Rangers v Celtic: Old Firm Derby This Weekend Could Decide Title

This Saturday Rangers host Celtic in the second Old Firm derby of the season. Steven Gerrard's side are within touching distance of the champions. A Rangers win would put the teams level on forty-two points at the top of the Scottish Premiership, igniting a title race as we enter 2019. However, Brendan Rodgers' team does have a game in hand and a superior goal difference so a victory for Celtic would set up a significant lead. The early kick off this weekend is a key match in deciding this season's title. (Note - data is for Celtic after 18 games and Rangers after 19 games).  

Clear Progress For Rangers Despite Right Wing Reliance

Rangers have managed to bring themselves within three points of Celtic but December has in some ways felt like a tough month for them. A disappointing loss in Vienna led to elimination from the Europa League. The domestic schedule got busy and they picked up some injuries. They managed to score more than one goal in only two of their seven SPFL Premiership matches. Those matches included draws with Hibernian at home and also away to bottom team Dundee. Narrow victories over Hamilton and St Johnstone weren't really of the expected standard either. Steven Gerrard has been quick to point this out himself. Perhaps mindful of the currently developing, childish spat between Hearts manager Craig Levein and Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes he was keen to stress that he didn't mean any disrespect to St Johnstone when suggesting that Perth was a place Rangers should not struggle to win in. The truth though is that these were all games Rangers perhaps should have won comfortably. The encouraging thing is that their underlying numbers do show positive indications about how they are performing. Rangers have an average expected goals per match of 1.64 and an average xG Conceded per match of 0.83. That puts them solidly in second place in the table in terms of xG difference and progress is clearly being made on both sides of the ball. They generate these numbers by taking a whopping seventeen shots every game and conceding just under ten attempts at their own goal. Alfredo Morelos, the twenty-two year old Colombian centre forward, takes around a quarter of those shots and is top scorer in the league with twelve goals. He has had a fantastic season so far and is key for the team in terms of hold up play, rolling opposition centre backs and combining with teammates on the right flank.   That right flank is very important for Rangers. The dominance of right back James Tavernier and right winger Daniel Candeias in terms of deep ball progression and key passes shows where most attacks originate from. Tavernier incredibly already has eight assists this season and both he and Candeias have great delivery from wide areas. However, this can lead to Rangers being a little predictable at times when in possession. The midfield lacks both a goal threat and a creative passer. Ovie Ejaria and Lassana Coulibaly have disappointed. Liverpool loanee Ejaria hasn't provided the ball progression that was expected and Coulibaly has made basic short passing errors too often. Coulibaly makes the most passes within the Rangers squad that lead to the recipient being under pressure despite being only the eighth highest in the squad for being passed to when he is under pressure. Scott Arfield has performed well and combines well with Morelos but seems likely to miss this match due to injury. Longer term injuries to Jamie Murphy and Ryan Kent have also robbed Rangers of a significant threat on the left wing. This has been compounded by injuries to first choice left back Borna Barisic. Usual replacement Jon Flanagan does not provide much of an attacking threat and has also looked uncomfortable defensively at times too. The areas behind both full backs, particularly when Tavernier has joined the attack, can lead to opposition chances against Rangers. Their defensive numbers are improving but at times they have had to be bailed out by some incredible shot stopping by goalkeeper Allan McGregor. There have also been some inconsistencies in terms of the central defensive partnership. While Gerrard seems to be firmly wedded to a 4-3-3 formation he has chopped and changed personnel throughout the season. Some of this has been enforced due to injuries and a punishing fixture schedule but in defence he has seemed unsure of his ideal pairing. Although Connor Goldson made an error for St Johnstone's goal a week ago it has to be hoped he has recovered from the knock sustained on Boxing Day against Hibernian as he and Joe Worrall have been an effective partnership recently.

Title Winning Numbers But Questions Over Ball Progression For Celtic.

Celtic are managing to take almost twenty shots every game this season. They are limiting their opponents to less than seven attempts at their own goal. The Hoops are averaging 1.97 xG per match and conceding just 0.45 xG on average. Although they did have a blip in mid December, losing to Red Bull Salzburg and Hibernian, they have been very impressive recently. Rodgers' team has only conceded one goal at home since October 20th. They've scored three or more goals in four of their six league matches in December. Although Rangers are just three points behind Celtic still look favourites to win the league. Filip Benkovic has been a key part of Celtic's strong defensive performance. He and Dedryck Boyata have formed a formidable partnership since the Leicester loanee replaced the then injured Kristoffer Ajer and the underperforming Jack Hendry.  A concern for Celtic is that left back Kieran Tierney may miss this match through injury. The young star is a significant loss both in terms of the ball winning and ball progression he provides for the side. Tierney's usual replacement, Emilio Izaguirre, was substituted at half time in Celtic's most recent match after giving up a penalty following being repeatedly exposed by passes in behind him.  Given the importance of the right flank to Rangers either Izaguirre or his own replacement Jonny Hayes is in for a testing match. Right back Mikael Lustig is a capable defender and goalkeeper Craig Gordon is a fine shot stopper but both do limit Celtic in an attacking sense. Gordon's distribution can be poor and Lustig, now aged thirty-two, doesn't get into advanced areas enough to help Celtic overload opponents. For some of the second quarter of this season Celtic played Callum McGregor in the 6 position instead of Scott Brown. This helped quicken ball progression, removed some of the onus on their centre backs to break the lines and gave more of a creative passing threat from the centre of the pitch. Brown is back in the team now and is a great source of aggression, tackling and experience. In the most recent match against Aberdeen his return did lead to centre backs Benkovic and Boyata being the main, and largely ineffectual, outlet for ball progression as the opposition sat deep from the start of the second half. It will be interesting to see if this continues against Rangers. Other options in midfield include Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham. Ntcham can be wasteful with long shots - he's not responsible for all of those outside the box efforts shown above but it is close! However, he makes almost double the number of deep progressions compared to every other Celtic player. His ability to bring the ball into dangerous areas might mean Rodgers will recall him to the starting lineup and he did score the only goal the last time Celtic met Rangers. In the absence of a threat from full back and with Tom Rogic unavailable due to international duty Celtic will need James Forrest and Scott Sinclair to focus on getting behind the opposition in wide areas. Forrest's goal flurry earlier in the season and Sinclair's hat-trick in the last match were impressive but much will depend on the service they get to centre forward Odsonne Edouard. The twenty year old Frenchman showed against Aberdeen that he has the quality to decide matches but does need help to generate more shots.

Must Win Match Could Be Decided By Centre Forwards

Although there are significant injuries for both Rangers and Celtic each will feel that this is a match they can and must win. Rangers might consider following the lead of Red Bull Salzburg and Hibernian by using a 4-4-2 diamond with the forwards splitting wide out of possession to pin back Celtic's full backs and a capable presser such as Daniel Candeias marking Celtic's deepest midfielder. Throughout this season the average distance from their own goal at which they are making aggressive actions has increased for Rangers. This gradually higher press is working judging by their underlying numbers but do they have the confidence to continue that against Celtic while not giving away too many fouls and picking up too many cards? Brendan Rodgers is undefeated against Rangers with ten wins out of twelve matches. Can this continue given possible personnel issues at left back? Can his attacking midfielders get in behind Rangers' fullbacks? The two key figures on the day may be centre forwards Morelos and Edouard. Rangers need to set up better chances for Morelos and Celtic need to set up more chances for Edouard. If this happens then either youngster may have a decisive role in the Scottish title race.

Southampton's January Shopping List

This article was co-authored by @GraceOnFootball and @MoeSquare. Southampton have a new manager, bringing with him new ideas and a new philosophy. But does he need any new players? We take a look. It was hard to feel too surprised when Southampton took the decision to dismiss Mark Hughes. A club that once prided itself on making imaginative, outside the box appointments had gone for the most stale, predictable, dull choice available in the Welshman. After “masterminding” the club to Premier League survival with all of eight points from eight games, the Saints decided to double down on Hughes, giving him a three year contract in a clear indication that he was to be their man for the foreseeable future. Nine points from fourteen games and a spot in the bottom three torpedoed that plan, with the South Coast club taking the hit of paying off his inexplicably long contract in order to get back to the ideas that saw them move from League One to the top half of the Premier League. In fairness to Hughes, when looking at the expected goals for and against over his time in charge, it does seem that he was beginning to make the side more defensively resolute in the fight for survival last season. It was this year, though, which saw that xG conceded number creep up again without an real movement on the attacking side. All in all, it’s hard to feel too sympathetic towards the man. Enter one Ralph Hasenhüttl. Descriptions of the new Southampton manager as the “Alpine Klopp” are overly obvious and reductive, though not entirely without logic. The Austrian’s time at Ingolstadt saw him build one of the more aggressive pressing sides in an era when the Bundesliga was extremely into aggressive pressing, and at RB Leipzig he was happy to follow the Red Bull template set by Ralf Rangnick of a broadly similar philosophy. Making any grand assumptions about how Hasenhüttl is looking to go about things at Southampton based on three games is obviously premature, but, true to type, we’re seeing the side press more. When looking at the defensive team radars, while the club’s high press rating was below average under Hughes, in this very small sample size, they are hitting the 95th percentile. It isn’t a shock that the players have responded to the new manager by rolling their sleeves up and doing a lot more hard work. A more structured press will surely take time to come into fruition. In terms of the shape, the last two games have seen Hasenhüttl opt for a 3-4-3 formation that seems to cover a lot of bases. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Oriol Romeu provide a decent double pivot, with Romeu the more natural defensive midfielder and Hojbjerg offering a good range of skills with and without the ball. Otherwise he seems to be showing faith in youngster Yan Valery at right wing back with Matt Targett on the other side. It is the two attacking midfield roles behind the striker (so far Danny Ings, though Charlie Austin is also a serious option) where perhaps things could perhaps be improved upon. The current favoured players are Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong. Redmond has a long history of being an equally tantalizing and frustrating player, with his good dribbling and creative passing abilities generally hampered by a desire to shoot from anywhere. Looking at his shot map below, he has the classic problem of seeming as though he is playing against a force field, apparently able to get a shot off everywhere except in front of goal. The good news, though, is that Hasenhüttl is a step above every previous coach the Englishman has worked under. If one is looking for a player who could really improve under the new boss, Redmond might be someone to watch. The other player being used is Stuart Armstrong. This is somewhat of an awkward fit as he is much less a wide forward in the mould of Redmond than a creative central midfielder being pushed further forward. It seems like his more ideal role would be as the most advanced midfielder in a 4-3-3, but Hasenhüttl doesn’t look like employing that shape. However you look at it, Armstrong should probably feel as though he hasn’t shown his best football at St. Mary’s Stadium this season. It also seems as though this is an area of the pitch where Southampton are weaker than they once were. Dusan Tadic had been the key man here in recent years, and while now at 30 years of age it is understandable that the Saints would look to cash in while they still could, he remains a better creative passer than anyone in the current squad. Sofiane Boufal was also sent packing, which makes sense considering his inconsistency in his time in England, but still perhaps remains a greater natural talent than most at the club right now. When looking at the players providing open play passes into the box last season, it’s these two who top the list. And now looking at this season, while Redmond has continued to be useful in this regard, after him come the full backs. None of the other players in more advanced positions are contributing too much to this part of play. The summer of 2016 might have been a pivotal moment for Southampton. Not only had Sadio Mané left to Liverpool for what was, at the time, relatively big money, but stalwarts like José Fonte, Graziano Pellè and Victor Wanyama left as well. In what used to be typical Southampton style, they went about replacing them with high upside options in Redmond, Boufal and Højbjerg. The problem is that none of those players made the kind of leap that Southampton hoped for, and while the club did finish a respectable eight in 2016-17 (albeit with a 17 point decline from the previous season), the effects from that summer spilled on into future years as the process behind Southampton’s transfers became less and less ideal. The summer of 2016 produced bad results despite a good process, but the following transfer windows have had lesser processes along with similarly uninspiring results. In part that’s how we’ve gotten to this point, a run of the mill squad with no prospects that pop in a positive manner. The January transfer window is tough to navigate when looking for high upside talent on manageable prices. For every successful January move like Memphis Depay to Lyon, there are multiple failed ventures like Guido Carrillo’s move to Southampton last January. That being said, there are some players that could be of interest to Southampton that both fit the age timeline of what they should be looking for, and still be within their price range. As mentioned before, the front three remains perhaps Southampton's biggest area where they can improve. While a creative number ten or winger in the mould of Tadic or Boufal might be the biggest need, the fitness records of Ings and Austin (and continued poor form of Manolo Gabbiadini) make striker an additional area with room for improvement. As such, here are some options that the club could realistically target.  

Marcus Thuram (Guingamp, 21 years old)

A lot of what was said last fall still stands. Marcus Thuram remains a fascinating player because he has the size and strength to play as a more conventional striker, but with the speed and burst off the dribble that you would associate with players that are four to six inches smaller than him. It’s also noteworthy that Thuram has largely maintained a decent expected goal contribution despite playing on a Guingamp side that for the second season in a row has produced a limited attack. What’s been most encouraging with Thuram this season is that he’s had more “wow” moments while playing out wide, which is something that is nice to see and bodes well for his development because it makes it a bit more easier to envision Thuram providing value as a wide player if he plays on a better team. He’s been creating more havoc off the dribble, which can be seen in his noticeable increase in completed dribbles, and he's shown a little bit more awareness, recognizing how to leverage that threat into creating something for himself or a teammate. The flaws still remain though: at times, Thuram can still look like a bull in a China shop when he barrels into opponents. It’s hard to envision him ever being a high volume passer or chance creator on a better team, despite the recent progress he's shown. But considering he’s playing on a squad that’s limited in certain ways, just the fact that he’s showing incremental progress is a positive sign. The one small worry is that his xG/shot has taken a hit with the added usage he’s taken on. Thuram represents the low risk, high upside option. On the face of it, Thuram isn’t necessarily the cleanest fit because he would be coming from a Guingamp side that doesn’t pressure opponents, to the newly proactive defense of Southampton. His success this season has come from movements that are more outside-in, rather than from being an interior player through and through. But with Guingamp being favorites to get relegated in Ligue 1, Thuram shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, and his higher end outcomes as a player are right up there with a number of players that will go for much higher transfer fees. For a club that were once praised for getting high end talents on cheap fees, Thuram would represent a return to that mode of squad construction.  

Neal Maupay (Brentford, 22 years old)

For someone who turned 22 years old in late August, Neal Maupay has already been through his share of ups and downs. He became a hot commodity in French football for getting regular game time for Nice at just 16 years old in 2012-13, but his progress got halted later that season by a knee injury that started a downturn in fortune which saw him go from a hot shot prospect in Ligue 1 to plying his trade in Ligue 2 in 2016-17. At Brentford Maupay has reclaimed his career, and this season in particular, he’s been one of the best attacking talents in the Championship. Over the last few years Southampton have lacked a focal point up top. Ings reviving his career, after knee injuries kept him off the pitch at Liverpool, certainly has helped ameliorate that problem. However it’s clear that they should be looking for a younger solution whose best years would be ahead and could carry surplus value in a hypothetical future transfer.      There’s a lot to like with Maupay as a striker, particularly in his movement off the ball. He’s smart in terms of using different types of maneuvers without the ball to present himself as an option. In addition to his positional craftiness he’s also quite mobile, so he presents an option to get behind the opposition defense both during transition opportunities and when sensing the opportunity to make a looping run between the space of the center back and fullback. His combination of constantly being on his toes and looking for openings, along with his ability to link up play, makes him a dynamic forward. What’s interesting about Southampton is that even during their heyday as a PL club from 2013-16, their greatest success in attack came from strikers who leaned more towards the target man archetype in Pellè and Rickie Lambert. Maupay would not be a successor to those two individuals, but he does share the ability to be a helpful cog in a successful attack by being a striker who is confident laying off passes for others to run onto. It’s fair to wonder how Maupay would transition from Brentford, a club that’s put loads of time and resources towards constantly hunting for the best type of shot to Southampton, a team that have constantly been inefficient with their shot locations. But, given his intelligent movement and willingness to put in a shift defensively, there’s enough in Maupay’s game to think he would transition well into the Premier League.

Emiliano Buendía (22 years old, Norwich)

Southampton’s poor record in getting young attacking talents to make the leap since Sadio Mané left means that, in some ways, the attacking positions on Southampton are a blank canvass because no one has proven themselves to be indispensable to the side. Redmond has shown signs as an interior player under Hasenhüttl, but the duration of his time at Southampton has been disappointing with his shot selection continually being an issue. Emiliano Buendía is interesting because he’s a Swiss army knife of a player. He’s not the flashiest player out there, as his attacking numbers aren’t outstanding when looking at his expected goal contribution. He’s not a gaudy shot contributor individually or for others, but he’s perfectly fine in that department. Rather, he just does a little bit of everything in attack. For a player that plays an attacking position on the right wing, Buendía’s defensive output resembles a high end central midfielder, which is impressive. Even without the flashiness to his game, Buendía has been immensely helpful to Norwich because he has shown the ability to do two things well: have diversity in his passing, and possess intelligent awareness off the ball. He’s constantly moving around, trying to get himself away from his marker to receive the ball and turn without too much pressure. When he does receive the ball, he’s quick on his feet and isn’t afraid to attempt high value passes to teammates who are making runs into dangerous areas. With Norwich in second place and performing like one of the best clubs in the Championship, it’s hard to envision them selling Buendía unless it was for an absolute premium, especially given that he has only been there for less than six months. That being said, it’s not hard to envision someone of Buendía’s archetype being successful in a Ralph Hasenhüttl system given his ability to both make quick decisions with his passing and not shirk from defensive duties. The appointment of Hasenhüttl represents a real chance for Southampton to return to what made them so successful in the first few years of their return to the Premier League. Looking at younger players with higher upsides outside of England's top flight can help rejuvenate the side, particularly with the Austrian's ability to teach new tactical ideas. The future could once again be bright for Southampton, and some of the right signings could help take the club another step forward.   Header image courtesy of the Press Association

Hugo Lloris Is Still Very Good

There were reasons to be worried about Hugo Lloris. He’s 31 years old. Last season, especially down the stretch, he appeared to be exceedingly mediocre. Early this season he was arrested for drunk driving, an incident that’s on field implications are secondary to its off field ones, but one which nevertheless could conceivably have had on field implications. And yet, Hugo Lloris remains a stalwart in goal for Tottenham Hotspur. On one level this isn’t an argument about numbers. Tottenham’s defense has not been up to their usual standards this year. It’s not controversial to argue that the aging of Mousa Dembele, long term injury to Victor Wanyama, lack of development (and short term injuries) of Eric Dier, and lack of summer recruitment left Spurs dreadfully thin in the center of the pitch. Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko may have their uses, but those uses don’t include being at the heart of one of the best defenses in the Premier League. Similarly, the Spurs back line has suffered through a seemingly endless string of injuries. Jan Vertonghen, and Davinson Sanchez both continue to be in and out of the lineup, which pushed youngster Juan Foyth to the fore, before he too was hurt. Danny Rose and Ben Davies have both missed stretches at left back as have Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier on the right. Spurs have been kind of a mess this year. Despite that, they haven’t really conceded very many goals. The 16 goals they’ve given up is fourth best in the league (a brief aside to note Lloris missed four games through injury so Spurs stars are not identical to Lloris’s stats, but we’ll drill down to his specific numbers in a moment). The bottom line here is that despite having a midfield and defense that struggled for consistency, Spurs defense record remained strong. The obvious place to look for reasons why is the keeper. Or, to put it slightly more technically, Spurs are significantly outperforming their expected goals conceded tally. Excluding penalties, their opponents have 17.50 expected goals and only 13 goals actually scored. Now, let’s look at Lloris specifically. When he was on the field, basic xG has Spurs well overperforming defensively. Looking at post-shot xG we see a slightly lower xG total but with Lloris still performing well above average. What exactly does that mean? It means that actually the shots against Lloris were slightly easier than a generic xG model predicts they would be. So, somewhat fewer belters towards the corner for Lloris to lunge and tip over, or a couple fewer perfectly placed curlers, and a few more smashed right at him. But that said, Lloris has still saved over 4.5 goals more than an average keeper would have given the shots he’s faced. In fact, as a rate instead of a raw number, Lloris ranks second in the league at Goals Saved Above Average. His GSAA% of 9.8% is only behind Alisson’s 10.7% among first choice Premier League keepers. In the 13 games Lloris has played this year he’s been a huge factor in a very successful Spurs season. The Champions League, of course, is a slightly different story. He played three full matches, and was red carded in a fourth. And his overall performance was below average. His GSAA was below par, letting in 1.69 shots more than a keeper might have on average. And similarly, last season Lloris put up mediocre results against expectation for Spurs in net. He conceded almost exactly at hist GSAA average. An interesting note about Lloris’s year over year performance is that his expected save percentage was remarkably similar last season, 73.8% to this, 73.2%. That means that his improvement this season is accurately captured by his raw save percentage number in creasing from 73.4% to 83%. It also gives us a little more information about the contours of Spurs decline in defensive performance, namely that it’s a volume issue, and sure enough Spurs are giving up more than 2.5 shots per game more this year, 12.41, more than last year, 9.87 So, how to reconcile all this. The easy thing to say is that this season in the Premier League Lloris has been excellent, at a time when Spurs needed him to be. Projecting that performance out into the future is harder. Part of this is because this data is so new, we don’t know how it is supposed to behave. We don’t know, for example, if the fact that Lloris was so far above expectations last year was in fact a red flag indicating that maybe he was performing at a level that couldn’t continue (similar to how great goal scorers, even if they might be expected to marginally outperform regular old xG, don’t do so consistently by nearly as much as they do in their best moments). Or, maybe actually Lloris consistently has outperformed his GSAA for years and years and years and we just don’t have the historical data that shows us that. Maybe last year was the anomaly, and not only do keepers frequently diverge from GSAA, but they do it in really sustainable ways over large swathes of their career. If that was the case, and last year was the weird one, then there’d by absolutely nothing for Spurs to worry about at all. This season, with all the shot stopping, would just be a return to business as usual. There’s a considerable amount of uncertainty around Lloris, and consequently around the rest of Spurs Premier League season. But, one thing that we can say for sure is that in the thirteen games he’s played this year he’s been excellent, almost as good as any keeper in the Premier League. And Spurs have needed him to be. Without Lloris, Spurs strong start to the season wouldn’t have happened. The question now is will Lloris slow down, and will Spurs be able to keep thriving if he does?   Header image courtesy of the Press Association

Dele Alli: Progress Depends On The Unreasonable Man

Dele Alli has become a pressing monster this season while continuing to carry a goal threat. Fans of opposition clubs are readily whipped into a seething frenzy by the mischievous Spurs player but they may have to set aside tribal allegiances as he becomes England's most important player through the next decade. His unique, still developing skill set could challenge what is expected from a modern midfielder and help progress the way football is played. In the three and a bit years since making his Tottenham Hotspur debut it feels like Dele Alli hasn't stopped. He's clocked up almost ten thousand minutes of Premier League football. He's scored forty league goals. Thirty-six of those goals, along with twenty-five assists, came in his first one hundred games in the top flight - making him faster out of the blocks than illustrious predecessors such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. He's got thirty-three international caps for England and scored in the World Cup earlier this year. He glides, shark like, across pitches. Not stopping. Sniffing out space. Smelling blood. He can seem to be on the periphery but is rarely peripheral. He's picked up back to back PFA Young Player of the Year awards. Almost every weekend he's let that cool smirk play across his lips, baiting opposition fans. He's arrived with impeccable timing in penalty boxes over and over again. He's played the pantomime villain: nipping in to steal away second balls, the crowd warning in vain; "He's behind you!". He's been performing in big games since his North London derby debut as a teenager. Lately, such as against Leicester, he has impressed in games when key teammates are rested. The twenty-two year old's insouciant nature with the ball at his feet belies his full pelt race towards progress as a player. Is he a goal scorer? A raumdeuter? An elite disruptor? A ball progressor? A do-it-all 10? As top level goalkeepers and centre backs begin to contribute more to attack and attackers are expected to be able to defend is Dele part of the next evolution? What even is an attacking midfielder in 2018/19? Is he England's most modern player - a multi-functional, protean midfielder?

Press Ups

This season Dele has really dialed up the amount of pressure he applies to opposition players. It has been effective, resulting in a huge amount of pressure regains for his team. On average Spurs win the ball back over five times every single match within five seconds of Dele pressuring an opponent. Players with elite destructive traits such as N'Golo Kante and Sergio Busquets are forcing fewer pressure regains than that this season. Dele is also attempting almost twice as many tackles compared to last season and, impressively, is winning almost three quarters of them. His leggy build and masterful powers of anticipation are a tough combination for opposition players especially in tight areas during moments of transition. As well as disrupting opponents, Dele reduces the pressure experienced by his teammates. He's a great out ball - receiving the most passes when under pressure in this Spurs team. Once he's got the ball he doesn't just shift responsibility onto someone else in a similarly tough spot. Out of the entire Spurs squad he only plays the sixth most passes to a teammate under pressure. Interestingly this is quite a change from last season. When it comes to applying and relieving pressure Dele really seems to be developing.

Smarter Shooting

This season there are also small upticks so far in terms of pass completion, deep progressions and xG per shot. On the downside the number of fouls won by Dele has almost halved. That might be due to tactical changes, or it might be a knock on effect of his reputation as a diver preceding him or it might be further physical and mental developments aiding him in evading challenges. Either way an interesting change to keep an eye on given how significant a decrease it is. Also decreasing since last season are the amount of shots he has taken - not an uncommon theme among Spurs attackers - and the amount of chances he has set up. In terms of Dele's own shooting this may indicate further evolution. It looks like he is making smarter choices given the comparative lack of low value efforts from outside the box. A quick caveat would be that each of his league goals so far this season have been headers. It'll be worth keeping an eye on whether he can generate as many close range attempts with his feet throughout the remainder of this season as he has in the past. For now though his xG per 90 is similar to that of last season and he'd probably be on track to score into double digits this season if not for his hamstring injuries through September and October. All of this adds up to a seriously dangerous player. There are not many other players in the Premier League that help win the ball, progress it into dangerous areas and then provide a goal threat quite like him. Dele's limited Champions League minutes show a brighter picture this season in terms of chance creation. As Spurs acclimatize to a more possession oriented style in the Premier League and work to develop more controlled methods of progressing the ball into the final third it may be that Dele gets the opportunity to provide more opportunities for his teammates. Certainly there is no question over his ability to do so. The question is really: what can't he do?

What's In A Name?

Many people still think of Dele as just a goal scorer. Or just an attacking midfielder. Clearly he's now showing he has elite talent on both sides of the ball. That's already a special skill set. Given his youth it is fair to think that there may be even more to come. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM4E1XsonUA As basketball becomes a positionless sport, running backs evolve or die in the NFL and baseball shifts infielders from their normal locations so too are changes afoot in football. Ederson is playing no look passes. Allison is clawing headers away from the top corner before launching counter attacks. Thiago Motta is talking about 2-7-2 formations. Frenkie de Jong is dribbling out of defence, into midfield, and willing opponents to press him. Hybrid wing-forwards like Mo Salah are moving centrally. Centre forwards, like Tottenham's Harry Kane, are sometimes not the tip of the spear. Fullbacks are a key attacking weapon. Attackers are the first line of defence. What about midfielders then? If Dele is any indication then the very best might just get very, very good at almost everything.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." - George Bernard Shaw

Your multi-level-marketer cousin is probably wildly misunderstanding what progress is while quoting Shaw on LinkedIn to eulogise their sociopath boss right now. However, Dele could be inspired by the same words to adapt the football world to himself. Progress in terms of how midfielders play may depend on football itself evolving to suit the will and skills of Dele and other similarly multi faceted young players such as Naby Keita. Whether what he does leads to him being called a midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a free 8, a do-it-all 10 or some other newfangled hybrid doesn't really matter. Keep in mind that Dele dispensed, to an extent, with his own birth surname. This ultra modern footballer will be coolly winding up opponents, making decisive contributions on both sides of the ball and changing the game over the next decade. Maybe just avoid sticking him out on the left wing like Paul Scholes.   Header image courtesy of the Press Association

Bournemouth's January Shopping List

This article was co-authored by @GraceOnFootball and @MoeSquare.   With Eddie Howe’s side riding high, are any additions needed this January? We take a look at where they might need to strengthen, and who could be up for the job. After 17 games last season, Bournemouth found themselves on 16 points. This year, they’re sitting much more comfortably on 23. The side have been on a very poor run since the start of November, losing six of the last seven games, but an outstanding start to the season still keeps them well ahead of last year’s pace. While the attack has remained largely the same, generating 1.18 expected goals per game compared to last year’s 1.15, Howe has been able to run a tighter ship on the defensive side of the ball, with Bournemouth now conceding 1.31 xG per game against last season’s 1.52. As seen on the radar comparison below, Bournemouth have turned the high press down a notch, and are allowing the opposition to have longer spells of possession before attempting to win the ball back. The improved form of Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser, along with the quick impact of new signing David Brooks, has helped the attack keep ticking along while the team have gone to a more conservative approach. Though variants of back 3 systems have been employed in certain games, for the most part Bournemouth have gone for broadly a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 shape. The attacking quartet of Brooks, Fraser, Wilson and Joshua King have been able to form a good relationship in possession while working hard off the ball. King, Brooks and Wilson are leading Bournemouth in terms of pressures per 90 and while Fraser has been much less aggressive in that department, his attacking play has gone some way toward compensating. When it comes to xG assisted per 90, the Scotsman is behind only Eden Hazard, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Mohamed Salah this season. Most would agree that those players are fine company for Fraser to find himself in. It’s in central midfield where things have been a little less settled. Though Lewis Cook had something of a breakout season in the role last year, Howe sprung a surprise early in this campaign by leaving him on the bench in favour of Andrew Surman and Dan Gosling. With Cook seemingly not trusted and new signing Jefferson Lerma not yet integrated into the side, Gosling and Surman formed not exactly the most exciting of partnerships, but presented a more solid block in front of the back four, and were a big part of Bournemouth’s fairly dramatic defensive improvement. Though, as can be seen from the radars below, these two don’t really offer much beyond solid positioning and improved midfield stability. Howe thus had a conundrum. The club set themselves a new transfer fee record in acquiring Lerma, and as such he would need to be brought into the side. Lerma is largely a conventional holding midfielder, so his inclusion did not pose a huge threat to the team’s defensive stability. That he leads Bournemouth in tackles and interceptions per 90 is enough indication of what he is about. The slightly more complicated issue sat at the feet of Cook. The Englishman was a crucial player for Bournemouth last season, leading the side in deep progressions. Generally alongside either Surman or Gosling, it was Cook who had the ability to really move the ball forward in midfield, either through his adept passing or comfort in dribbling through central areas. The problem was that Bournemouth were far too porous last year. The Cherries’ 1.52 expected goals conceded per game was the second worst in the whole of the Premier League. Howe’s instincts were right in that he needed to better protect the back four. The plan, thus, seemed to be to wait until Lerma was ready to start games, in the hope that the Cook/Lerma combination would be able to provide attacking impetus without sacrificing defensive protection. This has been the preferred option since October, and while it should be stressed that harder fixtures have played a notable role, Bournemouth’s xG conceded has seen a worrying uptick since the midfield changes were made. In the meantime, Cook has suffered a horrible stroke of bad fortune with a season ending injury. This is obviously a huge blow, and it is entirely reasonable to think that, over time, he could have found the form of last season once again. But in the games he played this campaign, he looked a long way off his past swagger, unable to progress the ball like he once did while also offering less on the defensive side. So the solution is to stick with Lerma, Surman and Gosling and keep things compact, right? Well, Bournemouth may have some trouble getting the ball into dangerous areas that way. So far this season, none of the central midfielders have been able to provide much in the way of deep progressions. The players most involved in moving the ball into the final third are the full backs, Charlie Daniels and Simon Francis. Relying on these players to move the ball forward is never ideal, but the problem is exacerbated as both are in their thirties. Having them consistently move high up the pitch could come to haunt Bournemouth as their legs tire later in the season. So what Bournemouth should be looking for is a central midfielder who can move the ball forward in Cook’s absence, but without a huge cost to the side’s defensive structure that has often been vulnerable in the past. This is a fairly hard criteria to find players to fill, especially given that for a club like Bournemouth, who are trying to move up the Premier League food chain, they should be targeting players who are on the younger end of the spectrum so there can be surplus value in future transfer sales. Someone like Thiago Mendes, who has been quite good at Lille and fits a lot of what Bournemouth are looking for, would have been an interesting target. However, he’s turning 27 in March so he doesn’t quite fit the timeline that Bournemouth should be working with. Also, despite the major advantage of being a Premier League team in 2018, Bournemouth still have to contend with other clubs in their own division with greater financial power. There are young midfielders who fits the type of profile that Bournemouth are looking for, but a fair number of them aren’t realistic targets. Players like Fabian Ruiz, Adrien Rabiot and Tanguy N’Dombele are either at elite clubs or destined to move to elite clubs in the near future. Yves Bissouma could have potentially fit what Bournemouth are looking for, but he moved to a Brighton over the summer and even with some of the struggles Bissouma has experienced this season, it’s hard to see Brighton giving him to a midtable rival so soon after acquiring him. Armed with that knowledge, it makes shopping for potential targets a challenging task, but it isn’t impossible, and there are some players that bring skills to the table that should be of interest to Bournemouth  

Hamed Junior Traorè (Empoli, 18 years old)

It doesn’t take much effort to see the appeal of Hamed Junior Traorè. In today’s age, having a midfielder who can both pass and create space individually off the dribble on a consistent basis is a necessity if you want to compete on a higher level. At this point, Traore shows flashes of being a high level zone mover from the midfield position more than consistently being that type of player, but the flashes certainly are tantalizing. The best thing about Traore’s passing is his ability to see when his teammates make runs off the ball and his corresponding attempts to get them open for potentially dangerous scoring chance. His execution isn’t quite there yet, though his passing in short distances is solid. Considering that he’s only 18 years old and he’s playing in a top-5 league, it’s understandable that he’s not the fully realized version. It very well may be that with more reps under his belt, he’ll be able to make some of these passes with greater regularity. There are questions to be asked about Traore’s fit on Bournemouth from a defensive standpoint. Empoli apply heavy pressure on opponent across the pitch, which ratchets up individual pressure stats for their midfielders. It’s fair to wonder how he’ll integrate into a unit that employs a more orthodox 4-4-2 setup and doesn’t emphasize closing down opponents as Empoli do. Still, Traore has a high ceiling and would represent the clearest attempt at finding a future star for a club like Bournemouth. If Traore hits his 80th (or higher) percentile outcomes as a player, you could easily envision a scenario where one of the Premier League's biggest clubs hoovers him up for a sizable fee. It’s perhaps hard to see this being a transfer that occurs in January, given Traore’s age and Empoli need to avoid relegation, and Traore’s destiny might be moving up the Serie A food chain to one of the bigger Italian clubs, but Traore would be the kind of high upside bet that Bournemouth have not done enough of over the years.

Joan Jordán (Eibar, 24 years old)

The value that comes from finding an average to slightly above average Premier League player on the cheap is huge, especially for clubs like Bournemouth who have to hit on the margins more often if they want to continue moving up the ranks in the league. One can look at how Brighton got lots of mileage out of their signing of Pascal Gross for £3 million, helping them maintain their status comfortably above relegation. Even Liverpool have been helped immensely by getting talented players on the margins like Andrew Robertson and Xherdan Shaqiri. Getting good production from players on cheap fees helps! Joan Jordán could be someone who fits that bill. With his transfer fee at only €1M in the summer of 2017 and Eibar currently in 13th place in La Liga, it’s hard to see Eibar asking for a premium in a future transfer, which should have someone like Bournemouth interested. Jordan has been productive this season as a swiss army knife player, being deployed in numerous positions while providing quality two-way production. The best way to describe Jordan’s game would be smooth. He’s a comfortable passer who doesn’t need too many touches to make his next move, he’s not afraid to take risks with his passes and he’s even provided value as a set piece creator this season. Unlike Traore, who is a bundle of energy and doesn’t need much invitation to drive the ball forward, Jordan is much more comfortable getting the near midfield, using his guile to shift away from opponents before getting the ball to an open teammate in the halfspace areas. Jordan may not have the same upside that Traore does based on their respective skillsets and the fact he's more than five years older and it’s fair to wonder if Jordan can translate his two-way production to a higher tempo league given he’s not the quickest player out there, but given the probable cheap price and Jordan’s ability to sprinkle in goals and assists as a midfielder, it’s a low risk/medium reward transfer that could conceivably become a net positive.

Adrien Tameze (Nice, 24 years old)

In isolation, Adrien Tameze has been a quality player since getting regular minutes last season at Nice. We have 1.5 seasons of evidence to suggest that Tameze is the kind of midfielder that has solidly thread the needle between being a midfielder capable of racking up defensive numbers as the base of a midfield three, while also showing proficiency as a passer. That’s a hard balancing act to do, and it makes Tameze a valuable player. The problem with Tameze in relation to Bournemouth is that he probably represents a better version of what Jefferson Lerma was brought to be. Given that Bournemouth spent a lot of money on Lerma over the summer (though it’s fair to wonder whether they should’ve done that in the first place) it’s safe to assume that they’re going to try and extract as much value as possible from Lerma whenever he’s on the pitch moving forward. Playing a Tameze, Lerma midfied pivot would bring questions about whether there’s enough offensive value being put on the table with those two. The very question that Bournemouth is entering the marketplace to try and solve. Tameze’s passing may not be dynamic enough to assuage those concerns since he isn’t much of a chance creator, but he can pass the ball. He’s comfortable doing one-touch passes during rondo sequences or helping to maintain possession and slowing down the pace by recycling the ball. Tameze can make functional short passes where a teammate is open between the lines, and he gets the ball to him without the teammate breaking stride. He’s also cognizant of teammates making off-ball runs and attempting to get them the ball in dangerous areas. If Nice’s asking price for Adrien Tameze is in the £13-15 million range, then it’s probably something that’s still worth exploring for Bournemouth. Tameze is a good player who is still young enough that if he hits big as a transfer and becomes a stud, you can sell him off and make a noteworthy profit. If the price is closer to what Fulham paid for Andre Zambo Anguissa, then things get a bit more dicey. Putting down roughly £50 million on two midfielders who broadly function in similar roles, even if one of them is better than the other, is something Bournemouth perhaps shouldn’t do. The one major black mark against Eddie Howe's hugely successful time managing Bournemouth has been in the transfer market. Armed with greater resources than he could have imagined when the club were in the Football League, Howe has too often stuck with the more familiar option of signing players from within the United Kingdom. The move to splash the cash on Lerma represented something of a break from this, though even he had featured notably in the World Cup for Colombia. Players such as Traore, Jordán and Tameze represent the kind of reasonably priced options from good leagues that Howe should be interested in, especially considering his ability to develop younger players. If he were able to develop some of the less complete but talented prospects around Europe, Bournemouth could really push on as a club over the next few years.

Firing Jose Mourinho Solves One Problem but Not THE Problem

As Jose Mourinho gets handed his walking papers, the most damning thing about Manchester United is not that they’re in sixth place, it’s that they should be considerably worse than that. Usually, when a team like United become bad, there are some unspoken quotation marks around the word. They aren’t bad in some absolute, they’re bad compared to expectations. The sixth best team in the Premier League is still pretty good. It’s just that being sixth best isn’t, and shouldn’t be, good enough for Manchester United. But, despite sitting sixth in the table, United are not the sixth best team in the Premier League. Their expected goals numbers paint a much darker picture. Their xG per game of 1.19 per match is only ninth best in the league. Their opponents’ xG of 1.29 is 11th best. There was a time when you might excuse a Mourinho side’s lack of attack because they deployed an incredibly stingy defense. Not anymore. Their xG difference of negative. 0.10 per match is only 11th best in the Premier League. That’s not only not good enough for Manchester United, it’s not good enough for teams whose ambitions top out at qualifying for the Europa League. If this United team was not only in sixth place, but actually had the underlying numbers to match the sixth place results it might be possible to make a compelling case to stay the course with Mourinho. Sixth place is, of course, a massive step backwards from the side’s second place finish last season. But that second place finish was itself largely aided by all sorts of unsustainable factors. United’s xG difference last year was 0.49 per match, the fifth best in the league. If they were achieving that total again this season it would still be the fifth best total in the league. The primary issue for United, and for Jose Mourinho, isn’t that they’ve regressed to their numbers, it’s that those numbers have themselves declined significantly. That’s especially damning given that it’s roughly the same set of players that Mourinho had under his care last year. The same players are playing demonstrably worse. One of the truisms of analytics is that by and large teams play to their talent levels, and that by and large teams’ talent levels are determined by how much money they spend (although not just on transfer fees, wages are a major, often overlooked, factor here). When that relationship breaks down in a negative way, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Of course, when it breaks down in a positive way you get stories like Leicester City or Monaco winning extremely unlikely trophies and we all get to celebrate the wonder of sports. Firing Mourinho is a reasonable response to the marked decline in United’s performance this season. There’s plenty to question in his decision making. He started the season feuding with Anthony Martial, spent the entire year yanking possibly his best defender in Eric Bailly around, and finished his tumultuous half season by making a habit of benching Paul Pogba. The only player who seemed immune from Mourinho’s perpetual lineup mixing and matching was the piece of burnt toast formerly known as Nemanja Matic. But, while Mourinho being shown the door solves one problem, a larger one remains. Why, exactly, is a team with the resources of Manchester United topping out at fifth best underlying numbers. That’s a larger problem than just Mourinho. United could play significantly better than they have been but also remain way behind where they should be. That’s not going to change simply by replacing Mourinho’s glowering visage. The problem of misspending at United has persisted across various managerial regimes. At one point the cause was clear. By the tie Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the squad had been hollowed out and aged well past it’s sell by date. It was only the United legend’s genius that kept them near the top. A rebuild was desperately needed. But that was 5.5 years ago. There’s been a year of Moyes, two of Van Gaal, and now 2.5 of Mourinho. The club’s squad is still a misshapen mess. Shape the team a little bit differently and sure, you’d get a contender for top four. A wide open attack with Pogba moving the ball through midfield, and having Martial, Lukaku and Rashford or Sanchez ahead of him would at least be fun. But they’d still have fullbacks that are either entirely untested like Dalot, or entirely in their 30s like Young and Valencia manning the flanks. They’d still have a center back pairing, whichever one got run out there made up of guys who couldn’t get the job done under Mouriho’s conservatism now being asked to patrol more space with less protection. The squad needs to be fixed. The entire backline needs to be upgraded. The collection of midfielders not name Pogba needs to be upgraded. Only the collection of attacking talent is up to snuff for a team with the money and ambitions of United. So, while changing managers, and bringing in somebody who will emphasize that talent, rather than minimizing it, will do work to get the most out of this talent, it will not fix the problem of the team not having enough good players in enough positions across the pitch. Now, again, some of this is Mourinho’s fault. Mourinho was involved in transfer policy, just as Van Gaal was before him, and just as Moyes brought in Marouane Fellaini (who’s going to outlive us all at United) before that. And the changing of transfer policies, combined with the changing of managers, all of whom have different styles and different objectives and different approaches has left United permanently chasing it’s own squad building tail. It’s fine to want to be a club that specializes in buying big ticket stars. When money is no object, swooping for Alexis Sanchez because you can, has its merits. United’s problem has become that they want to keep buying cherries for the top of a sundae that melted half a decade ago. Until that gets fixed and the team does the unsexy work of replenishing their defense and defensive midfield, there’s only so high any change in manager will take them. Mourinho needs to go. The decline in performance from last year to this year is an unforgivable sin. It’s one that he’s largely responsible for. But, the fact that United hasn’t actually been good in over half a decade, that’s down to bigger factors. And, unless something changes, that means we’ll just be back here in a year or two doing this song and dance all over again.

Scouting La Liga: Potential January Targets for Premier League Clubs of All Sizes

As the January transfer window approaches, the thoughts of Premier League clubs inevitably turn to potential reinforcements. Here are a few La Liga standouts at various price points who may be of interest, either now or next summer.  

Júnior Firpo

At the top end of the market, Real Betis wing-back Júnior Firpo is reported to be attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City. With a €50 million release clause, he is unlikely to come cheap. The question is: how much is a potentially top class left-back worth? A wide forward converted into a full-back partly because he struggled to dribble effectively from a standing start, Firpo combines natural attacking instincts with physical attributes that allow him to cover a lot of ground and compete well defensively. His contribution of 0.20 xG + xA per 90 is the eighth highest of any La Liga full-back or wing-back with more than 500 minutes of action to their name. On the other side of the ball, he makes a solid number of tackles and interceptions and is fairly sturdy in blocking progress when players try to take him on. Tactically, he has managed to prosper at wing-back under the very specific demands of Quique Setién’s heavily possession-based approach since making his first-team debut in February. A goal and assist in Betis’ 4-3 victory over Barcelona at the Camp Nou earlier this season further raised his profile. At 22, and with less than a full season of top-flight football behind him, there are still some raw edges there, but his current numbers and the general consensus seem to agree that this is a player with the attributes to become one of the best in his position.  

Borja Iglesias

Borja Iglesias has had to work hard to get his shot at the top flight. He failed to make the grade at Villarreal, and made just one, 11-minute cameo for Celta Vigo’s first team during his four years there. But after 34 goals for Celta’s B team in the Spanish third tier, followed by 22  more on loan at Real Zaragoza in the Segunda División last season, he has made a much more lasting impression on the Primera División at Espanyol. Among players to have seen at least 500 minutes of action, Iglesias lies second in La Liga in terms of xG per 90 (0.61), and third in combined xG and xA (0.74), behind only Lionel Messi and Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder. His is the shot chart of classic centre-forward getting into prime positions inside the area, a profile he also fits physically and in his all-round play. He has been impressive to date, even as certain reminders as to why it has perhaps taken him until his mid-twenties to secure regular top-flight action -- a certain looseness in his touch and rashness in getting off shots -- have occasionally surfaced. The question for potential suitors is whether this is simply a purple patch for a confident striker placed into a system that is functioning well and making the very most of his attributes or whether Iglesias, approaching 26, is capable of maintaining this kind of output for a further three or four seasons. If the answer is the latter, his €28 million release clause would look pretty tempting.  

Fernando Pacheco

Fernando Pacheco has been one of the most impressive goalkeepers in La Liga since ascending to the top flight with Alavés ahead of the 2016-17 season. Last season, the Real Madrid youth product prevented six more goals than the average goalkeeper would have been expected to given the quality of the shots he faced. And this season, he ranks third in La Liga in terms of GSAA% (Goals Saved Above Average as a percentage of Shots Faced), having let in five less goals than expected. At 26, Pacheco is still relatively young for a goalkeeper, and he is also attractively priced. His release clause stands at €40 million, but reports earlier this year suggested Alavés would be willing to listen to offers from €12 million upwards as they already have a viable long-term replacement in the form of Spain Under-21 international Antonio Sivera. Stylistically, potential suitors would have to bear in mind that Pacheco is fairly passive in terms of coming out to claim high crosses (something that has been evident since his younger days) and otherwise advancing from his goal to cut out danger. Our model also suggests he is pretty average in terms of positioning, although that is something that good coaching and astute use of analytics could potentially improve. Sevilla and Real Sociedad have previously shown interest. Perhaps it is time for Premier League clubs to enter the fray.  

Joan Jordán

If you’re on a budget and need a physically solid and technically adept two-way midfielder, Joan Jordán should certainly be somewhere near the top of your shopping list. The completeness of Jordán’s radar is partly a function of his versatility. His minutes so far this season have been spread across a variety of midfield roles. But it is also indicative of a player with the necessary attributes to do his fair share of defensive work, competently progress the ball forward on the pass or the dribble and also provide a decent goal contribution. Last season, he notched five non-penalty goals and two assists; this season, he already has two of each off of 1.44xG and 2.02xA. The 24-year-old has one more feather to his cap. He leads La Liga in Set-Piece xG Assisted per 90. Eibar paid just €1 million (plus variables) to sign Jordán from Espanyol in the summer of 2017, and while his release clause was never announced publicly, it is unlikely to be out of the reach of Premier League clubs.  

Other Potential Targets

Getafe midfield Mauro Arambarri has been a pressing monster so far this season. Could he improve his passing statistics in a different setup? Real Valladolid centre-back Fernando Calero has been linked with Arsenal after an impressive start to his debut top-flight season. Our center back radars provide more of a stylistic overview than an assessment of quality. On that basis, for good or bad, he profiles similarly to Johnny Evans. Raúl de Tomás was prolific in the Segunda División at Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano, and the 24-year-old, Real Madrid loanee, at one time considered the jewel of their youth system, has handled the step up to the Primera pretty well. On a struggling team, RDT is getting off over three shots per match and producing a very solid combined 0.42 xG + xA per 90. How would that scale on a better team?  

StatsBomb Podcast: December 2018 #3, Champions League Reaction, Weekend Review & More

Downloadable on the soundcloud link and also available on iTunes, subscribe HERE RSS feed, if required, here Also available on Spotify  

What Happens to Arsenal at Halftime?

Arsenal’s performances are stabilizing, but tactical weirdness remains in the form of dramatically better second half performances. Slowly but surely things are improving at Arsenal. They might be winning less than they were earlier in the season, but their level of play has become more consistent even as their results have hiccuped. As it stands Arsenal sit fifth in the table with 34 points, behind Chelsea only on goal difference with North London rivals Tottenham only two points ahead in third. That largely lines up with what expected goals predicts as well. Arsenal currently have an xG difference of 0.28 per game, the fifth best in the league. That isn’t to say that manager Unai Emery has solved all of Arsenal’s problems. The team's defense is still disturbingly sieve like. Opponents run up 1.16 xG per match, that’s not nearly stingy enough. There are nine Premier League teams that give up less than Arsenal defensively. But, you can get away with that to some degree when the attacking is firing for 1.43 xG per match, the fourth best total in the league. Arsenal have settled into a high octane approach which suits their abundance of attacking talent well. And, things all seem to be moving in the right direction. If there’s reason for concern it’s not in the bottom line. Fifth best by numbers, in the top four race and moving in the right direction might still be short of Arsenal’s ultimate ambitions but it’s a fine place to be approaching the midway point of Arsenal’s first season under new management. But, how they’re doing it is…well it’s weird. Arsenal’s success is coming despite not having led a single game at halftime. Does that mean anything? Is it just the football gods playing with Gunner emotions? Or is there something going on under the hood with Arsenal that’s leading to this exceedingly odd outcome? If there is some real tactical reason for the lopsidedness of Arsenal’s performance is it good or bad? Is Emery displaying the tactical acumen to rescue his teams from weak performances, or is he hampering them in the first half before getting out of the way later on? It does at least seem as if there’s something substantively different about Arsenal’s performances half to half. Here is Arsenal’s attacking output in the first half of games this season. There’s not a lot to write home about there. It’s fine. Eight goals is about what you’d expect from the shots they’re taking. Their xG per shot is an unimpressive 0.086 which is why even though 97 shots total which works out to a 12 per match pace isn’t terrible, their xG is so uninspiring. It’s all just kind of meh. But, after the break, things improve dramatically. They’re obviously running hot, but they’re also producing a lot more. More shots, more xG, and a better xG per shot ratio. Everything improves. Drill down a little deeper and we can isolate some of the change. Specifically, the way Arsenal play when they’re drawing is vastly different half to half. Here’s the first half. Again, not particularly inspiring. It’s fine, but 0.075 expected goals per shot is not the kind of attack on which successful teams are built, especially successful teams relying on their attack. The second half is better. These numbers are obviously juiced by a ludicrous three own goals (and if you count the one in the first half, that makes four matches, or a full quarter of Arsenal’s games, where they’ve gone ahead through an own goal) but even so the jump from 0.075 xG per shot to 0.114 is no joke. So there’s something real going on there. But, at the same time that real tactical shift is also being exaggerated by a particular kind of bad luck. Here’s the shot map that Arsenal have faced when they’re leading in the first half. They’ve conceded five goals from a grand total of 15 shots! And not even particularly good shots. If they’d conceded the one or two you’d expect them to, well that’s a handful of games where they get to 45 minutes with a lead instead of getting pegged back. So, Arsenal really do approach the first half differently to the second half, although perhaps not so extremely differently as might be suggested by their weird record. The other thing to note in conjunction with the difference in halves is that Emery is, in fact, very aggressive when making substitutions. On average Arsenal make subs sooner than any other team in the Premier League. Disentangling cause and effect here is difficult. Would Emery’s substitutions be as dramatic is the team wasn’t running badly the times they do go ahead? It’s hard to say. Similarly, is Emery choosing the wrong lineups and then correcting them, or is he actively choosing an approach which gets substantially less conservative as the game goes on? That’s not unusual. Lots of managers, even managers of teams with substantial attacking talent, like to keep it tight for an hour before pouring it on late in the match. The numbers don’t solve the chicken and egg problem of whether Emery’s tactical changes are in reaction to Arsenal’s performance, or causing them, or some combination of both, but they do show that there’s a chicken and egg problem to solve. The difference between Arsenal in the first half and Arsenal in the second half is pretty vast. The reasons for that difference, like the reasons for most things, fall firmly in the gray area between total randomness and being completely within the team’s control. They’re playing differently, but they’re also getting unlucky in ways which are magnifying that difference. Throw a manager who is willing to aggressively react and use substitutions to change the makeup of the team into that stew and you’ve got Arsenal. They’re pretty good. They’re pretty weird. But if being pretty weird is the worst thing you can say about the Gunners, that’s a lot better than where they were a couple of months ago.   Header image courtesy of the Press Association

Are Marseille in Decline?

The are two ways of looking at the 2017–18 season for Marseille. On the one hand, Marseille got all the way to the Europa League final, their first continental cup final since the 2004 UEFA Cup. They played some of the best football the Stade Veledrome has seen this decade, Florian Thauvin had by far the best season of his career and became a certified star. Dimitri Payet continued to defy conventional aging curves by having another great season at age 29, and a lot of the veteran talent in place had enough in the tank to help as credible supporting pieces. A lot of good things happened for Marseille last season, and you could build a credible argument that they were one of the three best teams in Ligue 1.

But, despite all of those good things, Marseille's main goal of qualifying for the Champions League did not come to fruition as they finished 4th, and that brought their transfer policy over the past couple of seasons to a greater focus. Whereas Monaco and Lyon have focused more on sustainability by acquiring young talents or having academy players come through the system and start for the first team, Marseille focused more on experience and allocating resources towards players in their late twenties and early thirties with the likes of Payet, Luiz Gustavo, Kostas Mitroglou, and Kevin Strootman.

We’re seeing the downside of going heavy on older players, as Marseille have not approached the level of performance that they showed for major parts of last season. Marseille were top three within Ligue 1 last season in both shot differential and expected goal differential, whereas through 16 games this season, Marseille are fourth in expected goal difference per game at 0.19 with a shot differential per game of 3.13. Those are okay numbers, but for a team trying to compete for Champions League positions, they're on the lower end of the spectrum. The defense has declined a little bit with regards to shot suppression and quality, though it’s still at a manageable level if the attack was humming along like it was last season, but instead there's been a clear drop off in performance going forward.

 

Another way to visualize the decline of Marseille is to look at the distribution of expected goals through time intervals in a match, to see how they’ve performed as the match has gone on. A hallmark for Marseille last season was their ability to control the game, keep the opponent at arms length, and then apply the pressure late on and turn small leads into something even more decisive. What’s happened this season has been the opposite trend: as the game gets closer to its conclusion, Marseille lose their control and things become much more topsy-turvy.

 

What made Marseille such a favorite for hipsters last season was their ability to maintain the delicate balance of taking a high volume of shots while maintaining healthy shot locations, all the while they would pump crosses into the box at a higher than league average level, which was really hard to do. They would play aesthetically pleasing football in a manner that was common for clubs managed by Rudi Garcia when they’re at their best: constantly supporting the man on the ball in short spaces before springing into life and putting pressure on the opponents near the penalty box. It was a methodical style of play that fit well with the squad makeup that Marseille had. Even when crossing the ball, there was sophistication into how they went about it, like in this play from Marseille's 3-0 victory versus Rennes last season. Lucas Ocampos's run into the heart of the penalty box is a nice diversion which allows Morgan Sanson to saunter in unopposed for a free shot on goal.

The collective team brilliance that Marseille had for major parts of last season in attack hasn't been there nearly as much through 16 games. There are larger gaps between the player on the ball and his teammates, as teams have been doing a better job in making it harder to access passing lanes. As a result, the likes of Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet have seen their play decline noticeably from an expected goals standpoint. There have been switches in formations to try and combat the issues, but they haven't really worked out. In their 3-1 victory against Amiens in late November when they tried a back three/five, the combination play showed flashes of what it was last year but without the final execution. Marseille made a big bet over the summer by effectively switching Andre Zambo Anguissa for Kevin Strootman. It was one that fit their philosophy of getting an established veteran player with a little bit of name cache, especially given Strootman's experience under Garcia at Roma. Selling Zambo Anguissa at the price he went for, in isolation, was a defensible move. Even though I thought Zambo Anguissa was very good and played a larger role than people realized in Marseille's success, it's understandable that Marseille sold high on him. It was an undeniable risk to place as many eggs as Marseille did in the Strootman basket. As a club, you better be damn sure whenever you're spending ample resources (wages and transfer fee) on a player at that age bracket. Maybe things can turn around, but to this point, Strootman has not provided close to the same value that Zambo Anguissa brought to the table last season. For the amount of money that Marseille have spent over the past few transfer windows, it's pretty odd that little of that cash has gone to replenishing the goalkeeper situation that's been in desperate need of improvement. For all the good things that Steve Mandanda has done during his time at Marseille, there's evidence to suggest that a replacement is needed. Both last season and in this season, Mandanda has been below average in Goal Saved Above Average % (difference between actual-expected save percentage). This season, Mandanda ranks 21st among all Ligue 1 keepers in GSAA% at -6.9%. Yohann Pele, Marseille's backup, ranks 27th with a GSAA% at -19.8%. Having multiple goalkeepers who are performing significantly below average in shot stopping is a recipe for leaking goals at a higher rate.

It probably was unrealistic to expect Marseille to produce at quite the same level that they did last season, especially in attack as they were a sub-elite attack domestically. Considering the age profile for a number of the players on the squad and how much they were being relied on, there was always the chance that things weren’t going to be as smooth as they did previously. With employing a squad that puts a heavy trust on older players, you’re susceptible to having players decline 5-10% from season to season. Have enough players decline in performance and you have similar issues that Marseille are dealing with currently.

The good news for Marseille is that the standard for getting into the top three this season looks to be at a lower level than what it was last season, when Ligue 1 had four very good teams (PSG, Monaco, Lyon, Marseille) and the other 16 teams weren’t anything much to write about. That hasn’t been the case this season as Lyon have vacillated between inspiring/uninspiring, and Monaco are still in the relegation zone through nearly half the season. In some ways, 2018–19 in Ligue 1 has resembled what the 2015–16 season was when it took a long time before Lyon eventually upped their standard of play to something that resembled a prototypical Champions League level side. As much as the likes of Montpellier, Lille, and St Etienne have impressed, you’d rather try and catch those clubs for the top three spots than Monaco/Lyon when they’re their usual selves.

Even in the event that Marseille turn things around and qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season, there should be a deeper look at the way they operate in the transfer market. It's clear that Marseille have chosen the identity of being a club that looks for immediate impact over long term sustainability since the ownership takeover in 2016. For a club that doesn't have unlimited or close to unlimited finances, it doesn't seem smart to tie your hopes on a high number of players either exiting their primes or at the latter stages of their prime years, because you'll be on the hook with their contracts. This isn't to say that what Monaco and Lyon do in betting their hopes on young talents are full proof plans with no downside potential, but rather that strategy comes with more surplus value than what Marseille have been doing.

It's not been a good season for Marseille. They were embarrassed in the Europa League group stages, and their domestic form has suffered greatly as well. They went from being one of the more exciting teams in Europe to something much more ordinary. The only saving grace is that Ligue 1 is in such a jumbled place with Monaco's implosion, so there's still enough time to salvage the season. Marseille are what happens when you bet the farm on veteran talents, and that bet doesn't come to fruition.

Has Jurgen Klopp Changed Liverpool’s Approach For Good?

For a manager so associated with a particular style of football, Liverpool’s tactical evolution under Jürgen Klopp has been surprisingly complex. There has already been much discussion about the extent to which Liverpool have dropped off from the high press this season. Here at StatsBomb, Euan Dewar looked at the numbers and found mixed evidence. Nonetheless, there are tactical shifts in Klopp’s approach this season. The obvious thing to note is that the 4-3-3, a mainstay of the previous two seasons, seems to be getting phased out in favour of a 4-2-3-1 with Mohamed Salah leading the line and Roberto Firmino dropping into a number ten role. Is this a significant change in style and should it be of benefit to Liverpool? Let’s take a closer look.

Liverpool’s Football in the Klopp Era

When Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers in October 2015, he inherited a Liverpool squad which had played a number of different formations and broader approaches over the past few years, as Rodgers generally had a flexible approach. With a hectic schedule and little coaching time available, he adopted a 4-2-3-1 that featured a lot of pressing but not much in the way of a clear idea in possession. Despite reaching a Europa League final, Liverpool in 2015/16 were not a particularly interesting side and it was not until the following preseason that Klopp was able to really instigate his style at the club. The way Klopp  set up Liverpool in 2016/17 was slightly unexpected. In his time at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp adopted a very fast counter-pressing style, with a 4-2-3-1 favoured, aiming to move the ball very quickly after winning it from the opposition. The German is famous for his claim that, “no playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation”, having added in the past that “the best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable”. This was certainly an aspect of Liverpool’s play, but the rapid transitions in possession generally associated with Klopp were less frequent than a more possession-based approach in attack. This was perhaps a result of personnel. The most obvious star player at his disposal was Philippe Coutinho, more of a conventional playmaker than a rapid presser. Klopp generally employed Coutinho from the left, but the Brazilian interpreted the role much as much more of a player to come towards the ball and offer a possession threat than a direct winger. Klopp admitted at the time that this was central in his tactical thinking, claiming that Liverpool “don’t have wingers, apart from Sadio [Mané], we have creative players, [so] we have to find a formation where they can bring their skills”. Further to this, in the lack of an out-and-out striking option who he liked (Christian Benteke had been exiled while Daniel Sturridge was preferred as an option off the bench), Klopp opted to use Firmino as the striker, who, along with being a key pressing trigger, was much more of an involved passer than most number nines. Adam Lallana was the other key player in terms of launching the press as the most advanced midfielder in the three, as well as performing playmaking duties almost as deputy to Coutinho in this department. Thus there was a 4-3-3 system in which all players in the final third bar Sadio Mané were looking to come towards the ball, inevitably and deliberately leading to a possession-heavy approach. That the side struggled much more in the stretches of the season where either Coutinho or Lallana was injured shows how reliant this approach was on creative passing from individuals. While most managers would respond to this problem by looking to strengthen the squad with more playmaking options, Klopp instead used the transfer window to move away from a possession approach. The biggest arrival in summer 2017 was of course Salah, who obviously had a significant impact in terms of individual quality, but also caused a shift in that Liverpool now had two wide players looking to run in behind rather than just Mané. Salah was very much a wide forward, playing high and narrow on the right and thriving from Firmino’s penchant for dropping deep. Liverpool’s shape last year is clear from this passmap (one example among many): a compact midfield three, with wingers narrower than the full backs while Salah takes up positions more advanced than Firmino. While Coutinho and Lallana were the chief playmakers in 2016/17, through transfer and injury, neither were mainstays in the side the following year. The aforementioned Salah took Coutinho’s place in the front three and interpreted the role very differently, while Lallana’s midfield role ended up largely being filled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Oxlade-Chamberlain offered different qualities, with his strongest asset perhaps being his ability to drive the ball forward from deep, exploiting space in transition. The Englishman certainly became an important cog in the way Liverpool moved the ball forward, ranking third in terms of deep progressions per 90 and second in open play passes into the box. But this personnel shift enabled a much greater emphasis on transition football, looking to attack on quick turnovers rather than prolonged periods of possession. Liverpool ranked first in the league in terms of “high press shots”, defined as shots from possessions that were won within 5 seconds of a defensive action in the opposition’s half. After the detour of something slightly different based on the tools available to him, the archetypal “Klopp football” had arrived at Anfield. So what are we seeing now?

Liverpool’s Approach This Season

While the previous two seasons were not a failure, Klopp certainly felt the need for Liverpool to further evolve. “A lot of teams saw that we were good at that and realised they were overplaying”, Klopp told Sky Sports. “If the team gives us the opportunity to do it we will still be there with the counter-press. But very often it is not possible”. As much as a change, this feels like a continued evolution from two years ago. The side feels even less possession focused than ever, with the transitional play becoming the core of everything, especially at times springing from a slightly deeper position. The 4-2-3-1 is a part of this. With Salah moving to the striker role, the threat of pace is now coming from a central area. Though there are very few other similarities with that side, there are some similarities with the way Leicester used Jamie Vardy as the number nine in their title winning season, or the role Thierry Henry took up at Arsenal. Those teams were adept at launching fast counter attacks. The new shape can be seen in this passmap, with Salah still drifting slightly to the right but clearly ahead of a band of three attacking midfielders, backed up by Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum taking equidistant positions. Firmino and Salah are the players who are playing the most different roles this year, and although both have received some doubts over their form at varying parts of the season, the data suggests that nothing significant has changed in their performances. Naby Keïta and Fabinho are still being gradually integrated into the team, but it seems likely that both will eventually suit the new system. By Klopp’s own admission, a double pivot is the system Fabinho prefers to play in, and has looked uncomfortable when situated as the lone defensive midfielder. Keïta also played in a double pivot at RB Leipzig, in a side that certainly pressed, but often from a somewhat deeper block, and looked to launch fast attacks in transition. Meanwhile, the outfield signing who has thus far had the biggest impact is Xherdan Shaqiri. Playing the right sided role taken by Salah in a different system, Shaqiri has been able to thread the needle of fitting the style of play while also bringing more variety. The third goal against Burnley last week was a case of him slotting into the system well, getting on the end of a rapid counter attacking move that sums up Klopp’s approach. As noted in Liverpool’s season preview, it was a concern going into this year that the club did not have a genuine human playmaker to fit alongside Klopp’s tactical approach. While not reaching the heights of Coutinho, Shaqiri has filled this gap to a decent level, with his volume of open play passes into the box evidence of his value in Liverpool’s ball progressing. The questions when Shaqiri arrived were largely over whether he would buy into the work ethic Klopp would require of him. In that regard, his 15.06 pressures per 90 represents a middling volume, but one that is a definite step up from the 10.76 he averaged at Stoke last year, despite playing in a lower possession side with thus more frequent opportunities to press the opposition. Perhaps Shaqiri’s biggest critic, Gary Neville, claimed that he would be seen “stood on the halfway line whilst your team are being attacked”, with many of the criticisms often challenging whether he will fulfil the defensive tasks required in “big games”. This is still an open question, with the Switzerland international yet to start a game against another side from last season’s top six. Perhaps it is the point that this approach will not be so frequently used against top sides. We saw Klopp use the more familiar 4-3-3 in the win against Napoli, and this perhaps signals that said system, with its greater emphasis on pressing, might be a better option against sides that will not look to sit back against Liverpool. Alternatively, Klopp could simply be taking his time to better drill the players in the new system before being comfortable enough to use it in the hardest fixtures. Regardless, this season we are seeing yet another shift in the way he wants Liverpool to play, one that is seeing a strong return in terms of results. Eventually this team will be judged against the highest of standards in Manchester City, but even if they fall short of a title winning season, these tactical adjustments remain noteworthy.

Introducing Goalkeeper Radars

If you pay attention to our social media, you know that we recently released the new goalkeeper(GK) module on our analytics platform StatsBomb IQ. This past weekend, phase 2 of the module went live, and included in that release were an awful lot of things, not least of which were the long-awaited GK radars. Today I'm going to discuss what we've done with the GK metrics, why they differ from what you might see elsewhere, and why this is something people in football really need to care about. (Note: For those of you who want to know more about the framework we have chosen to analyse GKs, please check out my intro piece here.) StatsBomb Data is Different I have been working with player data in football since 2013, but I never bothered to do much work with GK data. It's not that I didn't think GKs were important - obviously they are. The problem was that I felt the data we had access to didn't add much insight into the job GKs actually do. Primary jobs for GKs consist of:

  1. Stopping shots
  2. Claiming crosses and high balls
  3. Distribution

When I was designing the data spec for our new data, I went around to most of the smart people I know in football and asked them how we could improve football data without widespread tracking data. We ended up with a long list of upgrades to what our competitors offer, but probably the most important element across everyone's list was the position of the GK on every shot. And the reason for this was that a big part of the GK's job is simply being in the right place to have the best chance of saving any particular shot. Think of what you often hear in commentary when David de Gea is playing. "It's not really a save, the ball just hit him and bounced off." "Another shot right at him." "Great reflex save from de Gea, but again the ball was right at him." Being in the right position to make saves for a keeper is a huge skill, but you can't measure that if you don't have the data. So we collected it, along with the position of all the defenders in the frame when a shot is taken, and we call them Freeze Frames. (Credit for all the data science heavy lifting in the GK Module goes to Derrick Yam, who did great work on this on.) Once we had enough shots, we were then able to investigate where GKs generally should be positioned on shots from any particular location in order to make a save and put that information into a model. We then use that model to evaluate each GK on each shot and produce two shot stopping metrics. GSAA% - Goals Saved Above Average Percentage: How the Goalkeeper performed versus expectation. Calculated as: (PSxG - Goals)/Shots Faced Positioning Error - How far from the optimal position for facing a shot the Goalkeeper is (on average). The next two metrics we produced focus on GK activity around the box. CCAA% tries to answer how active are GKs at gathering claimables - high balls and crosses into the box that could be claimed. The claimables model first defines the likelihood of a pass from and to a particular location being claimed and then evaluates GKs based on their activity. (This is made easier because StatsBomb Data also includes pass height as you wouldn't generally expect GKs to claim ground passes.) Busy GKs that come off their line to claim lower xCL balls are graded higher than those who are consistently rooted to the goal line. The reason is because claims have some level of value in cutting out opposition chances, and GKs can be rewarded and penalised based on this activity. (Note: There are a lot of additional technical details behind the scenes here that are only available to StatsBomb IQ customers right now.) For GK Aggressive Distance we wanted to look at how active are GKs generally at moving off of their goal line to do football things? We investigate the distribution of the distance from goal for goalkeeper actions that are not passes, saves or claims. This includes clearances, interceptions, tackles and ball recoveries. This shows the presence a goalkeeper has further up the pitch and measures their defensive contribution in a manner more common to field players. Finally, you get to the distribution metrics. Admittedly, these are as more stylistic profiles as opposed to telling you whether a player is strictly good or bad at a skill set, but we chose these because we liked the insight they deliver in this area. In real world analysis, we produce something like twenty different distribution metrics in this area to dig deeper. Pass into Danger% - Percentage of Passes made where the recipient was under pressure or otherwise in Danger. Positive Outcome Contribution - How frequently is the player involved in sequences that soon resolve with a Postiive Outcome. Combine all of those into a visual plot with the outside ring as a top 5% cutoff and the inside ring as a bottom 5% cutoff and you get this: If you have watched these GKs quite a bit over the years, these really do feel "right" in terms of profiling their skill sets. De Gea is great at stopping shots, but doesn't do that much with regard to coming off his line. Lloris is a solid shot stopper who remains very busy around his own penalty area. What about Chelsea's Kepa, who Derrick analysed early in the season as being largely average in most of our metrics? And with our data, we now have detailed GK metrics for every league we collect, from the Premier League right down to League Two. Or MLS. Or Poland. Or your academy... Goalkeeping is Unsolved I hinted at this a little in my Barcelona presentation, but from talking to teams around the world, I get the impression very few understand goalkeeping from an analytic and training standpoint, and almost no one is closing the loop with regard to data driven coaching. I've been working with football data for nearly six years now, and it took us until now one to build a framework we liked to evaluate GKs analytically. Because of this, there are just so many things we don't know.

  • How do GKs age? What does the age curve look like?
  • Does shot stopping ability - which appears largely stable - increase, plateau, and decrease at certain times?
  • Are shot stopping and positional error negatively correlated to claim activity and defensive aggression?
  • How do GK skills transfer from lower quality leagues to higher ones?
  • How do they transfer across top leagues?
  • Our model thinks David de Gea saved Manchester United thirteen goals more than an average GK would have last season. Is that type of elite performance sustainable?

And that barely scratches the surface. Not knowing things in sport is dangerous. It throws a random factor into every decision you make that could be tremendously costly down the line. But ignorance becomes way more dangerous when it shifts from "no one really knows these things" to "we're the only ones who don't know these things." If your opponents have better info, and you are the only sucker left on the block... We designed StatsBomb Data to allow coaches and analysts to ask questions they never could before. And with StatsBomb IQ, we deliver powerful, easily understandable insights to answer those questions. We're not just here to stop teams from making mistakes, though data is super useful for that. We are here to deliver info that makes teams better in every area of the game. Recruitment, self-analysis, opposition scouting... And now goalkeeping. --Ted Knutson ted@statsbomb.com @mixedknuts PostScript For good or for ill, next month is the five-year anniversary of the first player radars I ever created. For those who want a design history and defense of the visualisation format, relevant links are below. The first terrible introduction article. Understanding Radars for Mugs and Muggles Defending Radars CASSIS Presentation - RADAR WARS. (Also an excuse to poke fun at Luke Bornn and Daryl Morey) New Radars on StatsBomb Data