EPL 2015-16 Season Preview – Manchester City

In years past, on warm summer nights and with a new Premier League season upon us, one could close their eyes and easily imagine a scenario in which Manchester City would be crowned champions for the upcoming season. One could picture swashbuckling attacking football, goals-a-plenty, the thoroughbreds of Agüero, Silva and Toure destroying opposition defenses: a winning team. This was certainly the case in 2011/12 where Agüero’s arrival and Silva and Toure’s ‘year 2’ seasons were enough to believe City could go supernova. The squad additions of 2012/13 felt like enough to ensure Manchester City would retain their crown. And 2013/14 with the addition of battle-ready peak players like Negredo, Fernandinho and Navas. Plenty were optimistic that City could win the title in 14/15. Yet, it’s not so easy to close the eyes and imagine Manchester City winning the title in 15/16. Things feel different somehow. Confidence in a Manchester City title win in 15/16 is low. The great unwashed don’t think Manchester City can win it and neither do the pros. Just 2 of 11 Guardian journalists predict a title win for City, 1 of 14 Daily Mail journalists, and 2 of 10 Telegraph journalists. This a vote of no confidence by the men paid to write about football by national newspapers. Why the lack of confidence? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Well, I can guess. And I’ll get to it in the reasons for pessimism section. What Happened in 14/15 Manchester City were a very good team in 14/15, but there was streakiness throughout the season. A very strong first 20 games, a flawless last 6 games and a shit show in between those two points. To illustrate: (scrollable on mobile, click and use arrow keys on desktop) That dip between game 20 and game 32 was severe: 15 points in 12 games. That ain’t good nor is it in any way title form. This dip cost Manchester City a chance at the title. That dip in form is even more perplexing considering Manchester City posted numbers like these: 2014/15 Team Metrics (scrollable on mobile, click and use arrow keys on desktop) Link to actual stats table That table runs across the whole spectrum of stats from TSR to SoTR to expected goals methods, and hell, even crazy PDO is in there. Whichever way you slice it Manchester City were a dominant team and score effects weren’t an issue in Manchester City padding shots numbers. Excellent performance in underlying numbers doesn’t mean the team was without problems. Folk said:

  • Pellegrini seemed to be stumbling through parts of the season locked-in to a stubborn twin striker system.
  • The midfield, when bypassed, exposed a shaky looking defence (this is more of a systems issue with City being a dominant territory team).
  • Mangala was a mess.
  • Kompany‘s injuries and hyper-aggressive style appeared to finally catch up with him.
  • Full-backs looked old.
  • Toure struggled with a multitude of issues.
  • The team is old.
  • Scored 19 fewer league goals year-on-year.

That is a lot of bad narratives and despite all those issues it was a team who finished second and posted extremely good numbers across the board. Transfers In Raheem Sterling £47m Fabian Delph £8m Patrick Roberts £4m plus £7m in futures (Kevin De Bruyne £40+ *this probably happens at some point) Promoted from the youth team: Kelechi Iheanacho (fwd), Jason Denayer (cb) and Marcos Lopes (am)   Transfers Out Dzeko, Jovetic, Milner. Maybe some others. Evaluating The Summer Window So Far Raheem Sterling addresses a need for speed and trickery in the left midfield position. His creativity, intelligence and an ability to break lines was needed. If Sterling is this good at age 20, then what will he be by age 24? Delph is an excellent pickup for that price: a depth midfielder who can cover the ground quickly, is good in transition and offers left/right balance to a midfield pair. Roberts is a future consideration. Extremely talented and in possession of a familiar gait. 2 or 3 years down the road we should hopefully see him start to push through. The promoted youths are exciting: City’s depth gets younger (but probably worse) with these moves. Denayer and Lopes both project to be starters of varying quality, given time. Yet it is Kelechi Iheanacho who is the jewel in City’s youth setup: quick, aware, and a finisher who is also more than able to create. Kelechi is only 18 years old, but he doesn’t look the slightest bit out of place with City’s first team players. Kelechi is pegged to be the #3 striker for 15/16. There will be good days, and bad days, no player develops in a straight line. As for player sales. James Milner decided to leave for first team football, thus saving Manchester City from themselves and a soon-to-be 30 year old depth player on a big 4 year contract. Dzeko will be remembered as an important player for City; as talented as he was frustrating. Jovetic: forever injured, never trusted. Current Needs Manchester City have a talented and deep squad, but there are still holes. A shiny new center midfielder would have been nice, as would a solution to the center back issues. The future of the full-backs will be addressed at some point in the near future. Reasons to be positive Manchester City posted excellent underlying numbers in 14/15 and there isn’t much evidence to suggest that this improved squad of players are going to fall off a cliff and start posting terrible numbers in 15/16. Greater pace and creativity in attack (Sterling and possibly De Bruyne), an improved midfield (Delph as depth, Toure rested), a more aware Mangala, and a permanent switch to a 4-2-3-1/-4-3-3 one striker system should, hopefully, see City improve upon the 79 points they posted in 14/15. More firepower means a greater ability to score their way out of problems. Reasons to be negative There are real concerns about Manuel Pellegrini’s ability to coach this team to success in the Premier League and the Champions League and until this very morning there was a concern that in entering the last year of his deal he could have become a lame duck coach whose players down tools at the first sign of trouble.  The new contract at least on the surface addresses this issue and provides a needed perception of stability. The age of the squad is a concern also. The great core of this City side over the past few years is aging and we should be near the point where we start to see some performance levels dip slightly. Rest and rotation will be key to getting the very best out of what these players have left to offer. It is also worth noting that world class players will age at a very different rate to league average players (a 32 Toure looks very different to a 32 year old Joey Barton), so dismissing the likes of Toure, Silva or Fernandinho the moment they edge past 29 may lead to some crazy-eyed evaluations. The team isn’t getting younger, the window to win is shrinking rapidly and a lot of these guys will need replacing in the next year or two. All that said, it doesn’t make them terrible players. The defense has problems: aging full-backs, a captain who appears to be morphing into peg leg, and an expensive junior partner who doesn’t appear to be comfortable playing in this system. Ah, the defensive system! When a team plays possession football and they dominate the territory to the extent that Manchester City it comes with a cost. That cost is a high defensive line that can, at times, be exposed by pacy counter-attacking football. Manchester City were the best territory team in 14/15 with the ball and the best territory team without the ball. This was a team whose games were mostly played in the middle third or the oppositions third and when that happens that leaves a lot of space at the back to be covered by few defenders. This means fast attacks by the opposition can cause chaos in the defensive zone. Chaos makes people look bad. Man City’s whole defense looked bad by eye last season, and if difficult questions are repeatedly asked of defenders with a ton of space to guard then quite often those defenders will get some of those questions wrong. Defenders can look bad when asked to do too much. Pellegrini’s system can be hard on defenders (Kompany wouldn’t look nearly as bad in Chelsea’s deep block) but what his system does is create tons of offensive chances for the team whilst being effective at suppressing shots against; sometimes those shots against will be of high quality and sometimes the defense will look like hell. This is the balancing act of Pellegrini’s system. Lineup This should be, if all things break right, be Manchester City’s power lineup. What does it all mean? Manchester City remain an elite side. They control the territory and play like few other teams can, they rack up shots at a terrifying rate while suppressing shots against. Nothing that happened over the summer in terms of personnel or coaching should change Manchester City’s excellent processes. If the excellent processes continue into this season and Manchester City enjoy a dollop of luck in terms of conversion percentages and injuries then this team may well, once again, win the Premier League title. If Chelsea enjoy another season of near-perfect health to their core players, then I am unsure if any team could wrestle the title from them. But if injuries catch up with Chelsea and Manchester City’s forward group clicks then City should well be close. Manchester City possess the deepest squad in the division, but it’s an aging squad and this season may well represent the last chance for this core to win it all, together. Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light

EPL Season Preview 14-15: Chelsea

Cast your mind back to last season, just briefly, and try to recall Mourinho’s Chelsea team. Impressive structure, solid, efficient, and able to grind out some spectacular results in the most difficult away games of them all. Remember the brilliantly stoic tactics that Mourinho employed away at Man City and Liverpool.

Tactically, Mourinho still had it, and he’s still got it. But what Mourinho didn’t have last season was the horses to play in a flexible way when the game, or game situation, demanded it. Chelsea, in what some called a season of transition, didn’t have the squad depth or the variety of player needed to combat the lesser teams in certain away games. The issues regarding Chelsea’s squad makeup and flexibility also extended to some home games where Chelsea began to suffer problems against teams that “parked the bus”.

Maybe I am being both overly kind to Mourinho and overly critical to the makeup of the squad, but it felt to me that he just didn’t have the variety and quality of players that he needed to break down all different types of opposition. But he has now. Players of the highest quality have been signed, the first XI looks vastly improved and the narrative surrounding Chelsea now sounds something like this: No Excuses.

13/14 Numbers

chels stats

That is a lot of numbers and a lot of #2 rankings for those numbers. Despite Chelsea lacking in a few key areas of the playing staff (creative mid, striker) Mourinho managed to get some mighty fine underlying numbers from the players he had.

This was a pretty darn good Chelsea team. Chelsea in 2014/15 should be even better.

My God Fabregas looks older.

INS

Fabregas 33,00 Mill. €

Diego Costa 38,00 Mill. €

Felipe Luis 20,00 Mill. €

Drogba Free

Pasalic 2,50 Mill. €

Courtois & Zouma return from loan spells

Outs

Luiz 49,50 Mill. €

Lukaku 35,36 Mill. €

Demba Ba 6,00 Mill. €

Various loans for youth players.

Chelsea just about broke even. That they did so while upgrading positions of absolute need and selling players that likely won’t harm the quality of the first XI is astounding. It’s strong work and credit where credit is due.

The Squad

The loss of Lukaku and De Bruyne, both top draw prospects, will hurt in the long term but it raised substantial funds in order to do the important work of improving Chelsea in the present.

Diego Costa fills an immediate need in the striker position and will surely score if his fitness holds up. Fabregas was a creative wizard in his first spell in the PL, but has age caught up with a player who was subjected to boos and, most painfully, sarcastic jeers from Barcelona fans last season? Fabregas has likely got a good few years left yet and should be a fine signing. Courtois might be the 2nd best GK in the world, Zouma adds depth and promise in the CB position and Felipe Luis is a specialist left back who Mourinho should be able to quickly trust.

Chelsea have greater depth and quality now and this should be a squad better able to cope with the grind of a typical Premier League season.

The First XI

  

This is only a guesstimate, remember! Maybe Fabregas drops in where Ramires is and Oscar fills the position vacated by Fabregas. Maybe Schurrle plays instead of Willian. Point is Chelsea have midfield options now, options enough to tweak the shape and formation of the first XI if needs be.

Management

Hard, unfair, loved by his players, a proper bastard, tactical genius. These are just some of the words that could be used to describe Mourinho but the only word the man himself would be interested in would be winner. The mainstream media tell us that this is a big season for Mourinho, that there’ll be no excuses this time, that he has his player upgrades, that he has settled back in at Chelsea once more.

Maybe that narrative is fair. Managers at the top clubs now are on a short leash, though Mourinho’s would be a little longer than others might be, and the pressure to win now exists at Chelsea just as it does at Man City. Mourinho has the experience, the character and, above all, the brilliant systems to win now.

Will the arrivals of Fabregas,the creative hub, and Diego Costa, the spearhead, lead to a change in setup or approach from Mourinho? Probably, but any change won’t be drastic and Chelsea should still use that killer counter attack option that gave the big teams such trouble last season.

Maybe Fabregas’ arrival leads to better game management and more control of games. Maybe Costa is the forward Chelsea have been looking for to maximize that insanely good attacking midfield band.

Mourinho is pragmatic and adaptable and how he tweaks his setup to accommodate the aforementioned players will be a fascinating thing to watch.

Expectations

To win the league, semi-finals of the CL. Domestic cup wins would be nice but who are we kidding!

Conclusion

Chelsea were a mighty good team last season who posted some mighty good numbers, but a lack of personnel options and a misfiring forward line handicapped Mourinho’s title challenge. Chelsea, with an improved starting XI and some increased depth, should get a lot closer to winning the PL title in 14/15 but will it be enough?

I think the title race will be pretty close this year and the two, almost inseparable, teams will be Man City and Chelsea, which will be a surprise to no-one. But, Chelsea will fall just short of a Man City team who boast unrivaled squad depth and forward punch. Man City’s strength isn’t the only reason I think Chelsea will fall just short.

I still believe Chelsea have depth issues at center forward where the drop off in talent after Diego Costa is alarming. Torres is a ghost, Drogba was declining 3 years years ago and not much should be expected from him. If Costa suffers more injury troubles then the scoring burden falls to one of those faded talents or to a man like Schurrle. It’s not ideal and it is very likely that it could be an issue for Chelsea at some point this season.

The other area of weakness may be in the center of defense. Cahill and Terry are a fine, fine partnership but if injury strikes to one of the pair then Chelsea are left with Ivanovic and 19 yo Kurt Zouma.

Chelsea have improved their first XI and signed players who should add at least a few points to the tally Chelsea posted lasted year but issues regarding positional depth and Chelsea’s ability to cope with injuries in defense and attack lead me to think that Chelsea will finish in 2nd place.

But it’ll be close. I think.

 

EPL Season Preview 2014-15: Manchester City

Hey champions! So you think you can retain your Premier League crown in the 14/15 season? Well, history is against you (the title has been retained on just 7 occasions in PL history) and big bad Chelsea, managed by Jose Mourinho, look ominously strong after a summer transfer window that cannot be classed as anything but a roaring success.

Liverpool will attempt to challenge again, although the loss of Suarez and European football may may hinder any realistic attempt to do so. Man United have replaced the lackluster figure of Moyes with van Gaal, an upgrade, so we are told, and it is possible that Arsenal may improve with the smart additions they have made thus far.

The business of retaining the Premier League title is going to be anything but easy work.

Manchester City have a group of varied challengers to fend off, and they will have to do so with having made just one major signing this summer. Depth additions have been made to the squad, small tweaks, but this has been a summer of calm for Manchester City . No big changes, no upheaval. This seems to be the preferred way of business for the Pellegrini/Begiristain partnership, and it is one that succeeded in a quiet, yet pleasing to the eye, manner in 2013/14.

What Happened Last Season?

2013/14 League Finish: 1st!

Goal Difference: 1st (+65/0.73% Goal%)

TSR: 1st (65.3%)

SoTR: 1st (66.4%)

PDO: 1st (112.1)

Others: 1st in shots against at 9.5 per game, the lowest mark in the last 5 years in EPL, 1st in time spent winning, 2nd in attacking zone time, 1st in non-D zone time, 1st in final third pass ratio. 1st in many adjusted metrics. It goes on and on.

Manchester City weren’t a great team from the get go in 13/14, they grew into their skin, the players gradually responded to Pellegrini’s system and as the season wore not only were the topping a lot of the stats categories but they were regarded as the best team in the league. Well, that was until Liverpool’s remarkable winning streak looked like being enough to beat City to the title.

In the end City’s squad depth, range of options and overwhelming firepower was enough to capture the title. The stats told us Manchester City were the best team in the league and that is how it turned out. The trick for Pellegrini for the upcoming season is to recreate what made Manchester City great in 13/14.

Looking Ahead To 14/15

INS

Mangala £32-45m (who knows!)

Sagna £0 free, but likely substantial wages.

Caballero £4.4 – 6m

Fernando £12.6m

Zuculini £2.5m

Lampard Loan

OUTS

Rodwell £10m

Lescott Free

Pantilimon Free

Barry £2m ish (option)

This is a pretty calm summer, really. Depth signings in Fernando, Lampard, Sagna, Caballero and the one big buy in Mangala, who not many people know too much about.

Few outs, but I’d expect Javi Garcia to leave shortly, Sinclair and Richards are very real possibilities to leave, too. Many journo’s expect Nastasic to leave now that a #1 left center back has been bought.

Squad Continuity

Going into the summer Man City had very few immediate needs to fill. Maybe a center back to play left side due to Demichelis’ age and Nastasic’s injury riddled season. Competition for Hart, a back-up right back. An upgrade for Javi Garcia. A replacement for Toure if he left, but birthdays, flash cars, insane agents and bereavements were all overcome and Toure stayed.

That wasn’t a huge shopping list: one starter, a tactical option in midfield and some depth in net and at right back.

Man City will retain a good number of the title squad and will hope that squad continuity and increased contributions from men like Jovetic and Aguero, who missed significant time, will boost their title chances. Man City had a mighty fine squad last season, probably the PL’s best, and they have added one sure-fire upgrade and an option for the midfield in those big away games.

Health will once again be a big factor for Manchester City. The core of Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero played just 295 minutes together in the 2013/14 PL. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Man City may have seen some kind of slight improvement in 13/14  had this core featured more often. Fewer injuries to these key players, along with better fitness from Jovetic, will be a key factors in deciding just how successful 14/15 will be.

It was a quiet summer, but one which will see Man City start the season with a better squad than last year. It is a squad which is likely the best in the Premier League.

Example:

city squad

Management

13/14 was likely a steep learning curve for manager, Manuel Pellegrini. Early season away losses didn’t help, but calm words and calm heads at that time steadied the ship and in the end Man City’s quality, and the manager’s systems shone through. Pellegrini is a fine coach who prefers a hybrid 4-4-2 system but that preference doesn’t override pragmatism.

Pellegrini, towards the end of the season at least, used a lone striker system and a 3 in midfield which all went against the rigid 4-4-2 man that we were told he was. Coaches in general are pretty smart.  They know their players, they know their systems – and the opposition’s systems – and they will do both what is good for the team and what it takes to win. Pellegrini is no different.

Pellegrini had lights out attacking talent and created a system that enabled the players to maximize their strengths. The defensive system was very good too, but some untimely individual mistakes likely undercut any praise that should of gone Pellegrini’s way for those systems. In fact, City allowed the fewest shots against per game in the last five seasons of the Premier League and it went largely unnoticed amongst the avalanche of praise for City’s attacking play.

I’m not sure too much will change this season in regards to tactics or setup. Jovetic’s health should allow some more rest time for Aguero and increased squad depth should allow for some rotation for men like Zabaleta, Fernandinho, and Toure.

Fernando’s signing gives City the option of running a 3 in midfield: Fernando as the true holding player, which will allow the devastating talents of Toure and Fernandinho to roam around the pitch to create and destroy. It is possible that Pellegrini only opts for a midfield 3 in the big away games, but when he does play all three of the aforementioned players together it is likely going to be too much for whichever opposition they face.

Hell, Toure and Fernandinho were too much playing as a 2. As a 3, these guys should be sensational.

Expectations

One domestic cup win, the title and a minimum of the quarterfinals in the Champions League? Does that sound reasonable, or too much? Maybe the CL bar is too low, but it’s a mighty tough competition.

Conclusion

An improved squad, players who will be even more familiar with Pellegrini’s systems and a manager who, in his 2nd year in England, should have a better grasp on the quirks and surprises of the Premier League.

This Man City squad is constructed to win now. It is not a young squad and the window to win it all is shrinking with each season as the core of the first XI ages. Thing is, this Man City squad is slap bang in the middle of that “win now” window and it is difficult to see, bar Chelsea’s strong challenge, how Man City won’t retain their PL crown.

Chelsea will run Man City close but the best squad in the league should have enough depth and the manager should have enough know how to finish as champions.

Predicted finish: 1st.

Wayne Rooney’s Fantastic Career

This morning Paul Scholes broke rank somewhat by giving his opinion on Wayne Rooney’s mentality, training ethic, and somewhat logically, his unsuitability to play center forward for the remainder of his career. It has long been mooted that Rooney would into a deeper tactical position as the years progress, an dit isn’t beyond possibility to see Rooney played as an attacking midfielder/schemer/roamer type once into his 30’s. I’d link you to the article Scholes wrote (ha) but search for “Nicklas Bendtner arse” and you’ll find it easily enough from there. See: Image Scholes Quotes:

Wayne was in the Everton team at 16 years of age, in 2003. Since then he’s played at Euro 2004, two World Cups, Premier League, and Champions League every year at United. There’s a chance he’s worn out. Wayne’s peak may have been a lot younger than what we’d expect of footballers traditionally. Age 28 or 29 has been the normal ‘peak’. With Wayne, it could have been when he scored 27 league goals in 2011/2012 when he was 26.

Pretty juicy. Scholes continues:

Wayne might be a player who’d retire come 31 or 32, given the amount of football he’s played. Ryan Giggs has been on the go for ages, but he adjusted his position. Can Wayne do the same?I don’t think Wayne will be able to play centre forward until he’s 34 or 35. But he could play centre midfield, possibly, into his mid-thirties.

In short, Scholes thinks that Rooney may well have peaked in 11/12; that he may have a lower age peak than other players due to miles on the clock; and that Rooney can’t play center forward until he’s 34 or 35. I’m not in huge disagreement with points 2 and 3, and if Rooney is still playing center forward at 35 it will be because he has followed the Martin petrov route. I was thinking over some of the points made in Scholes’ article, specifically: has Rooney peaked and what does Rooney’s career arc look like? A quick search later and I stumbled on earlier StatsBomb work from Ted which looked at Rooney’s most recent 5 seasons using detailed stats. You should check it out, there’s radars and all! What I wanted to do was look at the entirety of Rooney’s pro career (12 seasons) and to be able to do this we have to abandon some of the more detailed stats featured in the radar piece. Why? Well, the football stats dark age ended in 2008-09 and from that point onward we began to have access to more detailed game stats like accurate shots on target info, key passes, giveaways, takeaways etc. etc. I don’t want to repeat previous work so what I decided to was take Rooney’s basic info from all 12 seasons of his pro career including the Everton days. All numbers are from the Premier League only. Stats we can examine:

  • Percentage of minutes played.
  • Goals p90
  • Assists p90
  • Scoring Contribution p90
  • Shots p90
  • Conversion%

Six categories which will be broken down by age during the relevant season. I’ll also include a rolling average of his performance throughout his career. Percentage Of Minutes Played   Image Rooney’s career average sits around 70% of minutes played which, for a player with that many miles on the clock, is pretty impressive. Pretty durable player, alright. Goals p90 Penalties, penalty shots are, and always have been, stripped out. Image Remember Scholes’ quote about Rooney having peaked in 11/12 (26 yo season)? Was Scholes fooled by Rooney’s excellent goalscoring in 11/12 and thus concluded that “peak” must have arrived in the season he scored the most goals, ignoring Rooney’s general contribution as a forward? Scholes obviously watched Rooney up close and may have been able to detect subtle changes in Rooney’s game and where he may have declined over the years, but 11/12 looks like a spike in performance (as does 09/10) due to shot volume or conversion% or tactical usage and not the start of some terminal decline. Despite varying quality of teammates this chart is actualy quite clean: growth in the early part of his career, 2 years of overperformance, one year of underperformance and pretty consistent numbers apart from those over/under seasons. Assists p90 Image Remember how I mentioned usage when talking of Rooney’s goals p90 numbers. Check his 24 to 26 year old seasons out: Age 24 Goals p90 0.73 Assists p90 0.10 Age 25 Goals p90 0.32 Assists p90 0.45 Age 26 Goals p90 0.67 Assists p90 0.13 I could be wrong but that looks like tactical usage. In general assist rates for Rooney’s career are all over the place. Scoring Contribution p90 Image Once we add Goals p90 and Assists p90 we see can clearly see Rooney’s consistent contribution as a forward. Scholes may well believe Rooney peaked in 11/12 (age 26) but age 22 and age 27 stand out above all others. At age 22 Rooney posted an excellent scoring contribution number and part of this was due to operating in close proximity to the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo. That was the year that Ronaldo scored 31(27) league goals (5.76 shots p90, 0.88 Goals p90). Ronaldo draws teammates into his orbit of excellence and thus they post better numbers. All told, since Rooney’s peak, at least according to Scholes, the England forward has posted 2 of the best 3 Premier League seasons of his career in terms of scoring contribution p90 minutes. The rate stats don’t lie although it is important to factor in the percent of minutes Rooney has played in each season. Shots p90 Image Rooney has always posted pretty good shot volume, even in his 17 and 18 yo seasons (he was really something at that age), but three of the last four seasons of shot volume have fallen below Rooney’s career average. Not entirely sure why that has happened:

  • Declining team talent level?
  • Different tactical usage?
  • Different team tactics?
  • Decline in his own game?

The first 3 points have merit, hell even the fourth one may have merit but Rooney’s contribution numbers have held steady despite his shot rate declining. Conversion% Image Part of the reason Rooney’s Goals p90 numbers have remained strong despite below average shots generation is due to the graph above. Rooney’s conversion % has been on an upward trend (bar a couple of down years) for the players entire career. It is possible that Rooney has become a better shooter as he has grown older, or that he has learned how to shoot from better positions on the field. It is also possible that tactics were geared towards getting Rooney into the best scoring positions possible. It is certainly a curious trend, though. Conclusion Rooney has been an excellent footballer throughout his career and we don’t need to waste too much time arguing otherwise. Has he become as good as hoped? Maybe not, but he is a player who contributes in terms of goals and assists at a very good level despite the changeable quality of teammate over the years. As for Scholes’ theory that Rooney may have peaked in 11/12 (26), well, I’m not so sure. It is easy to see why Scholes may have come to that conclusion: Rooney played the most number of minutes of his career and as the main striker. He scored a ton, had his 3rd best shot volume season while posting the 2nd best conversion%. It is easy to see why such a season is held up as the last of Rooney’s peak. Instead, it should be held up as an outlier season. A season of splendid achievement created by tactical usage, excellent health and a spike in both shot volume and accuracy. It likely wasn’t Rooney’s peak from which he has now regressed. It’s just that since that season Rooney’s role has changed (he’s assisting more goals), the quality of teammate and tactics may have changed, but still the player has posted 2 of his best 3 seasons of scoring contribution since he “peaked”. Rooney has been mighty good since 11/12, but he’s been mighty good in a slightly different, more all-round way. Career Image  

Six Points From 1st but Have Arsenal Gotten Worse?

Simple question: Have Arsenal progressed this year? Are they better than they were last year? To answer these questions I am going to post 4 graphs which that will get us part, if not all, the way there. So, we compare certain metrics from the 12/13 season to the 13/14 season, using league data only (incentives).

TSR/Shots Share%/Corsi/Whatever

Image

These charts show Arsenal’s rolling share of the shots taken throughout their fixture lists. Arsenal were recording a higher percentage share of the shots in 12/13 than they currently are in 13/14. This is not a good thing.

Some folk may point to shot quality/locations but there’s usually a reason that teams take less shots and/or concede more shots and, usually, those reasons aren’t positive.

Shots On Target Ratio

Image

A bit noisier, but a few things stand out: This time last year once the horrendous injury list had eased Arsenal went on a season saving run of form to finish 4th ahead of the Tottenham. A part of that form was due to an improvement down the strecth in Arsenal’s SoTR which picks up from game 23 or so and finished a fraction shy of 60%.

This season (13/14) Arsenal’s SoTR was pretty good, if not elite, for the first 22 or so games before nosediving. Injury lists play their part, as do quality of opposition issues. Still, it appears that Arsenal won’t be able to equal last years ~59% SoTR number. Arsenal’s 13/14 number is currently at 55.3%.

Goal%

Goal% = Goals for/Total Goals(goals for+goals against)

Image

Goal% is driven by a teams shots and target ratio and its PDO number. Arsenal’s 12/13 number consistently improved from around the 10 or 11 game mark – driven by SoTR (above) and an improving PDO.

Arsenal’s 13/14 Goal% was driven by good, not great, SoTR and a super high PDO that was at 110 or higher for 21 of the 31 weeks of the season so far. League average PDO is 100. Teams who spend a high amount of minutes in leading positions will post PDO’s north of 100.

We can see that Arsenal’s 13/14 Goal% has cooled off and this is due to SoTR cooling off by a few percentage points and a gradual cooling of PDO.

Points%

Arsenal’s shots and shots on target numbers may not have convinced everyone that there is real year on year decline and that’s ok. Maybe goal% didn’t convince anyone either! How about we look at points% then?

Points% = points/total points available

Image

This graph is super cool in a scary kinda way. We can see that Arsenal showed amazing improvement in the second half of 12/13 (SoTR, PDO improved). Arsenal’s 13/14 season looks like it is going the other way. Decline, decay, injury-hit squad unable to cope with a tough sked, tactics or whatever. It is a frightening graph.

Whichever we slice the information it doesn’t look good:

  • Arsenal have a significantly lower TSR year on year.
  • After a good start to the season in SoTR (easy sked?) Arsenal’s number has cooled in recent weeks and is now worse than 12/13’s SoTR number.
  • Goal%, driven by a high PDO and some good SoTR numbers has cooled and now sits below 12/13’s number after the exact same number of games.
  • 13/14 Points% remains the only stat that is currently better than 12/13, but with a poor TSR, declining SoTR and PDO numbers Arsenal’s 13/14 Goal% may come dangerously close to touching 12/13’s number.

In short: Context is important, inuries to key talent, lack of striker and wing options may have handicapped Arsenal’s ability to post better underlying numbers. The question is by how much have those issues handicapped Arsenal? We don’t know. Arsenal may well surpass last seasons points total but they may well do so having posted poorer shots and shots on target numbers. People may point to shots quality (and some score effects) and say “who cares if they are shooting less but shooting better” and you know what, maybe they’re right, but for me I would rather a team posts high percentages of the shots and shots on target share whilst still trying to take the very best quality of shot that they can.  

10 Points: Liverpool’s Title Charge, Southampton’s Season, Save% & Home/Away Form

1) Goal Of The Week #1: Wayne Rooney

OK, we’ll ignore that the ‘keeper stumbles around like a 3am drunk outside a kebab house and instead focus on Rooney’s wonder hit from just inside the West Ham half.

2) Slowdive (Southampton)

What’s happened to Southampton these days?A late loss away to Tottenham isn’t the trigger to start a debate on Southampton’s season that’s for sure. But do you recall Southampton’s hot start to the season and talk of a European push on the back of their defensive solidity? Yeah, well then this happened:

Saints_ppg_31_medium

Southampton were cruising along at ‘top 4’ pace for the first 11 games and then the wins dried up. So what went wrong?

Saints_tsr_31_medium

Not much wrong here. TSR has improved slightly to ~59% and SoTR has cooled to ~57%. Both numbers are pretty darn good. Still, we haven’t found what went wrong, maybe we need to look instead at what went right for Southampton in those first 10 or 11 games.

This is Southampton’s rolling points per game, rolling PDO and rolling save%. See the early season spikes?

Saints_pdo_31_medium

Southampton were cruising at 2 ppg for the first 11 games off the back of some good shots numbers (gr. 2) but more likely is that Southampton’s excellent points haul for the first 11 games was a mirage. A mirage built upon an unsustainable PDO (112.1 at game 11). That PDO was mainly driven by a bananas high Save%. Neither save% or PDO are particularly stable or repeatable metrics.

Southampton haven’t done much wrong this season. The club has some excellent players, they play nice football, post excellent shots numbers but their Save%, once so kind and supposely tactics driven, has crashed. A change in tactics, L&*$, injuries, or a drastic, almost unheard of, change from where opponents shoot from could all be causes.

Linking save% to a cooling off of Southampton’s points per game number is a quick and dirty analysis. Some may say overly facile, but it fits and right now, without talking about any of that bullshit like chemistry, or belief or confidence, the beautifully crashing arc of Southampton’s save% may well be the the single biggest contributor to Southampton’s failure to maintain early season ppg pace.

3) Premier League Save%

Speaking of Save% (goals against/shots on target against) let’s look at each teams save% and visualize just how it regresses over the course of the season.

Pl_save__31_medium

Notice the early season “noise” and then the gradual tightening of the pack. Southampton’s save%, the league’s best at game 11, was held up as evidence of an excellent defensive system. Southampton’s save% is now the worst in the league.

Personally, I wouldn’t put too much stock in save% as an evaluator of defensive performance.

 

4) Teams Get Wrecked. Don’t worry about it.

Man City 5-0 Fulham Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal Cardiff 3-6 Liverpool Aston Villa 1-4 Stoke. Three of these results are born of similar circumastances, the other is not. Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool are likely the three best teams in the league this season and, occasionlly, these teams wil wreck their opposition. They have the firepower, the systems and the individual personnel to run up the score if the opposition is weak or having a really bad day (Arsenal). Aston Villa vs Stoke is a horrible result if you are a Villa fan, but games like this will happen with a young team who spends tons of money on players who are so bad that they pay those players to stay away from the football club. Villa are fine, and so is Lambert, probably. Patience neeeded. As for the other teams blown out this weekend and all across the previous game weeks by the big 3, shit happens. If you are unfortunate enough to play these hugely talented teams when they are hot, then good luck trying to hold back the tide. City have wrecked teams better than Fulham (Tottenham x2, Arsenal, Nnited, Newcastle, Norwich). Liverpool seem to wreck everyone and Chelsea have the talent, if not always the desire, to run up the score. Arsenal fans will be embarrassed by that 6-0 but it shouldn’t lead to a mass wringing of hands and pulling out of one’s hair. Arsenal were terrible, Chelsea were awesome. Next up for Arsenal is Swansea. Arsenal will likely win. Blowout’s are embarrassing but they usually aren’t a genuine indicator of the gap in talent between two sides. Nor should blowouts be a lightning rod for all the supposed ills that a club has. Most blowouts are a caused by hot shooting/bad defensive plays, terrible player decisions, heads dropping. Some of these things can be fixed in time for the next fixture. As Arsenal will demonstrate on Tuesday.

5) Wish Fulfillment

Liverpool could be just 8 short, cup tie-like games from one of the most unlikely title wins in PL history. 28 points off of top spot last year, Liverpool are on course (using ppg) to record ~82 points and that my friends is some turnaround. Reasons for such improvement in no particular order so as not to anger the (sometimes) sensitive section of Liverpool fans: Suarez, Rodgers tactics, L*$^, Sturridge, counter attacking philosophy, score effects, improvement of Henderson and Sterling, Gerrard at DM. Add all these up, plus plenty more, and you get a perfect storm of skill and circumstances that have helped smash Liverpool through all pre-season expectations and onwards toward the PL title. Can Liverpool win it? Well, my opinion has changed over the last few months August Top 4 would be an amazing achievement. September Liverpool’s underlying numbers are poor and down YonY. No top 4. October Suarez returns and apes Papiss Cisse and everything he hits goes in (allow me the odd creative exaggeration!) November Mixed bag. December The crushing of the weaklings begins. Top 4 is likely on. January Liverpool carry on winning, the top 4 is a real possibility now. February top 4 cemented. Could they win the title? March Holy shit! Liverpool may win this thing, but likely won’t. Now, we have just two months left in the season, Liverpool are just 4 points off the top (and with a game in hand) and with home fixtures against the two titans of the PL to come. It is a real, if slightly exaggerated, possibility that Liverpool may win the title. You know what, I have a problem with the usage of the word “exaggerated” in that previous sentence. I can think of reasons why Liverpool can win the title but not many reasons why Liverpool cannot win the title. Why can’t Liverpool win this thing? Is it because we don’t see Liverpool as an established power with a recent history of top 4 qualification behind them? Is it because Rodgers isn’t a big name? Is it because Liverpool concede too many goals or that SaS are seemingly going to run forever hot? Yes, Liverpool may have had some of the conversion percentages run their way this year but Liverpool are also posting some amazing stats in terms of share of the shots on target at close, tied and overall. Maybe Liverpool will win this thing, and if they do they deserve credit in the places where it is due. We have all summer to pick at those other, weak places where Liverpool’s “l*$^” held firm (shots locations against, scoring%, SaS conversion%.) This section was just an excuse to post this song…

6) Points Per Position

Really simple idea this one: If we take each position in the table and divide that teams points by the number of games played we can create a points per game (PPG) number for each position. What I have then done is place each positions PPG number and placed it against the ten year PPG average for that league position. So how does 1st place in 13/14 shape up vs the 10 year PL average for 1st place? 17th to 10 year average for 17th?

Ppg_pace_31_medium

Man City (3rd) and Tottenham (5th) look of out of place in the PPG curve. The bottom 11 teams, as a group, are underperforming against the 10 year average. The top 9 teams are overperforming.

I wouldn’t think about this year over/under performance too much. It may or may not be a quriky season. There may also be some levelling out of the over/under performance, but right now, with just 8 or 9 games left, I’d doubt it.

 

7) Home & Away Form

I could present a table listing each teams win/loss record and points won on the road, but that’s too easy found in various places online. Instead, I am going to present home/away tables using each teams TSR (share of the shots), SoTR (share of the shots on target), Goal% (share of the goals) and PDO. If a teams Goal% is significantly higher than their SoTR then the difference is shooting percentages for and against. Home

Home TSR SoTR Goal% PDO
Arsenal 60.2 64.2 78.8 115.3
Aston Villa 50.6 47.6 40.9 90.5
Cardiff 42.3 39.0 38.3 99.1
Chelsea 68.1 68.8 81.3 117.7
Palace 47.8 50.4 41.9 91.3
Everton 58.6 64.1 69.0 106.0
Fulham 46.6 48.4 36.7 85.1
Hull 51.2 51.6 54.3 103.0
Liverpool 64.3 69.3 77.8 113.0
Man City 68.0 67.8 84.2 128.2
Man United 61.0 60.8 54.5 92.7
Newcastle 61.0 60.7 50.0 87.3
Norwich 52.8 53.3 55.6 102.0
Southampton 64.1 62.5 54.3 86.7
Stoke 48.2 50.4 58.3 109.9
Sunderland 46.3 38.8 38.2 99.3
Swansea 54.9 56.1 53.1 95.5
Tottenham 59.1 54.2 47.5 92.5
West Brom 54.6 50.4 45.7 94.1
West Ham 42.8 42.5 47.6 106.5
LEAGUE AVERAGE 55.1 55.4 56.3 101.1

Man City are crazy good (~85% of the goals) and have benefited from a PDO so high it may as well be orbiting the Earth. The actual top 4 post the 4 highest PDO’s, some of this is due to things like systems, talent, score effects. Away

Away TSR SoTR Goal% PDO
Arsenal 47.4 49.4 50.0 100.8
Aston Villa 43.5 46.8 48.4 101.7
Cardiff 33.9 30.5 21.6 88.1
Chelsea 56.4 62.9 62.2 99.1
Palace 42.1 38.1 22.2 84.6
Everton 51.4 48.2 45.2 96.6
Fulham 27.6 24.6 23.5 98.3
Hull 39.9 38.9 38.2 99.1
Liverpool 49.7 56.1 60.6 107.4
Man City 59.9 61.1 60.9 99.6
Man United 46.9 49.3 61.2 116.0
Newcastle 51.0 50.0 47.5 97.3
Norwich 38.0 37.5 23.4 81.4
Southampton 54.2 52.3 51.3 98.8
Stoke 36.7 36.4 33.3 96.0
Sunderland 39.1 36.4 36.1 99.7
Swansea 51.2 45.6 37.8 90.7
Tottenham 56.3 54.8 52.5 97.2
West Brom 46.0 42.2 39.5 96.5
West Ham 33.3 30.9 40.0 110.4
44.9 44.5 43.7 98.90

United post a crazy PDO on the road which has powered them to posting the second best away Goal% in the league. Cardiff, Palace, Norwich, Fulham and Stoke get absolutely crushed by Goal% when on the road. Talent and tactics I guess.

8) Quick Hits

@Jair1970 wrote a roundup of his own. Go read it. Richard Whittall also has his roundup here. This new blog (only in Italian) is pretty good. Use Translate (Link). Go follow him/her too. Steve Sidwell did this in the dying minutes of the Man City v Fulham game…..this is a back pass with a slow moving ball.

Sidwell_medium

I tried to make a gif of this sequence but it would not process. I think that was the machine’s way of telling me that this sequence was just too awful to looped and watched for infinity. Video link is here.

9)Tuesday Previews

Newcastle v Everton  I quite like Newcastle this season, they post pretty good shots numbers, they have some talent and they’ve been a touch unlucky at home when we compare the share of the shots they have recorded compared to the share of the goals. As always, PDO fills the gap between shots% and goals% and Newcastle’s home PDO is terrible. Everton are posting slightly above average numbers on the road, injuries are starting to ease, only 4 wins away from home all season. Anyone for a score draw? Manchester United v Manchester City Manchester City are really good. Manchester United under David Moyes are not so good. That’s the narrative going into this game, a game which Man City are expected to win, and probably win handily. I’m not so sure, call me a pessimist, or a mentally scarred Man City fan but I think this game might be quite close. Aguero and Dzeko (illness) may not play, RvP is missing for Man United. If City decide to play 3 in midfield and let the big beasts, Fernandinho and Toure, roam and destroy then it could get out of hand. Narrow Man City victory. A draw wouldn’t shock me. I hate pessimism! Arsenal v Swansea Arsenal luuurrve teams who post middling or below average shots numbers. Arsenal tend to beat said teams with alarming consistency. Swansea are a bang average shot team overall and seem to be drifting towards another safe and unexciting end to the season. Expect Arsenal to vanquish the visitors after the usual 45 to 60 minutes of false parity. Arsenal ganar

10) Goal Of The Week #2: Yaya Toure/Alexander Tettey

Spoilt for choice this week!

 

Podcast 13: Liverpool’s Tactics, Suarez’s Form, Moyes’s Future & Some CL Talk

Statsbomb Podcast Episode 13. Ben Pugsley and Mike Goodman discuss last weeks big Premier League fixtures, Liverpool’s tactical quirks, Suarez’s conversion %. We also talk some Champions League odds, Manchester United’s present and David Moyes’s future.

Tottenham’s Performance 2011-2014: Good managers, crap managers, or something in between?

I was kind of curious as to how Tottenham’s share of the shots (TSR & SoTR) and share of the goals (Goal%) looked during the 2013/14 season pre and post AVB. Having completed that task and seen the results (which I will get to), I thought I’d go back and look at Tottenham’s previous 2 seasons for which I have data. Just to make certain that everyone understands the stats that I will be talking about, here is a quick reminder: TSR – share of the shots taken. SoTR – share of the shots on target taken. Goal% – share of the goals scored. PDO – scoring% (goals f/shots on target for) + save% (100-goals a/shots on target a). Good. I’ll start with Tottenham’s 2011/12 Premier League season to warm things up for the main event. 2011/12 – Harry Redknapp Image So Tottenham, under Redknapp’s management, had plenty talent – Modric & Bale – and posted a 61% share of the shots (TSR) and a 59% share of the shots on target (SoTR). Fine numbers. Tottenham’s share of the goals finished at 63% which is more or less in line with season-end TSR. But as you can see from the graph above Tottenham’s share of the goals (goal%) was a lot higher than TSR for the first 27 or 28 games of the season. The reason for this? PDO. Tottenham’s PDO was ~1100 for the first 28 or games or so and this enabled Tottenham to post a higher share of the goals than their TSR would’ve suggested. Still following? I hope so. In short: if a team posts a goal% way higher than their shots or shots on target share then it may well be safe to conclude that a big part of that overperformance is due to high shooting percentage and/or a high save%. Conversely, a goal% that is lower than a teams share of the shots or shots on target may well have been suffering from a low scoring% and/or a low save%. Just theories for now, but we understand that scoring and save percentages, given time, regress back toward the mean somewhat. Redknapp’s final season saw early overperformance driven by a high PDO, which then regressed. Tottenham, more or less, were a pretty good team who finished with a goal% in line with their TSR%.  2012/13 – AVB Now to AVB Image AVB improved upon Redknapp’s strong shots numbers and finished the season as a 65% TSR and Shots on Target Ratio team. Both of those shots ratio numbers are superb. The problem? scoring% and save% (PDO) were subpar (below 1000) for all but three games of the entire season. This caused Tottenham’s goal% to fall to 58%. Villa-Boas was able to coach this Tottenham to outshoot the opposition and dominate the play but what he couldn’t coach may have been something out of his control and that was the rate that Tottenham converted their chances (scoring%) and prevented the opposition from converting their chances (save). Now, Tottenham’s low PDO – and thus goal% – may have been influenced by poor shots locations, or personnel issues, or tactical issues or whatever. The problems with PDO will likely also have been caused by what is loosely termed as ‘bad luck’. It is almost impossible to tease out the exact cause of Tottenham’s woes – there’s likely some systems issues and there’s likely some ‘bad luck’. Shit happens, but that shit really handicapped a Tottenham team who had shown excellent ability to control games and outshoot the opposition. ***** Now to the good stuff. 2013/14 – AVB (16 Games) Image These are Villas-Boas’s final games as Tottenham manager and final games before he officially became damaged goods, and even “a manager with a defective tactical system”. Tottenham’s TSR was ~62% at the time of his sacking and the SoTR was ~58%. Both of those numbers, while good, are still down on the previous season (Bale’s exit?). Still, those numbers should be good for a top 4 battle, the problems for Villa-Boas, once again, were caused by Tottenham’s inability to convert chances (scoring%) and preventing the opposition from converting their chances (save%).  A series of hammerings wrecked Tottenham’s PDO and thus impacted their Goal%. This time it wasn’t so easy to use ‘bad luck’ as the cause for the low PDO and goal%.  Villas-Boas’ systems (high line and inability to penetrate in attack) were spotted early by football media and used as a facile excuse for Tottenham’s failings. The reality was less clear. Yes, Tottenham played a high line which was, on occasion, completely wrecked, but it also worked in many games that Villa-Boas deployed it. As for the lack of penetration in attack, meh. Soldado wasn’t helping, neither was Townsend or many of the other baffling personnel decisions, nor was a league high number of minutes spent in a tied position. Villa-Boas’ tenure saw Tottenham control games and post excellent shots numbers but either ‘bad luck’ or ‘bad systems’ or a combination of those and many other factors saw Tottenham’s Goal% significantly lower than their TSR and SoTR numbers would’ve suggested. People call PDO a coach killer, and for good reason. 2013/14 – Sherwood Image Of all the candidates dotted throughout europe, Tim Sherwood was deemed to be best qualified, either through talent or familiarity, to coach Tottenham Hotspur. And who am I to question Sherwood’s appointment, after all 23 points in 11 games is mighty good form! Sherwood restored Adebayor to the lineup and was rewarded with timely goals. The systems were tweaked slightly and Tottenham piled up the points. All is good, huh? Well, not really. Sherwood has Tottenham posting the lowest TSR (~51%) and SoTR (~48%) numbers of any Tottenham manager in the last three years – significantly lower than Redknapp and lower still than AVB’s teams. Score effects may play a part in the decline of those shots numbers, but it does not by any stretch of the imagination explain all of the decline. Nor has Sherwood faced particlarly tough competition which could explain the decline. Sherwood has simply taken AVB’s team, tweaked personnel and tactics and turned it from a 62% TSR/58% SoTR shots team into 51%/48% team. A shots drop that dramatic is rare indeed and it’d be mighty interesting to watch Tottenham’s zone entries to see just why they are no longer generating the same number of shots. (*Villa-Boas team were taking 17.3 shots per game and conceding 10.8 per game. Sherwood’s team are taking 12.5 shots per game and conceding 12 shots per game.) Still, what does the average fan care for drops in shots rate, or drops in TSR or SoTR? Tottenham are winning, Adebayor is scoring at a fast and easy rate, the players are “confident and happy” again, the points are piling up. The problem is, all the points and and goals are built not upon an ability to out-chance the opposition and dominate the shots count but upon an outrageous PDO of 122.75.

To my knowledge I have never seen a PDO that high over an 11 game span and that PDO is causing Tottenham’s Goal% to sit way above (64%) the normal levels that Tottenham’s shots share (TSR & SoTR) suggest it should be. Tottenham’s form under Sherwood is being powered by a statistic which is commonly referred to as ‘luck’ and that statistic tends to regress pretty heavily back toward the mean of 100.00.

I am aware there may be Tottenham fans who will argue  that this PDO (scoring% + save%) is powered not by ‘luck’ or unexplained variables but by systems and personnel and skill and the speed of attacks (which can be a part of PDO.) Maybe Tottenham fans are right to suggest skill and sytems are powering this hot streak of form, but to suggest this they would be indicating that Sherwood is a tactical genius, or a master psychologist, or that Adebayor has morphed into a world class striker, or that Tottenham’s attacking speed has dramatically improved, or that the defensive and attacking systems are the leagues best and that is why that PDO stat-thingy is the best in the the league over the last 11 games. And maybe if all those things are real and those things and are really driving that PDO number, then maybe they are sustainable and Tottenham can continue to take a 64% share of the goals while only taking a 51% share of the shots, and maybe’s and if’s into infinity! If you are a Tottenham fan who believes that this form, with those average shots numbers, is sustainable then you are suggesting that maybe Sherwood is a tactical genius, maybe he does make the players happier, maybe Adebayor is now a world class striker. Thing is, if you do believe Tottenham’s form is sustainable without dramatic improvement in an ability to outshoot the opposition then you are betting on an awful lot of maybe’s continuing from now until the rest of the season and beyond. Sherwood may be a genius, Adebayor may now be a world class striker, I don’t know. But the way PDO regresses and a little history close to home (graph 1 – Redknapp) tells us that PDO’s that high and goal%‘s that far seperated from TSR%’s don’t tend to continue forever. To me good coaches produce teams that outshoot the opposition in terms of shots and shots on target in most game situations while creating the very best quality chances they can and preventing the opposition from creating good chances. Andre Villas-Boas had the shot dominance part down, but was handicapped by the scoring% and save% elements of performance. Sherwood is producing teams that are completely average by the shots dominance count but have bananas high – like Barcelona high – scoring percentages and strong save percentages. Long term, which manager type is the better option?

*****
Bonus

20011-2014 – TSR, SOTR & Goal% Image Rolling Sherwood’s full 11-game reign is the very last data point (far right). Worst SoTR, 2nd worst TSR, Highest PDO, abnormally high Goal%. Image

Sacked Managers, Luck & Underlying Numbers

Six top flight managers have been relieved of their duties so far in this 2013/14 Premier League season. Some of those dismissals, at the time, seemed fairer than others. What I am going to look at in this short piece is how those six teams who replaced their managers fared before, and after, the management change. To examine how those teams fared I am going to look at each teams Shots On Target Ratio and also their PDO. I will include each teams points per game number and their goal share%, but I want to get a feel for how these teams performed by the underlying numbers. I shall list the teams rolling numbers in each category and the new managers rolling numbers in each category for comparison. Shots on Target Ratio will be used as a proxy for team skill and control on games. PDO will be used as a proxy for for ‘luck’ or, as is another way of putting it, by how much did each team outperform its Shots On Target Ratio. If team X has a PDO 10 points above average but a Shots On Target Ratio ten points below average it may be fair to say that team X has outperformed its SoTR. That ‘over performance’ is, commonly, generally and perhaps not entirely fairly, referred to as ‘luck’

Issues With Method

Strength of schedule, injury, home/away splits and especially score effects can, and will, skew the numbers I am going to look at here. There is no real way of factoring all these effects into this study. The study isn’t perfect, I neither have the time or the skill to make it perfect. I have what I have and that is all. We shall start with the first manager to be dismissed.

Paolo Di Canio

  Mad dog Paolo di Canio was dismissed after just 5 games of the 13/14 season. An abrasive temperament, an inability to coach his team in the basics of game control, an inability to outshoot the opposition and a failure to fix the gigantic fucking hole in Sunderland’s midfield were just a few of the myriad reasons that Di Canio may have been dismissed for. But really this was about Ellis Short fixing his mistake in appointing Di Canio in the first place. And I’m fine with that. If you have made a mistake don’t be stubborn or proud, but instead fix it. The fix here for Short was Di Canio’s rapid dismissal. Wowy_pdc_medium WOWY: Di Canio

With Di Canio W/O Di Canio
SoTR 31.4 41.7
PDO 81.4 100.2
PPG 0.2 1
Goal Share% 21.40% 41.80%

  Not entirely fair to judge Di Canio on a tiny sample of just 5 games, but the information Ellis Short had after just 5 games may well have been more than enough. Di Canio’s team had no control (SoTR), no luck (PDO) and the points and goal share were abysmal. Things have improved slightly under Poyet but 1 ppg may not be enough. You’ll notice how Poyet’s Goal share matches his SoTR number which tells us that scoring% and save% haven’t been too cruel or kind to his team. Sunderland are exactly where they should be under Poyet and that is a 1 ppg team. Di Canio was terrible, Poyet is a touch better but he likely doesn’t have the horses to improve this team beyond the numbers posted.

Holloway/Pulis

Insufficient samples here. Holloway lasted 8 games. Pulis has been in charge for 9 games. Pulis_wowy_medium So, the first cut-off line indicates Holloway’s time in charge. The second cut-off point indicates the start of Pulis’s time in charge. Pulis has posted a better PDO and a better Shots on Target Ratio. WOWY: Holloway/Pulis

Holloway Pulis
SoTR 34.4 53.8
PDO 86.8 91.66
PPG 0.37 1.44
Goal Share% 26.09% 43.75%

  Holloway’s numbers were pretty tragic. Goal share is lower than shots share which points to an under performance in PDO. Alas, this is the case. Pulisball has seen Palace take a staggering ~54% of the shots on target, but register just 43% of the goal share. Again, PDO is the culprit. No matter, Pulisball has magical powers and those powers are strong enough to record a ppg of 1.44. Pulis has been an inspired choice to replace poor Holloway. 53.8% of the shots on target, just let that sink in.  

Martin Jol

Fired after 13 games with what is, as far as I know, the worst SoTR on record. Not even Sunderland under O’Neill were this insipid. Wowy_jol_medium Since Jol’s departure Fulham have posted improved SoTR numbers (just under 50%) but PDO is a real issue. WOWY: Jol

Jol W/O Jol
SoTR 30.3 46.7
PDO 101.6 79.89
PPG 0.77 1
Goal Share% 31.43% 31.43%

  Jol’s numbers were a fair reflection of performance: SoTR matches Goal Share%. thus 0.77 ppg is a fair reflection of his utter ineptitude in managing this football club. Since Jol’s departure Fulham have posted relatively strong SoTR numbers but that hasn’t led to a goal share% indicative of the strong shots performance. Why is that? PDO is damn crippling this football club. Jol deserved to be sacked, but the decision to sack him was likely 5 or 6 games too late, which was probably caused by the belief that the PDO spike around game 8 was actually real talent instead a temporary variance. Meulensteen has Fulham posting good shots numbers but PDO is a real issue. A point per game pace is fine, and it may improve if PDO regresses.  

Andre Villas-Boas

I really didn’t like Villas-Boas’s sacking, but something was broken at Spurs during those last days and we will likely never find out just what that something was. Wowy_avb_medium Villas-Boas posted strong SoTR numbers but the PDO was crippled by a low scoring% early in the season. Once the scoring%  started to improve, along came the save% regression. During the last few games of Villas-Boas’s reign Tottenham’s lowly PDO was finally destroyed but two alarming blowout losses at the hands of Man city and Liverpool. Since Villas-Boas’s departure Tottenham have posted a PDO of, wait for it………130.03. In layman’s terms: the most ridiculous, obscenely unsustainable PDO that not only I have ever seen during a short run of games, but the most obscenely unsustainable PDO one could ever possibly imagine. Poor Andre. WOWY: Villas-Boas

Villas-Boas W/O Villas-Boas
SoTR 57.5 55.3
PDO 85.4 130
PPG 1.68 2.66
Goal Share% 41.67% 73.68%

  Villas-Boas’s goal share% was lower than his SoTR due to the poor PDO. This probably had a knock-on effect to the low ppg number. Sherwood is a genius, the right man for the job, has liberated the Tottenham players, found the right attacking balance a lucky bastard in that Tottenham have posted a 53% scoring% and a 77% save% during his short reign. Goal share% is far higher than SoTR due to that PDO, thus ppg is pretty darn high. That PDO number won’t last, Tottenham’s ppg number won’t continue to be that high. Six games is a tiny sample, good or bad stuff can happen. In Sherwood’s case, he has either stumbled on a formula which turns Tottenham into BarcaMunich or he is riding some lucky percentages/unsustainable play. Villas-Boas posted some good fundamental numbers numbers at Tottenham but some systemic and behind the scenes issues meant his sacking was likely a fair one. Jury is out on Sherwood.  

Steve Clarke

  Wowy_clarke_medium I thought the sacking of Steve Clarke was a touch unfair on the dour Scotsman at the time. I may still feel that way for a little more time yet, but Pepe Mel may well be a significant upgrade. We need more data on Mel and for that we must wait. Clarke was posting decent fundamentals but since his departure West Brom have improved their SoTR despite facing some pretty tough opposition. WOWY: Clarke

Clarke W/O Clarke
SoTR 43.1 55.3
PDO 100.6 97.7
PPG 0.93 1.16
Goal Share% 43.59% 50.00%

  Clarke’s numbers were a pretty fair indication of his ability with West Brom: Sub-par shots on target team who posted a sub-par goal share with a league average (fair) PDO. Since Clarke’s departure the SoTR number is has improved (small sample), the goal share has improved and thus points per game has also improved. The numbers during the six games without Clarke look pretty good. The sacking seemed harsh but the early returns point to the possibility of this West Brom team having more talent that Clarke was able to coax out of it.  

Malky MacKay

Oh dear, Malky. This isn’t good. Wowy_mackay_medium MacKay’s Cardiff were a poor SoTR team under his management, so poor, in fact, they came mighty close to matching the ineptitude shown by Fulham under Martin Jol. The above chart shows us that Cardiff were always a poor shots team but were merely propped up by a high PDO which regressed ever so slowly toward the mean. WOWY: MacKay

MacKay W/O MacKay
SoTR 31.3 44.9
PDO 100.5 81.14
PPG 0.94 0.25
Goal Share% 31.71% 28.57%

  MacKay’s numbers were a fair reflection of what he was able to get out of this team: SoTR matches the goal share, while PPG is fairly impressive due to the early season PDO spike. We don’t really have enough information about Cardiff without MacKay but it may be fair to say that Cardiff will likely not continue to post that impressive a SoTR number, nor will they continue to suffer the cruel blows that their low PDO number currently deals them. MacKay was likely not a good enough manager to manage in the PL, but we cannot be completely certain of this due to the talent level at his disposal. Cardiff do have some nice pieces at their club but those pieces are likely not nice enough, nor are there enough of those nice pieces to guarantee safety in their battle against relegation. We wait to see what the super sub can coach out of this team.  

Final Thoughts

Managers matter, but so do small samples and the variation in not only performance and luck, but in the variation of strength of schedule and injury. Personalities matter too. Just ask Daniel Levy or Vincent Tan. Managers can be prematurely fired off the back of periods of ‘bad luck’ just as they can perhaps be fired too late due to periods of ‘good luck’. Stuff happens, life for a manager can be as unfair as it is fortuitous. My take is thus: by all means fire a manager for posting poor numbers in terms of control of the shots count (SoTR) but be wary of dismissing a manager due to a low PDO (the coach killer) unless it is absolutely certain that the low PDO number is caused by long standing system issues. Personally, my take away from this piece, and other private work that I have been doing, is how well Goal Share% fits with SoTR (and TSR) numbers. If those two numbers do not sit pretty close to each other then the cause is likely due to a high, or low, burst in PDO. Given enough time, shots talent will equate to goal share talent. And we know what happens to PDOright?

Luis Suárez: The Perfect Storm

Luis Suarez is a brilliant footballer. I think we are now beginning to get to the point where his on-field performances; his influence on his team-mates; and the impact he has on opposition defenses is such that he can be classed as a genuine superstar of world football. Suarez a superstar? Yes, and it no longer feels like a hyperbolic soundbite. Suarez is frightening opposition defenses. He’s butchering weak opposition and outperforming the toughest competition. He’s arrived. An admission: I was always a fan of Suarez despite some very real concerns about inefficiencies in shot selection and pass selection. Suarez, despite some bad, just had too many good qualities to his game for me not to sold on him. And before I am accused of jumping on any bandwagons following Suarez’s hot start to 13/14, I must mention that I was very much behind Arsenal pushing beyond the quoted £40m asking price and signing the player. I believed Suarez was worth the money then and I still believe Suarez is worth that money, and then some. 17 goals in 11 league games tends to bump valuations somewhat.

***

The main purpose of this article is to examine Luis Suarez’s hot start to the 13/14 season; how it ranks when placed against Suarez’s Liverpool career numbers; and how sustainable Suarez’s 13/14 numbers may be.  

Liverpool Career

This is what Luis Suarez’s Liverpool career numbers look like:

  • A solid start in 10/11. Excellent shots numbers undermined by terrible conversion and scoring percentages.
  • 11/12 saw shots numbers remain at roughly the same rate per90. Scoring% ticked up a touch as did key passes per90. The goals per90 is still pretty average.
  • 12/13: explosions in the sky! Shots, SoT and key passes are all up year on year. The boost in scoring% (goals/SoT) and conversion% (goals/total shots) boosted the goals per90 number to a Liverpool career high.
  • 13/14 is other worldly. The shots per90 number looks like the bastard offspring of Messi and Ronaldo. The Shots on Target per90 number is the best 11 game sample I have ever seen as is the Goals per90. Shot volume certainly helped Suarez to score 17 in 11 games but the main drivers are those conversion and scoring% numbers.

 

Shots SoT Goals Assists KP mins Sc% SoT% Conv%
S 10/11 4.50 1.88 0.33 0.25 1.97 1099 17.39 41.82 7.27
S 11/12 4.56 1.66 0.39 0.11 2.33 2545 21.74 36.22 7.87
S 12/13 5.70 2.07 0.64 0.12 2.74 2953 30.88 36.36 11.23
S 13/14 6.20 3.37 1.55 0.36 2.92 987 45.95 54.41 25.00

  13/14 Scoring% is historically high for Suarez’s career, but it is also high when placed against his peers’ numbers. Suarez’s scoring%, in my opinion, is not sustainable long-term. If you’re the type of girl/guy who prefers to use all of a players’ shots in conversion stats then focus on Conv% which is, when placed against the previous 3 seasons, seems inordinately high. So What Is Going On With Suarez’s 13/14 Numbers? Small(ish) sample. The scoring% and conversion% numbers should both cool down over a larger sample (the rest of the season) and that will likely mean a slowing of his 326 goal pace that he is currently operating at. But what about Suarez’s shots numbers which are out of this world? Hmmm, good question. Like most excellent forwards, Suarez is a flat-track bully who butchers weak opposition and a cursory look at the games Suarez has played this season gives us an indication of the opposition strength: Lpool_fixt_medium Newcastle, Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham were the tough fixtures. The remaining schedule is pretty easy. Could it be that Suarez is padding his shots numbers against teams who are clearly no match for his talent level? The flat-track bully element to Suarez’s game, and every other good strikers game, is not meant as a criticism. Good strikers feast on weak teams and it may just be that Suarez has faced 7 or 8 teams who, for whatever reason, are pretty weak now. This is my theory, and feel free to ridicule it! I will probably test Suarez’s performance against, say, Top 7 teams and the rest of the league when I manage to find a hour free to do so.

***

We know what Suarez’s career box numbers look like and we know that this hot start to the season looks to be a level of performance above and beyond Suarez’s career average. What I want to look at now is just how abnormal Suarez’s start to the 13/14 season is. To look at how abnormal the hot start is I am going to look at Suarez’s Liverpool career numbers using an 11 game rolling average  so as to compare 13/14’s 11 game stretch with the other 77  11 game stretches. I want to know if Suarez has enjoyed a hot streak like this in terms of shots, conversion% or goals per90 in his Liverpool career previous to the start of the 13/14 season.  

Shot Volume

Sua_shot_volume_medium Shots per90 is pretty variable: 3 peaks and 3 valleys within those 76 buckets worth of 11 games. Suarez’s overall shots per90 volume is excellent. Shots On Target per90 was fairly stable in the first 60 games at the club. Since then, the SoT per90 volume has been on the march with a notable spike in the last 30 games. I’m not particularly sure why we have seen a recent improvement in shots on target per90 volume.  

Shots On Target% & Scoring%

Shots on target% = shots on target/total shots. Scoring%=goals/shots on target. Sua_sot__medium As stated previously, Suarez’s ability to get shots on target has improved recently and that improvement shows up inSoT%. Suarez’s Scoring% (my preferred conversion stat) is not particularly stable. There doesn’t look to be any long term improvement in Suarez’s ability to convert shots on target into goals; it merely looks like a lot of noise to me. In fact, as good/”lucky” as Suarez’s scoring% (45.9%) is, Suarez has posted better 11 game spans of scoring%. Suarez posted five spans of >46% scoring% and those spans came at the start of the 2012/13 season. In short: we have been here before with Suarez and a high scoring%. That hot scoring% cooled off pretty sharply.

Conversion%

Conversion%=goals/total shots. Sua_conv__medium If you prefer to focus on a players conversion stats by using all shots that a player takes the we can look at the graph above. A crazy barren period at the start of Suarez’s career is a mystery to me. (Liverpool fans?) But following that barren period we see that Suarez’s conversion% bobbed up and down, neither too high nor too low; no droughts or extended hots streaks and the BAM! Look at the far right hand side of the chart. That spike is completely out of keeping with the Suarez’s career rates. Suarez’s career conversion% is 12.07%. In 13/14 Suarez’s conversion% is 25%. That 25% number is out of keeping with Suarez’s Liverpool career. It looks like an anomaly. Or, maybe there is something I am missing. Maybe Liverpool’s tactical setup, the quality of his team-mates or weak opponents have led to the spike in Suarez’s conversion%? Or it could be the amount of time Liverpool spend winning, and thrashing, their opponents? I’d say variance with a side dish of weak opposition.  

Goals Per90

If we add a recent spike in shots on target volume, a spike in shooting accuracy, a spike in conversion% and scoring% what do we get?  A goals per90 spike. Goals_per90_medium This, I believe, is the most extreme graph. After a tough start to Suarez’s career, which included that extended barren spell, Suarez numbers, with no little variance, have stayed at an elite level (buckets 32-75). What has happened in buckets 75-78 can only be described as freakish. A perfect storm, if you like. That perfect storm was caused by:

  • The 2nd best shots per90 rate in Suarez’s Liverpool career.
  • The best SoT per90 rate in Suarez’s Liverpool career.
  • The 2nd best SoT% in Suarez’s Liverpool career.
  • The 6th best Scoring% in Suarez’s Liverpool career.
  • The best Conversion% in Suarez’s Liverpool career.

If we add all of the above together it becomes clear just how Suarez has posted 17 goals in 11 games so far this season. If we take a guess and say that the shots volume and SoT% may have been caused in small part by some weak opponents, improved tactics and the thrashings that Liverpool have dished out, then what can we say the spike in conversion% was caused by? Is the spike in conversion% solely caused by variance? Or is some small part of it tactical or influenced by opponent strength? I cannot be certain either way. We know shooting% regresses on a team level and may be a pretty good guess when looking at Suarez’s conversion% chart that conversion% isn’t a consistently repeatable skill from 5 games or so to the next 5 games or so. Going forward I expect Suarez to continue to post high shot volume numbers (although they will cool off some) but I am far less certain about Suarez’s ability to maintain those conversion% numbers. If Suarez’s conversion% numbers cool that will likely mean that Suarez’s Goals per90 numbers cool also. This wouldn’t be the end of the world. Suarez would continue to perform well, create tremendous shot volume and score at an elite clip. But regression in the conversion% means Suarez may well drop from Messi-like heights and rejoin the mere mortals. Suarez is a brilliant player, who will deservedly win the golden boot, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that Suarez cannot maintain a conversion% that is double his Liverpool career average. The goals may slow down a little, but that’s fine. Incredible hot streaks don’t last forever.  

10 Points: RvP, Fulham & Arsenal’s Defence (week 15)

1) Close Goal Difference

Close Goal Difference = Goal Difference at minus 1, tied and plus 1. I’ve banged this drum for some time now in various places. Close Goal Difference has an almost perfect (r2=0.95) relationship with points won. Close Goal Difference Close_gd_15_medium Total Goal difference has a weaker relationship with points (r2=0.79). Week_15_gd_to_points_medium Overall goal differential, which includes blowouts and thrashings (Liverpool, City and Norwich), has a weaker relationship with points won. If we solely focus on Close Game State we retain 82.9% of the goal events and throw out the goals scored that likely had zero bearing on how the points were won. None of this is groundbreaking news. Incidentally, Man United won the league in 12/13 with a Close GD that was streets ahead of any other team in the league. 13/14 PL Table With Close Goal Difference  

Pos Team Close GD Points
1 Arsenal 19 35
4 Man City 14 29
3 Chelsea 12 30
2 Liverpool 12 30
5 Everton 8 28
8 Southampton 4 23
6 Tottenham 4 27
9 Man United 3 22
7 Newcastle 3 26
12 Stoke -2 17
11 Swansea -2 18
10 Aston Villa -3 19
15 West Brom -4 15
13 Hull -5 17
14 Norwich -8 17
17 West Ham -8 13
16 Cardiff -9 14
18 Fulham -10 13
19 Palace -11 13
20 Sunderland -17 8

  This is how Close GD and Points through 15 games looks. Tottenham and Newcastle are big outliers in terms of more points gained than their Close GD would suggest. Man City’s Close GD suggest that they should have secured more points.

2) RvP Sad Face

I desperately wanted a GIF of this situation but a plain ‘ol picture will have to do. The picture really doesn’t do justice to how dejected RvP looked as he trudged off. 1472014_558409210906128_597152386_n_medium I wonder what goes through van Persie’s head in those quiet, reflective moments? Does he pine for ‘home’; does he regret his decision to move to Man United? Probably not. But I’m damn sure that a big part of RvP signing for Man United – except for the substantial pay rise – was the chance to work with Alex Ferguson and win trophies. Man United’s ability to win silverware seems to have departed when the genius (with every passing game the word genius becomes apt) finally decided to retire. Look at van Persie’s face. Look at it! Sorrow, regret, sadness. He looks like a man who left his girlfriend, who was pretty darn amazing and loving, for the hot-hot girl he met in a nightclub. Turns out that the hot club girl is a bit of a dick: nags him when he goes for a beer with his friends, arguments over his failure to fold towels in the correct manner, “football, again?”. Ferguson was like the makeup that the hot club girl wears and he made Man United look more attractive and dazzling a proposition than it actually was. Well, it’s morning now for van Persie, the club girl has no makeup on and she’s not so hot now. Robin may well be wondering what the hell he has got himself into.  

3) What Next For United?

This: Villa, West Ham, Hull and Norwich. Man_u_fixtures_dec_10th_medium Moyes’ world seems to be crumbling. The players look bereft of confidence and belief. Now is really the time for Rooney and (health permitting) van Persie to step up. That pair are Man United’s best players and it’s times like this – semi-crisis – that a club needs it’s best players. This upcoming bunch of fixtures are probably just what Moyes needs. United will be favourites in all 4 fixtures, 3 of the 4 are on the road which may not be the worst thing in the world right now. 9 points form these 4 games would be the absolute bare minimum requirement. 12 points, as unlikely as that seems in current form, may just be possible. This stretch of games which takes us to the end of the year, and the halfway point in the fixture list, will likely define the narrative regarding Moyes and his Man united team.  

4) PDO

I love the stat called ‘PDO’. A lot of you may not, and you may be highly dubious of it. PDO is team save%+ team Scoring% and it regresses heavily toward the mean on a season to season basis. It has been said before that PDO captures ‘luck’ or ‘non-skill’ or simply put, the unexplainable. Hell, maybe PDO captures systems and those who say that a team (non-Barcelona) post PDO’s way out of the normal bounds are able to do so because of these systems. Maybe high PDO’s are due to the amount of time spent in a winning position? It’s possible. This is the best explanation I have seen for what PDO actually means:

@ExtraSkater PDO’s really the answer to “are they outperforming shot differential”, so it’s the key plot here… — Eric T. (@BSH_EricT) December 6, 2013

  13/14 PDO’s Week_15_pdo_medium   Arsenal are the big outlier in terms of posting a high PDO. Palace are the team posting the crazy low PDO, but that PDO is regressing. Arsenal are stubbornly holding out for whatever reason. In 11/12 Man City won the league with a PDO of 116.2. City’s PDO the next year? 99.16. In 12/13 United won the league with a PDO of ~114.9. United’s PDO so far this year? 98.52. My point is: winners of the league, especially if they are runaway ~89 point winners, will likely post a pretty darn good PDO that may sustain for a 38 game spell. But unless you are managed by Ferguson or there is a huge talent gap between your team and the rest of the league it’s unlikely that a team can maintain such high PDO’s year on year. If we take Eric’s tweet at face value then we conclude that Arsenal are the team who are outperforming their shot differential to the largest degree.  

5)Regression in Save%

I talked about PDO in the previous point so now let’s look at save%. This time I want to focus on the Save% splits. I’m going to take the first 8 games and the next 7 games and look at the save percentages posted in each of those buckets.  

SV% First 8 Games Last 7 Games
Southampton 88.46 50
Liverpool 82.5 66.67
Stoke 81.58 67.57
Tottenham 80.77 65.63
West Brom 80.65 62.5
Chelsea 79.17 52
Fulham 78.26 63.64
Arsenal 75.68 91.67
Hull 75 65.52
West Ham 75 67.65
Cardiff 74.51 75.68
Man United 69.7 68.97
Norwich 69.05 70
Aston Villa 68.75 75.76
Swansea 64.52 65.38
Man City 62.5 71.43
Newcastle 62.16 77.42
Everton 61.54 86.67
Palace 59.52 73.68
Sunderland 52.38 65.52

  It’s worth noting that 18 of the 20 teams saw their save percent regress in the last 7 games back toward (or beyond) the mean. Only Arsenal and Cardiff managed to sustain their high (or low) Save percentages from bucket 1 to bucket 2. Maybe Arsenal and Cardiff employ unique defensive systems. In a way I kinda hope Arsenal are employing a unique and vastly superior defensive scheme in comparison to anyone else in the league. If they were, it would be interesting to analyze and duplicate. Alas, a 91% save% in the last 7 games may be systemic but is more likely to be simply due to variance and the bounces teams sometimes get.

6) Arsenal’s Defense

Whilst we are on the topic of Arsenal’s save% I’ll take a quick look at Arsenal’s defensive scheme. This season we have seen a flexible Arsenal: pressing in one game, sitting deep in the next, using possession to swamp opponents in the easier fixtures. Throughout these intelligent and varied tactical setups Arsenal’s defense has been mighty impressive. Arsenal’s 11goals against is the lowest total in the league. But what do some of Arsenal’s underlying defensive numbers look like?

Metric # Rank
Shots Against 172 7th
SoT Against 61 T 7th
SoT Prevention% (av ~67%) 64.53% 17th
D Zone Time 23.64 mins p90 6th best
Save% (~70%) 81.96% 1st

  Well, not much of that would help us in understanding why Arsenal have the best GA record in the division. Shots and Shots on Target against are pretty meh. Shots on target prevention (SoT against/shots against) is one of the worst numbers in the league. Arsenal are pretty good at not allowing the ball into their own defensive end and, of course, the save% IS OUT OF THIS WORLD. Some of Arsenal’s middling shots against numbers are caused by score effects (Arsenal leading a lot of the time) but those same score effects should assist Arsenal in posting a better SoT prevention number than 17th in the league. Maybe a deeper video breakdown would help us to get a better feel for Arsenal’s defensive scheme, although I’m not convinced that would turn up anything new. Arsenal are giving up too many shots and too many shots on target for a title challenger, even if those are from a longer distance than the average team posts (my intuition). On the surface, Arsenal’s save% is keeping them in the hunt right now.

7) Sunderland

Sunderland, it’s been a while since I wrote about you and your crazy antics, but I’m back. James Grayson posted a chart on twitter that looked at Sunderland’s collapse in TSR this season. I wanted to follow that up with a few little bits of info. Sunderland_shots_15_medium Paolo Di Canio was fired after game 5 with Sunderland’s shots +/- at -5. Di Canio’s PDO (see above) was 81.4which is massively under par. Kevin Ball took charge for games 6 and 7 which saw Sunderland tread water. Poyet, the great hope, took charge at game 8 and has presided over a complete fucking collapse of Sunderland’s shots numbers (-74 in 8 games ). Poyet’s Magic

Poyet
SOT For 2.38
SoT Against 4.38
Goals For 0.88
Goals Against 1.75
Scoring% 36.8
Save% 60.0
PDO 96.8

  Poyet’s Sunderland are being killed not only by the shots count but the shots on target count too. Goals for and against? Bad news in those categories too, I’m afraid. But there may be some extenuating circumstances. The Good (less bad) Sunderland’s last 4 home games have come against Newcastle, City, Chelsea and Tottenham and yes, boys and girls, that is probably the toughest 4 game-set of home fixtures and PL club will face this term. The Bad Sunderland’s last 4 away games have been fairly gentle in terms of away fixtures: Swansea, Hull, Stoke and Villa. In those games Sunderland were -36 in shots, -12 and were outscored 7-0. Overpowered by tough competition at home. Overpowered by weak competition on the road. Poyet will be given lots of time, and we people that stick our noses in teams’ business need more time to properly analyse Sunderland. Thing is, this looks like O’Neill’s Sunderland and that is not a good sign.

8) Fulham & The Dead Cat Bounce

In finance, a dead cat bounce is a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock.[1] Derived from the idea that “even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height” Is Fulham’s recovery in terms of results and underlying numbers to be a small and brief one? The new manager Meulensteen will hope that his systems and coaching will be sustainable and can enable Fulham to rise clear of relegation trouble. I’m not convinced this will be the case. Fulham’s have a lack of talent, especially in midfield, and this prevents them from controlling games. This lack of control leads to being heavily outshot and, ultimately, without a strong defense, outscored. Meulensteen’s target – with the help of a January buy or two – will be to turn Fulham into the team that they were in Martin Jol’s early days: a team that is able to beat the weaklings at home and spring the odd rare surprise away from home. That type of results profile may be enough to survive this season which will be a fine outcome as things stand right now. This season, at best, will be a write-off and a steep learning curve for Khan. Fulham have the money and potentially the coach to gradually improve this team.

9) Shots & Shots On Target

This is pretty simple: How well do shots and shots on target correlate with GD? I’ve formatted the correlations on a week by week basis. Shots on target has always had an edge in terms of it’s relationship with GD, but that edge is closing. Shots_r2_s_15_medium It’s worth noting that these correlations are a lot higher in 13/14 after 15 games than they were in 12/13. Don’t ask me why that is the case beacause I have no idea! The real test for any of these stats is how predictive they are of future performance. next week I’m going to run quite a few charts and graphs on the predictive ability of certain stats using the tiny, and probably deeply unsatisfactory sample of the first 8 games and the following 8 games.

10) Goal Of The Week

There may well have been better goals this week ( Stoke’s, Osvaldo’s) but the execution, and the importance, of this goal means it’s tops for me. Deulofeu scores here because of the pace of the shot and the short back lift.