatever your opinion on corners, that percentage of goals from corners was an invaluable contribution to the title win.

If you are looking for a skill driver behind man United's 15 goals then look no further than RvP's delivery, and some of Fergie's voodoo magic.

Working our way down the table: Chelsea are a fine corner team at both ends of the pitch;Wigan scored a lot; Liverpool were average and Newcastle were so bad. One goal scored from two hundred and three corners! If we guessed at Man United's scoring record potentially being driven by skill, then what can we make of Newcastle's scoring record? Appalling skill level or the darkest dirtiest run of bad luck?

Raw Conversion % And Conceded %


This chart is the basic conversion and conceded percentages for each teams. The calc is goal/corners.

We can see a concentration of teams around the horizontal and vertical mean lines and usually this is where teams will reside in terms of conversion and conceded %, but naturally there are outlier teams. Man United are so far out on their own that they were either the beneficiaries of some tremendous luck or they are are in possession of a skill and tactical setup that is unique in the Premier League. Answers in the comments please.

If Man United were the good then Newcastle, Swansea, Arsenal and Tottenham were the bad conversion teams of 2012/13. I don't know why certain teams are able to score and convert their corners into goals at a high rate and other teams struggle mightily with what seems so simple to other teams.

A few smart fellows had some ideas on this topic:

Ted says:


Simon Gleave responded with this:


Oli Juliusson chipped in with this, which focuses on the type of delivery:


Some interesting thoughts from some smart people. This article wasn't specifically written with the idea of discussing luck and skill in the scoring of goals from corners, it was written in order to display some basic information which isn't publicly available. We have corners for and against and corner goals for and against in the tables above, please do go and sort them and find out how good your team were from corners last term.

In Part II: Shots for and against from corners, scoring% and prevention% and Corner PDO.

EPL 2013-14 Season Preview – Tottenham Hotspur

The best player on your team is being courted by one of the biggest clubs in Spain.

It’s a familiar refrain in North London, but one that has generally been reserved for Arsenal. Amusingly to Spurs fans, Arsenal seem to have run out of players good enough to interest Real Madrid and Barcelona. Not so amusingly, the player Real Madrid seem dead set on buying for a massive wad of cash this summer is…




Gareth Bale.

Most players are easily replaceable. The concept of buy low/sell high is in full effect in the transfer markets, and teams that heed this tend to do well in the long term, Spurs among them.

The problem is that some players are special. They bring a unique skill set that is not easily replaceable, either individually or via the sum of their parts.

Gareth Bale is one of those.

But with 100M+ on offer…?

2012-13 League Finish: 5th

Notable Cup Finishes: Europa League QF

Goal Difference Rank: 6th

Shot Dominance Rank: 1st

PDO Rank: 16th (94.35)

Note: I explain what the metrics mean and why you might care in the metrics appendix at the bottom.

In the last four seasons, Spurs have made the Champions League one time. However, they finished seven total points out of 4th place in the three years they missed the CL, including just one point behind last season. That’s less than one win a season short of CL riches. Those late draws at home to start the year against West Brom and Norwich. That crazy, error-filled 3-2 loss at Anfield where Spurs were totally ascendant right up until they turned into a total shambles. A one-goal swing in any of those matches would have qualified them for the Champions’ League this year, and the Gareth Bale saga would be on the back burner.

Football is a game of the finest of margins.

The Good

Spurs had the best Shot Dominance figure in the league. They also had the best defense when it came to limiting shots opponents take. A lot of that is down to Andre Villas-Boas’s tactical system, which is outstanding. There’s a reason PSG courted him heavily when Ancelotti wanted out – he’s very good. His lineup choices often leave something to be desired, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.

Offensively, Spurs took the second most shots per game, and actually averaged the most Shots on Target of any team in the league. Again, this is really good.

So if the basic metrics on both sides of the ball indicate they were really good, why did they finish the year with the 6th best goal difference? And more importantly, how did the team that gave up the fewest shots overall end up conceding the 7th most goals in the league?!?


Tottenham Percentages

Aha! This… this is not good.

Spurs conceded the 5th highest percent of shots from Prime + Secondary locations in the league. So despite the fact that they limited the total number of shots opponents took, the ones they did manage to fire off had a fairly high likelihood of scoring. That’s a big deal.

Additionally, look at the percent of shots they took from “prime” positions on offense. 27% is baaaaad. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s putrid. In fact, it is so awful that the only team that took a lower percentage of shots from the best position on the field in the entire league was QPR, who not-so-coincidentally scored the fewest goals.

But AVB doesn’t believe in analytics, so he should totally skip over this part of the preview and carry on with what they have been doing. [Signed, Arsenal and Liverpool fans.]

Since we are still focusing on the things Spurs did well, it should be noted that their midfield was solid. Sandro’s injury robbed Spurs of a great player, and forced them to play a Scott Parker who looked nothing like he did three years ago, but the Brazilian was a beast. Moussa Dembele was one of the secret signings of the season, as was Tancredi Palmeri’s favourite player, Jan Vertonghen. Aaron Lennon was again quite good (and started 33 league matches!), and though inconsistent, Kyle Walker is approaching frontrunner status for England’s right back spot at the World Cup. Oh, and though analytics has a mixed opinion of him (look at the locations opponents took shots at him!) I really liked Huge Lloris.

The Bad

For a team that nearly qualified for the Champions’ League, Spurs sure do have a lot of areas to improve on.

A 35-year-old William Gallas started 16 times for them last season. That was not a positive. Scott Parker(32) also started 15 matches, and looked totally over his head in terms of quality of play versus what was required. And though he was great for many years, Brad Freidel really started to show his age last season. Which was 287*.

The left back play of Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton also left something to be desired, with BAE in the bottom half of the league for passing completion from that position. Danny Rose, who is back from a good spell on loan to a dreadful Sunderland team, may actually be the best option there. [Aside: Did you know Kyle Naughton will be 25 this season? Seriously! He looks like he’s 12, but he’s actually entering his prime this year. So while it is natural when looking at him to think, “Oh, he’s young – he’ll get better as he gets older,” the real answer is that he might not.]

Finally you come to Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor. It’s fairest to say Defoe was adequate last season. A goals per90 rate of .41 is average for a Top 5 team, but he really doesn’t bring that much else to the squad. He also turns 31 this season, and there’s no reason to expect he’ll get any better from this point on. If he stays at Spurs, expect him to be featured as mostly a late-game poacher from here out. If he wants to be the primary option, he’ll need to do it elsewhere.

The real problem up front came from Emmanuel Adebayor. Though he has a lifetime G/90 rate of .51 in the Premier League (exceptional), last year he only managed to produce a dreadful .28, and 1 assist in 18 starts. Obviously this was after signing a new, 3-year contract as part of a permanent transfer. There has perhaps never been a player as in need of a low base, incentive-laden contract as the lanky, immensely-talented, but difficult-to-motivate Togolese.

Beast mode Ade is unstoppable. Disinterested Ade is a liability. Which version will Spurs get more of from here on out? *In dog years.

Transfer Activity




There have been two major sales so far this summer from Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy. The first is a bit confusing, as they shipped young center back Steven Caulker off to Cardiff. Levy got a decent price for him (£8-9M), but even though he was only 21, Caulker was actually pretty good last year and looks like he could mature into a fine central defender. Additionally, with Gallas now off the books, Spurs aren’t exactly deep at his position. It likely won’t be a bad transfer, but it’s really unusual to sell a handy, homegrown defender in that age range.

The other sale was that of Clint Dempsey. Though Spurs just bought him last year, Deuce turns 31 this season, and would have had a hard time making the starting lineup. Seattle and the MLS stepped forward with a good offer (£6M), and Levy shipped him back to the United States. Good business all around.

As for incoming players, Spurs purchased midfielder Paulinho for £17M, forward Roberto Soldado for £26.5M, and left wing Nacer Chadli for £7M. That’s a total outlay of £51M on just three players (£14M of which was offset by outgoing players), and Spurs still have needs…

Do they have to sell more players just to stay on budget?


I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t mention Bale’s name one time after the introduction, yet he’s the elephant in the room for Spurs entire season. At only 23 years old, Gareth Bale was awesome. The Welshman is one of the few players in the PL that can completely turn a game on its head by himself, and his combination of speed, power, shooting accuracy, and passing ability is truly rare. Additionally, because of his age and the fact that he’s still learning to be an attacking player (he was a left back two years ago!), there’s a good chance Bale continues to get better in the coming years.

Is he worth £100M?

Probably not.

Perceptually though, he might mean that much to Spurs fans. By taking a stand against the riches of Madrid, Levy is reinvigorating the entire Spurs base in the process, despite the fact they missed out on the Champions’ League again.

See Gareth Bale now, before he’s gone forever!” is a pretty good slogan for selling season tickets.

However, even without Gareth Bale, Spurs are a very good team.

Even though they overpaid for him (mostly based on age), Soldado will either fill the gaping hole Spurs had at forward for most of last year, or he’ll push Adebayor to be great again, both of which are excellent outcomes. Spurs also go into the season boasting one of the strongest midfield cores in the league (Dembele, Paulinho, and Sandro), a destructive group that can also make plays when required. I even like their attacking midfield, who I think will look quite a bit better than last season, when they seemed to have trouble adapting to what AVB required from them (Sig and Holtby have the potential to be outstanding).


If Spurs keep Bale, they are the 4th best team in England right now. If David Moyes implements the same dreary offense at Manchester United that he had at Everton, they might just be the 3rd.

Given Arsenal’s pantomime circus of transfer business, right now I like Spurs to take one of the Champions League spots this year. If AVB takes some analytics on board and fixes the shot locations, I could even be convinced Spurs are darkhorse candidates for a league title. Their system, plus an improvement in player quality (and in the case of Bale, Walker, Naughton, Sig, and Holtby, maturity) means this isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

Oh, and I have no inside info on this whatsoever, but…

I think Spurs will keep Gareth Bale this year for one final run, and a) give him a 300% raise (150K/week) plus b) promise to sell him to the highest bidder next summer in the process.

Just like what happened with the other Ronaldo.


Metrics Appendix

Shot Dominance is a measure of how many shots a team concedes versus how many they take themselves.  This measure is useful in predicting where teams will end up in the table at the end of the season. It’s not perfect, but it is useful. It falls down a bit when faced with unique offensive systems like at Barcelona and Manchester United under Alex Ferguson, where they take fewer shots overall than you expect from great teams, but the chances they create are significantly more likely to score.

PDO is a measure of how well a team converts shots on the offensive end and saves shots on the defensive end. Good teams tend to post high levels of PDO and bad teams low levels over time, but there is a huge regression to the mean with this measure as well. Thus analysts tend to look at extremes of PDO as “luck factors.”

EPL 2013/14 Preview: Manchester City

Change. It is all about change for Man City in this upcoming season, which is now excitingly close. An old manager, beloved by the fans and seemingly despised by everybody else, has departed and a new man with a more holistic approach has been hired.

Holistic, it's a funny word which was used in it's correct context when explaining Mancini's firing. The issue I have with the word is that it didn't need to mentioned. Roberto Mancini was fired for a couple of very simple reasons: he wasn't good enough; City had stagnated and we were tactically short in the CL.


If Mancini had managed to keep Man City fresh, astute and, importantly, successful then he could have been the re-incarnation of Vlad the Impaler as far as upper management was concerned. Scott Sinclair could have been on a spike outside the training ground as a message to those players who don't 'work' or 'try to improve'. Mancini wasn't that different to most managers: he was a hard bastard. Unfair at times and he lost his job due to results falling short of expectations. Happens every day.

The old man has gone, the new man is Pellegrini. And this could be a crucial hire for Man City. The Chilean is a tactical sharp, wily and cunning in Europe and a man who managed to get his teams to punch above their weight in La Liga (tactics here). His single season with Madrid may have ended in his dismissal, but I implore you to go back and look at Madrid's underlying numbers for that season - they were out of this world good.


The second big change for Man City was the addition of Txiki Begiristain as Director Of Football. A well-connected deal maker with a mixed transfer history (link), this is Txiki's first summer window and it has been curious to say the least. But we'll get into that later.

Let's look back at City's performance last season and see where it all went wrong.


League Finish: 2nd

Goal Difference: 4th

Close GD: T2nd

Shot Dominance: 3rd

Close Shot Dominance: 3rd

PDO: 12th

Tied PDO: 11th

Europe: Fuck. Possibly the hardest CL group of all time but still, gotta do better than 3 points.

Man City's league form last year wasn't too terrible was it? Yes, they finished 11 points off the top, but ya know they kind of gave up, no? Ok, stop. I know I am trying to kid myself here. Man City were hugely disappointing. They looked stale as an attacking force, fragile (again) away from home, and generally never really seemed to hit that full stride which was so evident in 2011/12. Potential reasons for the drop off in form? Strikers, stale attacking scheme, lack of width and pace? These are all reasonable excuses, and they may all be true (link). The Shot Dominance was stable year on year, but Man City spent far far less time in a wining position in 12/13 and this had an effect on their PDO, which looked like this:


Yr 11/12 117.5 113.2
Yr 12/13 109.3 88.98


Now, PDO doesn't tell you everything, but we are talking about a big regression here year on year. This wasn't the cause of Man City's poor title challenge, but it certainly didn't help either.

Can Pellegrini fix some of these issues? Can he heal the away form which, although very good, needs to be exceptional in order to breach ~85 points? We don't know.

The Squad

Dietmar Hamann went on record recently and said that Man City have the best squad in the Premier League, and it is pretty hard to disagree with him.

City have a good goalkeeper who may have had a bit of a down season. They are pretty well set in their first-choice back 4 - the depth in Lescott, Kolarov, and Javi Garcia is a little frightening. A midfield of Yaya, Fernandinho, an aging Barry and a promising, but oft-injured Rodwell is a very good corps. The attacking midfield options are as strong as any with Silva, Nasri, Navas and Jovetic supplying the bullets to Dzeko, Aguero and Negredo.

It is a fearsome team. A manager who has the command of the players and the tactical setup to allow them to succeed may well find that this squad has plenty enough to win the Premier League.


This is where Txiki, his contacts book and his desire to not repeat the previous regime's mistakes came into play. Txiki got his transfer business done early. Really early. So early that Man City had no competition for Fernandinho or Navas. Then again, you could argue that in Fernandinho's case, no other club in their right mind would pay that much for a recently turned 28yo.


Navas: E20m

Fills a definite team need. Width and pace and a direct option to complement the band of mighty schemers was badly needed. Navas's price isn't too steep, but you do worry about his age and the decline which may creep into his game in the 3rd or 4th year of this contract.

Fernandinho: E40m

Steep. It is a ransom for a player who is 28 year old. He has a fairly unique skill set - an agile destroyer who can dribble, shoot and drive forward. He is also equally comfortable in a holding role breaking up the opposition's attacks with his speed and anticipation. His underlying numbers last year in the CL were crazy good. If Fernandinho can replicate that CL form, then Man City have a hell of a player.

It is a purchase that again fills an immediate team need. He is a significant upgrade over Barry, and his partnership with Yaya Toure could destroy opposition teams this year.

Negredo: E25m

The strangest purchase for me. This looks like a Pellegrini recommendation. Negredo is a true power forward: muscular, brutish and a fair finisher when inside the box. He has some issues with 5-yard speed and shot discipline and his price is a little scary, but it appears to me at least that Pellegrini wants to have two power forwards available for selection.

Can Negredo adapt at 27 years of age? Can he cover the bet at an age when he might be expected to have only 1 or 2 years of peak performance left? He will score, but it's hard to see him being anything more than Man City's 3rd choice striker, and that is a lot of money for a #3.

Jovetic: E26m

Young, versatile and bought at a very good age. Jovetic will continue to improve at City and his peak years may be outstanding. I really like this signing, but in 2013/14 I think he will play the least of the 4 new boys. Jovetic, if he is deployed as an attacking midfielder or left-sided player, has Nasri, Milner and Silva for competition and it is a steep ask to expect the player to play north of 60% of the available minutes. This signing replaces some of Tevez's versatility, but it has one eye on future performance also.

Three of these new signings are over the age of 27, and it is a little difficult to see how City get full value on such a lavish outlay. But we must remember that these signings very much fill immediate team needs and are signings for the here and now that provide the new manager the best chance to win immediately.

Navas and Fernandinho are significant upgrades and should make Man City better immediately. Negredo offers tactical variety, and Jovetic, with his flexibility, goes someway to replacing Tevez's deep-lying creativity.

Man City definitely improved their squad with these signings and although the money could have been better spent on younger players, it is abundantly clear that Man City have a significantly better squad than last year.


A new manager and some significant upgrades in areas of team need should improve Man City this coming season, but what aspects of their performance have room for improvement?


Mancini was aware that Man City needed to freshen their attacking scheme, hence the aborted 3-5-2. Pellegrini really needs to work on keeping Man City's attacking play fresh and, importantly, varied. Navas should help with this and it will be interesting to see if Man City go into full beast mode and pair two of the biggest forwards in the league together against certain opponents.

Defensively, City really need to work on their recovery shape when defensing counter attacks. City were butchered in the Champions' League against intelligent teams like Dortmund and Madrid. This is a vital task for Pellegrini. It may well have been why such a premium was paid on Fernandinho, who is massive defensive upgrade on Barry.


City's goals for tally dropped significantly last season and this trend needs to be reversed. A healthy Aguero, a confident Dzeko, and the beast of Vallecas should all help. Navas's Lennon-like wide play should really help too. Man City need to rediscover that ability to score their way out of 1 goal deficits and PDO-crushing tied game situations. The goals will come if the attacking scheme is freshened. A return to form of Silva would help immensely.

Away Form



This is Man City's aggregate points for home and away fixtures last year. It's clear to see that Man City's away form came unstuck two thirds into the season, which resulted in Man City's away form coming in at 5th best in the league.

Man City's underlying shot dominance was good away from home, but City spent too much time in drawing and losing positions and it cost them points. Improvement in away form, I believe, is Pellegrini's biggest challenge and it is vitally important that he can add 6 to 8 points to last season away points total.

Pellegrini's away tactics could be vital here.

Champions League

Anything other than disaster would be an improvement. Man City are likely to get another tough group in 2013/14, and Pellegrini's performance in this competition will go along way in determining how successful his reign will be.

Shot Charts

Though we can expect significant changes on both sides of the ball due to managerial differences, this was the shot chart for City last season (provided by Colin Trainor).

ManCity Percentages

Shots in prime and secondary were second only to Manchester United (among teams that shot a lot). This is maybe another indicator that the final race could have been a lot closer if City hadn't given up the chase along the way.

What Does It All Mean?

Man City are a fine team. The underlying numbers just love them, they are stocked at every position, and have some of the best players in the world playing for the club. Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero is about as good a spine as you can get. The new manager and his tactical schemes may well be the deciding factor in the title race.

Chelsea look strong, Man United will be there or there abouts despite concerns about Moyes in his first year, but I believe that Man City should be feeling very bullish about reclaiming the Premier League title.

Pellegrini's management and the astute filling of team needs by Begiristain only further add to what was already the best squad in the league. If a team betters Man City's points total, then that team will win the league.

EPL 2013-14 Season Preview – Chelsea

A funny thing happened over the last couple of weeks – the betting markets no longer have Chelsea as the favorites to win the English Premier League. The boys from Stamford Bridge have instead been supplanted in the top spot by Manchester City. In a way, this makes a lot of sense. City have made strong additions to a team that already finished ahead of Chelsea last year, and they exchanged a good, but dour manager who has never quite succeeded in Europe for a good, more positive manager whose teams almost always punch above their weight in the Champions’ League.

And yet…




Chelsea’s new hire at manager is none other than Jose Mourinho.

Last time Mou and Chelsea hooked up, the Special One took home two league titles in three seasons during an era when Fergie and Wenger seemed unbeatable. He has won five league titles in eight seasons in the major European leagues. His average finish in the Champions’ League is the semifinals.

I know the Premier League has been especially volatile over the last few seasons, and that even Sir Alex Ferguson has sailed off into the managerial sunset. I also know that Chelsea haven’t always been impressive in recent years.  But even if you hate the man, you have to show some grudging respect.

This is Jose Fucking Mourinho.

As long as he manages a team in the league, the Premier League title is always going to be his to lose.

2012-13 League Finish: 3rd

Notable Cup Finishes: FA Cup semis. Europa League Winner

Goal Difference Rank: 2nd

Shot Dominance Rank: 6th

PDO Rank: Tied for 1st with Manchester United

Note: I explain what the metrics mean and why you might care in the metrics appendix at the bottom.

On the whole, Chelsea’s season last year was merely okay. It was probably an improvement on the previous campaign (including a significantly higher league finish), but… they only won the Europa League and not the Champions’ League.  So in the eyes of the world, it was much less impressive.

Here’s what we know. They were much better under Rafa Benitez than they were under Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea’s league performance under RDM was a hot mess from the moment he took over, so improving it wasn’t really that hard. However, by analytical measures, they were probably better under AVB two years ago than they were under Rafa and Rafa had considerably better talent to work with. Given Rafa’s historic excellence, I feel like a lot of the discrepancy is due to the fact that he was a mid-season replacement. This team played a ton of matches last year, and finding training time to implement tactical concepts that need a lot of preseason love and attention was always going to be a stretch.

We know Petr Cech was good at stopping goals from being scored. Though it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s still only 31 (middle age for a GK), and this enabled Chelsea to loan out Thibault Courtois for another season. But we also know that Chelsea were fairly bad at preventing shots on target, giving up the fourth worst percentage in all the league. This might be one explanation for why they were particularly bad at holding leads last season. It’s also a clue that their defensive personnel in the center of the pitch might not be good enough.

We also know that Chelsea had the best group of attacking midfielders in the Premier League (only eclipsed by Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and probably Dortmund in Europe), but their forwards were consistently disappointing when it came to scoring goals. Demba Ba, a beast at Newcastle, immediately transformed into a mouse post-transfer. Fernando Torres, while useful and probably better now than overall public perception, will simply never be the electrifying player that he was in his youth. He will also never justify the lofty transfer fee Abramovitch paid for him as a vanity purchase. (For more on those guys, check out Colin's piece from last week. (link)

That said, having Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, and Oscar playing behind you will make up for a lot of deficiencies, as will having Frank Lampard chasing the all-time Chelsea goalscoring record. Mata is one of the most elegant players in the Premier League, and his consistent, exceptional contributions last season made him the Chelsea MVP. The team was fun to watch, and third plus a Europa League title was a fair return on how they played last year.

Shot Locations

As you may have noticed if you've been reading the site, shot locations are a fairly big deal. Shooting more frequently from ideal spots leads to more goals scored, while preventing the opposition from shooting in prime locations is obviously better. Thanks to the tireless work of Colin Trainor, I can show you Chelsea's shot location data for both offense and defense.


Chelsea Percentages


Offensively, Chelsea were good, with 68% of their shots coming from Prime or Secondary positions. However, "good" trailed Manchester United by a full 10%. Good is likely not good enough to win the league. (Though to be fair, that United number is ab. surd.)

On the defensive side of the ball, Chelsea gave up 74% of shots to the opposition in Prime and Secondary spots. Compare that to Liverpool's 61% concession rate of shots in those locations and you start to see the defensive issues I was mentioning earlier.

On basic numbers, Chelsea's shot locations looked like this.


Chelsea Numbers

[Note: You'll get full ManU and Liverpool charts when we publish their previews in the coming days.]

Major Incoming Transfers

Chelsea have an absolutely massive squad. They have been collecting youth talent from around the world for a while now and farm it out to various European clubs on loan to help develop them. When they have matured like ripe cheese, they either bring the players into the first team or, if their talent isn’t good enough for a team that is expected to win the CL every year, they sell them. Thus it comes as no real surprise that two of Chelsea’s most important incoming players were already part of the club, but played elsewhere last year.

I mentioned above that Chelsea had real issues at forward last season. This was despite adding the prolific Demba Ba during the winter transfer window. The “Chelsea players” with the best returns from the forward slot last season were Daniel Sturridge (sold to Liverpool), and Romelu Lukaku, who was on loan to West Brom all year. This year Lukaku is directly in line for a starting berth with the big club, and given his age curve, is probably an improvement over either Ba or Torres.

Another loanee who was nothing short of tremendous last season was Kevin de Bruyne. The young Belgian posted 10G/9A in 33 appearances for Werder Bremen, averaging 2.6 key passes a game and 3 completed dribbles at age 21.  Oh my. His YouTube highlight clips are electrifying.

Chelsea have also added a couple of new purchases to the squad. They picked up Andre Schurrle from Beyer Leverkusen. The 22-year-old German is a powerful, dribbling shot monster. 11G/7A in 34 starts, crossed with 3.2 successful dribbles a game at that age projects very well. His key pass numbers aren’t as impressive as De Bruyne’s, but part of that may be because he shoots more(3.6pg)  and doesn’t take free kicks. Regardless, he fits in very well with Mourinho’s typical plan of employing fast, wide dribblers who can score as part of his lightning counter-attack system. I don’t think they will want him to shoot as much as he did in Germany, but he’s a good addition to an already loaded attack.

Chelsea also signed Marco van Ginkel from Vitesse, a player that my brain only refers to as the Scooby-Doo exclamation “Ginkies!” Only 20, the stats suggest he’s a box-to-box player who is pretty good at getting on the scoreboard. He’s also 6’1”, providing another tall player in the box for set pieces, and yet another versatile building block to focus the team around in years to come.

Remaining Needs




Defensive midfielder is probably the biggest need for Chelsea, as they simply don’t have anyone in the squad that matches the level of production from that spot Mourinho usually gets.  Mikel isn’t bad, but compare him to Makele, Essien (pre-injury), or Xabi Alonso and the gulf in quality becomes apparent. Though he was good on loan, I don’t think Nathan Chalobah (only 18) is ready to fill that hole, so I still expect Chelsea to make a move there.

Left and right back are sorted at the starting positions (Cole is ageless, and Azpilicueta was excellent), but while Bertrand is solid for LB backup, Ivanovich is sloooooow cover at RB. Then you come to the center back dilemma. John Terry is old. Luiz, though talented, doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence in anyone. Gary Cahill, though he moved some time ago, is still hard to peg in terms of is he good enough to start for Chelsea? Finally you have the aforementioned Ivanovich, who actually is consistent and fairly good, but gets exposed for pace against faster attacks.

Is this a good enough group for Mourinho to be comfortable with? I have no idea. I wouldn’t be happy with it, but outside of some early rumblings on Pepe, I haven’t heard any rumors.


Chelsea have the most attacking talent in the Premier League by some distance. It remains to be seen whether Lukaku or Ba will be the primary forward (or Rooney, assuming that rumor whirlwind is something more than Mourinho playing mind games), but they are likely to be considerably better than what Chelsea had in that position last year. Combine that with the exciting new attacking talent, and Chelsea’s second string attacking midfield would start for maybe 18 of the 20 PL clubs.

However, the issues with defensive fragility that plagued Chelsea last year – despite having a manager known for building defensive rocks in the past - have certainly not been addressed at the personnel level.  That said, there is no manager in the world more capable of fixing this than Mou. He may not have invented defensively-solid, counterattacking football, but he certainly perfected it. I still expect at least one signing of either a centre back or defensive midfielder before the window closes for no other reason than this: You can’t rely on solely on Jon Obi Mikel and the ghost of Michael Essien to win the league and the CL.

The other thing you notice from watching Real Madrid the past few years, is that Mou’s teams are no longer boring. Sure, they don’t employ the clever passing systems that Barcelona or Bayern Munich do, but they will hammer an opponent with shots at a rate the vast majority simply can’t withstand. This should be exciting to Chelsea fans familiar with version 1.0 of Mourinho, for whom a 2-0 win was positively barnstorming.

No one really knows who will win the Premier League this year. It’s the first time I have ever seen a three-way pick’em in league outright odds, and the last two title winners both changed managers in May. However, Mourinho is the guy who has won five league titles in eight years in England, Italy, and Spain.

Installing Chelsea and Jose Mourinho as anything other than favorites for the title is disrespectful of the Special One, and almost certainly a mistake.


Metrics Appendix

Shot Dominance is a measure of how many shots a team concedes versus how many they take themselves.  This measure is useful in predicting where teams will end up in the table at the end of the season. It’s not perfect, but it is useful. It falls down a bit when faced with unique offensive systems like at Barcelona and Manchester United under Alex Ferguson, where they take fewer shots overall than you expect from great teams, but the chances they create are significantly more likely to score.

PDO is a measure of how well a team converts shots on the offensive end and saves shots on the defensive end. Good teams tend to post high levels of PDO and bad teams low levels over time, but there is a huge regression to the mean with this measure as well. Thus analysts tend to look at extremes of PDO as “luck factors.”

Diego Costa Dissected

So Diego Costa was all the rage on my Twitter time line last night following Liverpool’s reported £21m bid for the Brazilian Atletico Madrd striker. Bar one or two notable exceptions, the news has been welcomed with great fervour, especially by Liverpool fans. In such a situation it would be rude not to run the Statsbomb eye over what I presume to be Liverpool’s intended replacement for Suarez. Statistics First off, let’s start with a look at his stats for last season.  To aid comparison I have added his numbers to the recent data that I pulled together for my Chelsea strikers piece. (The table is interactive and it can be sorted by the user, it is a wide table but the columns can be scrolled across.) [table id=14 /] OK, so I know that he wasn’t Top Dog at Madrid, that honour went to Falcao, but those per 90 numbers aren’t great.  After slating Torres in yesterday’s article for his subded numbers I’m surprised to see that Costa’s shots and shots on target per 90 are on a par or worse than Torres’ figures. However, what Costa did much better than Torres is convert the chances he is presented with.  This is why his goals per 90 of 0.44 beats Torres’ 0.28 out of the park. On the downside, his turnover numbers are really bad.  I have created a metric "Turnover per SoT" and this could be subtitled the "Frustration Measure" as it quantifies the numbers of lost possession in terms of the shots on target a player had.  The thinking here is that you could tolerate a lot of lost possessions if, on balance, the player manages to strike a lot of efforts on goal as the trade off is worth while. You can see that Costa is even more frustrating that Torres, as his 59 turnovers dwarf the 23 shots he put on target.  Costa's Frustration Measure is more than double that of Ba and Lukaku. I had a look at Suarez's Frustration Measure, and remarkebly his is just 1.14 (79 tournovers and 69 SoT).  That demonstrates just how high Costa's number of 2.56 is. ExpG Measures If you haven't seen the ExpG and ExpG Eff metrics yet please take a quick look at my previous post (here) where I give an explanation of these new metrics. Costa’s ExpG Eff of 1.09 marks him out as a pretty neat finisher.  This means that he has scored 9% more goals with the chances he had than an average player would have done.  For information Suarez posted a number of 1.08 last season. His Average ExpG value per shot was 0.18.  You can see that this was higher than the figures posted by the 3 Chelsea players meaning that the shots he takes are of better quality.  Again for info, Suarez’s Average ExpG per shot was just 0.11.  This clearly demonstrates the poor shooting choices that Suarez made last season (and undoubtedly even before then as well). So what do we make of his stats? I’m surprised at how quiet he was in terms of the positive stats.  What he did, he did well, but given the Twitter praise that was being heaped upon him I expected to see higher figures being posted. His strength seems to be in hitting the target, albeit on average the shots that he took on were fairly routine.  Of course, this canny choice of shot selection is a skill in itself but his ExpG Eff of “just” 1.09 means that he didn’t shoot the lights out.  I would therefore conclude that his accuracy was at least partly attributable to his shooting positions. He looks like he will be a frustrating player to support and play with due to his enormous amount of lost possessions.  Having 2.5 times more turnovers that shots on target is a pretty poor figure. Shooting Positions Let’s look at his shooting positions: CostaShots The key at the foot of the chart should help explain things, but in summary green = goal, blue = save and red = miss or block.  The solid colours are shots and the checked dots are headers (he took no direct free kicks). He appears to favour the left side of the pitch with a lot more of his shooting action coming from that left side. 7 of his 10 goals came from inside the 6 yard box, with the other 3 goals also coming centrally from well within the confines of the penalty area. 5 of his 10 goals were headed attempts.  In fact, heading appears to be one of his strengths as his 5 goals came from just 14 headers. This superb conversion rate of 36% was the highest across the Big 5 leagues last season for players with at least 14 headers. To provide some context; Postiga converted 19% of his headers last season, Kießling 16% and Negredo achieved 13%.  OK, so Costa's headers are from prime heading positions but he obviously has a decent technique to achieve those accuracy and conversion rates. As was expected from the shooting stats we observed at the top of this piece, his shot locations were smart with only 3 shots of the 50 he took coming from outside the penalty area.  In terms of his choice of shooting locations, Diego Costa certainly has an entirely different modus operandi to Luis Suarez. If you were being a little critical you could argue that he didn’t score with any shots that weren’t straight in front of the goals and within fairly close range so perhaps he may lack that little spark that great strikers possess. Shot Placements CostaPlacements I like his shot placements. The majority of his on target shots were kept low and he wasn’t afraid to try to find the bottom right hand corner.  The total absence of shots that would hit a stationary goalkeeper’s torso or head is a nice aspect of his shooting. Summary If lost possessions could be ignored, Diego Costa is efficient but quiet.   However, they can't be and he seems to be extremley wasteful in terms of lost possessions. Purely from a shooting point of view, whatever he does he does well.  He also has the benefit of  providing a significant heading threat to any defence he comes up against. However, I can’t help but think that he is missing a little something that would make him special.  His lack of involvement in an attacking sense is somewhat disappointing and, personally, I would have liked to see some more fireworks from his shooting, and certainly less lost possessions. But perhaps, as we are talking about Liverpool an efficient, quiet striker is what is required for the new season, albeit they would probably prefer one that is less frustrating than their current striker. EDIT - I have created a short piece where I justify why I'm not looking at Costa as a winger http://statsbomb.com/2013/08/costa-average-positions/

Costa Average Positions

As people are still insisting that Costa played as a winger last season (in reply to my article of this morning - http://statsbomb.com/2013/08/diego-costa-dissected/) I took 5 minutes and copied a few screen shots of his average position in 4 games that I quickly selected.

Now, I'm not claiming that he played as central as shown in all of his games, but it's wrong of people to claim that he played as a winger.

Costa is number 19 in these images.

Apart from being central he is also the most forward Atletico player in each of these 4 matches.  If a player that far forward is not there to shoot at goal, he's probably taking the position of someone who would.


Pos1 Pos1a

I have also gone and hunted out what I believe to be the widest position Costa played last season.  It was the home match against Sevilla.  The average positions are reproduced below:


Even in that match I feel it would be wrong to classify him as a winger.  He is still fairly central and once again, look at how far forward he is.

The shortcomings of Shane Watson

In the wake of Australia's 347 run defeat in the second Test at Lords the post mortems discussing and dissecting Australian cricket have been plenty, with defeat the nadir for a side that has seen its gradual decline move into one of free fall.

Seemingly no area of Australian cricket safe with Cricket Australia in particular being the target for much ire but in terms of individual players, with those to emerge so far with any credit whatsoever being few and far between, there is one player especially, Shane Watson, who has borne the brunt of criticism.

The peerless Gideon Haigh in The Times last weekend was particularly withering, opining that the very thought of Watson as a Test cricketer was one that had failed. Watson is clearly a divisive figure, a member of the 'homework four' in India earlier this year and someone who subsequently resigned the vice-captaincy amidst reports of a breakdown in his relationship with his captain Michael Clarke.

Watson appears a strong personality; prone to a change of mind as evidenced his initial reluctance, and now desire to bowl, whilst he agitated (successfully so) to be restored to the top of the order. Character analysis (assassinations?) aside it is the question of his talent, or lack of fulfilment of it, that the questions (as Haigh so perceptively did) should be asked of.

It is now eight years since Watson made his Test debut back in 2005. During that time he has featured in 43 Tests. His record is one that does not suggest anything other than an ordinary return on the talent that he – and many others – believe he possesses. In 79 innings Watson has made just 2,689 runs at an average of 34.92. He has passed 50 17 times yet tellingly has only passed 100 on two occasions (the last of which was made 43 innings ago).

The chart below breaks down his innings by innings total in Test matches:


Of great concern to Watson and Australia is not only the fact that his ability to convert 50's to 100's is poor but he appears to have lost the ability to push on past 50 to even close to a century with just three scores of 60 or more since his last Test century.

His technical flaws which have resulted in a stream of recent LBW decisions (and eight in the past ten Ashes innings) are well known and it is clear that he has a fundamental flaw in being able to construct an innings of any note on a consistent basis. His innings in Australia's second innings at Lords was a microcosm of this: a string of fluent, well timed boundaries promised much but gave way to another score of 30 odd that laid little or no foundation for those to come.

So, how does this stalled progression appear when we take a look at both his cumulative run total and average?


We can see that there was a definite increase in his total following his eighth match (thirteen innings) through to the two-thirds mark of his Test career (29 matches, 43 innings) which saw him having notched 2011 runs.

His final 14 matches and 27 innings have only yielded 678 runs at an average of 25.11, a decline that has seen his Test average diminish over this same period:


Watson's average peaked in his 26th Test match at 42.11, the result of a steady increase over the previous half dozen or so Tests after a very up and down start to his career over the first 15 or so Tests. Since then his average has taken the appearance of a depressed period in the stock market, with barely a glimmer of hope that it will nudge past 40 again having fallen below 35 after Lords.

Watson has moved around the order but it is as an opening batsman that he believes is his best position is. Since 2009 when Watson first opened the innings he has had 50 innings in 27 matches. How does he compare to other openers then? Firstly, in total runs:


Watson not featured as much as the likes of those who occupy the top four spots but there is a far bigger weighting of runs at the top end, particularly from Alastair Cook (whose runs come from 101 innings).

If we now take a look at the top ten averages:


We can see that Chris Gayle and Cook average in excess of 50, whilst the top five (down to Graeme Smith) are all above 45, considered 'par' for a top batsman in the modern game. Watson, despite as an opening batsman having a higher average than his overall one, remains below this figure.

A key component of Watson's lower average in comparison to those at the top of both tables is his inability to convert scores into centuries. We know that Watson has just two Test centuries, but he has passed 50 on 17 occasions, meaning that despite passing 50 around 32% of the time he converts 50's into 100's at a rate of a shade over 11%, well below of the other opening batsmen during this time:


This recent blog from The Cricket Geek identified what is a key component of this, stating that we know Watson gets out LBW a lot but when he gets out LBW is interesting:

I compared Watson with all top 7 batsmen in the last 3 years on their likelihood to get out lbw. Most of us have heard that Watson gets out lbw more than anyone in history except Junior Murray (min 30 matches), but when he gets out is particularly interesting.

I looked at the relative frequency of dismissal by lbw in innings under 30 and in innings 30+. I compared it to other batsmen in the last 3 years. (I picked the last 3 years to include the DRS factor) Here are the numbers:



Other Batsmen




30 +



Watson is 63% more likely to get out lbw at the start of his innings than other batsmen, but he is 110% more likely than them to get out later on. It is a technical issue, not a form issue. Going away and playing some lower quality bowlers will not fix it. He needs to work on where to put his feet and how to play the different deliveries that are getting him out. 

As an opening batsman you expect dismissals early in an innings against a new ball and a quality attack before you are really set in an innings. But for Watson this is not the overriding issue, the fault is that when other batsmen overcome the usual fallibility at the start of an innings Watson's problems remain.

This is clearly holding Watson back in terms of being able to compile the sort of big innings that the likes of Cook or Smith are capable of producing once set. If Watson cannot resolve this problem then the numbers indicate that he will remain at best an average, but by no means very good or even great opener, and likely will never be.

Is that enough for this Australian side?

Chelsea's Striker Options

Given the huge amount of attacking talent currently residing at Stamford Bridge I wonder how Jose Mourinho is going to decide on which four attacking players he will field.


I assume that he will use a back four and will play two holding / central midfielders which will then allow him four out and out attacking players.

The widely held belief is that he will play three attacking midfielders, link men or “just off the shoulder” forwards.  Those 3 positions will probably be filled by some combination of Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Moses and the new signings of Schurrle and De Bruyne.  And the attacking talent has been assembled even before we consider the possibility of Wayne Rooney signing for Chelsea.

Such a formation would then leave room for just one traditional striker, and at the moment it would seem that this position will be contested by Lukaku, Torres or Ba.  It would appear that this position is Romelu Lukaku’s to lose but I wanted to take a look at the three strikers’ stats as well as visuals of their shot locations and placements from last season to see if this is indeed the correct decision.

Striker Options

Romelu Lukaku seems to be holding pole position in this battle right now, but at just 20 years old is he ready for such weight and responsibility to be placed on his shoulders?  Yes, he had a terrific season last year but despite the fairly large transfer fee Chelsea paid for him (£19m) perhaps he was something of a surprise package to the defences he came up against last season, might they be better prepared this season?

Demba Ba didn’t have a great first 6 months at Chelsea, in fact it went pretty awful for him with just 2 goals since his move in January from 46 shots.  That’s the sort of conversation rate that makes the current Fernando Torres look, well, like the Fernando Torres of old.

Torres doesn’t need me to write much more about him, suffice to say it appears that El Nino’s best days are well behind him at this stage.  Although the fact that he played in approximately 75% of all Chelsea’s available minutes last year suggests that Roman Abramovich may not feel the same way. At this stage it does look like his time at Chelsea is running out as there has been a lot of chatter concerning a return to Spain.

To help put some context on how the 3 Chelsea strikers performed last year, I thought I would take a look at their performance from a statistical point of view.

Player Statistics


The above stats are for the entire 2012/13 Premier League season, so Demba Ba’s figures include both his time at Newcastle and Chelsea.

All the figures, with the exception of ExpG and ExpG Eff, should be both obvious and well known to readers of this post so no explanation will be necessary.

Lukaku’s Per90Shots on Target value of 2.11 is pretty special and at more than 4.3 ShotsPer90 he certainly kept defences busy.  Demba Ba was even more impressive with the amount of shots he took but unfortunately for him he lacked a little accuracy which then reduced his SoT value. Torres’ numbers are really subdued.  Despite playing more minutes than Lukaku and Ba he had substantially less activity in all outputs (shots, shots on target and goals) and he rounds it off with just 1 shot on target per90, which is a very poor return for a top level striker.


The new metric introduced in the summary box, ExpG , is the number of Expected Goals that we** expected a league average player to score based on the type of chances that the players attempted.  The inputs to this measure won’t be disclosed, but we find that it is fairly accurate and allows us to compare the quality of chances created and then the efficiency with which they were finished.

The ExpG Eff metric is  = Actual Goals / ExpG where an ExpG Eff of 1 represents an average player, a value greater than 1 represents above average finishing and less than 1 below average

**We refers to Constantinos Chappas and I. Constantinos can be followed on Twitter @cchappas

From a Chelsea viewpoint it is perhaps worrying that Lukaku is the only one of the trio whose actual goals tally exceeded their ExpG value.  So whilst the finishing skills of Torres and Ba were very poor, with an ExpG Eff of 0.73 and 0.88 respectively, even Lukaku’s 1.05 (as the best of the trio) was not exceptional by Premier League standards.

As a means of comparison; Van Persie finished the season with an ExpG Eff of 1.15, Walcott 1.40, Berbatov 1.19 and even Suarez earned 1.08.

In fact, of the top 12 Premier League scorers last season only Dzeko (at 0.84) had a worse ExpG Eff ratio than Ba and Lukaku. Interestingly, Wayne Rooney who has been strongly linked with Chelsea this summer doesn’t look like he’ll be the answer to their lack of a clinical finisher either as he posted 1.06 last season.

Shot Visualisations

In order to provide the bare statistics with some context I had a look at the shooting locations that the players were faced with and the placements of their non-blocked shots.



The shot location images I use in this piece have been taken from the subscriptions section of Fantasy Football Scout website.

I certainly wouldn’t encourage players to take speculative, often wasteful long range shots, but the almost total absence of long range shots for Torres appears indicative of a player that is very low on confidence.  He also struggled to hit the target (green dots) from many shots that were outside the width of the 6 yard box.



The above image shows the shot placement from the striker’s Point of View with the red balls signifying goals.

Looking at the shot placements it would appear that Torres strongly favours shooting toward the right side of the target.  Aside from that there was an unhealthy attraction towards the centre of the goal.  His lack of accuracy and the amount of easy saves that opposition keepers were allowed to make would have contributed to his awful ExpG ration of 0.73.

Demba Ba



We can see a lot more activity on Ba’s image than the Torres one, with a particular penchant displayed  for attempting long range efforts


On the whole, Ba seemed to have two types of shots.

Most of his on target shots tended to be very low ground shots, which at least is preferred to shots that arrive at the goalkeeper a few feet off the ground.  However, he seemed to lack appropriate accuracy control when he attempted to put some elevation into his shots.



Lukaku’s shooting appears to be the happy medium between Torres’ lack of activity and Ba’s overzealous shooting.

He has a decent smattering of long range shooting, but the highlight of that image for me is that he displayed great skill in ensuring that shots from the right side of the pitch generally hit the target.  Undoubtedly this is due to the fact that he favours his left foot and thus the right sided shots give him the best angle, but the amount of green dots on that image is admirable.



If I was being critical of Lukaku’s shooting its that he fired too many shots toward the centre of the goal at heights that were favourable to the goalkeepers.

A rough count gives me 19 shots in the central region that didn’t stay along the ground, and only 2 of them were scored.  That shooting pattern will certainly reduce a player's conversion percentage rate.

Perhaps that might explain why although good, the Belgian youngster’s actual goal tally compared to his ExpG was not exceptional by Premier League standards last season.


Based on the statistics from last season and the three strikers I have considered I don’t see any reason why Lukaku shouldn’t be the starting centre forward for Chelsea this season. Torres can be discounted entirely.  His finishing of the chances he had was very much below par, but this is compounded by the fact that he didn’t get himself in the position to be taking shots anywhere near often enough.

Ba just didn’t do enough last season to suggest that he is ahead of Lukaku.  Yes, he had more shots but his average ExpG per shot was 25% less than Lukaku.  The lower average shot ExpG is caused by attempting more difficult shots which suggests that Ba was less prudent in his shot selection. This also comes across clearly in their shot location maps.

As a result of Ba’s more speculative shooting, Lukaka posts better Shots on Target and Goals per 90 than Ba.  But the clincher for me is that Ba didn’t even convert his chances at the average player rate of 1.00 wheras Lukaku slightly exceeded that threshold (1.05 vs 0.88).

It will be interesting to see how Lukaku progresses this season.  There is no doubting that he is a handful and he should improve considerably with maturity, but he will need to. In my opinion, a club with the expectations of Chelsea should have a main striker who is capable of putting away their chances at a rate that vastly exceeds that of a league average player.  Perhaps Lukaku will develop into that player, but if not, it’s important for Chelsea that they have someone playing at the top of the pitch who can.