Saturday Morning Ramble: Liverpool, Chelsea, Previews.

By Simon Banoub | September 21, 2013

Saturday Morning Ramble: Liverpool, Chelsea, Previews.

@BenjaminPugsley Statsbomb was due to record a podcast at some point midweek but September schedules, work, laziness and drinking got in the way. Oh, and some renovation work to a property next door also got in the way. That renovation work sounded like this:   So, with no podcast this week I decided to ramble some on the topics that we were due to talk about.


  Philippe Coutinho @sportsanalysis posed a question to the statsbomb podcast which went a little like this: What has happened to Coutinho's form and why hasn't he created a chance for his team-mates in 2 or 3 games? It's split the answer into two parts: Team Effects Liverpool have shown excellent early form which was built on getting into the lead (early) and tightening their defensive shape and 'shelling' (LINK & LINK). Liverpool have led for an average of 65 minutes per game which, due to the extensive tactical shelling, has led to Liverpool having only 48% ball possession, a 48% TSR (Total Shots Ratio) and a 50% SoTR (Shots on Target Ratio). Once leading, Liverpool haven't had much of the ball and chance creation - Coutinho's main skill - hasn't been required as often due to the aforementioned shelling and a virtually useless counter-attacking threat when shelling. Liverpool, for over 66% of their game time, have been playing pretty defensive and this naturally will knock Coutinho's creation numbers. The Player Is....now injured for six weeks. Liverpool will miss him, but the lay-off may not be such a bad thing for the player. A short lay-off, some rest and a lot of game video may not be such a bad thing. We must remember that Coutinho is a very young player, yes he is fucking brilliant, but young players can suffer wild peaks and troughs in form as they begin to figure out the game at the very highest level. Another issue I had with expectations regarding Coutinho was the lack of a history of performance. I don't think last season's minutes played were sufficient to judge what his true talent level is. You know, maybe he is that player from last season - the creative whirlwind, the next scheming superstar - but I want to see a much larger body of work before we anoint him with the world class tag at the tender of age of 21. Given time, Coutinho will get there and be a pretty special player. But he may not be consistently excellent until 23 or 24. Chelsea jose-mourinho-naked-man-invade-pitch-funny-reaction TKnutso/mixedknuts/Ted seems to think something is up with Chelsea. I'm slightly inclined to agree. I wasn't as bullish as some people were at the start of the season about Chelsea, but the people that were bullish about Chelsea probably know more than I do about these things than I do. From this very early point in the season it seems like Chelsea are having issues with controlling games and creativity. But hey, maybe these things are to be expected when integrating new players and a new tactical system. It takes time for things to bed in and this makes evaluating teams with new managers mighty hard. It's going to take time for Tottenham's new players to bed in, it will take time for City's players to get used to Pellegrini's schemes and it is going to take time for Chelsea's players to get used to Mourinho's systems. My issues with Chelsea:  

  • Age of some of the players and can Chelsea smartly rotate to prevent injuries like they did last year?
  • What of Chelsea's strikers? Is there enough firepower; can they score by committee?
  • Is Chelsea central midfield good enough for the title?
We'll only know the answers in time. There are issues for Chelsea and Mou to work through but that's the same with nearly every club at this stage of the season.


Norwich v Villa Meh. two teams who don't really know who they are yet. I like the attacking options of both of these teams, the difference between the two is while Villa are converting their chances (33% sc%) Norwich aren't (~9% sc%). Both of these teams are sub-par shots teams but it's Norwich who are struggling the most with the 18th ranked TSR in the division. Liverpool v Southampton Southampton should be a good opponent for this impressive Liverpool team. Saints are ranked 5th in TSR and 4th in SoTR in the early season shots rankings (which will change a LOT) and they keep the ball well enough for this fixture not to be a walkover for Liverpool. Without Coutinho and Suarez I do wonder about creativity if they come up against a defensive Southampton team or if they fall a goal behind. Southampton have spent just 1 minute in a winning position this season. That will have to change at some point. Newcastle v Hull Newcastle are the best team in the league in open play TSR, which is, well, mind blowing. Hull, who have faced some pretty strong quality of opposition have some sub-par underlying numbers. Newcastle with injuries to their key players are shit. Newcastle with healthy key players can out-shoot the opposition, but also have the individual quality to out-score the opposition. West Brom v Sunderland Give a shit. Two teams who are struggling mightily. West Brom can't generate offense. Sunderland can but an ~87.3 PDo is a giant anchor that is weighing them down at the moment. West Brom should pick up their home form at some point. PDC could be incandescent after this game if Sunderland lose. Chelsea v Fulham Fulham are the worst shots team in the league so far, Chelsea are the second best shots team. Chelsea's speed vs Fulham's non-speed should produce only one outcome. Could get ugly if Chelsea score early and try to work on their attacking game. Arsenal v Stoke Hughes has been impressive in the first four games going 2-1-1 but Arsenal have a lovely habit of dismantling the challenges of sub-par shots teams:

...we see the extent to which Arsenal creamed the weaker opponents. Arsenal had a record of 20-2-2 against teams with a SoTR(%) of less than 50%. That is simply an incredible record and works out to 2.58 points per game against sub-par SoTR teams.http://www.theshortfuse.com/2013/6/27/4472282/arsenal-and-the-race-for-4th-place-in-2012-13

Image Stoke are probably going to be a sub-par shots team. Arsenal will likely pass them to oblivion and win. Palace v Swansea Palace are struggling by the TSR count and struggling in final third passes. home form is going to be key against a Swansea side who were very good against a shambolic Valencia on Thursday night. Thursday-Sunday games are a problem and we don't know how big an effect it may have at this early stage of the season. Swansea may have too much for Palace. Cardiff v Tottenham See above. Tottenham had no added travel miles. City v United Good luck calling this one. CIty are truly dominant at home, United have RVP and Rooney. Both clubs have new managers who are figuring things out but it's City who look mighty good by the underlying numbers. It'll be interesting to see if City match power with power of if Pellegrini will be crafty and line Milner up on the right to thwart United's strong left flank. Will Toure be given licence to roam like he did in the CL to such effect? Will City line up with a 3 of Garcia holding and the big beasts of Fernandinho and Toure given licence to blitzkrieg? Who knows. It's going to be a fascinating match-up though. I'd lean City but I have a slight bias in this one. Thoughts?