Player Positional Tracker: Tottenham v Liverpool (31/08/14)

Tottenham 0 vs 3 Liverpool Mario Baoltelli made his Liverpool debut as his side ran out very comfortable winners away to Tottenham today. 1st Half

  • Balotelli and Sturridge rotated the centre forward position.  The debutant had that position early on, but as the first half wore on the Italian dropped deeper with Sturridge replacing him
  • Liverpool favoured their left wing when attacking, with Allen, Sterling and Moreno more advanced than Henderson and Manquillo on the other side
  • For Tottenham, Eriksen was involved in whatever attacks the home team could mount

TOTvLIVH1 2nd Half

  • With them having to chase the game in the second half, Tottenham played with four very attacking players, Chadli, Adebayor, Lamela and Eriksen (who was replaced by Townsend)
  • In the first 15 minutes of the second half, Liverpool had very little attacking possession

TOTvLIVH2

Player Positional Tracker: Burnley v Man United (30/08/14)

Burnley 0 vs 0 Man United Man United's poor start to the season continued as they could only achieve a disappointing goalless draw at Burnley. Here is the Player Positional Tracker for the match. The PPT is based on Opta's "On the ball" detailed events.   I've split the game "film" into the two halves;  I think this leaves analysis easier and so I'll probably use this format from now onwards.  As always, click on the image and it will open in a larger window.   1st Half

  • It was noticeable how little possession Rooney had in the first half
  • Possession and territory tipped in Burnley’s favour in the last 10 – 15 minutes of the first half
  • Di Maria remained in his left sided midfield position for virtually all of the first half
  • As I also pointed out in Burnley’s defeat to Chelsea, Burnley like to attack down their right side with Trippier, Arfield and Marney prominent in this respect

BURvMUFCH1 2nd Half

  • Di Maria moved into a more advanced role on the left wing, and became much more involved in the play from this position in the early minutes of the second half
  • Valencia became hugely significant in the last 20 minutes of the game, whereas Man United would have preferred someone more creative that Valencia to be heavily involved as the final whistle drew near
  • Van Persie had very little involvement in the second half.  With the game at 0-0, United would have liked to seen the Dutch forward feature more heavily
  • As expected, given the scoreline, Burnley retreated deeper during the last 20 minutes
  • For the whole of the second half, Burnley's right full back, Mee, remained much deeper than his opposite full back, Trippier.  I'd suggest that was, at least, partly due to the amount of attacking possession that Valencia had down United's right.

BURvMUFCH2  

Everton v Chelsea (30/08/14) - Viz that shows how game shape changed

Everton 3 vs 6 Chelsea There were goals aplenty at Goodison on Saturday evening, but how did the shape of the teams change as the game ebbed and flowed?  Here's how the game looked through our Player Positional Tracker. (Click on the image to make it larger) They say that Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder, but this is what I picked up from watching the viz: 1st Half

  • Game state undoubtedly played a big part in this (as Everton went behind in the first minute), but between the 5th and 20th minutes, the game was all about Everton pressure and Chelsea were happy to soak it up by sitting in their own half. Typical Mourinho. Unfortunately for Everton the scoreboard read 2-0 at this stage.
  • During this phase of Everton pressure Lukaku wasn’t able to get involved to any great extent
  • When Chelsea started to regain some territory advantage it was driven by Willian and Fabregas – both appeared towards the right side at this time (around the 30 minute mark)
  • In the run up to half time, Willian and Cesc dropped a little deeper and the attacking positions were taken up by Hazard, Costa and Ramires. During this first half Chelsea showed a great amount of attacking fluidity.
  • At the end of the half, Coleman was playing very advanced down the right side and Azpilicueta stayed back to mind the house

EFCvCFCH1 2nd Half

  • Everton were almost playing with three up top at the start of the second half, with Mirallas, Lukaku and Naismith all advanced, and central. Eto’o then came on to join this party later.
  • Ramires played deep during the opening 15 minutes of the second half. During this period he provided more defensive cover than did Matic.
  • Hazard was Chelsea’s attacking outlet in the second half
  • The final stages of the game seen Chelsea pretty much give up possession as they retreated into defence

EFCvCFCH2

Player Positional Tracker: FC Augsburg v Dortmund (29/08/14)

FC Augsburg 2 vs 3 Borussia Dortmund BVB got back to winning ways after their GW 1 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen. In this PPT I have divided the game into the two halves; this should leave for easier analysis as each half will run on loop.  As usual, click on the gifs to open them in a larger window. 1st Half

  • During the opening quarter, BVB largely attacked down the right side through Piszczek and Mikhitaryan.  In fact for large parts of the game, Dortmund used the right side to attack.
  • During the opening quarter Augsburg had very little possession in their attacking half.  Their possession was centred around their two centre backs who had a lot of the ball
  • As a result of the fact that the ball spent so much time in Augsburg's half, the Dortmund defence kept a very high line
  • Kehl as a DM for Dortmund played very deep, almost like another centre back.  This allowed Dortmund to play a lop side shape with Durm remaining defensive on the left side and Piszczek attacking down the right.

AUGvBVBH1 2nd Half

  • Augsburg got into the game a little more in the second half; with Baier involved in the opening 15 minutes of the second half
  • BVB's centre back, Subotic and Sokratis, were much deeper in the second half than Kehl (and Bender after his introduction) - this wasn't the case in the first half

AUGvBVBH2

Ángel Di María: Man United didn't buy a winger

Despite the claims of Louis Van Gaal, Angel Di Maria is not a winger.  At least not since he moved to Real Madrid in 2010. The image below shows a heatmap of the locations a genuine winger passes the ball from - this is the passing heatmap of Jesus Navas for Man City in the Premier League last season. NavasPassesMadeFrom2013 Note how the hotspots in the heatmap typically run parallel with the sideline, and the majority of the orange coloured area is beyond the edge of the 18 yard box. Di Maria's Passes This is a gif showing the locations of all passes made by Angel Di Maria over the last 4 seasons: Di Maria Passes Made (In these heatmaps the player is attacking the goal on the right) During his first 3 seasons in Madrid, from 2010/11 to 2012/13, Di Maria was primarily a right sided player.  His heatmap for last season was totally different to the previous three, however none of Di Maria's passing heatmaps look remotely like Navas' from last season.  As a wide player his hot spots are naturally close to the sidelines, but Di Maria is much more comfortable with coming in centrally before playing his passes.  He also doesn't have that many of his passes played from close proximity to the end line, certainly not compared to what we seen above with Navas.   Di Maria last season I mentioned that Di Maria's role totally changed last season for Real Madrid.  Following his excellent performances on Real Madrid's left side, most notably in last season's Champions League final, it is easy to forget that the Argentinian was actually based on the right side of the pitch for Real before the arrival of Gareth Bale last season. Having splashed out €100m on Bale, and with Ronaldo to also be fitted into the team, there was no way that Di Maria would be able to retain his place on the right side of the attack for Real.  There were suggestions twelve months ago that he would be sold, but the sale of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal put pay to that notion.  The end result is that Di Maria played quite a few games in the centre of midfield during the 2013/14 La Liga season, and his passing heatmap bears no resemblance to his earlier years at Madrid.   Di Maria in defensive mode The gif below shows the locations of Di Maria's defensive touches (tackle, interception or foul) over the past four seasons.  As expected, given his changed role last season, he had much more defensive responsibilities than before. Di Maria Defending Heatmap These defensive heatmaps show up what is arguably Di Maria's greatest strength; dropping deep to gain possession and then acting as the link man.  He can be the out ball for his centre halves or central midfielders and is then very comfortable with carrying the ball forward before playing a pass forward to the heavy artillery up front.   Where will Di Maria fit in at Old Trafford Di Maria is a hugely talented player, and has shown a willingness to adapt to whatever position is asked of him.  I'm quite sure he'll do a great job in whatever position Louis Van Gaal plays him.  However, he shouldn't be confused with what we would commonly consider to be a genuine old fashioned winger.  He is not.  Although he can whip in crosses, and racked up 17 assists in La Liga last season, he doesn't attack the byline with the gusto of a true wide player. Di Maria is good enough to improve this current Man United team, almost regardless of what position he takes up on the pitch.  In the event that van Gaal sticks with his preferred system of three at the back, Di Maria may be ideal as the wing back.  However, perhaps he shouldn't play the left wing back role, which is where I have seen a few people suggest he could play, as this is a position United have strengthened this summer with the purchases of Shaw and Rojo.  I believe there is arguably a greater need for the Argentine on the other side. Right now, it looks like Antonio Valencia or Rafael is the preferred option for this right wing back position.  Di Maria would be a massive upgrade on either of these if he returned to the right hand side that he patrolled so well for Real Madrid. A formation which played Di Maria at right wing back and one of Shaw or Rojo on the opposite side would allow van Persie, Rooney and Mata to remain as the front three.  This would also enable United to have the ability to play two strong central midfield enforcers - if only they could find them.  

10 Potential Olivier Giroud Replacements - It Ain't Pretty

Olivier Giroud is likely out for three months with a hairline fracture. Yaya Sanogo has often been injured in his short spell at the club, but might just be healthy enough to participate in the midweek Champions League Qualifier. The entire world is on the fence about whether or not Alexis Sanchez can succeed playing through the middle in the Premier League. This leaves Arsene Wenger in a huge bind. He has zero healthy, recognized center forwards in his squad right now, Olivier Giroud is probably out for a minimum of three months, and the transfer window closes in under a week. This is a better situation than if the transfer window had already closed, but there is some desperate shopping to be done. Luckily for all of you, "desperate" is my middle name... Requirements Arsenal need a center forward. As in a guy who plays at the top of the formation, and mostly in the middle of the pitch. Someone with enough strength to survive Premier League center backs, but they don’t have to be a hold-up player. Henry was not one of those guys, nor really was van Persie. For some reason, Wenger has gravitated toward guys like that in recent seasons, but Arsenal’s best years came when they played with a more fluid front line. One thing is for sure though – we really aren’t looking for a wide forward. Both Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez fit that description already. It would be nice if the new recruit could play out wide when needed, but with Giroud definitely out for a while (which in Arsenal terms means 2 weeks to... *checks on how long Abou Diaby has been injured* infinity), Arsenal need a true CF and they need him now. The Problem Um... it’s a bit bloody late, innit? Here’s a list of the top NPG90 guys from the big 5 leagues and Eredivisie last season. Names highlighted in red are names that have already moved. Names in yellow are names that are not remotely possible. The blue highlights are guys who can’t play center forward. Arsenal_Scorer_Hunt So yeah, not very exciting, is it? And it doesn’t get that much better as you continue down the line. It’s damned tricky to find a starting forward, period, and it’s especially tricky to do it at this point in the season. Yet needs must... Potential Targets Edinson Cavani has been the big name that has been rumored for most of the summer, but there are two huge problems with Big Ed. First, Ibrahimovic is injured and PSG aren’t selling without having strong cover in that position. Second, Cavani is now 27 and would cost £50M. He’s really good, but it’s hard to see this as a potential deal, especially this late in the window. From here, I’ll break the targets into a few categories. The first category is for guys that are obvious and who won’t make you wince too much. The second will be some younger names who I think could be really good, but are still young enough that they would also represent a risk. The final category is for the old guys that would be just a stop gap until better players come along in future windows. Prime Time Loïc_Remy_2013-14 By far the most likely name on this list, the complications arise when you want to sign him to a deal, and actually hope he passes a medical. Already age 27, you certainly don’t want to sign him to anything more than a 3-year deal and even if you end up agreeing to personal terms, Liverpool were scared enough that they ran away and signed Mario Balotelli instead. Think about it... Verdict: A lot of unknowns here, but it probably makes the most sense of any name in the picture. Bony_2014_Giroud_Overlay Bony is a useful player, but there’s a huge question as to whether he’s any better than Giroud, or if we just think of him more fondly because he’s doing well for Swansea as opposed to being fairly average at Arsenal. Verdict: He’ll be too expensive to justify anyway. Anthony_Modeste_2013-14 Sven_Schipplock_2013-14 So Hoffenheim have not one, but two forwards who are in the right age range, have not moved clubs already this summer, actually score goals, and are probably capable of playing center forward. The first of these is Anthony Modeste, who would have been a good discount target last summer when he moved from Ligue 1 to Hoffenheim. After performing well in the Bundesliga, he’s a bit better known and would cost more, but his goalscoring rate is outstanding, and he would be more than just another warm body. That said, some of his scoring rate is likely fueled by Hoffenheim’s crazy tempo, but he plays well on the break, makes good runs, and has enough skill to do well in a good Premier League team. The second Hoffenheim forward on this list had the second best scoring contribution in Germany last year. And no one has ever heard of him... He’s SVEN SCHIPPLOCK! Used mostly as a super sub, Schipplock was excellent at scoring goals and setting them up. Can he play center forward in the Premier League? WHO KNOOOOWS?!? We don’t have time for these discussions, people, we need to buy someone right now! Verdict: Yeah, just no. Not that these wouldn’t make sense, but Wenger has likely never heard of them and therefore it won’t happen. Talented Kids Domenico_Berardi_2013-14 Juventus are loaded with forward talent now, and they can’t possibly use everyone they currently own, right? That’s why Berardi is going to be on loan to Sassuolo for another season, but doesn’t it make more sense to loan him to Arsenal for a year instead? Or, I dunno, sell him? Look, Juve, there's plenty of young talent to go around. No need to be greedy... (Okay FINE, I’m getting desperate. The truth is that Arsenal should have found a way to sign Morata from Real Madrid earlier in the summer, but Juve got there instead.) Not familiar with Berardi? He's good now, and he will probably continue to improve rapidly. Check this out – he will likely be a star and a big part of the Italian national side for a decade to come. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB2SUWVtOIg Verdict: No chance. Back in January, I also had Aboubakar on this list, but he moved to Porto earlier this week. Former Real Madrid academy product Joselu might have been here too, but he signed for Hannover. This is what happens when you try to buy forwards at the last damned minute. One of the guys in the Eredivisie who could be really special is Steven Berghuis at AZ Alkmaar. Unfortunately, despite doing just about everything well, he’s mostly a wide right forward, which isn’t what we are looking for. He’s almost totally under the radar though – so much so that he doesn’t have any YouTube scouting videos – just a couple of goal highlights from the last two seasons. Old Dudes Klaas-Jan_Huntelaar_2013-14 How long has this guy been rumored to make a move to the Premier League? 7 years? 8? He’s 31 right now. His scoring rate seems highly dependent on his conversion rate, which to me suggests he finishes the chances his teammates deliver, but little better. I’m against this one, if only because his real name is Dirk, but I had to go to wikipedia to find that out. What type of guy could be named DIRK THE HUNTER and chooses something else? Verdict: Schalke might even be willing to sell him. Maybe Wenger can make a double offer of Huntelaar and Draxler for £35M? Samuel_Eto-o_2013-14 He was quietly very useful for Chelsea last season, and could be useful again for Arsenal, assuming he hasn’t finished signing his Everton papers. On the other hand, I loathe signing players this old to multi-year deals, which is what he’s rumored to be getting from EFC. Verdict: An adequate stop gap, but Wenger will balk at the wages even without a two-year deal. Most Likely Scenario Wenger buys no one. Again. He prays that Sanogo stays healthy (who I actually rather like), justifies Podolski as a last resort (which to be perfectly honest, makes a lot more sense than using a 5’6”, 29-year-old Andrey Arshavin up front, and he's done that before too) and then waits yet another year in hopes that someone better comes available for a price that he wants to pay. Which might never actually happen, but whatever! Arsenal won the FA Cup last year, all is forgiven. Right? Post Script: Completely Utterly Left Field Option Napoli get knocked out of the Champions League and Arsenal swoop, glide, or stumble ass-over-feet into DeLaurentis's office to make up for their Higuain mistake last summer and give him Champions League football this year. It's not much more far-fetched than any of the other purchases listed above.

Player Positional Tracker: Sunderland v Man Utd (25/08/14)

Sunderland 1 vs 1 Man United A reminder that these gifs are intended to show general formational tendencies, as opposed to specific player movements at any particular point in time.  As the Opta data we use to create these vizs covers On The Ball events, we have no way of knowing where every player is located on the pitch at all times.  To keep all the players on the pitch we use a concept of smoothing. Constantinos Chappas and  I are working on developing a V 2.0 version that closer represents the actual positions of players at specific points in time.  We envisage that we will have two types of gif files; one showing tactical formation setups and the other showing exact player positions. In terms of this game:

  • It looks like United played a back three, but changed to a back four for the final 15 minutes
  • Until RVP went off, ooney consistently stayed in the inside left position. Both RVP and Mata were prone to coming short as they were attracted to the midfield

(click on the image to open in a larger window) SUNvMUFC

Into the Mixer - Arsenal's Issues, Spurs' Challenge, and PSV's Forgotten Man

Per Mertesacker, Romelu Lukaku I’ve been working for over a year to figure out what is wrong with Arsenal. Why doesn’t this team generate shots like it used to? And why aren’t they just better? They used to be better. As I’ve said in the past, part of it is talent – Arsenal bled a lot of incredible players over the last five years or so. But plenty of managers have had lesser talent and done more, including Wenger himself. It’s so rare that you see systemic outputs change this much without the approach changing as well. Yesterday while watching the match, it finally came to me. Remember what Arsenal were like 4 or 5 years ago? They were Barcelona-lite. They would have huge possession, set up camp outside the 18, and eventually, after teasing their fans to death, shoot high percentage shots. It was glorious to watch, but they had two weaknesses. The first was against teams that managed to figure out how to press them in the 40-20 yard area, which was fairly rare back then. Traditional English management says you bunker your defense in and around the box, and hope for the best. And the second weakness was against teams that could counter attack with good attacking talent. Think of how many times it looked like Arsenal dominated a match against Manchester United, except for the fact that they lost. Think of how many [expletive deleted] times Park and Rooney would race down the pitch and score a goal or two in the second half that finished a match. Now think about the “death of tiki-taka.” Super possession teams have had the exact same problems in Europe (and often in their own leagues) that Arsenal had during that era. Strong, physical teams with good talent that know how to disrupt outside the 18 yard box, and then counter attack like lightning have utterly dominated the last two years against high possession teams. The same thing happened to Spain at the World Cup. At some point Ferguson figured out that tactical matchup. So did Mourinho at Real, and no one during that era had better talent overall than Barcelona. Heynckes solved it as well, and lead Bayern to an incredible season. Basically, Arsenal have sustained splash damage from their gorgeous attacking approach when it comes to facing talented teams. This has left Wenger with a dilemma. He either has to stratify his tactical approach into two buckets – possession against the lesser teams (and they always mow down lesser teams), and “something else that hopefully works” against good teams, or he has to adapt the possession approach to handle this new challenge. The problem here is that not even Pep Guardiola has figured out how to fix the problem his system has with hyper-physical counterattacking teams. The other issue is that even if Wenger were willing, Arsenal can’t go for a full change and switch to a physical, counter-attacking approach themselves for a very clear reason. Santi+Cazorla+Wigan+Athletic+v+Arsenal+FA+UGv5KY6dfcmlThey are tiny. Smallest average height in a side? Arsenal. Lightest average weight in the side? Arsenal. Arsenal can’t play physical against teams with the same talent, because they just get shrugged off. So watching Everton pick apart Arsenal on the break in the exact same fashion they did last year made me realize it’s actually the same systemic flaw we’ve been seeing for most of the last decade. Arsene’s been trying to figure out how to fix it, and he can’t. If you rock a standard high possession plan, you leave yourself vulnerable to counters. If you try to control more for counters, you generate fewer shots, and lower shot differential, and lower possession, which in turn gives your opponents more of the ball and more shots. Sound familiar? The best Wenger has been able to do while keeping his system is turn games to mud against good teams, or hope the good teams want to dominate possession, and then allow his team to counter-attack or nick a set piece or two. Can the system be fixed? Obviously better minds than mine have been working on this and haven’t solved it. One thing I would definitely do though is look at bigger, faster, better personnel in midfield, especially in the DM role. Arsenal’s potential selections here are Flamini (tiny), Arteta (older and tiny) and uh, Wilshere? I know Wenger wants top passers in that role, but there have to be guys who are both physical and capable distributors. This is even more true when Mertesacker is in the side. Mert is a great game reader, but him plus the DM selection, plus Monreal and Debuchy mean there is almost no pace in the back line. Compare that to what Arsenal once had in Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, or even William Gallas before he totally lost his legs, and you can see the shift. Want to play a higher line while still trying to keep counters in check? Maybe you need to compensate with more pace and physicality in your defenders? All of this leads to other questions like, is Wenger too old to truly change and adapt to a system that can win the league these days? Or does Arsenal just have to spend enough money to recruit the top talent to compete with Chelsea and City, at which point Wenger’s classic system will be fine again? I personally do not know, but I have watched enough of these battles to feel that Arsenal are caught in a spot where they want to fix a flaw, don’t know how to do it comprehensively (either through personnel or tactical changes), and bleed points because of it. Bayer Leverkusen or Europe’s New Most Exciting Team calhanoglu I made Dortmund fans angry at me on Sunday morning when I proclaimed Leverkusen to (likely) be Europe’s most exciting team this season. The reason wasn’t because of the 0-2 win in Dortmund, though that was impressive. The actual reason is because this offseason, Leverkusen hired Roger Schmidt from Red Bull Salzburg to replace the departing Sami Hyyppia, and the change in philosophy is incredible. If you aren’t familiar with Red Bull’s work, they were insane pressers. Think of what a healthy Dortmund on methamphetamines with a chaser of speedball would look like and you have the idea. This marriage resulted in the fastest Bundesliga goal of all time, and just an entirely new way of playing football that will be delightful to watch, both for Leverkusen fans and neutrals. Obviously playing this way places extreme demands on players’ physical fitness, and Leverkusen probably aren’t quite there yet. It’s also extremely risky to play in this fashion all the time, and in the game in Dortmund, Bayer got away with a level of tactical fouling that will likely be clamped down on more as the season progresses. So yeah, the header on this section is a bit of hyperbole. Leverkusen certainly aren’t the best or most talented team in Europe right now, but they are one of the most unique. They also give the Bundesliga three different teams in the Champions League that will be hugely problematic the first time opponents see them in person. Even if it probably won’t be as successful for the rest of the season, Leverkusen games are now appointment television for the tactics geeks and football hipsters. Oh, and in case you missed it, here is the fastest goal in Bundesliga history. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XOgihjmQuM Is Midfield Control Out of Vogue? Liverpool finished second last season with Steven Gerrard as their deepest-lying midfielder. Arsenal have had serious issues keeping control in the center of the pitch for years, and it’s becoming more apparent as Mikel Arteta ages that he was an important player. Manchester United drug Paul Scholes out of retirement to help with this issue, and then had no semblance whatsoever of midfield control after he (and Alex Ferguson) left the club. Even Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea had huge issues in the center of the park right up until they bought Nemanja Matic, who appears to be the perfect sized peg to fill that hole. The only two teams who had really strong midfields for the entirety of last season were Everton (who admittedly have other issues in the talent department), and Manchester City, who were completely dominant aside from errors at the back letting them down. Obviously Chelsea have fixed their problems from last season, and have dominated against a soft early schedule, but those other clubs are still up in the air. Will shifting Lucas Leiva to Napoli and playing Emre Can and Joe Allen let Liverpool continue to score tons of goals while giving up far less? Can Arsenal find someone that fits Wenger’s extremely finicky profile of what he wants in a defensive midfielder who also isn’t an older, inferior club retread (see also: Flamini, and *gulp* Alex Song). And can Louis van Gaal fix a personnel issue that has actually been a problem at United for years, but was papered over with magic and chewing gum? Or, in a totally different perspective, am I making too big an issue out of something that doesn’t really matter that much in football any more? Seeing how the two best clubs in England are structured as well as looking at Real, and the problems both Bayern (Thiago, Schweinsteiger) and Dortmund have had when their best midfielders have been out (Sahin, Gundo), I don’t think I am. We’ll know more in a few months. Spurs Will Challenge For Top 4 A couple of days ago, I tweeted what I thought the final standings would look like, saying something like “City and Chelsea too close to call, Liverpool 3rd, Arsenal 4th, United 5th.” I also followed that up explaining that I might be underestimating Spurs – if they pick up Pochettino’s press quickly and stay healthy, they have the firepower to keep up with almost anyone. This Sunday against lowly QPR (welcome back, ‘Arry!), Spurs looked awesome. Now granted, many teams will look awesome if QPR continue to be that disorganized, but even so, everything clicked and Spurs looked amazing. Erik Lamela looked exactly like the player who was bought from Roma, not the guy who was completely mismanaged and injured all last season. Capoue looked like the physical destroyer Baldini brought in from Ligue 1 last summer – the same guy who finished right behind Zlatan in the WhoScored player ratings. And perhaps most shockingly, Nacer Chadli transformed from looking slow and out of place last season, into a real scoring threat. It’s very early in the season, but if Pochettino manages to harvest the talent that is already at Spurs, they will be very, very good. To the point that I would not be shocked to see them right in the mix for that fourth Champions League spot all the way to the end of the season. Finally, Some PSV... narsingh I turned on the Ajax – PSV match mostly to watch Memphis Depay, the guy I tabbed as one of the best young prospects in Europe this summer. I was also excited to look at Davy Klaassen, Daley Blind, and a number of other Eredivisie players who are among the best in their league. Funnily enough, the entire show was stolen by a forgotten “future star” in Luciano Narsingh. Last May, in response to a piece I had done about assists being a strong predictor of future success, Simon Gleave of Infostrada too a look at young Eredivisie players who managed to chalk up a ton of assists in that league. In Simon’s piece are a lot of guys who started in the Eredivisie and went on to become future stars, including Luis Suarez, Robben, Sneijder, and van der Vart. Also included were young kids who were still in the Eredivisie at the time like Christian Eriksen, Dusan Tadic, Kevin Strootman, and with the highest total of all – a 20 assist season! – Luciano Narsingh. Unfortunately, for everyone, Narsingh suffered some serious knee trouble over the last 18 months that curtailed a ridiculous start to his career, but yesterday he looked to be well and truly back. The first PSV goal was completely created by him, and he delivered a great final ball to Depay for the simplest of tap-ins. The second goal was another break that saw Narsingh flying along the right side and putting a perfect shot into the far 90 to put PSV up 1-2. Some Eredivisie experts aren’t sure how good Cocu is as a manager, but if he sets his team to allow Depay and Narsingh to terrorize opposing defenses on the break with Wijnaldum and Maher for support, he might not have to do much else for PSV to win the league. Depay is a bonafide future star, but if Narsingh is truly healthy again, he could be too. Even after 18 months of injury issues, he’s still just 23.

Player Positional Tracker: Tottenham v QPR (24/08/14)

Tottenham 4 vs 0 QPR A reminder that these gifs are intended to show general formational tendencies, as opposed to specific player movements at any particular point in time. As the Opta data we use to create these vizs covers On The Ball events, we have no way of knowing where every player is located on the pitch at all times. To keep all the players on the pitch we use a concept of smoothing. (click on the image to open in a larger window) TOTvQPR

Player Positional Tracker: Man City v Liverpool (25/08/14)

Man City 3 vs 1 Liverpool Some Initial observations from me:

  • All 4 Full Backs were exceptionally attack minded, with 3 of them being shown as spending virtually all of the game in the opposition halves. Clichy was the exception to this; presumably this was due to his watching of Sterling, and thus being a little more cautious than the others
  • Given the defensive lapses Liverpool were prone to last season, is it appropriate to have two full backs that want to get forward so much?  Should one of them be more disciplined?
  • Liverpool very much on the front foot in the first half, especially down the right with Sterling and Johnson.  City were hemmed in for the first 30 minutes
  • Liverpool's attacking players are exceptionally mobile. Sturridge, Sterling, Henderson, Countinho and Allen all rotate positions / roles during the first half
  • Dzeko continues to work for the team. On this viz he doesn't leave the centre circle for the first 25 minutes; this despite being notionally named as the most advanced forward.

A reminder that these gifs are intended to show general formational tendencies, as opposed to specific player movements at any particular point in time.  As the Opta data we use to create these vizs covers On The Ball events, we have no way of knowing where every player is located on the pitch at all times.  To keep all the players on the pitch we use a concept of smoothing. New V1.1 Positional Tracker We have the new V1.1 version of our Positional tracker for this game. The main changes from the original version are as follows:

  • Inclusion of a Scoreboard
  • Removal of Passing Networks
  • Player dot sizes vary based on their attacking involvement (passes, shots and take-ons).  This allows the viewer to see which players were influencing the game at specific times of the match

  Based on the size of the dots we can see that Liverpool had early dominance before City took command towards the end of the first half. It was the same story in the second half with Liverpool having plenty of the ball immediately upon the resumption of the second half, before City again asserted control. (click on the image to open in a larger window) MCYvsLIV