Bayern Munich had a fairly comfortable 4-1 win at home to FC Koln this evening. As picked up by Rene Maric in his as usual, excellent, tactical analysis of the game Bayern Munich decided to totally overload the left side of the pitch. Rene's analysis can be found here. I produced a Player Positional Tracker (PPT) for this game and I think it neatly shows how Bayern approached this game, and it compliments Rene's article. For anyone that isn't aware, our PPT is produced using Opta "on the ball" events. (click on the image to open the PPT in a larger window) We immediately see how Bayern tilted their offensive moves towards the left side of the pitch and how narrow they were on the right side. Koln's right side of the defense were faced with Ribery, Gotze and Alaba all attacking them. For the first 30 minutes, Bayern's right sided attacking players, Robben and Muller's dots on the PPT were very small; this indicates a lack of passes or shots (ie attacking involvement).
Over the Christmas period the boards of Crystal Palace and West Brom decided, probably wisely, that they needed a change at the top. Alan Pardew flew home from his North East exile and Tony Pulis got the call he'd been waiting for since August. On January 1st, Palace stood 18th and West Brom 17th. Both teams were seemingly facing the very real prospect of fighting against relegation. A little under two months on, they now sit 13th and 14th, each 5 points clear of safety and whilst it is still early days for both men, and the samples are therefore small, analysis seems to show both men are doing well in their new roles. Let's have a quick look at some of their numbers: 1. Pardew Pardew has benefited from 4 of his first 6 games being at home, but has so far managed to turn Palace into a positive shots team. There's nothing much going on in the raw conversion rates but the Finishing +/- (PDO) numbers are revealing. Under Pardew, they are enjoying a favourable run and whilst it may or may not continue (Pardew's priors make me sceptical), one thing is for sure: the ten points gained quickly here have given Palace an extremely strong platform to repel the threat of relegation. I stuck up for Warnock a bit when he went, but with Pardew making an instant and strong impact, his tenure has been quickly forgotten. 2. Pulis I imagine Tony Pulis to have a whimsical poster on his office noticeboard that says something like 'An away point is always a good point'. How else to explain creating only five shots against this Sunderland team? Pulis teams always have sub-par shots ratios, and that's quickly taken hold again. Intuitively, this is a bad thing, but as Pulis has shown repeatedly, his schemes are effective and every point earned from a drab draw seems part of the wider plan. Pulis teams always score goals at below league average rate, under 10%, and that's happening too. Pulis teams always concede goals at less than league average rate? Yep, we're there. And Pulis teams always run a positive Finishing +/- (PDO) number. All present and correct. In only 6 games, Tony Pulis has successfully attached his stringent blueprint to West Brom and gained 9 points. Like Pardew's efforts, this has given his team an excellent platform to repel relegation. Southampton: no middle ground It has been widely discussed that Southampton season has exceeded even their wildest expectations. Koeman's recruitment now looks a shrewd continuation appointment and the predicted mid-season slump hasn't quite appeared. In fact, they are still doing the the things well that they were earlier in the year. Their defense is formidable and still tricky to breach, nobody beats them easily and they are still firmly in the mix for the top 4. Though this weekend's defeat to Liverpool was certainly a blow, it was not as chastening as the result may seem. Since drawing with Villa in late November, Southampton have played a further 14 games. Their record over that period is 6-3-6 but arguably, of those 9 drawn and lost games, 6 of them they can consider themselves somewhat unfortunate not to have generated more points. Their inability to convert their chances has cost them in each game: I've got some unpublished research that suggests that the value of those shots that Southampton left on the table combined from a game to game basis is a minimum of 4 goals and simple average conversion rates for both shots on target and all shots suggest 6, so when you consider how many points these invisible non-goals could represent, it's a grim tale. And it's not as it their misfortune has been leveled out elsewhere. Only once have they won a game that they've been significantly dominated on shots, the 2-1 win at Newcastle. They also have a weird trend of blowing either hot or cold with their opposition in raw shot conversion rates: As we can see, they've fallen in another hole, just as the opposition has climbed out. Their achievements this season make criticisms seem harsh, but it genuinely appears that securing further back up for Pelle would have been a shrewd January decision. His form, which has decisively cooled since his early hot streak, is currently vital to them but largely absent. If they continue to get positive results between now and the end of the season, yet come up just short, they may have every right to feel frustrated, despite their best league finish in more than a generation. Obligatory Tottenham bit With a cup final on the horizon and a fierce London derby to contest against West Ham, it was exciting to see the players putting in extra effort and a dashing performance to further stake their claims for a place in the big game. Or not. That this match came after a Thursday night Europa League tie will have escaped nobody's notice and nor will the meandering non-performance that came with it. With the Fiorentina tie in the balance, it's a difficult situation to analyse. Pochettino quietly seems to not care for the European ties, quite rightly understanding that his long term achievement will be measured by league performance. A cup along the way? Why not? But let us not allow it to divert too readily from the case in hand: the league. And that is why it was so disappointing to gift West Ham a nearly decisive advantage. Big Sam can load up a tactics bus, but he can't always drive it to it's destination and as has frequently occurred recently, they gave up a ton of shots. Tottenham's minor statistical surge continues apace, but when married with chasing a game and the ugly lure of score effects, it appears less admirable. Harry Kane showed his fallibility by proving he's not the dead ball genius he thinks he is but quickly redeemed himself by gobbling up a heap of rebound flavoured fortune. Worryingly, moving into a busy period, Eriksen appears to have slid from an earlier peak and Lamela still looks like the most extravagantly gifted workhorse you'll ever see. Goals from him are long overdue. So, a relaxing break in Florence awaits, punctuated by a football match and it's all systems go for a Cup Final, a match that will seem vastly different depending on the result. A win will define it as glory and success and fun and adoration, a loss will look like an unnecessary addition to the fixture list. Thanks for reading! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Find me at @jair1970 (A quick aside, I wrote a post here in which I suggested some reformatting of PDO, Mike Goodman suggested calling it 'Finishing +/-' and so I kinda feel I should go with it.)
Every year some teams seem to click. They embark on long undefeated runs and record impressive victories. The media get excited and players win awards. They might even win titles. On some occasions this is an accurate reflection of a team's quality, but on others it's a comparatively brief flirtation with the desirable end of random variation. So this year, are Chelsea a decisively good team or are they just riding a huge wave? Let's find out. How good are Chelsea? It was easy to get irritated by some of the media fawning over Chelsea as they skated happily undefeated through Autumn. Fabregas fed Costa repeatedly and the desire for a new team of 'Invincibles' led to a lack of wider critical analysis. Despite Mourinho's CV being full of changes effected at a pace akin to the Fonz's ability with jukeboxes, this time it had taken longer and only the shrewd recruitment of top class players, a neat trick available to very rich clubs, had seemingly raised Chelsea's performance level. All hail Jose! I had reservations. Chelsea were good, but despite making their annual meal of the Champions League and throwing in the odd duff performance, so were Man City. In fact, so are Man City. Most recently, their impressive limitation of Chelsea to three shots at Stamford Bridge was a clear indictment that this Chelsea team were maybe not the second coming. Samir Nasri, ever the shrinking violet, agreed: “I’m a big fan of Mourinho but I am not impressed with his team, not at all, we have played them twice, one time with 10 men, and we were better than them. Then we played them at the Bridge, and we were better than them. When I have seen some of their games, I don’t think they are that fantastic – they are just strong and have a good striker up front.” So, where are we? Nasri's biased slight isn't provably untrue, yet Chelsea sit contendedly and clearly on top of the league. City follow at a respectable distance. Why? Sometimes the glaringly obvious can stand clearly in front of you yet appear invisible. A finely honed contrariness and a tendency to try and look for nuance can leave you peering around the sides and neglecting the emphatic truth. Then you refocus and it hits you like a brick. Such a wave of simple realisation occurred to me earlier this week as I was pondering this season's Premier League title race. Chelsea are that team. Every year we get at least one, and this year it's Chelsea. What the hell am I on about? Okay: a Premier League season consists of 38 games, which in the scheme of trends and variations is a small sample. Each season, within that small sample it is possible to identify teams that have over or underachieved when compared to what might be expected from baseline metrics. Most often, due to proven repeatability, these will be based around shots and their relationships with goals and/or points. What we're looking at here is the top of the league and each season, of the contending teams, one or more learns to fly. It's relatively straightforward to build a model or translate existing metrics into points totals that reflect these underlying truths, without delving into the complexities and extensive data collection required for expected goals (James Grayson is the flagbearer in this realm). I've looked at the total shot ratios, adapted the same to incorporate conversion rates, then shots on target ratios and finally a version of Grayson's Team Rating. This creates subtly different results and rather than give a single points figure, given we're dealing in estimation, we get a points range. When comparing actual points to derived expected points totals, the most overachieving sides of the last 5 seasons are as follows: We have representatives from each season here, 4 of 5 title winners and 3 of 5 runners up. Chelsea's phenomenal 2009-10 title side ranks a clip behind (however, in raw terms, that team is way ahead of all other teams on the list). Also close up is the 2012-13 City side that meandered as Mancini edged towards the exit whilst Ferguson's last team flew. Interestingly, the only top 2 team that has a mediocre ranking is Ancelotti's 2010-11 Chelsea side, but with 71 points, it was a particularly low total for second place. Man Utd had it easy that year. Otherwise we have:
- Four Ferguson Man Utd teams, with little surprise that his final two head the list
- The Man City team that memorably dueled and beat Utd in 2011-12
- Three teams from last season. Arsenal overachieved significantly against, for them, moderate underlying numbers and were nominally in the title mix for about two thirds of the year, Liverpool had a phenomenal attacking season but were pipped by Man City, who matched them going forward and held a decisive advantage defensively.
What has this got to do with this season? This year we have a functional duopoly of Chelsea and Man City, two teams well matched by skill but divided by small degrees of random variation. In a neat reflection of core performance indicators, after twenty games, Chelsea and Man City had accrued identical records. Since then, their results have diverged and if we again look at projected points, we might be surprised that Man City's totals bear greater resemblance to expectation than Chelsea's. Projecting forwards, Chelsea 2014-15 are quite likely to end up ranking 3rd, behind only Ferguson's last two squads at the top of the original table. This is an extremely high positive variance and when considering it is building on a contending base, it is highly likely to generate the title. We can see the top 8 positive variances for this season here: From this, and knowing how similar City and Chelsea's underlying numbers are, we can estimate that Chelsea's advantage caused by random variation (or even luck depending on your inclination!) to be somewhere between 3 and 9 points. That they currently lead by 7 bears this out quite tidily. A red-hot striker helps This year Chelsea have Diego Costa finishing chances at a rate of 28%. This is incredibly high, literally 'Papiss Demba Cisse has hot feet' high. His last two seasons were 25% and 20% which implies he may be an above average finisher anyway, rather than a Cisse-esque streaky converter. Liverpool and Man City last year had Suarez, Sturridge, Toure, Dzeko and Aguero all converting chances at extremely high rates. (In fact, Dzeko consistently appears high up in conversion rates, his long absences this term may well have impacted on City's effectiveness.) Ferguson's Man Utd teams had combinations of Berbatov, Rooney and Van Persie all scoring at high rates. Having a hot striker contributes massively towards the 'for' end of 'conversion dominance': the rate in which a team converts minus the rate in which they concede. Here are the same teams from the original chart plus City, Utd and Chelsea from this season: All of the teams in the initial chart converted chances at a far higher rate than their opposition. This season both Chelsea have a conversion dominance of around 6 percentage points (14% for, 8% against), Man City's is 2 percentage points (12% to 10%). Simply, Man City have not performed like Champions in this metric. Interestingly, part of Man Utd's continuing success despite performances can be explained here. Van Gaal has followed Ferguson here. Only time will tell if he's able, like Ferguson, to sustain it over multiple seasons, a trend which possibly suggests tactical or systematic methods. Get shots on target The top 4 teams in my database for turning their shots into shots on target are the top 4 teams from the initial graphic. If Chelsea maintain their levels (38%), they will rank 3rd. Chelsea's current rate of dominance in this metric in relation to their opposition is 2% higher than anything else i've got recorded. They get their shots on target and they stop the opposition doing the same at a very high and likely unsustainable rate. Grayson's Team Rating already cleverly incorporates a similar concept into it's calculation and it's clear that it is an important influence. Again, we find Van Gaal's Utd scoring highly here; at least in the plus side. They rank 2nd in the league for turning shots into shots on target (37%) but intriguingly give up shots on target at nearly the same rate (36%). One might expect this to indicate potential problems but when those same shots on target are converted at 37% For and 25% Against, it looks like a big thank-you to David De Gea. Any hope for Man City? Man City are again this year, top class. Their issues, which start with the seven point deficit, could well be unsolvable given the tiny sample of 13 games remaining. They simply haven't turned their clear quality into enough points. In nearly every game that they've dropped points, they've been the better team and have generated more shots and chances than the opposition. The random variation up until this point has given Chelsea what could well be a decisive lead and the only slight hope I can muster revolves around the Champions League. Mourinho seemed to prioritise the Champions League last year despite being in league contention; they lost to Villa, Palace and Sunderland in weekends prior to three of their six knockout fixtures and of course, famously won despite fielding a weakened team at Liverpool prior to another. Whilst Man City also remain in the Champions League, their route is heavily blocked by Barcelona. Chelsea's competition nous gives them an edge over Paris Saint Germain and if they progress, their fixtures become interesting. A quarter final tie will give them a midweek/weekend run of: Champions League Quarter Final Leg 1 (H) Man Utd Champions League Quarter Final Leg 2 (A) Arsenal whilst a semi final would create this: Champions League Semi Final Leg 1 (H) Liverpool Champions League Semi Final Leg 2 It is ironic that Man City's hope of rechallenging for the title may rest on their own departure from the Champions League and the continued progression of Chelsea in the same competition. Conclusion The statistically best team of the enlightened stat era (2009-14) was, by some margin, Ancelotti's 2009-10 Chelsea team. They scored the most goals, took a higher percentage of shots and shots on target, prevented the opposition doing anything much at all and only the sustained brilliance of Man Utd under Alex Ferguson stopped them winning the league with ease. This Chelsea team is a clear step below and maps very similarly to this year's Man City side. Both are clearly a step above the opposition in the league this year but compare only adequately to former title winners. In a season in which shot totals and goals have reduced year on year, defenses have defined the main storylines in the league, Southampton and Man Utd particularly. One can speculate as to factors involved; World Cup hangover, increased focus on the financial incentives or even Financial Fair Play but with the pragmatist's pragmatist in charge of the leaders, it is no surprise that efficiency has come to the fore. Thanks for reading!
Chelsea are great but... With a Yaya-free Man City stuttering badly and Chelsea eking out a win against the mighty Villa, there appears to be very little juice left in the title fight. I was prepared to row against the models and say 'not so fast' last week when the gap was 5 points, but we can't be far away from yet another bookmaker payout stunt and that usually means curtains. That neither team played well against moderate opposition suggests that further twists could occur when the Champions League rears it's head again, but as its stands you'd need to be either brave or stupid or a fan to be actively preferring Man City. A couple of small asides: regarding 'Chelsea are great but it's all going their way' their conversion dominance (the rate in which they convert all shots compared to their opposition) is superseded only by Alex Ferguson's last two seasons in recent history. That's as clear a sign that you're all aboard the happy train to Luckysville as you'll ever get, those Ferguson seasons were crazy. Elsewhere, if considering 'Chelsea might be great but possibly unsustainable', their shots on target ratio (0.682) exceeds their total shots ratio (0.605) by a rate that exceeds the next highest in my data by a huge margin (0.077 to 0.057). In a sample of 120, that's an enormous difference and will surely reduce over the last 14 games. Logically their shots are going to get worse at some point and maybe then the kind of performance that generates a slight victory over Villa becomes a draw. But time is short and the lead has grown. Quirky mini-stats, sure, but intriguing nonetheless. So, to other parts of the league, where high interest is retained. This chart shows +/- shots and shots on target throughout the league and is ordered by the shots on target side: There are distinct bands of teams here. The top two are joined by Southampton, Arsenal and Liverpool in consuming the majority of positive shot totals in the league. Indeed only 8 teams are in credit for both metrics. Everton have a weird blend of being a minus shots team but 6th best for shots on target and QPR and West Brom have an unenviable record of scoring worse for shots on target that pure shots. Bizarre stuff and something to work on for Tony Pulis and Maybe Tim Sherwood. Sunderland: entertain your fans! Earlier in the season I figured I had defined the 'bad' teams in the league. There were seven of them and it seemed straightforward: they barely ever won and were doomed to sink towards the bottom as time went on. Well, there are still seven bad teams in the league and they fill the bottom seven positions. The only caveat is that one team has escaped (Palace) and been replaced by another (WBA). The Pardew honeymoon has given Palace a nice two win cushion away from the relegation zone and 'Pulisball' has so far failed to bed in at West Brom. Ah well, we can't always be right. There really is a grim reality for the bottom seven: none has won more than 5 games, they've only won 6 games between them in the last six rounds of matches and only one was against a team other than themselves (Hull 2-0 Everton). None has won a single match in the last three rounds of matches either. QPR have big issues having failed to beat a team outside this group all year (thank you and farewell, Harry) but the reason i'm writing this and you're reading it is Sunderland. As I trawl the numbers, occasionally something leaps off the page and in this case it wasn't pretty: Sunderland's last 5 game shot ratio is 21%. I will admit i'd noticed their miserable shooting totals a couple of weeks ago, but they escaped reporting as they'd played tough games. Now after creating so little against Burnley and Swansea (despite gaining 4 points!) they get the mention. It's not only very bad, it's historically very bad: As we can see, being this bad isn't necessarily terminal, it's pretty much a coin-flip whether a period in which a team creates barely a thing will relegate them but pity Sunderland fans! They've hit a sub-30% TSR period in every one of the last four seasons! That's a tough sell for season tickets. I don't watch enough Sunderland games to pin down this lack of creativity but I do have insight into their newest signing, Jermain Defoe. On the plus side, every club facing a relegation battle needs a regular goalscorer and throughout his career and with two goals already, Defoe has been just that. In contrast, despite many great goals and a long career, Tottenham fans were not sad to sell him to MLS. Why? Jermain Defoe has marvellous highlights packages. His further contribution is negligible. Over his career he averages 17 passes per game. In a handful of minutes with Sunderland he's down to 13.5. These figures include any number of kick offs! Very little is going on elsewhere (he creates very little for others) and this could have repercussions for Sunderland's future shooting ratios. Defoe is happy to shoot but his lack of team contribution can make it seem like his team has ten men. So a Sunderland team already struggling to create chances has simultaneously reduced the wider efficiency of it's forward line whilst probably ensuring more goals. It's quite the quandary! Luckily for Sunderland, even though much of their play has been bad, that's not been a trait unique to themselves. Three from seven will go and for now, none of them have been impressing. Obligatory Tottenham bit I've theorised before that Wenger has switched some of his tactics in big games this season. It has seemed that after the series of chastening defeats his team met last season, he's decided to be more pragmatic, particularly away from home. The excellent result at the Etihad, though functionally a little flattering, was a strong endorsement for percentage tactics but that and the home win against Southampton have been the only wins against 'good' opposition this year. Despite season long underlying shot numbers indicating Arsenal being a strong side, warning signs were loud in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool in which they created little and allowed Liverpool an avalanche of 27 shots. And so the North London Derby came to pass and it seemed a finely poised affair. However, a close game wasn't what panned out: this time alongside another concession of an avalanche of 23 shots was a second natural disaster: a HurriKane. Tottenham's season continues to resemble Andre Villas Boas first year: the 'Bale year', at least on the surface. Both Pochettino and Villas-Boas started the year 5-2-5 and suffered some very poor defeats. Then, powered by a strong emphasis on fitness and the gradual influence of their methods, both have overseen a good run and dramatic wins powered by star players scoring late goals. At this point Villas Boas' team had 42 points (12-6-6) and went on to only lose two more games in finishing a point behind Arsenal in 5th. Pochettino now has 43 points (12-4-7) and the confidence of his young team. Under the hood couldn't be much more different and it's represented in the play. Villas Boas emphasised control and shooting which gave him great underlying numbers albeit in a strange year. Pochettino has struggled to maintain anything above par shot ratios but has emphasised energy and pressure, which came together to great effect against Arsenal. In the absence of the Europa League, the trajectory is generally up, but still the repeated success in close games tempers expectation. If we refer back to the shot chart from earlier, 5 teams look to be superior in this league, and Tottenham aren't yet one of them. Still, with one win separating 3rd and 6th and Liverpool looking generally sharp and only a further win away, there is plenty of juice in the Champions League race. Thanks for reading!
During the World Cup, I made a bunch of Gifolutions of how different players' statistical radars have evolved over time. Two that I never got around to were Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. This is odd because as any hit-whoring writer knows, those two guys will get you the most hits, period, but life moves fast, you know? Messi's radar barely changes over the period of data I have - he pretty much lives in the top 5% of every forward stat ever, every single year. The little lion is metronomic in his alienness. I didn't get around to Ronaldo because Portugal went out of the World Cup fairly early, but Cristiano is different. He's evolved over the years from a slightly gangly kid full of flash and promise into a man mountain of power, pace, and technique. What's interesting is that Ronaldo's statistical output has changed as well. It's rare to see a player who is nominally a wide forward score at the levels that Ronaldo does. It is even more weird - unprecedented, actually - for anyone in the world to shoot as much as Ronaldo does. In fact, over the five years prior to this one, Ronaldo lead every player in the world in shots per 90. By a mile. No one shoots more than 7 times per 90 minutes. Except Cristiano. That's like 60-70% of the entire game volume for half of the teams in the world! The locations of his shots weren't always what one might wish for, but when a player scores goals in the volume that Ronaldo does, you kind of have to accept a little bad with all that good. This year, Ronaldo is a little different. As his age creeps up on 30, his shot volume has gone down (nearly 2 shots per 90 from last season, a jawdropping amount in itself), but his efficiency is way up. This translates to MORE goals, not less. Assists to teammates are also way up, which means as he heads into his third decade, Ronaldo is having his best scoring season. By having a little more confidence in the incredible cast around him at Real Madrid, he's finally become a truly complete player. It's impossible not to respect a guy who keeps learning and developing, even when at the pinnacle of world football.
Mourinho's pragmatism enters stasis It would be remiss of me not to talk about the 'title decider' and although it predictably lacked the wild flair and thrills to match the hype, it nonetheless conjured up some neat points. Last year, Mourinho was quite fond of reflecting that his side had beaten the two teams above them in the table in all their fixtures and whilst this year he remains undefeated against both Man City and Liverpool, no bragging rights were derived from his team's tepid display on Saturday evening. Chelsea had three shots! *blows raspberry* In fact, shorn of Fabregas and Costa, he was left with the rarely selected Ramires to add to a proliferation of gritty Brazilians in both team's midfield and a club hopping ex-Newcastle forward up front: Chelsea's line-up felt distinctly last season. And their performance was far more reminiscent of that team than the efficient and ruthless unit we've witnessed so far this year. On the flip side, having gained just one point from the matches against Arsenal and Chelsea, Pelligrini can feel a little aggrieved. In both matches City went behind having done little wrong and in both matches they had long spells in which they squeezed and squeezed. Unfortunately for them, where in the Arsenal match the 20 minutes of constriction was relieved by Giroud's goal, it followed that Chelsea managed to retain parity; on another day the pressure may have eventually told. Intriguingly, few were ready to acclaim this as a defensive Mourinho masterclass and his petulant media blank betrayed an intent to bury any in-match storyline and let the maintained 5 point lead drive the headlines. Of course Mourinho's pragmatism has been well noted but he appears very conscious of competing well against title rivals. Having spent so long at Madrid, he could hardly not. In fact, chastened by a 0-5 drubbing in the Nou Camp back in 2010-11, his Madrid teams competed well in further Clásico games. Since arriving back at Chelsea though, despite solid results, the performances against City, their obvious title rivals have regressed badly. So much so that in two matches this year against City, Chelsea haven't even mustered ten shots. Here's Mourinho's title match-up record from the public stat era: So: three shots is bad. The point gained was good but with no incident to dramatise and his team lacking a praiseworthy hook, it was silence from Jose. It is strange to think of Chelsea as a side that lack depth, especially when reflecting that they have a second squad of talented and promising players out on loan, but when you dine at the very top table, squad depth can be difficult to maintain. When employing some of the world's best, their replacements will necessarily be a step behind. Chelsea bought the right players in the summer, but their retained fitness is paramount for them to maintain their title challenge. West Ham look horrible in 2015 Much of the weekend had an essence of 2013-14. The 'Superior Seven' (© @SimonGleave) are back! All the larger clubs won, even Everton, and Man Utd, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool happily dispatched lesser opposition. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this means I have now classed Big Sam's 36-point-gainin' West Ham in that merry band of inadequates. I think there's good reason for this too. Simple analysis can tell us that they've stopped winning frequently: in a shade under two months and 8 games, they've beaten Leicester and Hull at home and their schedule hasn't been too taxing. They were completely outshot by quickly improving Liverpool and the trends aren't pretty: Last season, here on Statsbomb, Ted Knutson noted the '16 shot principle' as quick method to identify relegation candidates mid-season (FWIW only Sunderland and nearly QPR are qualifying right now, but shots are down generally). If we refer back to the chart, we can see that West Ham have been heroically exceeding that mark for some while. Combining this with a shots for rate that's heading for the bin and we can now see that all the early season promise was something of a mirage. So how on earth are they sitting in 8th with all those points? Is the league that bad, or are they just riding some luck? *PDO: essentially the rate in which shots on target are converted added to the rate in which you prevent the opposition converting. Known to regress over time. High is often thought to represent lucky, low= unlucky. Well this helps. Every year there are teams that appear to exceed their talent level and it is often accompanied by a PDO spike. Newcastle's 2011-12 5th, Villa's 09-10 6th and Everton last year all ran high PDOs. It can contribute to saving truly bad teams too, Stoke 11-12 put up horrible numbers but survived in 14th and er... West Ham last year? Yep. Relegation numbers from Big Sam last season yet 13th place powered by a big PDO. Does lightening strike twice? I remain sceptical that Allardyce has found the holy grail of stat-based management (Eternally high PDO!) but it is known that he does incorporate some level of analytical thinking in his preparation. More likely is that these numbers are unsustainable and will come down as the season progresses and West Ham will probably fall back to mid-table. The near future will test them hardily too: visits to Southampton, Tottenham and Arsenal are imminent and they host Man Utd and Chelsea soon. I will leave it to Alan Shearer, from last night's Match of the Day to sum up where West Ham now are: 'Talk of, perhaps, Champions League football is a bit premature.' I quite agree, Alan. Match of the Day 2 does stats As interest in the numbers of football has increased, we've seen a eagerness for news media and television to incorporate statistics to flesh out the storyline of what unfolds. Monday Night Football does an excellent job of putting together a coherent and multi-faceted analysis of the weekend and has been so successful that there are now Liverpool fans that do not detest Gary Neville, a feat thought quite impossible from his playing days. Slowly but surely, there is understanding and connections being made by a wider range of football fans. Shot volumes are important. Locations of shots are important too, as the widespread criticisms of Balotelli and Townsend testify. But with the proliferation of statistics comes a knowledge deficit that, in time, will need to be filled. This exchange, transcribed from Match of the Day 2, (which came after a good non-stat-based sequence from Martin Keown in which he showed how Aston Villa weren't making positive passing decisions) shows that there is still a large gap between the traditional analysis and a more conjoined, multiply informed view: Mark Chapman (host): 'Do you think that stats are ruining football? (...) because we are talking about possession (...) pass completion, number of successful passes a side makes but that (...) means nothing if you're going sideways and backwards.' Kevin Kilbane (former player): ''First thing a player looks for on a Monday morning, talk about managers being obsessed with stats, players are obsessed with stats! (...) first thing they look for (...) How well have I done? (...) my pass completion and how much distance have I covered and you're not necessarily having an influence in the game. That's the problem. One presumes that in-club, post-game analysis has moved on at a similar rate to the external blogosphere since Kilbane exited the Premier League in 2010. However, it's hard not to be incredulous and mildly disheartened that his and Chapman's analysis on why stats are 'ruining football' is the primary view that millions of fans will have heard tonight. Thanks for reading!