Vitesse Arnhem has signed up for a partnership with StatsBomb to use their industry-leading football data. The collaboration with the fast-growing company highlights the Eredivisie team’s commitment to innovation and will see Vitesse Arnhem reap the benefits of Statsbomb’s data and IQ software platforms to enhance talent identification, performance analysis and opposition scouting. Vitesse Arnhem joins around 100 professional clubs and federations worldwide in using StatsBomb’s deep data, covering over 3,400 events per game. The data includes unique metrics such as Pressures by Player and Team, Pass Footedness, Pass Height, Freeze Frame for Shots and On-Ball Value – the company’s new possession value model. Alexandre Taylor, Sales Executive, StatsBomb, said: “We are excited to start working with Vitesse Arnhem, a club at the forefront of football data innovation. We are looking forward to a successful partnership contributing to the club’s data-driven strategy, where our data will help inform critical decisions around recruitment and scouting.” Speaking about the partnership, Johannes Spors, Sporting Director, Vitesse, said: “At Vitesse, we are constantly looking for smart and inventive solutions. We welcome new ideas, embrace modern technologies and love different ways of thinking. For our scouting and analysis, the focus on video and data-driven elements is therefore becoming increasingly important. COVID-19 and its travel restrictions have made these tools even more valuable. The addition of StatsBomb as a data service fits seamlessly into our innovative approach and helps us to scout and develop high potential talents from Europe and make targeted match analyses.” About StatsBomb StatsBomb is the world’s fastest growing football data company. Founded by former analyst Ted Knutson, StatsBomb was formed to empower data analysis teams by ensuring they have access to the best football data set ever created. Having started as an analytics blog, StatsBomb initially progressed to consulting on data-driven recruitment and performance analysis for professional teams. In 2018, having become frustrated with limitations of the data available at the time, StatsBomb acquired ArqamFC, a data collection company based in Cairo, Egypt, and started to collect and supply its own data. The introduction of StatsBomb data was a turning point for the analysis of football as it introduced previously unavailable metrics such as pressures, the height of the ball at the point of shot impact, goalkeeper positioning, freeze frames for shots and the foot with which each pass is played. In 2021, StatsBomb improved this data even further with the launch of StatsBomb 360, adding a snapshot of all visible player locations to more than 3,400 on-the-ball events that are collected per match. Having gained rapid traction since its inception, StatsBomb is now servicing customers across the professional game, as well as betting and gaming operators, and is active in over 20 countries.
It was a privilege to host such a high standard of presenters at the StatsBomb Conference 2021 in October.
On the Research Track stage, the winners of the research paper competition demonstrated their analysis in a clear and insightful way, showing a great level of innovation and some compelling findings from the original research they conducted on StatsBomb 360 Data. We’re delighted to be able to share with you the white papers from those talks, as well as remind you where you can watch the talks again. More than a dozen videos from the event are available to watch on our YouTube channel now, with a specific StatsBomb Conference 2021 playlist already set up for you to dive into. The research papers can be accessed by clicking the links below, which will take you to the respective pdf document.
StatsBomb, the leading football data provider, has signed an agreement with Club América, one of the most prestigious teams in Latin America. Club América will have better information with which to make key decisions after becoming one of the more than 100 professional clubs and federations around the world to benefit from StatsBomb’s cutting-edge data and models — the most detailed and reliable available. The Mexican side will also benefit from access to the highly customisable analysis platform StatsBomb IQ, enhancing their ability to scout and recruit players, analyse opposing teams and evaluate their own performance. Pablo Peña Rodríguez, Head of Innovation at StatsBomb, said: “We are delighted to be working hand-in-hand with a club as prestigious as Club América, a reference in both Mexican and Latin American football. The successful integration of advanced data into decision-making processes has never been more important than it is today in gaining a competitive advantage in elite football and we hope to accompany the club in many triumphs.” Enrique Cházaro, Coordinator of Sporting Intelligence, Club América said: “In football, as in all sports, technology and data collection have advanced a lot over the last few years. One of the principal objectives of Club América is to remain at the vanguard of technology because we believe that will allow us to gain a competitive advantage over other clubs and could also turn us into a reference point in the region. “Working with StatsBomb will allow us to further develop this idea. There is no doubt in our minds that the information and reports we can generate from this application are of the highest quality available and will provide key insight in the analysis we do both in scouting players and in analysing opposition players on a week-to-week basis.”
Scavenger hunts, an inter-company football match & new winners of the highly coveted ‘FA La La La’ Cup.
After being fully remote since March 2020, we finally decided an in-person team day was essential. Riding the post-conference high, the StatsBomb North (Europe & US) team trekked to Bath for team building and getting to know each other in 3D form. After presentations, demos and knowledge sharing galore over the past two years, we were super mindful that everyone is zoomed out and didn’t need to sit and listen to talk upon talk about strategy and commercial updates. We needed ‘fun activities’ (this made many of our team cringe initially too – bear with me), but we also wanted to get everyone fired up for the future. Of course, we were also covid careful; we booked out double the space we needed so that social distancing was possible, and we made vaccination a prerequisite. We’re still sad that our StatsBomb South colleagues couldn’t join us – unfortunately Egypt came off the red list just too late for us to get visas sorted. It wasn’t quite how we envisaged it in that respect, but then nothing COVID-related goes to plan.
CEO Ted Knutson kicked off proceedings by setting a clear vision for StatsBomb – we are going to become ‘the world’s greatest sports data company.’ Well, that’s pretty compelling! It’s not fluff; we are already on our way and have a solid strategy to get us there. Ted caught all our new starters up on our journey so far, where we started at a kitchen table right up to where we are today as a company of over 500 people, and set the scene for the next few years. There were some key themes that everyone could take away – ‘own yo shit’ now being the informal company mantra, and a strange guest appearance of Ryan Reynolds (don’t ask!).
Post StatsBomb Team Day fallout…
There's a reason for this, but I'm not sure I want to explain it outside the company.
— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) October 19, 2021
He also spent a fair bit of time talking about employee shares, showing real examples of employees in the company and how their shares have grown so far. Most employees are shareholders – it’s really important to all the founders that employees own a part of the company and feel that they have the ability to drive their own future.
We then sent everyone off on a scavenger hunt around Bath. We are lucky to be based in a world heritage site – it gave everyone a chance for a spot of sightseeing around beautiful Bath. The local contingent were looking quite smug until I told them they had their own set of cryptic clues!
The point of making everyone run around was to have fun and chat with people they wouldn’t normally chat to, but we’re a competitive bunch, so we had to give everyone a purpose. For the winning team, StatsBomb has made a charity donation per team member to a charity of their choice. So congrats to the winning team, co-founder Thom and all of our Will’s! Donations are on their way to the following important charities:
Day 2 hosted CTO Thom Lawrence’s vision for the future of tech teams at StatsBomb, where he laid out the framework for engineers’ career progression across multiple disciplines. Vicki Cullen launched our new HR software, empowering all employees and managers to manage performance, time off, and training needs, and I reinforced some important operational cadence within the organisation that we are working towards. The remaining time was spent in workshops, thinking through process improvements we want to make, brainstorming future ideas, and more valuable face-to-face team time. We even squeezed in an inter-company football tournament! All ages, all genders, all abilities. This is how we roll.
As always, we ended with a quiz, as is now a tradition on StatsBomb team days, as we have the best quiz master ever, Kat Agg, whose forte is describing football club logos in words. It’s hilarious – and tricky. For example, can you guess which club this is? ‘A siren with hair billowing in the breeze is holding a horn under her left arm, resting on a gigantic football, stood in front of an eight-spoked wheel, a yellow teardrop and green and black arch.’ We even have our own internal cup that is passed each season from winner to winner – the FA La La La Cup! Congrats to the deserving winners of this year’s competition:
Interacting with so many people in person after so long was exhausting and exhilarating, but myself and the senior management team are so proud of our employees and the strong teams that we have built together. StatsBomb South are hosting their version of team day this week. We’re sorry we can’t join you, we hope you enjoy watching our videos and we look forward to watching yours. If this is giving you FOMO and you would like to join this amazingly talented and dedicated team, check out our careers page. We have lots of opportunities as we continue to grow.
Thanks for your support as always,
After releasing the first batch of presentations last week, we have today released the remaining videos from the 2021 StatsBomb Conference. There are now more than a dozen talks from the event available to watch anytime. 13 of the 17 talks given on the day are available, including the entire speaker list from the Research Track stage, whose presentations featured the latest innovative research from the football analytics space and included some of the first publicly-available research performed on our brand new and novel dataset, StatsBomb 360. Watch the talks HERE The full list of available talks:
- Conference Kick Off: Ted Knutson
- Optimally Disrupting Opponent Build Ups: DTAI Sports Analytics Lab, KU Leuven (Maaike Van Roy, Pieter Robberechts, Luc De Raedt, Jesse Davis)
- Potential Penetrative Pass (P3): Hadi Sotudeh
- Identifying High Pressing Styles Using Event Data: Nicole Kozlova
- “Can we have our ball back, please?”: Dr Will Morgan
- What Drives Goalkeepers’ Decisions?: Samer Fatayri, Kirill Serykh & Egor Gumin
- Tempo: Another Expectation Model?: Devin Pleuler
- Directors of Football Panel: Will Kuntz, Victor Orta, James Cryne
- Splitting GSAA: Finding the best shot-stopper for your team: Max Odenheimer & John Harrison
- The Quest for the Right Pass: Decision Making: Javier M. Buldú & Borja Burriel
- Phases of the play using Graph* Convolutional Networks: Juan Camilo Campos
- Practical tools for ‘Bridging the gap’: Mladen Sormaz
- Turning with the ball & decision-making under pressure: Soumyajit Bose & Manas Saraswat
Talks from Ian Graham (Liverpool), Harry Moyal (Lyon), Vosse de Boode (AFC Ajax), and Daryl Morey (Philadelphia 76ers) will not be made available. It was strictly requested that the information shared in those presentations be kept exclusive for those in the room on the day (sometimes What Happens At The StatsBomb Conference, Stays At The StatsBomb Conference). But fear not! There is still a TON of practical value contained in the talks that we are able to share with you. With 13 to get through covering a wide range of topics and approaches, there are countless takeaways to be drawn from the available selection. Thanks again to all of the fantastic presenters who gave talks on the day, sharing applicable insight and exciting, novel research that is sure to provide the foundation for research performed inside clubs and in the public football analytics field over the course of the next year. Watch the talks HERE
The StatsBomb Conference made a long-awaited return to Stamford Bridge last week. We welcomed various individuals from across the sports analytics sphere for a day of industry-leading talks, data-driven research and unique networking opportunities. In 2019, we couldn’t have imagined that it would have taken almost two years to get everyone back together, but we’re delighted with the turnout this year. Let’s look back at the key things that happened to give those who attended a chance to revisit their experience and those who missed it an opportunity to catch up on the day. Industry-Leading Talks Before the guest presenters took to the stage, StatsBomb CEO Ted Knutson kicked things off with an opening talk about the company’s progression since the last conference and our fast-approaching expansion into American Football. The day continued with Dr Ian Graham (Liverpool), Harry Moyal (Olympique Lyonnais), Devin Pleuler (Toronto FC), Vosse de Boode (AFC Ajax) and Mladen Sormaz (Leicester City) all delivering expert presentations on the Main Stage. Each speaker drew on key insights to discuss various topics within their organisations, from measuring playing styles in different competitions to implementing data-driven recruitment strategies. The Directors of Football Panel featured StatsBomb’s James Yorke in conversation with Victor Orta (Leeds United), James Cryne (Barnsley FC) and Will Kuntz (Los Angeles FC). The panellists spoke in-depth about successfully implementing data-driven methods around player recruitment, opposition analysis, and general strategy within their respective clubs. Ted Knutson and Daryl Morey (Philadelphia 76ers) closed the Main Stage and indeed the entire Conference in their fireside chat, with a collection of insightful stories from their respective sports and discussions around the role of data and analytics in basketball and football. Innovation in Football Analytics The Harris Suite featured a variety of hand-picked presenters giving attendees an exclusive window into the current state of play surrounding innovative research in football analytics. The nature of the papers covered a variety of topics, including driving goalkeeper decisions, identifying high pressing styles and penetrative passes. These talks contained the first sets of publicly-available research performed on StatsBomb 360 data. Each researcher created their specific papers using StatsBomb data and tuned in from different locations across the globe to deliver their novel research to our attendees. It was a fascinating experience to see the different approaches taken by each speaker across each of their papers. We will release all of the research papers in the coming weeks, and you will be able to see the latest developments and research in the football analytics landscape. StatsBomb 2021 Conference: A Welcome Return One of the main pieces of feedback from the day was how great it was to get everyone from the industry back in a room again to connect and learn from each other. We hope you enjoyed the day surrounded by your friends and peers, learning from some of the best in the industry. Here are a few snapshots from conference attendees about their experiences last week.
— Mikel Gandarias (@MikelGandarias) October 8, 2021
Great morning at #statsbombconference , love seeing how far @StatsBomb have come, and excited about where they are going. Nice talk from @mixedknuts, then Ian Graham with maybe my favourite ever analytics conference talk. https://t.co/72TDEen4BJ
— Ian Lynam (@ianlynam) October 8, 2021
You can see more of what attendees thought of our event by searching on the #StatsBombConference hashtag on your chosen social media platforms. What Next? If you missed any of the talks at our 2021 Conference, keep an eye on our Twitter and LinkedIn in the coming weeks. We will be releasing some of the talks, recorded presentations, and papers from the research track. In the meantime, you can check out Tom Worville’s key insights from the 2021 Conference or listen to his notable takeaways on The Athletic Football Tactics Podcast. Or you can check out David Álvarez writing for EL PAÍS with a selection of quotes from several talks. We look forward to seeing you all again at our StatsBomb Conference 2022, but until then, keep an eye out for other StatsBomb events next year!
An important agreement with StatsBomb, the leading provider of advanced data in football, will allow Alianza Lima to substantially improve its processes of evaluation and selection of players, which will have a significant impact on the sporting performance of its professional team. Alianza Lima joins more than 100 professional clubs and federations around the world in benefitting from StatsBomb’s cutting edge data, with more than 3,400 events per match across more than 80 competitions, enhancing its ability to scout and recruit players, analyse upcoming opponents and evaluate team performance. “We are delighted to sign this agreement with Alianza Lima, one of Peru’s most prestigious clubs, and so continue our expansion in Latin America,” said Pablo Peña Rodríguez, Head of Innovation at StatsBomb. “Data and analytics have never been more important in the quest to gain an edge in elite competition, and StatsBomb look forward to helping the club achieve great things in the coming years.” The popular Peruvian club will have better information with which to make decisions thanks to access to the most detailed data available as well as the customisable analysis platform StatsBomb IQ. For José Antonio Bellina, sporting director of Alianza Lima, working with StatsBomb will be of great help in signing and renovating players. “I consider it the best statistics platform in football,” he said. “It is an essential tool, both in the objective evaluation of the performance of our own players and in the process of finding and scouting footballers. StatsBomb offers information for the entire Peruvian league and for the majority of the other South American leagues, which is a very valuable thing for us.”
One of Australia’s most decorated clubs, Melbourne Victory, have signed a deal with StatsBomb to advance their analytics operations, becoming the first club in Australia and Oceania to do so. This is the first entry into the Australian market for StatsBomb, and another signpost of the fast global growth they’re currently experiencing. Four-time A-League champions Melbourne Victory have signed up to use StatsBomb’s event data – containing over 3,400 events per game on average – and their IQ analytics software, the most advanced and customisable platform in the industry, to utilise in all sectors of the club, including in their performance, opposition, and recruitment analysis operations. The Australian club will have access to StatsBomb’s deep data, which includes unique metrics such as pressures at a team and player level, pass footedness, pass height and freeze frames for shots, providing detailed defender and goalkeeper location information on every shot. Melbourne Victory’s Director of Football, John Didulica, said: “Melbourne Victory are excited to be partnering with StatsBomb. The football data analytics provider is industry leading and will assist our club in staying at the forefront in the fast-paced world of Football Analytics.” StatsBomb Sales Executive Flavio Fusi said: “We are proud that our first partner in Australia and Oceania is one with a rich history of success in the region. The analytics team at Melbourne Victory have shown they understand the importance of data and analytics in elite competition, and we’re encouraged by their ambition to integrate the use of data in all sectors of the club.“ About StatsBomb StatsBomb is the world’s fastest growing football data company. Founded by former analyst Ted Knutson, StatsBomb was formed to empower data analysis teams by ensuring they have access to the best football data set ever created. Having started as an analytics blog, StatsBomb initially progressed to consulting on data-driven recruitment and performance analysis for professional teams. In 2018, having become frustrated with limitations of the data available at the time, StatsBomb acquired ArqamFC, a data collection company based in Cairo, Egypt, and started to collect and supply its own data. The introduction of StatsBomb data was a turning point for the analysis of football as it introduced previously unavailable metrics such as pressures, the height of the ball at the point of shot impact, goalkeeper positioning, freeze frames for shots and the foot with which each pass is played. In 2021, StatsBomb improved this data even further with the launch of StatsBomb 360, adding a snapshot of all visible player locations to more than 3,400 on-the-ball events that are collected per match. Having gained rapid traction since its inception, StatsBomb is now servicing customers across the professional game, as well as betting and gaming operators, and is active in over 20 countries.
StatsBomb is excited to partner with Catapult as a sponsor at the upcoming 2021 StatsBomb Conference, held on Friday 8th October at Stamford Bridge, London. Members of the Catapult team will be onsite to discuss their performance analysis software, which aggregates multiple sources of video, audio, and telemetry data and displays the information in a digestible way for quick and easy analysis. “We share StatsBomb’s passion for performance data and look forward to participating in their conference as it returns to in-person and allows for the collaboration and networking the industry craves,” says Simon Cuff, Commercial Director for Catapult. MatchTracker performance analysis software brings together all the user’s performance data, including event data, camera-based tracking, GPS, biometric, and coach or analyst tagging. The data can then be combined with multiple video angles so that game moments can be viewed in context and performance can be compared with the opposition, the user’s previous games, and between players in the team. “We welcome Catapult’s attendance at the conference, not least because many of our current customers tell us they combine the use of both StatsBomb event data and MatchTracker software as critical parts of their pre, live, and post-match analysis” says Simon Banoub, Chief Marketing Officer at StatsBomb. The StatsBomb Conference is on Friday 8th October at Stamford Bridge in London. Full details of the event can be found here, with speaker lineup and agenda included. The list of speakers includes representatives from the pinnacle of sport, with practitioners from Champions League, Premier League, and EFL football clubs, as well as Daryl Morey, one of the most established names in NBA analytics. The calibre of speakers and attendees means the event will be the best networking opportunity in the calendar for members of the football data and analytics industry. Tickets are available now from here. We look forward to seeing you there.
We’re into September, which means football is once again in full swing. But that also means the StatsBomb Conference is only about five weeks away, and it is going to be fantastic. Today I am going to fill in the details around the event, and also explain just a few reasons why many people think this is the best football analytics conference of the year. The event details
- Date – Friday 8th October 2021
- Location – Stamford Bridge, London
- Time – 9.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m.
This event will be in person at Stamford Bridge on the 8th of October. As we did in 2019, much of the conference will either be broadcast publicly, or the talks will be posted on YouTube in the weeks after the event. However, not all talks will be available either live or online, as some of our speakers only have permission to give their talks to the people present in the room at the time. Basically, if you want to make sure you see all the talks, you’ll need to show up. And we know from last time that the food should be great, so you’ve got that going for you too. What to expect from the StatsBomb Conference 2021?
- Your host – Ted Knutson
- Key talks from StatsBomb experts – Nicole Kozlova, Ukrainian National Team player and StatsBomb Data Science Intern + one talk from our Data Science Team
- Industry speakers (see list below)
- Networking ops – around 600 attendees from across the football ecosystem
- Research paper competition
A stellar line-up of industry speakers
- Dr Ian Graham – Head of Research (Liverpool FC)
- Daryl Morey – President of Basketball Ops – (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Harry Moyal – Deputy General Manager (Olympique Lyonnais)
- Mladen Sormaz – Head of Football Analytics (Leicester City)
I continue to be amazed at the quality of people who agree to speak at our event. Ian, Harry, and Mladen are all giving their own talks, while Daryl will be in more of a fireside chat format. I’ll ask him about his beginnings in basketball analytics, his interest in uh… “soccer” and his famed ‘launch and squish’ preferred style of play. Not yet on the speaker list is REDACTED, Head of REDACTED at a Champions League club, who will be announced very soon. Directors of Football Panel
- Victor Orta – Director of Football (Leeds United FC)
- James Cryne – Director and Co-Owner (Barnsley FC)
- Will Kuntz – SVP of Soccer Operations & Assistant GM (LAFC)
We’re also excited to have three key executives from some of the most forward-thinking clubs in world football, who will discuss their experiences in driving an analytics-based culture within their organisations and how the industry is changing. Research Paper Competition Following an influx of highly impressive submissions for the research paper competition, we are pleased to announce the following speakers and the title of the papers that they’ll be presenting on the Research Stage:
- Devin Pleuler – Tempo: another expectation model?
- Maaike Van Roy, et al – Optimally disrupting opponent build-ups
- Javier M. Buldú – The quest for the right pass: quantifying player’s decision making
- Hadi Sotudeh – Introduction of potential counter-attack
- Soumyajit Bose and Manas Saraswat – Turning with the ball and decision-making under pressure
- Samer Fatayri, Kirill Serykh, Egor Gumin – How to save efficiently: what drives the goalkeepers’ decisions?
- Max Odenheimer – Splitting GSAA: finding the best shot-stopper for your team
- Juan Camilo Campos – Determining the phases of the play using graph convolutional networks
COVID Info What measures are we putting in place? The event will feel safe with reduced touchpoints and lots of ventilation. We are really excited that this is an in-person event and a chance to actually see people again.
- All attendees must be double-jabbed or provide proof of a negative test taken at most 48 hours before the event
- We will be providing StatsBomb branded masks upon entry – though the use of these inside the venue is up to the individual’s discretion
- Detailed information around our Covid policy will be sent to attendees prior to the event*
Basically, the conference will be brilliant and – unlike most conferences in the football analytics space – ours is open to the public. We hope to see you there! Tickets available here: The StatsBomb Conference Tickets, Fri 8 Oct 2021 at 09:00 | Eventbrite
*Stamford Bridge has their own Covid policy which we will be adhering to – the key points have been summarised above. If you’d like to read the full set of guidelines that we’ll be following before, during, and after the event, you can read them here: Stamford Bridge Covid Policy
The introduction to last year’s Leicester season preview reads:
It’s extremely uncharitable to take a look back at 2019-20 and declare it anything other than a success for Leicester. Yes, Champions League qualification looked likely for most of the season, and to miss out was ultimately a disappointment, but the trajectory and outcome were more than fine.
So, I guess it appears as though Leicester are destined to live out the same season over and over again, in some weird Edge of Tomorrow like fashion. Champions League qualification looked likely, they were disappointed to miss out, but the trajectory and 5th place outcome were more than fine, AND they took home an FA Cup for their troubles this time around. It’s the trajectory that counts and Leicester are certainly on the right track. The Headline Numbers Whilst on the surface Leicester’s 5th place finish matched their 2019/20 placing, when you dig a little deeper there’s actually been quite a bit of change. Firstly, the underlying numbers have taken a hit from the lofty heights they set in 2019/20 when they finished 4th for expected goal (xG) difference. Last season only Sheffield United dropped off more in this regard. All of their overperformance came in attack. They conceded 46 goals from 46 xG, but up front scored 58 goals from 47 expected. Kelechi Iheanacho, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes ran especially hot, with Iheanacho’s emergence as a reliable goalscorer in particular really helping to propel the Foxes into European contention, notching 12 goals from seven xG. Iheanacho’s contribution was especially important given that Jamie Vardy had his first poor finishing season in four campaigns, flipping Iheanacho’s conversion rate by getting seven goals from 12 xG. Looking across the season as a whole, you can see the oh-so-difficult Christmas period that really hurt the underlying numbers, even if actual results around that period weren’t so bad. Something that many teams struggled with in a particularly intense fixture schedule in 2020/21. We get some interesting results when we break these xG numbers down further by looking at Leicester’s xG difference during each game state. Here you can see that Leicester are an exceptional team when they’re winning, which is perhaps no surprise given the attacking talents they have to play in transition and Brendan Rodgers’ track record of setting teams up to play efficiently on the break. The squad lends itself to this approach: Vardy is notoriously great in this phase of the game, Barnes is a fantastic ball carrier at pace, and then you have Maddison and Youri Tielemans who can play the high-value pass whilst having enough mobility to stay with the play. On the other hand, Leicester really struggle when losing. They don’t have trouble moving the ball into the final third – they ranked 6th for deep progressions – but keeping the ball in-and-around the box has not been a strength of theirs as they rank 13th for deep completions (successful passes within 20 meters of goal). A large factor in their struggles when behind is that their xG per shot drops from 0.13 to 0.08, meaning they either resort to lower-quality efforts on goal or they struggle to break down teams defending a lead. Their most common pass clusters tell a similar story of ball progression, but only up to the final third. They’re also quite lopsided in the opposition half – a lot of play goes through Tielemans and subsequently Iheanacho, who’s much more involved than his striker partner Vardy. Let’s dig deeper into whether those passes are providing value. Our new possession value model, On-Ball Value (OBV), rates the impact of each action on the pitch and estimates the positive or negative impact the action has on a team’s likelihood of scoring. The OBV Leicester generate across the pitch when they’re behind versus when they’re ahead is revealing: That right-sided bias is showing through again and it becomes more prominent when they’re chasing the game, but they still generate plenty of OBV in deeper areas down that right-hand side regardless of game state. In contrast, the left side is a bit of a black hole when Leicester are losing – hopefully Barnes can return to his best and resolve much of this – he clocked the 16th highest OBV per 90 last season after all, for players with >900 minutes played. Where Leicester found it difficult to create high-value chances against their opponents when behind, their opponents did not find it as difficult to create high-value chances against them. When Leicester were pushing for equalisers, their xG per shot conceded rocketed up to 0.21–their opponent’s shots in this game state had a 1-in-5 chance of being converted. The evidence suggests that Leicester struggled to manage the threat of the counter when they were pushing to get back in the game. The xG trendline also shows their xG conceded has been creeping upwards, so what’s going on at the back? One explanation might be Leicester’s pressing, which was down quite a bit last season. This is despite an ongoing uptick in defensive activity since Rodgers’ arrival, so it seems unlikely this was a deliberate change in approach. Leicester averaged 168 pressures per 90 in 2019-20 compared to just 135 last season. Now a lot of this will be down to the crowded schedule, and we saw pressures drop on the whole across most leagues, but Leicester appear to have suffered more than most. Here’s the defensive activity maps for both seasons: The Squad The Foxes have developed a reputation for being shrewd operators in the transfer market, showing great patience to build the squad up again since the title-winning season. It can be difficult when squad building to balance future potential versus immediate strength, and they’ve executed particularly well to maintain a challenge for top four while simultaneously getting themselves into a position to continue targeting Europe for the next few years. Key players like Wilfred Ndidi, Iheanacho, Tielemans and Maddison will begin to hit their peak over the next few seasons, while Barnes, Wesley Fofana and James Justin have years ahead of them. The squad was hit by some big injuries last season just as it was the season before, but it’s a sign that they’re operating from a solid internal process given they always have players ready to step in, whether from the academy or through recruitment. That the forward line hasn’t needed major regeneration for a number of years is testament to Jamie Vardy’s longevity but, at 34, the time is finally getting close for him to hand the reigns over. Leicester are confident they’ve found his replacement in RB Salzburg forward Patson Daka, the big question is: is he any good? Probably! Player evaluation can be tricky when they play for a team as dominant as Salzburg are in the Austrian Bundesliga, but his numbers certainly pop. That they still pop when he plays in the Champions League is an encouraging sign, albeit the sample size gets rough. One thing to note is that the 22-year-old shows real maturity – his shot locations are excellent and he seems to have a good understanding of his own game. Much like Vardy, he plays on the last man, is great in transition, and understands how to use his pace without the ball at his feet. It might take some time for him to find his feet, but given how Iheanacho just reminded us all that player development is rarely a smooth upward trajectory, Daka should receive plenty of slack. As for the other signings, it all looks very good – from the sensible in Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard (assuming that deal gets over the line) to the downright exciting in Boubakary Soumaré. Parting Thoughts You might be inclined to read the headline underlying numbers above and think Leicester could be in for a difficult season if they produce similar numbers to those of last season. It’s a possible outcome, but given the quality of the squad and manager, and the general outlier than last season was as a whole, it seems more likely that Leicester revert to a process that should see them knocking on the door of the Champions League places once again. They’ve bolstered the squad with what look like top signings, and the return of Barnes should balance the attack better. As noted, we’ll need to watch out for how they perform when behind; if they continue to struggle, that could lead to dropped points that could cost them a place or two in the table. But, this team can play fantastic transition football and, with the current state of the modern game, you can go a loooong way playing great transition ball. All it takes is some better luck with injuries and one of last season’s top four to have issues, and Leicester are in business.
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