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.

 

Managerial Changes and the Perception of Form

Fourteen managers have been sacked during the last and current season of the Premier League. Almost every time we’re left wondering if they deserved it based on their team’s performance and if their successor did, or will do, significantly better. After sacking Chris Hughton, Norwich’s David McNally was quoted saying: “We are sad to see Chris go, but our form generally, and away from home, has been poor and this is a results business”. A simple, honest statement at first glance, but it raises a few questions:

  • Is he implying that ‘form’ and ‘results’ are the same thing?
  • If he isn’t, was Hughton let go due to poor form, poor results, or both?
  • Isn’t it his job as a chief executive to decide whether it’s a ‘results business’ or not? Doesn’t he know that results can be misleading, or does he merely use results to justify a decision based on something else?

Now I’m not the ultimate judge of a manager’s performance and I don’t intend to be. Form, either in terms of results or in terms of the underlying performance, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a matter of perception. This perception of form is what I’m interested in. Here are three important points about how we perceive form:

  1. There is a temporal dimension. One match occurs after the other, which automatically causes us to perceive a trend – even if there is none (i.e. the trend may not have any predictive value beyond the long term average).
  2. It’s about relative performance/results. A loss may not be judged as harshly if it happens away against a good team, but do we correct for the strength of the opposition enough in our perception?
  3. And of course there’s the difference between results and the underlying performance (good or bad luck), as far as we can measure it.

I while ago I experimented with something I called ‘form charts’ (article in Dutch). The idea is that they are a graphical representation of a team’s attacking and defensive performance relative to the difficulty of the match, over time. In this article I present a slightly improved version. How it works Team A plays a match against Team B and Team A gets an attacking ‘score’ by comparing their offensive output* (adjusted for home advantage) with the offensive output of all other teams in the league against that same opponent (Team B). We know Team B’s average amount of offensive output conceded, as well as the standard deviation. The number of standard deviations above or below the mean is Team A’s attacking score. Along the same lines we can calculate a defensive score by comparing the offensive output conceded by Team A with the average offensive output produced by Team B and it’s standard deviation. *The offensive ‘output’ can be defined as goals, shots, expected goals or anything like that. For example:

  • Norwich scored 2 goals at home against Everton.
  • A correction for home advantage means this really only counts as 1.74 goals.
  • Everton concede an average of 0.98 goals, with variation of 0.62
  • Norwich’s attacking score is (1.74-0.98)/√(0.62) = 0.97, almost 1 standard deviation above average

For their defensive score we calculate:

  • Goals conceded corrected for home advantage: 2.3
  • Average goals scored by Everton: 1.63
  • Variation of goals scored by Everton: 0.37
  • (1.63 – 2.3)/√(0.37) = -1.1

We can simply add the offensive and defensive score to get an aggregate score of -0.13. This is what I view as the ‘perceived result’. If we do the same thing but with ExpG instead of goals we get a metric of ‘perceived performance’ instead. This graph shows the (goal-based) attacking and defensive results over the course of Norwich’s season (catchy title huh?). Norwich Form Results As you can see the values are all over the place. It quickly becomes clear that looking at individual matches isn’t very useful and that it only works as a moving average of, say, five matches. This makes sense because a team is not usually judged on the basis of one match. If we’re talking about form, we are indeed talking about the perception of a handful of consecutive matches. Exactly what this graph shows: Norwich Form Avg Results Norwich was in a bit of a slump when Hughton was fired, especially defensively. That’s the temporal dimension I was talking about right there. How about the other two points then?

  • To see the difference between perceived results and perceived performance we can simply use the difference between goals and expected goals.
  • To see the influence of the difficulty of the schedule we can calculate the form graph but remove the correction for home advantage and instead of comparing to the average and standard deviation of a specific opponent, we compare with the league average and the average standard deviation. This way we can illustrate all three points with one graph, because all three metrics fit on the same scale (using the aggregate of attack and defence):

Norwich form Note that most of the time results with or without correction for difficulty don’t deviate that much because difficulty tends to even out over five matches. Some particularly hard or easy stretches can be seen though. The 7-0 away at City and the 5-1 in Liverpool stand out. This graph also indicates that there was more of a downward trend in performance than there was in results, so that might have been the real reason for McNally. Here’s Fulham as another example. The end of Jol’s reign shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, but sacking Meulensteen seemed like a strange decision. Magath certainly hasn’t done any better so far. Fulham Form Before I shower you with more graphs, let’s move on to some conclusions after looking at all 14 sackings. I have tried to measure to what extend the three problems with perception of form were present at the time of sacking in each case.

  • “Bad luck” – Results score in last 5 minus performance score in last 5 (to what extend were results worse than the performance would suggest)
  • “Temporary slump” – Performance in last 5 minus performance in last 20 matches.
  • “Underestimation” – Results not adjusted for difficulty in the last 5 minus adjusted results in last 5 (to what extend did the difficulty of the schedule make the situation look worse)

The lower the number, the worse it makes the manager look:

Club Manager Bad luck Temporary slump Underestimation
Cardiff Mackay -0.54 0.04 -0.25
Chelsea Di Matteo 0.38 0.10 -1.21
Fulham Jol -0.94 -0.51 -0.47
Fulham Meulensteen -0.48 -0.58 -0.81
Manchester City Mancini -1.09 -0.25 0.94
Norwich Hughton -0.30 -0.38 0.31
QPR Hughes -0.36 -0.49 0.48
Reading McDermott 0.22 -1.25 0.52
Southampton Adkins 0.85 0.57 -0.94
Sunderland O’Neill -0.61 -0.48 0.51
Sunderland Di Canio -1.61 0.64 0.06
Swansea Laudrup 0.63 0.02 0.25
Tottenham Villas-Boas -1.34 -0.97 -1.07
West Brom Clarke -2.13 0.36 0.24
Average -0.52 -0.23 -0.10

The “bad luck”-effect is the strongest. In 10 out of 14 cases it was present, and on average it makes these managers look half a standard deviation worse than they really are. The “temporary slump”-effect is also at play, but it’s less obvious. Based on this data I couldn’t say for certain that underestimation is much of a problem. In the introduction I left open the question whether a trend in performance has predictive value beyond the long term average. In other words: is a temporary slump really temporary? Based on the last two seasons of the Premier League, I can say with some certainty that looking at the last 5 matches to predict the performance in the next match is no better than looking at the last 20 matches. The difference between the performance score in the last 5 matches and the next match is on average 1.24 and the difference between the last 20 and the next is on average 1.17. Graphs, graphs, graphs Poor André Villas-Boas… Spurs Form A change of manager didn’t have much effect on performance in Cardiff. Cardiff Form Sunderland never looked good during the last few seasons, but Di Canio was particularly bad (click for big): Sunderland Form This one shows only the attacking score of Manchester United. The difference in results between this season and the last are very clear. The difference in performance not so much. Man Utd Form As a bonus, here’s the current top 4. Or should I say top 3… Top 4 Form Final note: I didn’t read Ben’s take on Sacked Managers, Luck & Underlying Numbers before writing this. His approach is somewhat different, but it’s definitely a recommended read.

Attacking Styles and Defensive Weaknesses

An Expected Goals Model works by categorizing chances and assigning a value to each category. In most cases we just add up all Expected Goals for a team or a player to measure performance, but it’s also interesting to take a closer look at those categories themselves. I’ve looked at a few recognizable ‘types’ of chances (based on shot type, location and assist type) and asked myself the question if a team’s attacking style can be identified by the types of chances they create, and similarly if teams have certain defensive weaknesses against specific types of chances. In other words: how much do chances of a certain type contribute to the total ExpG or total conceded ExpG? Here are the numbers for the Premier League as a whole over the last four full seasons: totals To see if these numbers are actually meaningful I’ve looked how much they differ per team (relative standard deviation), and to what extend they are repeatable (correlation between the first and second half of a season). Any stat that tells something about a teams style should be repeatable at least. The first thing you’ll notice is that repeatability can hardly be found in types of chances conceded. Teams play to their own strengths much more than they play to their opponents weaknesses. This actually surprised me a bit. I would suspect that if it’s known that a team has trouble defending crosses other teams will use that knowledge, but it might be easier said than done if you don’t have the players for it. On the other hand, a manager can change a team’s attacking style as we will see later. A couple of examples: setpieces Teams that are consistently weak at defending set pieces? There’s no such thing aside from one exception (the top right outlier): Arsenal during the 2010/2011 season. Penalties are all over the place and completely random: penalties Here you’ll see that the creation of a certain type of chance is more spread out and shows more correlation than the amount of chances conceded of the same type: headers throughballs All in all I would say that there are only three numbers that are definitely meaningful: chances created from through balls, headers and shots from outside the box. Between through balls and headers there’s also a negative correlation of 0.54. Without a doubt we’re looking at different attacking styles. Here’s a view of this season’s data which I like to call arsenewenger.png: arsenewenger.png A closer look at Arsenal shows that although he fits right in, it’s not just Özil either. Here are the top ten seasons (out of the last four) in terms of %ExpG from Through Balls: toptb You want more manager fingerprints? Here’s the full picture from this season: allteams Notice Crystal Palace as the leading team when it comes to headers? It’s no coincidence. Over the last four seasons under Tony Pulis, Stoke averaged more than 30%. Now Pulis gets the Palace job and immediately their percentage is up to 32.7% from 24.6% under Holloway. And then there’s Swansea, currently the team with the lowest share of through balls. If they ever were a poor man’s Arsenal they’re not doing a very good job now. Under Brendan Rodgers in 2011/2012 they managed 11.1%, in the first half season under Laudrup it was even up to 11.8% but then it dropped to 4.6% and all the way down to 0.7% now (that is one shot from a through ball all season). This blows my mind as Michael Laudrup was an absolute master of the through ball himself. At the same time you can find Rodgers’ first season at Liverpool in the top ten above, right there as the highest non-Arsenal team. That leaves us with one high profile managerial change which doesn’t show such a clear picture. After David Moyes’ move from Everton to Manchester United, Everton’s headers are down slightly and shots from outside the box are up (Barkley, Mirallas), but it’s not a huge difference. United’s through balls are down a bit, and headers are up, but that trend was already going on under Ferguson: manu  

The Premier League 2003-2013: Points Per League Position

This will be a really short post today. The topic: historic Premier League points totals per table position.

It is most likely that this type of study has been undertaken before, so if it seems like I may have repeated previous work, please don’t get mad. Assume I may not have seen said previous work, send me a link of said previous work and I will link it at the top of this page.

I have pulled the last ten years worth of PL tables (2003/4 to 2012/13) and the points total for each of the 20 positions in the table. It looks like this:

 

Ten Year Table

Pos Mean Mode Median PPG
1 88.6 89 89 2.33
2 81.9 83 83 2.15
3 75.8 75 75 2.00
4 68.8 68 68.5 1.81
5 64.0 65 64 1.68
6 60.8 58 61 1.60
7 57.1 53 56 1.50
8 53.1 49 52.5 1.40
9 51.0 52 52 1.34
10 48.7 47 49.5 1.28
11 46.8 47 47 1.23
12 45.4 46 46 1.19
13 43.7 42 44 1.15
14 42.7 45 43 1.12
15 41.5 41 41.5 1.09
16 39.3 36 39 1.03
17 37.3 35 37.5 0.98
18 35.0 36 35 0.92
19 32.1 30 32.5 0.85
20 25.3 25 26.5 0.67

 

Ten Year Table In Graph Form

Every season previous to 2013/14 is plotted on this graph (grey lines) and the red line is the ten year average.

Points_table_10_medium

Of Interest:

  • The 10 year average says there is likely to be one terrible team cut off from the rest.
  • Top 3 are separated somewhat.
  • Points gap between each positions gets closer as we move down the table.
  • The two low points for Fourth place were 60 and 61 points in 03/04 and 04/5.
  • I’m not entirely sure which way to solve this problem, but should any work on “points required to win the title/4th place/avoid relegation?” use the average points won for 1st/4th/17th or should we use 2nd+1 point/5th+ 1 points/18th+1 point?

 

I’ve no idea what the answer is for point four, but I recall a recent conversation on twitter about this very subject between @theM_L_G and @JamesWGrayson. So, we have looked at the average number of points that each table position records, we have also seen that information in graph form. The question now is, how does the 13/14 season shape up in comparison to this ten year average?

Are the top 6 over performing, are the bottom three weaker that the ten year historical average?

Ten Year PPG Pace

 

2014_ppg_historical_medium

Right now, positions 2-9 are are recording points per game at a significantly higher clip than the ten year average. This over performance comes at the expense of positions 10-18. Also, the gap between 8th place and 10th place is really something: Newcastle (8th) 36 points, Villa (10th) 24 points.

Has the top of the league become stronger? Have the bottom ten teams become weaker? Are the results in the chart above simply variance of just 22 games played? Possibly.

It is also possible that the 2013/14 season is an outlier, just as it is possible that 2013/14 may be the start (or middle) of a trend which sees the richer, more successful clubs record points total above historical averages.

I don’t want to dig too far into that today, instead all the information needed to conduct your own investigations are at the bottom of the page. I’m lazy, see!

Working Out

Show yer working out!

Just copy and paste.

Pos S 12/13 S 11/12 S 10/11 S 09/10 S 08/09 S 07/08 S 06/07 S 05/06 S 04/05 S 03/4 Average
1 89 89 80 86 90 87 89 91 95 90 88.6
2 78 89 71 85 86 85 83 83 83 79 82.2
3 75 70 71 75 83 83 68 82 77 75 75.9
4 73 69 68 70 72 76 68 67 61 60 68.4
5 72 65 62 67 63 65 60 65 58 56 63.3
6 63 64 58 64 62 60 58 63 58 56 60.6
7 61 56 54 63 53 58 56 58 55 53 56.7
8 49 52 49 61 51 57 55 56 52 53 53.5
9 46 52 48 50 51 55 54 55 52 52 51.5
10 46 47 47 50 50 49 52 51 47 50 48.9
11 44 47 47 47 45 46 50 50 46 48 47
12 43 47 46 46 45 43 46 48 45 47 45.6
13 42 45 46 44 41 42 43 47 44 45 43.9
14 41 45 46 39 41 40 42 45 44 45 42.8
15 41 43 43 38 41 39 41 43 42 44 41.5
16 41 38 42 36 36 37 39 42 39 41 39.1
17 39 37 40 35 35 36 38 38 34 39 37.1
18 36 36 39 30 34 36 38 34 33 33 34.9
19 28 31 39 30 32 35 34 30 33 33 32.5
20 25 25 33 19 32 11 28 15 32 33 25.3
Total 1032 1047 1029 1035 1043 1040 1042 1063 1030 1032

Match Simulation: Score Effects and Beyond

During the short time that I’ve been involved in football analytics I’ve learned a few things about match prediction, or more specifically win percentage prediction, which is very interesting from a betting perspective because it allows you to directly compare your own predictions to the bookies’ odds and see if there’s value in a specific bet. As I see it odds prediction consists of two major parts: predicting the relative strength of the two teams involved in a match, and estimating the likelihood of a certain outcome given this relative strength. This article is about the second part. It’s common knowledge that given an ‘expected goals’ value for one team in a match, you can calculate the probability of that team scoring a specific number of goals quite easily by using a Poisson or binomial distribution, which can then be turned into win percentages. This actually gives remarkably good results, but it’s not perfect. It can’t be. It’s ‘only’ simple mathematics so it assumes that the probability of a goal being scored during the time frame of a match is fixed and independent of other events. We know that this isn’t the case in reality. For example there’s something called ‘score effects’. The ‘game state’ (in this case the goal difference) influences the probability of scoring, and obviously the probability of scoring eventually influences the game state. Measuring Effects After analyzing data from the last four full Premier League seasons I’ve identified some more of these effects and by putting them together you can see a sort of ‘system’ taking shape that explains/models how a match progresses and that can be used to simulate a match and figure out the chance of a certain outcome. To do this I’ve divided each of the 1520 matches into 10 sections and measured team performance (ExpG) during each section, comparing different initial game states (in the broadest sense, not just the score). Here’s the theory: assuming a random team at a random time and a random game state, all we know is a theoretical average scoring probability. For any extra ‘information’ (about the team, the game state, etc.) we can measure the effect that is has in terms how much it causes the probability to deviate from this theoretical average. The probability of scoring is influenced by these (independent!*) effects:

  • Initial, pre-match expected goals (how good the team is on paper, including home advantage etc.). On average this causes a 43% deviation.
  • Time (it’s well known that the amount of goals significantly increases as the match goes on). Average deviation: 14.5%
  • Response to goal difference (score effects): 8.5%
  • Red card state (being a man up or down): 2.5%

This might seem counter-intuitive in the sense that a red card obviously has a much bigger effect on scoring probability, but the chance of the situation occurring in the first place is also taken into account here, and a team being a man short happens less than 10% of the time. Similarly a goal difference other than 0 only happens about half the time, while the factor ‘time’ itself is always at play. A note on score effects: I’ve noticed that score effects are much more pronounced in games where the teams are evenly matched. If a team is really dominant (on paper) they seem to stick to their plan and continue to create a similar amount of chances even when ahead. It’s also interesting that the total amount of goals scored has no clear effect on the future probability of scoring. Something can seem like an ‘open game’, but that’s mostly in retrospect, as it has little predictive value. Finally you can take this one step further because the probability of a red card occurring isn’t fixed either. It’s heavily influenced by:

  • Time. Most red cards occur late in the game: 52%
  • Goal difference: the chance of receiving a red card somehow increases by about 50% when a team is trailing by one goal. On average this causes a 14.4% deviation.

At this point I’m really stretching my data though, and as sample size is becoming a problem that’s as much detail as I’m daring to go into. The full picture looks like this (the size of the arrows roughly corresponds to the strength of the effect): Match Simulation To test this I’ve built a little “simulator” based on the underlying numbers. It works by taking only initial ExpG values and running through the match in a number of iterations in which the game state influences the scoring probability and the probability (potentially) influences the game state. It does seem to produce reasonable results, although the jury is still out on whether it’s a significant improvement upon Poisson. As far as betting goes it does have the potential added benefit of being able to quickly run some numbers as the state of the actual game changes (for example after a red card). *For example: to see the effect of goal difference, the performance I measure is relative to pre-match ExpG and after correcting for the influence of time.

Can You Get Away With a Foul Early in the Match?

Referees are sometimes lauded for keeping the cards in their pockets for as long as possible, but are players taking advantage of this? This graph may raise a few eyebrows: Yellow Cards vs Free Kicks While free kicks are spread out evenly over the duration of the match, the amount of yellow cards increases steadily as the game goes on. This suggests that the chance of getting a card when you concede a free kick increases as well. Unless fouls are in fact steadily getting more reckless, it doesn’t seem like they are judged entirely on their own merits. Of course there are different reasons for a referee to give a free kick or yellow card. I’ve looked at minute-by-minute data of every Premier League match since 2009/2010 from whoscored.com, which provides a description along with every free kick or yellow card event. The distinctions made in these descriptions are not terribly specific, but it goes as long way. Let’s look at the classification of yellow cards: Yellow Cards Classification You can see the same increase in cards as in the previous graph, but it’s clear that the composition changes over time. The share of yellow cards for unspecified reasons (“other”) increases from almost non-existent to close to half of all cards. I can only assume that these are mostly for things like time-wasting, kicking the ball away, dissent, etc., which become more of an issue later in the match. For the most part this explains the increase in the second half, but it still doesn’t explain what happens in the first. A possible answer can be found in the official rules, which state that “persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game” is also a cautionable offence. That means fouls don’t actually have to be judged on their own merits and it makes sense to look at the amount of fouls committed by the player that receives the yellow card as well. In the next graph I’ve separated yellow cards received for “real” fouls (kicking/holding an opponent etc.) into those received for first and for subsequent offences: Yellow Cards First Foul Now it’s clear that the chance of getting a card for a single foul is fairly consistent during three quarters of the match, but the opening stages are still an anomaly. The only other explanation I can think of is that referees are conscious of the fact that a card early in the match is a harsher punishment than a card later in the match. In my previous article I calculated this effect for red cards, and to a certain extend it must be true for yellow cards as well. Players already on a yellow run the risk of getting a second and will be more careful making fouls in the rest of the match. The numbers show that on average, a player receiving a yellow card will have made 0.59 previous fouls and will only make another 0.36 fouls in the rest of the match. Of course this is skewed by the fact that the average yellow is given after 59% of the match. If we correct for that it’s 0.5 vs 0.42. It’s a minor effect, but it’s there. To be certain I’ve also looked at hand balls, which I expect will be judged on their own merits. Free kicks given for hand balls are evenly spread out as well, but the risk of getting a yellow for it is 60% higher in the second half than in the first. All things considered it looks like it’s true: it is easier to get away with a foul early in the match.

DOGSO and Punishment

This week UEFA revealed plans to make a case for an end to the ‘triple punishment’ of a penalty, a red card and a suspension for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity in the 18-yard box. It’s true that this punishment often seems harsh on first glance, but this move by UEFA seems like a good time to try and back this up with facts.

The best way to do this is to assign an expected goals value to all of the factors that are involved, which are:

  • Penalties
  • Red cards
  • Suspensions
  • “Obvious goal-scoring opportunities” (OGSOs)

For example, we know that about three out of four penalties are scored, so we can say that a penalty is worth about 0.75 goals.

The other factors are quite a bit harder to determine though. I’ll even leave suspensions out of the equation altogether because that would require an accurate measurement of the influence of an individual player on a team’s performance. A bit too ambitious…

Obvious goal-scoring opportunities

“OGSOs” in this case are almost by definition hard to assign a value to, because we’re specifically interested in those that are denied. That means we’re trying to measure the effect of something that didn’t happen. We also know that not all OGSOs are created equal, and that nobody can even agree on an all-encompassing definition. We can, however, look at some typical OGSO-situations.

For example, there’s the classic one-on-one with the goalkeeper. We have no readily available statistics on this either, but we do have this:

“From 1977 through 1984 the NASL had a variation of the penalty shoot-out procedure for tied matches. The shoot-out started 35 yards from the goal and allowed the player 5 seconds to attempt a shot. The player could make as many moves as he wanted in a breakaway situation within the time frame.”

This crazy American experiment may turn out to be pretty useful, as this seems to be a decent simulation of a similar situation in a match. As the video below shows, five seconds is not a lot. It puts quite a bit of pressure on the attacker, not unlike having a defender on his heels. As you can see it’s not at all easy to score.

From the available historical data on the internet I’ve gathered that in these kinds of shootouts about 48% of attempts were scored. That means this kind of one-on-one OGSO has an expected goal value of 0.48.

I take it that this is the kind of situation UEFA has in mind, but of course there are also cases where it’s not merely an opportunity that is denied, but a (near-)certain goal. Think of Suarez’s infamous handball on the line to deny Ghana in the 2010 World Cup, or a keeper intentionally bringing down an attacker who only has to walk the ball into an empty net. Surely these have an expected goal value of >0.95.

Red cards

That leaves us with the factor of the red card. In theory the effect of a red card on expected goals can be measured well, but it’s a complicated matter:

  • Unlike penalties and goal-scoring opportunities, the effect of a red card isn’t constant over time. A red card in the 85th minute obviously doesn’t leave the opponent much time to capitalize on the advantage, while a red card early in the match can be a huge deal.
  • There’s a risk of confusing correlation and causation. Teams ship more goals after conceding a red card, but worse teams get more red cards anyway, so if the team simply has an off-day they can expect to concede more goals and more red cards.
  • When counting goals after a red card, we should exclude penalties resulting from the same incident, if we want to consider both factors separately.

Mark Taylor has done some interesting work here. As he points out not only is the value of a red card not constant, it’s not even linear, since on average more goals are scored in the second half than in the first. This means that the rate at which the value of a red card degrades increases a little as the match goes on. I’ve confirmed that this is true even if matches with red cards themselves are excluded (which would be one explanation for this effect).

Mark comes up with an expected goal value of 1.45 for a theoretical first minute red card, but because I’m not entirely sure how he got there (and because double-checking is simply good science) I decided to take a shot at it myself.

I’ve taken minute-by-minute data from 4.5 Premier League seasons and looked specifically at the 204 matches in which exactly one red card was given. For these matches I’ve taken the average number of goals scored by the 11-man team and the 10-man team, both before and after the red card was given.

After adjusting for the fact that the average dismissal is after 66% of the match, taking into account that more goals are scored near the end, and subtracting the value of penalties given for the same incident as the red card (12% of cases), I get a value of 1.08 goals for a red card in the first minute. In this theoretical case in which they still have to play the entire match the 11-man team can expect to score 0.61 goals more, and the 10-man team will have to do with 0.47 goals less.

If I exclude matches with red cards given before 20%, or after 80% of the match has been played (cases which provide too little information to compare events before and after the red card), I still end up with the same number of 1.08.

The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer guide to taking one for the team

Is UEFA right? Well, the graph shows that the combination of a red card and a penalty can be almost four times as valuable as the goal-scoring opportunity that was denied. Harsh indeed! On average it will be about 2.5 times as valuable as a one-on-one situation. This has the nasty effect of making it very tempting for the attacker to go down easily instead of staying on his feet and taking the shot.

 

DOGSO and Expected Goals

 

This also serves as a handy guide for defenders. When they’re chasing an attacker who is through on goal I suggest they refer to these simple rules that they will now surely keep hidden in their sock before deciding on how to proceed:

  1. As long as you still run the risk of getting both a red card and a penalty, it’s never a good idea to make a foul inside the area…
  2. …Unless you are avoiding a near certain goal and it’s during the last minutes of the match (Suarez did the right thing).
  3. If he’s still outside the box and at least an hour has been played, go ahead and take him out (the Solskjaer special seen below).
  4. If UEFA’s suggested change goes through and you’re still in the first quarter of the match, let him enter the area and then take him out. You’re better off with a penalty than a red card.
  5. Under the new rules, a near-certain goal should be stopped by any means in almost all cases.

The last point makes clear that in reality a distinction would have to be made between DOGSOs and the denial of near-certain goals (DNCG?) and that the triple punishment would still have to apply to the latter. I feel that on average this new rule would be more fair, but I’m afraid that in specific cases there would be even more room for controversy.

10 Points: Evil, Regression, Fulham & Striker Per90’s (wk 9)

 1) Deep Breath

When do we begin to panic over Man City’s 7th place, 16 point haul? NOW! screams the generic fan. Maybe I have mellowed in my old age, maybe I don’t care as much, but I am absolutely miles away from panic.

Either way, we must look at Man City’s form and be gently concerned at certain traits.

  • Defensive lapses.
  • Goalkeeper having a crazy, uncharacteristic funk in form.
  • Kompany’s injury breakdowns.

Here’s the thing: I don’t see how any of the three points that I quickly thought of are systemic faults in tactics or setup and thus can be pinned on Pellegrini.

Pellegrini can set up his team in meticulous fashion, get his tactics and personnel spot on, Man City can out-shoot their opponents, out-chance their opponents, but he can do very little about the daggers than keep piercing his best laid plans. Those daggers are individual mistakes, 5 second mistakes in a 96 minute game and they are costing Man City dearly right now. Hart, Nastasic, Kompany, Clichy, Negredo. Pick any names you want.

Man City’s tactical setup, both in attack and defense is absolutely fine, in fact it is producing some of the best underlying numbers in the league. So we don’t need to worry about the system Pellegrini is employing.

Think of Man City team as a huge, elegant steam liner. These individual mistakes are the giant anchor that is stuck fast to the sea bed.

Time for Joe to sit for a game or two. Have a rest, work with him on some technical issues/decision making, bring him back into a side that has Kompany in it.

 2) Torres To Aguero

Niall Quinn made an interesting point during Sky’s broadcast yesterday. When asked when we’ll know if Fernando Torres is back to his old form Quinn replied “when he is scoring two or three goals a game”.

We know Quinn’s statement is nonsense, we all laughed. But the discussion had me thinking, just how good does Torres look in the PL this year? Obviously the goals haven’t flowed, but maybe the players underlying numbers can point to a return to form?

9 games into the season this is how a select group of strikers are performing:

 

Name Shots p90 SoT p90 Gls p90 A p90 Sc% SoT% Pass p90 ToP%
Suarez 6.42 3.35 1.68 0.28 50 52.2 48.6 44.2
Aguero 4.12 2.74 1.2 0.34 43.75 66.7 32.8 72
Sturridge 3.98 1.86 0.99 0.25 53.33 46.9 31.3 99.4
Benteke 3.55 1.97 0.79 40 55.6 42.2 62.6
RvP 4.81 1.55 0.78 0.16 50 32.3 25.1 79.6
Giroud 4.67 1.43 0.65 0.52 45.45 30.6 33.9 95.2
Negredo 3.65 1.22 0.61 0.41 50 33.3 29.8 60.9
Rooney 3.82 1.98 0.61 0.31 30.77 52 55.4 80.9
Eto’o 4.88 2.44 0.41 0.41 16.67 50 24.4 30.4
Torres 3.69 1.42 0.28 0.28 20 38.5 26.7 43.5

 

Torres has pretty similar SoT numbers to Olivier Giroud. Giroud has the hot scoring%, Torres doesn’t.

Suarez is out of this world in his shortened season. Aguero is dynamite in every category. Sturridge has some really nice shots numbers but the goals are coming from that unsustainable scoring%, which will cool off. Also, Sturridge needs some rest, he’ll become jaded or, worse, injured if he continues to play nearly every minute available.

Torres’s shots and shots on target numbers are an improvement on previous seasons but they still aren’t super good. The low scoring% is the anchor.

3) Player Of The Week

Suarez v West Brom. Yes, we know that Suarez crushes teams like this, but it’s still nice to see one of the league’s best operators in top form.

4) Southampton & Stats

Mauricio Pochettino

“I think statistics are evil,” he said. “They don’t really show anything. “Today it is okay as we win, but when you lose they are not as important. “I think more than anything today it is about how we played aside from the three points, aside from getting the victory. “Statistics are relative and more than anything I am satisfied with how we won today.”

Pretty funny, really. Maybe MP meant it, maybe it was something that got lost in translation.

Statistics may be evil, at least in Pochettino’s mind, but in the first 9 games they have some dark, evil love for Southampton. Let’s see if some numbers which tell us some nice things about Pochettino’s defensive scheme can convince him!

SoT Prevention% (how good a team is at preventing the opposition from getting shots on target) 70.47% (3rd)

Save% 88.46% (1st – by a mile)
 
Goals Against three (1st)
 
Final Third Passes Against 1011 (3rd)
 
Shots Against 88 (2nd after the defensive chaos and turmoil that is Man City)
 

All of these numbers tell us that Southampton have some really good things going on defensively. Southampton are able to restrict the opposition passing in their own third of the pitch, they are also able to restrict the number of shots against and how many of those are actually on target. All told, Southampton have some wicked defensive numbers.

But, and there is always a but, Southampton’s save% is a thing we must talk about. At 88% it is around 16% points above the league average. It is not going to stay 16% points above league average, in fact the save percentage is going to fall and regress.

When that save% does regress, Southampton’s won’t be able to sustain their current ppg clip unless they can significantly increase their offensive output to cover for the regression of said save%.

Southampton have a lot of really good things going for them, but that scary good save% is coming down.

Mauricio, un poco de musica para ti…puede aprender algo!

 

5) Quick Fire

Fernandinho Is starting, ever so slowly, to look really good. Hid performance in the 2nd half v Chelsea reminded me of his Shakhtar days. Quick, good passer, ball-carrier, destroyer.

Cardiff If Norwich can post 31(10) shots against you, then you have some serious issues with defending, control of the game and restricting the opposition.

Swansea Look like Barcelona right now in terms of their ability to get a high percentage f their shots on target. SoT for% currently stands at 43.3%. An interesting attacking scheme for sure.

Villa, of any PL team, have had by far the hardest set of fixtures through the first 9 games. That difficult run has ended, Villa are in good shape, it’s now time to get more points on the board against some of the weaker teams. West Ham, Cardiff, West Brom & Sunderland are the next four fixtures.

6) Fulham, We’re Worried About You

Fulham, you want to thank Crystal Palace and Sunderland for their utter ineptitude. For if they weren’t so inept we may be talking about you a little bit more than we currently are. This may seem odd, right? Fulham have 10 points so far, hell they probably only need another 25 or 27 points to survive, so what’s my problem?

Fulham are a horrible team. They are constantly out-shot, they lack pace and dynamism. Hell, the only thing they seem to be good at is getting the shots they take on target (Fulham’s numbers are on par with Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Sustainable?). Anyway, I am not sure if Fulham can continue to be out-shot to the extent they are in each game they play. Fulham’s Rolling Total Shots Count (9 games)

Obviously Fulham’s SoT numbers don’t look as bad as their shots numbers do, but both numbers are in the bottom two in the entire league. Now, there are no certainties in life but if Fulham continue to be out-shot by this margin or worse (they have faced soft competition so far) then they will be in deep relegation trouble.

Fulham cannot, and should not, believe that a PDO of 109  (above average) will continue to bail them out of the shots deficit.

Fulham are on course to be out-shot by 439 shots and 97 shots on target.

7) Tied GS Shots & Win %

Ever wondered what the w/d/l record of the team who out-shoots their opponents at Tied GS where score effects are at a minimum? Of course you haven’t.

Anyhow, I wondered what the answer is so I pulled all 90 PL games this year and looked for the team with the highest number of shots at tied and checked that against the game result. I threw out the games where the shots count was tied (7 games) just because I felt like it!

Tied_shots_win_perc_medium

The dominant shot team at tied GS went W50 D18 L15. That works out at 2.02 ppg for the dominant shots team, which isn’t bad at all. A list of Tied TSR teams can be found here.

Not sure it means too much after juts 9 rounds of fixtures (luck and variance etc), but I thought it was an interesting quirk and I was really struggling to fill this point with anything worthwhile!

8) Arsenal: The Good

Arsenal have had a tremendous start to the season and it’s been a lot of fun to watch. Things that are going great for Arsenal:

  • Scoring% 35% (2nd)
  • Save% 78% (6th)
  • PDO  113 (3rd)
  • SoTR 58% (6th)
  • Time Spent Winning 49 minutes per game on average.

Shots on target ratio is pretty darn good but once we marry that to the scoring% and save% numbers then it’s easy to see why Arsenal have been piling up the points.

At Tied Game State
  • SoTR 60.98%
  • Scoring% 47.61% (lge ave = 30%)
  • PDO 119 (lge ave = 100)

WHOA! Arsenal are a fine shots on target team at Tied GS (no score effects). Again, add the shots ratio to the scoring%/PDO and it’s easy to see why Arsenal have had such a fine start to the season. Arsenal out-shoot their opponents and the convert their shots at a more efficient rate.

So far so good…

9) Arsenal: The Regression

Now I am going to be a dick and tell you why it might not continue. Things that will regress:

  • Arsenal’s scoring% at Tied Game State. It’s going to regress hard.
  • The amount of time spent winning and the booster effects to scoring% & save% that minutes spent in a winning position causes. You may think 49 minutes per game in a winning position is sustainable, I don’t.

Another potential reason for Arsenal’s excellent numbers is their strength of schedule. I have Arsenal down as having faced (10th game included) the weakest shots TSR teams, the 3rd weakest SoTR teams and the 2nd weakest final third possession teams.

Knowing this, it’s understandable that Arsenal have beaten a lot of those teams quite handily, for Arsenal beat sub-par teams better than almost anyone else in the PL. Some of Arsenal’s excellent scoring%’s and PDO numbers will regress, the shots ratios are also likely to come down over the coming weeks. Why?

Upcoming Fixtures: Liverpool (h) Man Utd (a) Southampton (h) Cardiff (a) Hull (h) Everton (h) City (a) Chelsea (h).

Wow, I count two easy games there in Cardiff and Hull. The rest? That’s six of the seven best teams in the country that Arsenal have to play and those games are sandwiched in-between CL games and the notorious injury months of November and December.

I asked twitter this question: What is the O/U points for Arsenal’s next 8 games? Twitter thinks it’s around 12.5/13 points. That would leave Arsenal at 35 points from 17 games. A good haul, but not title form.

10) Goal of The Week

Sturridge. Bad keeping but hey, the execution was dreamy.

10 Points: Arsenal, Requirements, Set Pieces & Game State Effects

 

1) Goal Of The Week

Kasaaaaami! This is what I said on twitter on Sunday morning:

@mixedknuts Unless van Basten, circa ’88, scores today then Arsenal’s first will be the nicest goal for a long time… — Ben Pugsley (@benjaminpugsley) October 20, 2013

And just like that the Pajtim Kasami scored a goal which had tiny hints of the peerless Marco Van Basten sprinkled over it.

2) Scoring

We’ve been through this before at 10 Points, but @richardwhittall brought it back up again!

Whittall: While it’s certainly possible that something was up early on and has now smoothed itself out, it’s equally possible that the slow opening was just a tick of the needle in the wrong direction, a quirk of random variation. Perhaps as the games pile up, that number may creep ever higher, or, as is more likely, plateau. We should keep this in mind before rushing off to search for meaning in seasonal goal-per-game trends. Historical trends are far more telling of the health of the sport.

Agreed. From the start of this debate I always maintained that shots on target were pretty stable, shots on target% was also pretty stable and at normal historic levels. Instead, the lack of goals was all due to the weirdness of scoring% (goals/shots on target).

The historical average for Scoring% is about 31%-ish. As we can see from the graph below the PL’s first 4 weeks of the season saw pretty low levels of scoring% and, in week 3, a ridiculously low scoring% number. Reasons for that 4 week stretch to open the season? No idea, who the fuck cares, it’s probably variance and luck and maybe some system effects in the early season.

As we can see from the chart below rolling scoring% is on the rise. REGRESSION! Scoring%, by the seasons end, will settle at ~31%.

Sc__wk_8_medium

3) Arsenal: Shots Influence

Arsenal are top of the league after 8 games and congratulations to them. They have recorded some excellent results so far, although slight negatives would be the weak quality of opposition that Arsenal have faced and Arsenal’s non-stellar underlying numbers.

Anyway, I don’t want to be a killjoy about a team who is playing some bloody nice football and should get better when some key players return from injury. Wenger must rotate his players in November and December though, gotta keep the players fresh.

Shots Influence

Shots influence looks at each players contribution to team shots when on the field of play. So, we count a players shots and shots assists and divide them by the team total. Giroud and Ozil are the two players who are driving Arsenal’s offensive output thus far. For me, Ramsey is by far the most interesting: why is Ramsey’s number rising on a game by game basis? is Ramsey’s role changing, which allows the player to be more influential, or is it something else? Confidence or a self belief that he can be an important contributor on the offensive side of the ball? It’ll be interesting to see how long Ramsey continues this improvement in terms of shots influence.

4) Set Piece Stuff

Set pieces are funny old things, eh. I can’t decide just what the luck/skill split is for set pieces and this makes evaluating some of these numbers problematic. If pushed I’d say shots creation/prevention has far more skill than luck.

Still, here are the set-piece SHOTS numbers through the first 80 games. *Set piece shots= shots from corners, shots from free kicks, shots from direct free kicks. (I wish I could separate direct free kick shots but I can’t)

 

Sp_shots_wk8_medium

Man City are doing some pretty wild things in terms of generating set-piece shots for (1st) and preventing set-piece shots against (1st). This doesn’t really fit with Man City the weak set-piece team. City have conceded a low, low number of shots from set-pieces but what about goals?

Sp_goals_wk8_medium

So, City have conceded just 14 shots from set-pieces but those 14 shots have yielded 4 goals. City conceded% is28.7%, league average is 9.2%. In short, City won’t carry on conceding goals at that rate.

A word on Fulham who have conceded the most shots and taken the least shots from set-pieces. Fulham have scored 5 set-piece goals from 16 set-piece shots. Unsustainable to say the least.

5) Week 8 = No Shocks

I had a mighty good week in terms of betting on the PL; if I believed in accumulators then the girlfriends shoe collection would look a whole lot better right now!

This was the week of the fav: Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Arsenal, Fulham, Everton and Swansea. Even the tricky picks weren’t that tricky. Stoke were a good shout to draw and opposing Liverpool and Man United in last weeks games wasn’t too difficult a decision.

Having no shocks in a round of games is a pretty rare occurrence.

6) Requirements: Man United

Man United: Currently have 11 points from 8 games, which is very un-United like. Would it be fair to say 83 points would be in the ballpark to win the 2013/14 PL? That means Man United need 72 points or 2.4 ppg from here till the end of the season.

2.4ppg is a 91 point pace over the course of a 38 game season. Absolutely nothing about this Man United team gives us the slightest hint that they can suddenly become a team capable of 2.4 ppg/91 point season over 38 games.

There is a glimmer of hope for United in that their schedule has been mighty tough so far this season and at some point (last 10 games?) United’s schedule will cool down significantly. Still, United are facing a 30 game run of 23 wins, 3 draws and 4 losses to get to 83 points by the seasons end. Even 83 points may not be enough.

6) Requirements: Sunderland

Sunderland have 1 point from their first 8 games. 38 points is the line in the sand for PL survival. 37 points from Sunderland’s remaining 30 games works out at 1.23 ppg, or, normalized over a full 38 game season, ~47 points. It seems to be very unlikely that Poyet can turn this Sunderland side into an upper mid table team in his remaining 30 games.

Obviously, we never want to deal in certainties, but it looks pretty clear from this writers point of view that Sunderland are in desperate trouble. If you need further evidence, just go look at Sunderland’s SoTR and PDO numbers from this post.

To me, in my dark, attempting to quit smoking mood, this is what doom sounds like. This is Sunderland’s sound:

8) Palace: How Low Will You Go?

Two points from 8 games and looking severely over-matched in most games they have played, what will become of Crystal Palace? Relegation seems to be the likely answer and, quite frankly, it was always on the cards what with minimal investment and a thin squad to begin with.

Palace are on course for 9.5 points. Obviously that is not going to happen, but is 20 points a fair line in the sand for this Palace team? Is that too low?

How about 25 points which is the only live line I can find right now. Do Crystal Palace make it to 25 points? I’d be amazed, quite frankly. They appear to be awfully weak right across all positions and without a huge investment in January (unlikely) this looks like the worst team to grace the PL since those glorious Sunderland and Derby County teams.

Obviously, when Palace survive on the last day with 40 points, I expect someone to dig this up and tell me how stupid I am!

9) Game State Effects On Shooting Accuracy And Prevention

Long title, a ton of work but by the end of the season I will have so much information on game state effects that it will make the effort worth it.

For now, I just want to show you how the game state and the tactical effects of the game state affect shooting accuracy% (shots on target/total shots)

Shooting_acc_game_state_medium

Now, the information at +2 game state/-2 game state will need some time to smooth out but there are some interesting things going at the Close Game States.

Tied game state shows us information about teams’ behaviour without any score effects so things here look pretty normal.

Plus 1 Game State is mighty interesting through the first 80 games: The team leading by a goal (plus1) manages to get a higher% of it’s shots on target than their opponents who are trailing by a goal (35.2% to 33.7%) and we know this is probably due to shelling effects.

Shelling effects? The team that leads by a goal tends to sit back in a tight defensive shell which restricts their opponents ability to get shots on target. Included in this shelling tactic is the counter attacking bonus: it’s easier for a team leading by a goal to create better shooting opportunities as it’s trailing opponent pushes hard for an equalizer and leaves a lot of space to be exploited. That space allows the team at Plus 1 to get a higher percentage of their shots on target.

Looking at Minus 2 game state, it’s easy to see why the game is virtually over with. The team that is trailing by two goals finds it extremely hard to get their shots on target, whilst at the same time leaving their defense horribly exposed to efficient opposition attacks.

In short, if your team falls a goal behind it’s more difficult to get your own shots on target and the opposition find it easier to get their shots on target. Falling a goal behind is a lose-lose situation.

10) Team Goal Of The Week

A thing of beauty. Controlled passing, speed of thought and feet, and a snap finish by Wilshere on his right foot foxes the ‘keeper. Beautiful goal.

10 Points: Ronaldo, Liverpool, D-Fence, Drunks & Close Goal Difference

By Ben Pugsley

1) Palace Defender Is Drunk!

Go to 1:39 of this video and watch #27 of Crystal Palace stumble around, fight with his balance and get nowhere near the twisting Daniel Sturridge. Now, you may miss it the important section of this video the first time around, but keep watching and be amazed at a pro athlete seemingly devoid of balance and agility.

2) The Progression Of Man City

Saturday’s game against Everton was a small 90 minute snapshot of where Man City are at right now: unsure of mind, panicked in defense, caught out too easily by direct attacks; but as time wore on, dominant, increasingly confident and too much talent for their opponents.

City’s defensive scheme is troubling many a fan right now: the inability to effectively defend counter attacks and passes over the top or into the channels is something that needs to be fixed, and fixed quickly. But this will take time, just like it took time to fix during the Everton game. Man City’s vulnerability to Everton’s attacks faded as the game wore on, maybe a deeper defensive line was employed, maybe Pellegrini figured out Everton’s attacking scheme and made some tweaks?

Here’s the crux: Pellegrini, brilliant reputation and all, is going to need games to figure out the PL and it’s varied teams. Each team poses different questions for Pellegrini, but just as he learned on the spot during the Everton game, he will surely learn during the course of a 38 game season. The defensive scheme will be fixed given time and a greater tactical flexibility (two up front/3 in midfield) may become evident as the season rolls on. City’s attacking setup looks strong, midfield balance can be worked on and once the defensive system is fully understood by the players, or, fixed by the manager, Man City should be in great shape.

Time and all.

3) Poyet and The (almost) Impossible job

On the Statsbomb podcast we talked briefly about Sunderland and the tall task they already face in securing PL survival. Now, I know it seems ridiculous to talk about a team being doomed after just 7 games but with just a solitary point to Sunderland’s name it is already a big ask for the new manager to keep this team in the division.

If 38 points is the relegation line in the sand then Sunderland need to get 37 from their remaining 31 games. Without any maths Poyet’s job is simple: Turn this Sunderland side, without a midfield and all, into a mid-table team. Only mid-table form (1.2 ppg) will likely be good enough to ensure Sunderland’s survival.

Di canio was a mistake, Poyet is likely an improvement. But I am not convinced Poyet has enough ability to dig Sunderland out of the hole that Di Canio put this team into. The silver lining: an early lopsided schedule may mean Sunderland enjoy a run of easy games at some point in the season. then again, Sunderland are getting so many things wrong that they cannot currently be trusted to beat even the softer opponents in their fixture list.

4) Close Goal Difference

What is close goal difference? The goal difference at Minus 1, Tied & Plus 1 Game States. I use close GD as it’s a pretty intuitive improvement on regular GD: remove the (relatively) meaningless blowouts and hammerings teams enjoy/suffer and we get a better picture about a teams ability.

Close_gd_corr_wk_7_medium

There doesn’t look to be too much difference between normal GD and close GD (bad scaling) when looking at the charts, but the r2’s at the bottom of the chart give us a better indication of which metric is better. The correlation between close GD and points will tighten by the seasons end to ~98/99. Standard GD to ~90/91 (I think).

One we remove the blowout results and settle on Close GD we can put a graph together.

 

Close_gd_wk_7_table_medium

Obviously these numbers can, and will, change over the course of the season but I wanted to post this info up for the simple reason that it highlights just how bad Sunderland (and Palace) have been.

When the game really matters (close Game State) Sunderland are being hammered. It doesn’t matter if the game is tied, or Sunderland are leading or losing by a goal, they are being outscored heavily. Sunderland’s league worst PDO doesn’t help, but it’s the underlying shots profile that is causing this -11 close GS number.

Once we know that Close GD is a better ‘fit’ with points won, we can roll back and look at close TSR which would be an improvement on standard TSR.

5) West Ham

He may as well be a West ham fan

Dfence_medium

If I had have looked into some of West Ham’s defensive numbers prior to the Tottenham game I would have noticed that they were pretty darn good, and that maybe those numbers could have caused Tottenham some problems.

But then again, I would have probably just ignored them if I had have seen them; after all Tottenham, away from home, seemed like a tall task for a poor West Ham away team. West Ham weren’t poor away from home vs Tottenham, they were excellent and they restricted Tottenham to great effect.

Wh_sot_rating_medium

 

League average SOT For% (shots on target/total shots) is ~32.5

League average SoT Prevention% (100-shots on target against/total shots against) is ~67.5

Whilst West Ham are pretty poor on the attacking side of the ball their SoT Prevention % is amazingly good at Tied and Plus 1 GS. West Ham can really restrict an opponents offensive efficiency but in restricting their opponents West Ham are struggling with efficiency when they themselves attack.

I guess there’s only so much tactical currency to go around and a good balance between offensive and defensive efficiency is a pretty hard thing to achieve. West Ham restricting a tired Tottenham side may not be that surprising, but West Ham’s attacking efficiency, obvious to all by their 3 goal tally, is positively shocking.

6)Goal of the Week

Come on down, Ravel!

Apologies for the video quality, blame the idiots at the PL.

7) Liverpool’s Shots Numbers

Here at 10 Points we have previously discussed the Liverpool’s tactics when leading in a game; Liverpool tend to shell (sit back, tighten their shape) and protect the lead that they have rather than continue the excellent work that put them into the lead in the first place.

Now, Suarez’s return to the team may change Liverpool’s tactical setup just a wee bit (LINK Do read this over at Grantland) and we may begin to see Liverpool out-shooting the opposition, at any game state, once again. But, for now, the jury is out:

 

Liv_shots_wk7_medium Liverpool are slightly out-shooting the opposition at Tied GS, but once in the lead (Plus 1, 2) Liverpool’s shots numbers drop off and the oppositions pick up. Liverpool’s +1 GS shots number is the 3rd worst in the league behind Sunderland and Hull, not exactly the type of company one wants to keep.

Nearly all teams in the PL sit back slightly when leading by a solitary goal, but Liverpool are an extreme example of this this effect I call ‘shelling’. Maybe, just maybe,  Rodgers felt that Liverpool, sans Suarez, just didn’t have the horses to play a controlled attacking game when the opposition would be desperately trying to find a way back into the game.

Worrying if true.

8) Shots Efficiency

Whilst we are on a roll with the graphs ( I don’t much feel like opinion points or tactics this week)……

The chart below features each PL teams efficiency in terms of shots on target for % and sot prevention%. The information is pretty easy to understand:

  • If your team is in the top right quadrant they are above league average in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • If your team is in the lower left quadrant then they are pretty bad on both sides of the ball.
  • Then there’s Sunderland.
Note that some of the big hitters congregated at the bottom right of the chart – super efficient in terms of offense, but lacking a little in terms of defensive efficiency.

Shots_on_target_rating__medium

 

9) Newcastle: For Real?

Newcastle may just be the league’s most intriguing team through the first 7 games. Why? It doesn’t immediately seem apparent why: 10 points from 7 games and -1 close GD are not numbers to be particularly interested in. But these numbers are:

TSR 57.9 (4th) Great.

SoTR 54.4 (9th) Good (ish)

Unblocked Shots Ratio 57.5 (4th) Great

Final Third Pass Ratio 50.5 (10th) OK

PDO 850 (18th) Terrible

SoT Rating (sot for% + sot prevention%) 93.4 (16th) Mightily Innefficient

There are some things to really like about Newcastle’s 7 games so far: Total Shots Ratio, powered by a terrific Tied GS number, is mighty impressive. Shots on target ratio is good, USR is really strong. SO, by the shots info Newcastle are a strong team and may be expected to pick up quite a few points this season if these numbers hold.

But, and there’s always a but, Newcastle and their excellent shot ratio numbers are being poisoned by some of the terrible stuff that is going on, namely the PDO and SOT rating.

Newcastle’s PDO number will act as an anchor for even the best of shots teams. Whilst Newcastle’s SoT Rating – a measure of a teams ability to get their shots on target and prevent the opposition from doing likewise – looks non too clever at the moment.

The verdict: Newcastle are doing some things really well, but unless they fix their ability to get shots on target, and stop the opposition from doing the same, then the excellent shots numbers may only allow Newcastle to climb so far up the table.

10) Cristiano Ronaldo’s Shots Influence

Shots influence is a brand new little stat that the good folks at BitterandBlue created (LINK). In short this stat looks at a players contribution, in percentage form, to his teams performance in a given game or over the course of a season.

So far, I have only looked at a few players but Ozil and Giroud show well, as does David Silva. There’s showing well (around 40% contribution) and then there is Cristiano Ronaldo: Black=home , Grey=away.

Ronaldo_week_8_medium

No surprises that Ronaldo’s lowest contributions as a percentage were against, arguably, the two hardest opponents in Bilbao and Atletico. That previous sentence is the only remotely negative thing I can say about Ronaldo’s attacking contribution; everything else is gold.

Just think about it: A team, and a bloody good one at that, has a player who is so good, and so influential, that he is responsible for just short of 50% of that clubs attacking output. FIFTY PERCENT. Ronaldo ladies and gentlemen.

 

Barcelona’s Attacking Scheme

 

Unless you happen to be one of those strange, macabre souls who actually enjoys International football then this is a quiet time. Very quiet. During these International weeks I do almost anything but watch football; I will read a book (gasp!) or play the guitar, hell, I may even do some DIY. Or, I will goof around with some football numbers if only to fill the gap where watchable football once resided.

During this dullest of football weeks I decided to add a few of Europe’s big teams to my intricate Game State database. Bayern Munich, Dortmund, PSG, Real Madrid, Juventus, Napoli and Barcelona were the seven teams I thought to be of interest. This Game State database I speak of looks at things TSr, SoTR, Fenwick and PDO but the one thing I had forgotten that was included in this database was an automatic breakdown of each teams shots type (Missed/blocked/on target) for & against.

Now, I understand it is very early in the season to be drawing conclusions about any given teams’ strategy but Barcelona’s shots outcomes profile so differently to any other teams (Europe’s big 7) that I had to write a short fluff piece about it. Barcelona are weird, they are also incredibly unique.

Barcelona Shots For Outcomes

I have used a traffic light system here: Green=good (Shots On target) Red=Bad (Missed Shots) Blocked=Yellow (Meh)

So_for_barca_wk_4_medium

As previously stated, it is very early in the season but this strange looking graph is a pretty curious thing. Barcelona’s ability to get the shots they take on target is pretty ridiculous. Looking at Barca at Tied we can see that they get a staggering ~72% of their total shots number on target and at +1 that number is over 50%. These numbers will probably regress some over the coming weeks.  but we do know that Barcelona have a pretty unique attacking scheme which focuses on taking shots from prime locations.

Barcelona do this by exhibiting a tremendous amount of patience, but it goes further than this. Patience with the ball, extremely good shots discipline and constant movement from the forward players certainly help. But really it’s about the attacking scheme: width from fullbacks, creating odd-man overlaps and the wide receiver style routes of most of the attacking players.

To add to all the brilliant little things that Barcelona did well, it seems that under the new management of Martino, an even more visible mixed strategy is in place. Martino’s scheme still has that mesmerizing short passing, but also has the through ball down the middle for the wide players who move in centrally which, by my eye, may only be possible due to Barcelona playing a longer pitch (distance from the center backs to the highest forward player) and thus stretching the opposition out. This creates space between the opposition lines and draws the opposition out further away from their own goal.

Let’s use the Valencia v Barcelona to explain this stretched pitch tactic and highlight why Barcelona may be getting so many of their shots on target so far this season.

Video

Pitch Stretch

An example of the pitch stretch with the two wide players (Pedro & Neymar) staying high up as an outlet for the more direct ball over the top and thus forcing Valencia’s defenders to stay deep.

Pitch_1_medium

The next shot again shows Pedro and Neymar staying high and wide.

Pitch_2_medium

Remember how Pedro and Neymar’s high and wide positions stretch the pitch and provide a passing outlet? This is what happens when one of Barcelona’s attacking mids gets the ball in a good passing location…..

Pict_3_post_route_medium

Fabregas is going to slot that ball through the middle as both wide players curl in and run a football-type post route.

Pitch_4_post_rout_pass_medium

Boom, through ball to the curling wide players who stay high to stretch the pitch vertically  and stay wide to stretch the pitch horizontally.

 

Pitch_5_medium

Virtually identical to the previous screen shot, Neymar again curls in from the left and the passer has time to thread the ball through. Again, look at the gap between Valencia’s midfield to defence and defence to 18 yard line. This is an option Barcelona just did not have last season when Messi dropped deep and Iniesta tucked in.

 

Pitch_6_medium

Again, the pitch is stretched and this time Messi is the outlet. Yet again a simple vertical ball exploiting the space between defensive line and 18 yard line.

These last 4 screen shots point to a couple of things:

  • Valencia’s defensive scheme was a mess.
  • Barcelona are definitely using the direct through ball as an attacking option.
  • The width and high pitch option offered by Pedro, Naymr and Messi is going to cause some teams problems, especially if Barcelona remain this stretched out thus stretching the opposition out.

Attacking Variety

Returning to the graph that pointed out Barcelona’s excellent SoT% numbers I want to quickly show a couple of images of the mixed strategy that generates such high shots on target percentage numbers.

Passing With Width From The Left

Alba joins the passing blitz on the edge of the oppostions box.

Pitch_7_medium

Passing Through The Centre

Here we see Barcelona’s big guns trying to work the ball through the middle. In shot: Neymar, Messi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Pedro.

Pitch_8_medium

Passing With Width From The Right

Dani Alves provide the wide right option, Iniesta provides the inside right option. All the players inside the box are providing movement for a pass. This drags the defenders into the box which opens up space for Messi to move and shoot or pass to Fabregas for a shot.

Pitch_9_medium

In short, Barcelona use a multitude of weapons in an attempt to generate scoring chances. They use fullback width on both sides to create passing lanes and shooting options. Barcelona try and work the ball through the middle with utilizing their incredible close range passers and the skill of the individual. And going back earlier in the piece, they use width and players positioned high up the pitch to stretch the field and provide an out ball option which tries to create a shooting opportunity or to get a Barcelona player isolated with an opposition defender which will be, on most occasions, a complete mismatch.

Barcelona already employed a pretty varied attacking scheme but the addition of Neymar, who gives the team a left-right balance, and Martino appear to have given Barcelona even more weapons in which to hurt the opposition.

This scheme needs testing against more robust opponents than Valencia and the real tests will come against European opposition. But it’s a bright start from Martino thus far. Tactical tweaks needed to be made and Barcelona may have found a coach (Martino) and a player (Neymar) who can offer even more variety to what was an attacking scheme that felt like it was slowly being figured out by quality opposition.

10 Points: SoT% Rating, Bale, MNF & Newcastle’s Sunderland Impression (Wk 2)

By Ben Pugsley

 

1) Monday Night Football

Remember a time when Monday Night Football was an afterthought? It is very far from an afterthought now. In fact, MNF is easily Sky’s best football feature of the week. Ed Chamberlain anchors the program nicely, never overbearing or too talkative. The tech set-up is marvelous, but let’s be honest – this is the Gary Neville show.

Neville is punchy in his analysis, short and concise in his explanations of the intricacies of the game of football. But it wasn’t always this way. I distinctly recall Neville’s debut on MNF, it was Man City v Swansea, and Neville looked nervous and uneasy, unsure of himself.

Neville has come a long way since then, and this gives us hope that Carragher can follow a similar path – initial nervousness and a steep learning curve, before finally settling in and becoming a pundit who can teach us as much about the game as Neville already has.

This is excellent.

2) Arsenal Win!

Panic over!

After an Arsenal loss in week 1 panic was rife. Wenger was lambasted for his failure to spend, the team wasn’t good enough. Now, these arguments may have merit when looking at the bigger picture, but surely we can’t draw such conclusions after a single game. Or even two games.

Arsenal may need to strengthen in order to compete for a place in the top 4 and the club does have issues when playing against quality opposition.

What Wenger excels at is setting up his teams to crush sub-par opposition.

Arsenal’s Fixture List With Opponents Shots on Target Ratio At The Time Of Fixture.

 

Image

In 2012/13 Arsenal were a fine team when playing against opposition with a SoTR of less than 0.50. But problems arose when Arsenal played teams with a SoTR >0.50, a W 1 D 7 L 5 is testament to that.

In short, Arsenal’s opening day loss to Villa may have simply been ‘one of those results’, Arsenal’s win against Fulham was a return to normality and was completely expected. We shouldn’t have read too much into the opening day loss and we shouldn’t read too much into Arsenal’s away win against what will likely be a sub-par shots team.

The above graph poses a question, though: Is Arsenal’s failure to hold their own against >par SoTR teams a fault with Wenger’s tactics, or do Arsenal simply not have enough quality players?

3) Final Third Passing Ratio

As usual, I am counting a huge amount of statistics for the Premier League in 2013/14. One of the new categories this year is Final Third Passes. Now if you count final third passes for and against we can calculate a plus/minus number. We can also calculate a teams ratio of final third passe. If you set your database up correctly you can also calculate home and away and moving averages for final third passes.

Here’s what I have so far:

Final Third Passes

Team For Against + / – Ratio
Man City 368 137 231 72.87
Everton 372 182 190 67.15
Tottenham 302 187 115 61.76
Liverpool 337 216 121 60.94
Southampton 279 196 83 58.74
Arsenal 296 208 88 58.73
Chelsea 471 359 112 56.75
West Ham 248 215 33 53.56
Sunderland 242 218 24 52.61
Man United 284 292 -8 49.31
Swansea 240 250 -10 48.98
Norwich 266 299 -33 47.08
Newcastle 201 262 -61 43.41
Stoke 204 290 -86 41.3
Aston Villa 308 452 -144 40.53
Palace 194 288 -94 40.25
Hull 210 332 -122 38.75
Fulham 191 302 -111 38.74
West Brom 187 312 -125 37.47
Cardiff 151 354 -203 29.9

 

In the coming weeks I will explain in a little more detail just how we can use final third passes to evaluate a team strength.

4) Man City And Corners

Joe Hart and his Manchester City team-mates are taking a little heat right now for the 3-2 loss at Cardiff. That loss featured two Cardiff goals from just three corners. You probably don’t need me to tell you how rare conceding two goals from corners is in a single game. It’s rare. By my count, Man United (away at Reading) and Man City (vs Ajax) are just two of the teams who managed the infamous feat last year.

Both of Cardiff’s corner goals were created by excellent deliveries into the box, with Hart looking to be particularly culpable for Cardiff’s goal that gave the Bluebirds the lead. I don’t think anyone should over-react to the two goals that were conceded. Zabaletta switched off for Cardiff’s first corner goal and Lescott, surprisingly, was beaten to the ball on the second corner goal. Neither of those lapses by Zabaletta or Lescott are common occurences.

Shit happens, conceding two set piece goals in a single game likely won’t happen again all season. More on City defending those corneres can be found here (link).

5) Newcastle Zzzzz

There are a lot of interesting things going on at Newcastle, Kinnear, lack of transfer spend, Pardew’s job security. Unfortunately none of these things are taking place on the pitch, where Newcastle are doing their best ‘early season Sunderland 12/13 impression’.

Newcastle have had just one shot on target in ~190 minutes of football this season. I can forgive them for the away trip to Man City, red card and hammerings et cetera, but West Ham were an easy game for a home team in 12/13 and I suspect they may well be an easy game once again in 2013/14.

Newcastle are at home to Fulham next Saturday. If Newcastle don’t win, or at least put on an improved offensive display against another poor travelling team, then the polite early season atmosphere may become more toxic than darkly humorous.

6) One Nil To The Arsenal Spurs & Liverpool

Spurs and Liverpool both have six points on the board from their two games played, and although both teams may have been far from impressive in racking up their points totals, a win is a win. It is also worth noting that the early part of any season is a minefield. We have promoted teams, new managers and new players to bed in to new systems.

The newness can make early season form difficult to predict and considering Tottenham have the Bale distraction and about 39 new players to bed in, their results are just fine. Liverpool, well, they have new signings to integrate and are currently playing without their best player who, despite some of the protestations of the analytics community, will improve this team upon his return.

A win is a win at this early stage, worry about the underlying performance indicators after 7 or 8 games or so.

7) Gareth Bale

The Welsh Ronaldo. The shots volume monster. The one man team. I have written more words about Gareth Bale in 10 Points than any other player. I have been a huge admirer of Bale since I first created this weekend round-up – I implored City to buy him as early as last January – and these may be some of the last words I write about the player for the transfer deadline is approaching fast.

You know, Bale may shoot too much, he may be a greedy bastard, some of his goals scored may regress from last seasons high, but I still think this is a beauty of a player. He is 24, has all the physical skills that are so pleasing on the eye and Tottenham, although they have bought well, may have a hard time replacing his performance.

This (link) by the super smart @halfagain touches on the difficultly of replacing a outstanding player:

However, there’s another measure of value in football, one that’s ultimately more important: value per minute of available playing time. While their respective contracts and transfer purchase prices (Jovetic + Negredo < Cavani in total), will likely prove better value per dollar, and perhaps higher in absolute production, it requires minutes from two putative starter-ish players, rather than the minutes from one position.

If we replace Cavani with Bale and Jovetic & Negredo with Lamela and Soldado then the above quote clearly highlights the difficulty in replacing a superstars performance per minutes played. It may take two players to replace Bale’s performance and that likely means an minutes played efficiency loss for Tottenham.

I’m gonna miss Bale, 40 yard shots and all. He is a rare, exciting talent who is technically out of this world and the Premier League will be a poorer without him. Or……he may well stay at Spurs for one more season. My Lord.

 

8) Shots On Target % Rating

Bear with me on this one. Over the last year or so I have ran Shooting Accuracy% (SoT%) for and against, this is simply shots on target/total shots. Shooting Accuracy% (SoT%) measures how efficient a team is ast getting it’s shots on net and preventing the opposition from doing likewise.

This is where Shots On Target % Rating comes in. To calculate the rating we take each teams SoT% for and add it to that teams SoT% prevention number (if the opposition has 10 shots and 3 of them are on target the prevention% is 70%).

Add the SoT% to the SoT Prevention% and we end up with a table like the one below.

Week 2

SoT% Rating
West Ham 117.26
Palace 117.11
Southampton 114.95
Aston Villa 111.43
Everton 109.05
Fulham 108.1
Liverpool 107.86
Swansea 102.98
Stoke 102.97
Man United 102.31
Cardiff 102.1
Man City 101.59
Hull 100.79
Chelsea 97.49
Norwich 95.24
Arsenal 90.09
Sunderland 88.87
West Brom 80
Tottenham 58.97
Newcastle 58.61

 

Yes, Tottenham’s number is correct. League average rating is 100, and although we are only two weeks into the season some teams have a nice rating number.

This may well be something I come back to once a few (8) more game weeks have elapsed. I have these numbers by Game State too, which may well tell us some cool things about score effects and defensive shells. Again, we’d need more data first.

Any thoughts?

9) Kolo Toure

I don’t really know what is going on here, but I liked it. Via @Green_Scouser Obviously I was struggling to fill point #9!

10) Goal Of The Week

An honourable mention to Danny Sturridge but Dzeko takes it. A slight deflection?