StatsBomb sign partnership agreement with Vitesse Arnhem

Vitesse Arnhem has signed up for a partnership with StatsBomb to use their industry-leading football data.  The collaboration with the fast-growing company highlights the Eredivisie team's commitment to innovation and will see Vitesse Arnhem reap the benefits of Statsbomb’s data and IQ software platforms to enhance talent identification, performance analysis and opposition scouting.  Vitesse Arnhem joins around 100 professional clubs and federations worldwide in using StatsBomb's deep data, covering over 3,400 events per game. The data includes unique metrics such as Pressures by Player and Team, Pass Footedness, Pass Height, Freeze Frame for Shots and On-Ball Value - the company's new possession value model.  Alexandre Taylor, Sales Executive, StatsBomb, said: "We are excited to start working with Vitesse Arnhem, a club at the forefront of football data innovation. We are looking forward to a successful partnership contributing to the club’s data-driven strategy, where our data will help inform critical decisions around recruitment and scouting.” Speaking about the partnership, Johannes Spors, Sporting Director, Vitesse, said: "At Vitesse, we are constantly looking for smart and inventive solutions. We welcome new ideas, embrace modern technologies and love different ways of thinking. For our scouting and analysis, the focus on video and data-driven elements is therefore becoming increasingly important. COVID-19 and its travel restrictions have made these tools even more valuable. The addition of StatsBomb as a data service fits seamlessly into our innovative approach and helps us to scout and develop high potential talents from Europe and make targeted match analyses." About StatsBomb StatsBomb is the world’s fastest growing football data company. Founded by former analyst Ted Knutson, StatsBomb was formed to empower data analysis teams by ensuring they have access to the best football data set ever created. Having started as an analytics blog, StatsBomb initially progressed to consulting on data-driven recruitment and performance analysis for professional teams. In 2018, having become frustrated with limitations of the data available at the time, StatsBomb acquired ArqamFC, a data collection company based in Cairo, Egypt, and started to collect and supply its own data. The introduction of StatsBomb data was a turning point for the analysis of football as it introduced previously unavailable metrics such as pressures, the height of the ball at the point of shot impact, goalkeeper positioning, freeze frames for shots and the foot with which each pass is played. In 2021, StatsBomb improved this data even further with the launch of StatsBomb 360, adding a snapshot of all visible player locations to more than 3,400 on-the-ball events that are collected per match. Having gained rapid traction since its inception, StatsBomb is now servicing customers across the professional game, as well as betting and gaming operators, and is active in over 20 countries.

What Happened At The 2021 StatsBomb Conference

The StatsBomb Conference made a long-awaited return to Stamford Bridge last week.  We welcomed various individuals from across the sports analytics sphere for a day of industry-leading talks, data-driven research and unique networking opportunities. In 2019, we couldn't have imagined that it would have taken almost two years to get everyone back together, but we’re delighted with the turnout this year. Let's look back at the key things that happened to give those who attended a chance to revisit their experience and those who missed it an opportunity to catch up on the day. Industry-Leading Talks Before the guest presenters took to the stage, StatsBomb CEO Ted Knutson kicked things off with an opening talk about the company's progression since the last conference and our fast-approaching expansion into American Football. The day continued with Dr Ian Graham (Liverpool), Harry Moyal (Olympique Lyonnais), Devin Pleuler (Toronto FC), Vosse de Boode (AFC Ajax) and Mladen Sormaz (Leicester City) all delivering expert presentations on the Main Stage. Each speaker drew on key insights to discuss various topics within their organisations, from measuring playing styles in different competitions to implementing data-driven recruitment strategies. The Directors of Football Panel featured StatsBomb's James Yorke in conversation with Victor Orta (Leeds United), James Cryne (Barnsley FC) and Will Kuntz (Los Angeles FC). The panellists spoke in-depth about successfully implementing data-driven methods around player recruitment, opposition analysis, and general strategy within their respective clubs. Ted Knutson and Daryl Morey (Philadelphia 76ers) closed the Main Stage and indeed the entire Conference in their fireside chat, with a collection of insightful stories from their respective sports and discussions around the role of data and analytics in basketball and football. Innovation in Football Analytics The Harris Suite featured a variety of hand-picked presenters giving attendees an exclusive window into the current state of play surrounding innovative research in football analytics.  The nature of the papers covered a variety of topics, including driving goalkeeper decisions, identifying high pressing styles and penetrative passes. These talks contained the first sets of publicly-available research performed on StatsBomb 360 data. Each researcher created their specific papers using StatsBomb data and tuned in from different locations across the globe to deliver their novel research to our attendees. It was a fascinating experience to see the different approaches taken by each speaker across each of their papers. We will release all of the research papers in the coming weeks, and you will be able to see the latest developments and research in the football analytics landscape. StatsBomb 2021 Conference: A Welcome Return One of the main pieces of feedback from the day was how great it was to get everyone from the industry back in a room again to connect and learn from each other. We hope you enjoyed the day surrounded by your friends and peers, learning from some of the best in the industry. Here are a few snapshots from conference attendees about their experiences last week.

You can see more of what attendees thought of our event by searching on the #StatsBombConference hashtag on your chosen social media platforms. What Next?  If you missed any of the talks at our 2021 Conference, keep an eye on our Twitter and LinkedIn in the coming weeks.  We will be releasing some of the talks, recorded presentations, and papers from the research track. In the meantime, you can check out Tom Worville's key insights from the 2021 Conference or listen to his notable takeaways on The Athletic Football Tactics Podcast. Or you can check out David Álvarez writing for EL PAÍS with a selection of quotes from several talks. We look forward to seeing you all again at our StatsBomb Conference 2022, but until then, keep an eye out for other StatsBomb events next year!

Leicester City: Season Preview 2021/22

The introduction to last year's Leicester season preview reads:

It’s extremely uncharitable to take a look back at 2019-20 and declare it anything other than a success for Leicester. Yes, Champions League qualification looked likely for most of the season, and to miss out was ultimately a disappointment, but the trajectory and outcome were more than fine.

So, I guess it appears as though Leicester are destined to live out the same season over and over again, in some weird Edge of Tomorrow like fashion. Champions League qualification looked likely, they were disappointed to miss out, but the trajectory and 5th place outcome were more than fine, AND they took home an FA Cup for their troubles this time around. It’s the trajectory that counts and Leicester are certainly on the right track. The Headline Numbers Whilst on the surface Leicester's 5th place finish matched their 2019/20 placing, when you dig a little deeper there's actually been quite a bit of change. Firstly, the underlying numbers have taken a hit from the lofty heights they set in 2019/20 when they finished 4th for expected goal (xG) difference. Last season only Sheffield United dropped off more in this regard. All of their overperformance came in attack. They conceded 46 goals from 46 xG, but up front scored 58 goals from 47 expected. Kelechi Iheanacho, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes ran especially hot, with Iheanacho's emergence as a reliable goalscorer in particular really helping to propel the Foxes into European contention, notching 12 goals from seven xG. Iheanacho’s contribution was especially important given that Jamie Vardy had his first poor finishing season in four campaigns, flipping Iheanacho’s conversion rate by getting seven goals from 12 xG. Looking across the season as a whole, you can see the oh-so-difficult Christmas period that really hurt the underlying numbers, even if actual results around that period weren't so bad. Something that many teams struggled with in a particularly intense fixture schedule in 2020/21. We get some interesting results when we break these xG numbers down further by looking at Leicester's xG difference during each game state. Here you can see that Leicester are an exceptional team when they're winning, which is perhaps no surprise given the attacking talents they have to play in transition and Brendan Rodgers’ track record of setting teams up to play efficiently on the break. The squad lends itself to this approach: Vardy is notoriously great in this phase of the game, Barnes is a fantastic ball carrier at pace, and then you have Maddison and Youri Tielemans who can play the high-value pass whilst having enough mobility to stay with the play. On the other hand, Leicester really struggle when losing. They don't have trouble moving the ball into the final third - they ranked 6th for deep progressions - but keeping the ball in-and-around the box has not been a strength of theirs as they rank 13th for deep completions (successful passes within 20 meters of goal). A large factor in their struggles when behind is that their xG per shot drops from 0.13 to 0.08, meaning they either resort to lower-quality efforts on goal or they struggle to break down teams defending a lead. Their most common pass clusters tell a similar story of ball progression, but only up to the final third. They're also quite lopsided in the opposition half - a lot of play goes through Tielemans and subsequently Iheanacho, who's much more involved than his striker partner Vardy. Let's dig deeper into whether those passes are providing value. Our new possession value model, On-Ball Value (OBV), rates the impact of each action on the pitch and estimates the positive or negative impact the action has on a team’s likelihood of scoring. The OBV Leicester generate across the pitch when they’re behind versus when they’re ahead is revealing: That right-sided bias is showing through again and it becomes more prominent when they're chasing the game, but they still generate plenty of OBV in deeper areas down that right-hand side regardless of game state. In contrast, the left side is a bit of a black hole when Leicester are losing - hopefully Barnes can return to his best and resolve much of this - he clocked the 16th highest OBV per 90 last season after all, for players with >900 minutes played. Where Leicester found it difficult to create high-value chances against their opponents when behind, their opponents did not find it as difficult to create high-value chances against them. When Leicester were pushing for equalisers, their xG per shot conceded rocketed up to 0.21--their opponent's shots in this game state had a 1-in-5 chance of being converted. The evidence suggests that Leicester struggled to manage the threat of the counter when they were pushing to get back in the game. The xG trendline also shows their xG conceded has been creeping upwards, so what's going on at the back? One explanation might be Leicester's pressing, which was down quite a bit last season. This is despite an ongoing uptick in defensive activity since Rodgers' arrival, so it seems unlikely this was a deliberate change in approach. Leicester averaged 168 pressures per 90 in 2019-20 compared to just 135 last season. Now a lot of this will be down to the crowded schedule, and we saw pressures drop on the whole across most leagues, but Leicester appear to have suffered more than most. Here's the defensive activity maps for both seasons: The Squad The Foxes have developed a reputation for being shrewd operators in the transfer market, showing great patience to build the squad up again since the title-winning season. It can be difficult when squad building to balance future potential versus immediate strength, and they've executed particularly well to maintain a challenge for top four while simultaneously getting themselves into a position to continue targeting Europe for the next few years. Key players like Wilfred Ndidi, Iheanacho, Tielemans and Maddison will begin to hit their peak over the next few seasons, while Barnes, Wesley Fofana and James Justin have years ahead of them. The squad was hit by some big injuries last season just as it was the season before, but it's a sign that they're operating from a solid internal process given they always have players ready to step in, whether from the academy or through recruitment. That the forward line hasn’t needed major regeneration for a number of years is testament to Jamie Vardy’s longevity but, at 34, the time is finally getting close for him to hand the reigns over. Leicester are confident they’ve found his replacement in RB Salzburg forward Patson Daka, the big question is: is he any good? Probably! Player evaluation can be tricky when they play for a team as dominant as Salzburg are in the Austrian Bundesliga, but his numbers certainly pop. That they still pop when he plays in the Champions League is an encouraging sign, albeit the sample size gets rough. One thing to note is that the 22-year-old shows real maturity - his shot locations are excellent and he seems to have a good understanding of his own game. Much like Vardy, he plays on the last man, is great in transition, and understands how to use his pace without the ball at his feet. It might take some time for him to find his feet, but given how Iheanacho just reminded us all that player development is rarely a smooth upward trajectory, Daka should receive plenty of slack. As for the other signings, it all looks very good - from the sensible in Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard (assuming that deal gets over the line) to the downright exciting in Boubakary Soumaré. Parting Thoughts You might be inclined to read the headline underlying numbers above and think Leicester could be in for a difficult season if they produce similar numbers to those of last season. It’s a possible outcome, but given the quality of the squad and manager, and the general outlier than last season was as a whole, it seems more likely that Leicester revert to a process that should see them knocking on the door of the Champions League places once again. They’ve bolstered the squad with what look like top signings, and the return of Barnes should balance the attack better. As noted, we’ll need to watch out for how they perform when behind; if they continue to struggle, that could lead to dropped points that could cost them a place or two in the table. But, this team can play fantastic transition football and, with the current state of the modern game, you can go a loooong way playing great transition ball. All it takes is some better luck with injuries and one of last season's top four to have issues, and Leicester are in business.

Want to read about another team? The rest of our Premier League season previews can be found here If you're a club, media or gambling entity and want to know more about what StatsBomb can do for you, please contact us at We also provide education in this area, so if this taste of football analytics sparked interest, check out our Introduction to Football Analytics course Follow us on Twitter in English and Spanish and also on LinkedIn

StatsBomb Live Online Launch Event Set for August 12th

The eagerly anticipated, StatsBomb Live data set is about to launch. Engineered by the same experts, with the same commitment to accuracy and quality, StatsBomb Live brings the best of StatsBomb, but now in a real-time format. Save the date for August 12th, where you can expect a first look at the exciting features that make up this game-changing new product. The online event will cover:

  • Exclusive insight as to how StatsBomb Live was designed and created, keeping customer feedback central to decision making processes
  • Meet the team who brought the StatsBomb Live product to life and hear about how they have tackled the challenge of balancing speed with quality in a real-time environment
  • Sneak peaks as to how StatsBomb Live clients will be able to access, analyse and visualise this exciting new data set

This completely unique product offering is perfect for those who need to analyse the highest quality football data, in real-time. Be sure to tune in to see how StatsBomb Live can work for digital media, broadcasting, betting and gaming and professional football. Join StatsBomb's co-founder and COO, Charlotte Randall and many other key members of the StatsBomb Live team on August 12th to find out more. Everyone is welcome, all you need to do to register for this free online event is sign up here. We can't wait to see you! And to book in for your free StatsBomb Live demo, please contact:

StatsBomb CEO Update, May 2021

Marketing has been bugging me to write something about the company as a whole, and given we’re approaching summer already, I guess it’s time to update people on StatsBomb’s progress.  First things first… We are hiring. I know it seems like we post things on social media about hiring a lot, and that is because we are almost always hiring new people. That’s what happens when companies triple in size every year like we have. We’re a great place to work, sitting at the intersection of sports*, data, and technology. We’re also flexible around working arrangements and qualifications for talented people. Join us! * Multiple sports. Soccer/football + American Football this year. Next year…? StatsBomb Conference 2021 I teased the tiniest bit of info around this in the last week, but now I will reveal a bit more… Our conference is one of my favourite things in the entire calendar. (And I'm not just saying that because it falls near my birthday.) Feedback on our first conference in 2019 was that it was one of the best conferences people had ever attended. Credit for that goes to a lot of people - from the organisers in our team, to the A/V people who broadcast it to the world, and especially to the speakers who unequivocally brought their ‘A’ games to the stage. As it’s a StatsBomb conference, the focus remains on research and ideas people are excited about, which we think is a formula that yields great presentations. Concrete details on the confirmed speaker lineup will appear on social media in the coming weeks, but they already include:

  • A sitting General Manager of an NBA team
  • Director of Research at a League - and Champions League - winning club.

There are also at least four other analytics people at Champions League level clubs making sure they have permission to speak at the event before we confirm them, but I’m extremely excited about October already. Research Data Another reason for excitement will be the data that is on offer for participants in the research paper competition. We’re going to offer two different options:

  1. 190 games of StatsBomb Data AND StatsBomb 360 Data from the 2020-21 German Bundesliga or Spain’s La Liga. (It will be all league matches for the top 10 teams in either league.)
  2. A smaller subset of games (40-60) of StatsBomb base Data, 360, AND tracking data from REDACTED.

More details about the research paper contest will be released in June, but this should be enough info to get the ideas flowing. Tickets Unlike a conference like Sloan where thousands of people attend every year, our event is not huge. We’ll have the following ticket allocations:

  • 300-350 General Admission at £250 + VAT
  • 50-100 Student tickets at 50% discount

There will also be customer tickets (allocated first), and staff/speaker tickets as well. The wiggle in student allocations is largely around vaccine timelines for that group. I just wanted to let everyone know what the structure will look like ahead of time, so you can be prepared when we start announcing ticket sales on social media.  NOTE: There is extreme complexity around vaccinations, venue restrictions, and international travel right now. We are doing our best to navigate this in a sensible way, but obviously most of these elements are also not within our control. Our mandate is to provide a safe, happy environment for attendees to enjoy. Streaming Part of the conference will be broadcast live. Most of the talks will also be released on YouTube in the weeks after the event completes. All of the research papers will be published to the world. If you want more details, you’ll need to wait until October. Sponsors We will also be selling a small allocation of external sponsor slots to interested companies. Contact for more details. 360 Data 360 Data for the 2020-21 Premier League season will be done this week. La Liga is scheduled to finish a week later, and the rest of the Big 5 will complete in June. Expect to see more visualisations and analysis from us on the new data set as we begin to wrap our heads around what is possible (and useful) in contextual event data. This data set is so cool, and our entire team is excited to have access to multiple full seasons now and see what we can do. Live The Live Data event launch is booked for August 12th. It will happen online, so no need to worry about tickets for that. We have some partnership work with current customers happening in the meantime, but by August we’ll have a fantastic visual, interactive product to display along with the exceptional data. If you are a team or business interested in obtaining our Live data before the new season begins, send an email to and I will personally route you to the correct person. Set Pieces There is a shortage of qualified, smart set piece coaches in the world. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter mentioned as much during our panel at Sloan this year. Our online Set Pieces course will once again be made available in early July. It will be made available for online purchase for one month and then it will disappear into the ether once more, possibly for good. I’m likely to go back to only teaching this course in person, or via agreements with certain FAs. Don't complain to me about the price we charge. I actively recommend talented people for set piece roles across football multiple times a month right now. Every PL team will have a slot for this type of coach/analyst soon and they will make six figures a year because they help teams score goals. Eventually the best set piece people will be fought over like the best head coaches are right now. Do the work, and the jobs will be waiting for you. Continued Thank Yous Collecting great data is hard. Even if you get every detail on 99% of events correct, with 3,400 events per match, that still means there are 34 that aren’t quite right. Feedback from our customers and fans helps fill that remaining gap, and we’re glad you are as passionate about seeing perfect data on your favourite teams on FBRef as we are about producing it. As a company we have been very lucky to not only survive, but to continue growing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenue was up nearly 25% in the first quarter of 2021 alone, and we added so many new customers that we now need to hire more people to support them. This is very much a virtuous cycle, and it would not have happened without belief and support from our customers, and also the fans that have supported the blog and now the company. Enjoy your summer, everyone. And especially… enjoy the Euros. Ted Knutson CEO, StatsBomb @mixedknuts

StatsBomb enter a new market by partnering with UDN Sports of Japan

One of Japan’s most prestigious player agencies, UDN Sports, has signed a partnership with StatsBomb to access insights from StatsBomb’s industry leading football data set. This is the first entry into the Japanese market for StatsBomb, one of the fastest growing sports data companies in the world. UDN Sports, based in Tokyo, represents more than 100 professional players in Europe and Japan, including current Japanese internationals Shinji Kagawa, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Yui Hasegawa. The partnership will see UDN Sports benefit from StatsBomb’s cutting edge data covering over 3,400 events per match across more than 80 competitions around the globe. The agency will also gain access to StatsBomb IQ, the most advanced and customisable football analytics platform available. UDN Sports joins over 100 professional clubs, federations, agencies and media outlets around the world in choosing StatsBomb data to enhance their ability to make well-informed decisions. UDN Sports Agent, Kunihiro Fujita, said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to enter into a partnership with StatsBomb, one of the world's leading data collection and analysis companies when it comes to thinking about improving the performance of Japanese players. In recent years, we have seen a rapid increase in adopting data as a tool in sport, and we expect that the data collection and analysis not only on a team basis but also on an individual player's basis, will become an even more important factor. We believe that utilizing StatsBomb data will help to improve the performance of individual players and contribute to the development of the Japanese football.” StatsBomb’s Business Development Lead, Ismail Tari, said: “It is great to be working with Japan’s most renowned sports agency UDN Sports. Throughout our conversations, the UDN team has shown fantastic ambition and understanding of the role our data and IQ platform will play in the future development of Japanese football and its media. We’re delighted to be expanding into Japan and are looking forward to many great projects together.” Ted Knutson, StatsBomb Co-Founder and CEO added: "It's great for StatsBomb to be working with UDN Sports and for our industry-leading data to have an influence in Japan and beyond. This is another good example of how StatsBomb can work with player agencies as well as clubs and federations across the world. Our recent expansions into Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have been really exciting and we are looking forward to seeing more growth in Japan and Asia now too." About StatsBomb StatsBomb is the world’s fastest growing football data company. Founded by former analyst Ted Knutson, StatsBomb was formed to empower data analysis teams by ensuring they have access to the best football data set ever created. Having started as an analytics blog, StatsBomb initially progressed to consulting on data-driven recruitment and performance analysis for professional teams. In 2018, having become frustrated with limitations of the data available at the time, StatsBomb acquired ArqamFC, a data collection company based in Cairo, Egypt, and started to collect and supply its own data. The introduction of StatsBomb data was a turning point for the analysis of football as it introduced previously unavailable metrics such as pressures, the height of the ball at the point of shot impact, goalkeeper positioning, freeze frames for shots and the foot with which each pass is played. In 2021, StatsBomb improved this data even further with the launch of StatsBomb 360, adding a snapshot of all visible player locations to more than 3,400 on-the-ball events that are collected per match. Having gained rapid traction since its inception, StatsBomb is now servicing customers across the professional game, as well as betting and gaming operators, and is active in over 20 countries.

StatsBomb’s global growth continues with ground-breaking partnership with Clube Atlético Mineiro in Brazil

One of Brazil’s biggest football clubs, Clube Atlético Mineiro, have signed a partnership with StatsBomb, empowering their analytics department, led by Rodrigo Picchioni and Pedro Picchioni, with the most detailed football data available. This is the first time StatsBomb, one of the fastest growing sports data companies in the world has expanded its marketing-leading services into Brazil.

The partnership will see Clube Atlético Mineiro receive StatsBomb’s cutting edge data covering over 3,400 events per match, across dozens of leagues and competitions across the globe. Alongside the data, the club will have full access to StatsBomb IQ, the most advanced and customisable football analytics platform available.

Clube Atlético Mineiro join around 100 professional clubs and federations around the world in enhancing their ability to scout and recruit players, analyse upcoming opponents and evaluate team performance.

Plínio Signorini, CEO, Clube Atletico Mineiro said:

"Clube Atlético Mineiro has chosen the best data provider in the world to start its analytics department. One of the strategic principles of our club is, after all, to be a reference in Latin America both on and off the pitch. In order to achieve that, it is crucial to seek innovative and efficient partners such as StatsBomb."

StatsBomb’s Head of Tactical Innovation and Business Development, Pablo Peña Rodríguez said:

"It is great to be working with one of the biggest clubs in Brazil. Throughout our conversations, the analytics team at Atletico Mineiro have shown fantastic ambition and understanding of the role our data and IQ platform can play in their preparations. We’re delighted to be expanding into Brazil and are looking forward to more opportunities in the region."

The 2020/21 FA WSL Title Race

Since our inception as a data company back in 2018, StatsBomb has been doing whatever we can to support the Women’s game. We have collected Women’s data on the same full spec as the Men’s since the very beginning, but we also recognised early on that there was more we could do to address the barriers around cost and expertise for Women’s teams. After similar offerings in previous campaigns, we’ve this season been supporting performance and recruitment analysis departments across the Big Five Europeans leagues by providing free access to our StatsBomb IQ analytics platform to ALL teams competing in those leagues, covering the FA Women’s Super League, Division 1 Féminine, Frauen-Bundesliga, Serie A Women, and Primera División Femenina. We have been thoroughly enthused to see the integration of data analysis into the internal processes of many teams across those divisions, enabling coaching and support staff to use objective, industry-best data in their tactical match and opposition analysis. Thanks to this offering, we can now be confident that the off-field processes across the FA Women’s Super League are nearly as good as the product on the pitch! For the second season in a row, there’s a nail-biter of a title race as we enter the home straight of the season, with Chelsea just edging out Manchester City at the time of writing. Table courtesy of We’re going to focus on the battle at top and what can now be tentatively suggested to be the league’s 'Big Four', having seen the same teams occupying the top four positions last season too. Arsenal find themselves adrift now, but were very much in the conversation back in October after winning all five of their opening fixtures at an aggregate scoreline of 29-4. Vivianne Miedema, league top scorer in 2018-19 and 2019-20, scored 10 goals in those opening five to go a long way towards securing the accolade for the third season running, ably supported by Netherlands compatriot Jill Roord who netted back-to-back hat-tricks from central midfield in Arsenal’s opening two fixtures. The Gunners scored at nearly double their expected goals, but racking up 16.7 xG in five games – a rate of 3.34 per game – put a warning out to the rest of the league. As always in the WSL though, it’s results against your rivals that make the difference between a title challenge or not and Arsenal dropped points to all of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in three of the four fixtures immediately following that start, losing to the two Manchester clubs and hosting a London derby stalemate with Chelsea. Further defeats to City and Chelsea in the return fixtures have cut them adrift. After a fourth-placed finish in their inaugural top flight season in 2019-20, there's been a discernible progression in Manchester United. Casey Stoney’s side were closer to mid-table than they were the title race last time out, but an uptick in their attacking output has seen the team emerge as stronger contenders in 2020-21. There’s an element of chaos around United games this season with the side leading the league for both High Press Shots, shots generated within five seconds of a turnover in the opposition half, and Counter Attacking Shots, shots generated within 15 seconds following a turnover in the team’s own half. United also come out on top in StatsBomb’s Directness metric, a ratio of the distance to goal from the start of a possession that ended in a shot, divided by the total distance travelled in the build-up to that shot. In layman’s terms, United look to play forward and towards goal when on the ball. Two-time World Cup winner Tobin Heath’s form had been living up to the marquee-status greeted by the signing, providing a direct goal threat and creativity from the wing during United's 10-2-0 start to the season that had them firmly in the title race. Heath’s January injury coincided with back-to-back defeats in the first two rounds of February, which, along with a defeat to Chelsea a few weeks prior, has seen the Red Devils lose touch with the top two with six games to play. After missing out on the title by points-per-game last season, Manchester City’s summer recruitment drive was hailed as one of the best in the division, seeing Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Alex Greenwood, Chloe Kelly and Lucy Bronze join the club. Bronze returned to England following a trophy-laden spell with Lyon in France including three consecutive Division 1 Féminine and Champions League doubles, as well as a host of personal honours, including winning ‘The Best FIFA Women's Player’ in 2020 (Bronze wins Gold, etc, etc...) Ex-manager Nick Cushing ended his seven-year association with the club for a role with New York City FC in MLS, so management-rookie Gareth Taylor was promoted from a role in the Manchester City academy to take on the mantle. It's so far, so good for Taylor who, results-wise, has picked up where Cushing left off. A rocky start saw them go 3-3-1 in their opening seven fixtures, but Taylor has swiftly steadied the ship and that run has been followed up by a steamrolling nine game winning run. City now look set to go at least as close to regaining the title from Chelsea as they did in the last campaign, with City currently two points off top spot. Taylor’s tinkered with the setup to great effect, with the surface-level metrics looking even stronger than last year. xG per game has shifted up from 1.94 to 2.22, their xG conceded has dropped from 0.83 to 0.56 – and the changes in process that has led to those upgrades is evident. For starters, City are now pressing higher up the pitch. Their PPDA – Opposition Passes Per Defensive Action – has dropped from 10.30 to 6.30, and their Defensive Distance – the average distance from a team’s own goal from which it makes defensive actions – has increased by nearly five(!) metres, up from 48.9m in 2019-20 to a league-high 53.6m in 2020-21. For context, Chelsea have the next highest in 2020-21 at 49.9m. City are looking to keep the play in the opposition territory as often as possible and ideally in possession of the ball themselves – possession has risen from 55% to 65% - in order to utilise the creative talents of Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp, and Chloe Kelly. Kelly has transferred her Everton form into City colours after her summer move, completing the most dribbles in the division so far (2nd only to Chloe Arthur or Aston Villa on a per 90 basis) and creating the third-most xG assisted in the league from the right-flank. Looking to retain their title and in pole position to do so are leaders Chelsea. Despite the improvement in Manchester City’s metrics, it’s still the Blues who look the strongest side in the WSL this season, with virtually nothing between this season and last in either their 'xG For' numbers in attack or 'xG Conceded' numbers in defence. 2019-20 WSL Player Of The Season and Player’s Player of the Season Beth England signed a new four-year deal in the summer and has picked up where she left off, supported by the returning Fran Kirby, world record signing Pernille Harder, and speedster Sam Kerr. The form of all four has powered Chelsea to the top of the table with each of them registering at least 10 goals and assists combined by the three-quarter stage of the season. You get a clearer sense of how devastating the Chelsea frontline have been when you consider than three of the top four players in the league for expected goals and expected goals assisted come from the London club. It’s not just the attackers that deserve credit, though. Defensively the Blues have been imperious too., conceding just 8 goals in 16 games, a total that just about tallies with their xG conceded of 8.8. The form of the defensive unit as a whole has been high but on the rare occasion they do get breached, goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger has been there to bail them out. Berger has faced just 15 shots on target in her 12 appearances this season, shots that have a post-shot xG value of 6.3, taking into account the shot location and shot placement. So on average we'd expect Berger to have conceded between 6-7 goals from the shots she's faced - she's conceded just three (plus one penalty and one own-goal). Assuming neither side slips up elsewhere, all eyes are on the top of the table clash between Manchester City and Chelsea on April 25th, which at this stage looks to be the title decider. You don't want to miss it.

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La Liga 2020/21 Mid-Season Review

We continue our tour through the major European leagues with a look at the season to date in La Liga, the most goal and shot shy of the big five leagues but one that nevertheless features some intriguing storylines, including a runaway leader, tactical adjustments and some standout individuals.

Atlético Madrid, Runaway Leaders

In the last 16 seasons, Atlético Madrid are the only side other than Barcelona and Real Madrid to have won La Liga, and they may just be on course to do so again. Diego Simeone’s side are 10 points clear at the top, and also have a game in hand over those two sides. Fifty points from 19 matches has them on course to equal the league’s highest-ever points total of 100 if they are able to maintain that rhythm. The likelihood is that they won’t. No side have overperformed their metrics to a greater extent than Atlético so far this season. They are running ahead of expectation at both ends of the pitch, but particularly so in attack, where they are around 13 goals ahead of their xG. It is almost the exact opposite to what happened to them last season, when all their forwards were underperforming their xG at this stage of the campaign. This time around, everyone is overperforming: Luis Suárez, Marcos Llorente, João Félix, Ángel Correa, even Yannick Carrasco. That is likely to even out a bit from hereon out, but Atlético can still count upon a goalkeeper who has consistently shown his value by overperforming his metrics. On both an outright and shot-volume-adjusted basis, Jan Oblak has been the league’s best shot stopper this season. Even if Atlético’s points accumulation rate does slow somewhat during the second half of the campaign, they probably have enough of a cushion to absorb that and still end up lifting the trophy. Barcelona seem to be finding their feet after a shaky start, at least in terms of results, under Ronald Koeman, and do have the best underlying numbers in the league... ...but they would have to maintain an extremely strong pace to chase Atlético down from here. Real Madrid likewise have better metrics than the current leaders, but have struggled for consistency. The league looks to be Atlético’s to lose.

Pressing Matters

One of the most obvious changes upon Koeman’s arrival to the Barcelona bench was that they immediately began to contest possession less frequently, particularly high up the pitch. Whether by PPDA (Passes per Defensive Action) or Aggression (the percentage of opposition ball receipts that are contested within two seconds), they were one of most passive teams in the league through the first few months of the season. In fact, by the former measure, Barcelona were more passive than they’d been at any previous stage in our dataset, which extends back to 2004, in those first 10 or 11 matches under Koeman. But since then, there does seem to have been a shift towards a slightly more proactive setup, more in line with what we saw at times under Ernesto Valverde. Some of that could simply be due to the natural ebb and flow of the season. Barcelona had midweek Champions League engagements through much of the opening three months of the campaign, perhaps necessitating a less energy intensive approach. We’ll have to wait for a larger sample to see if this apparent shift holds through the remainder of the campaign. At the opposite end of the scale sit a Celta Vigo side who have become notably more proactive without the ball this season, and particularly so since Eduardo Coudet replaced Óscar García as head coach in November. They have pushed their defensive line up and are logging a higher Aggression percentage than any other side in the league.

Relentlessly Positive Ontiveros

Huesca have been in the bottom three since the seventh matchday, but things are so tight down there, with just four points spanning the bottom six, that they still have a decent chance of scrambling clear of the relegation zone. If they are to do so than Javi Ontiveros is likely to have a big role to play. Whether from the start or the bench, he is an intensely positive player who seems not to understand the idea of a backwards step. Whether on the pass or the carry, he is a relentless ball progressor... ...and while his shooting locations bring to mind Spurs-era Andros Townsend... ...he is such an entertaining watch that you can almost forgive him. Not only does he produce far more shots per 90 after carries of 10 metres or more (1.47) than any other player in the league, but he also leads it in nutmegs per 90 (ahead of Alberto Perea and Bryan Gil) and ranks in the top three for successful dribbles. Ontiveros is the guy to inject a bit of fun into your viewing of La Liga.

Additional tidbits
  • Nabil Fekir of Real Betis has taken more shots than any other player in the big five leagues this season without scoring: 53. He’s also only converted one of his three penalties.
  • One of the many advantages of the StatsBomb dataset is that we record the foot with which each pass is played. That allows us to see that for the second season in a row, Tomás Pina of Alavés is the most two-footed player in La Liga. Last season, he played an exact 50-50 split of passes with each foot. This time he’s slightly favoured the left in a 51-49 split. Pedro Bigas has consistently been one of the league's most two-footed players through his time with Las Palmas and now Eibar, and he is again there at Pina’s side.

Join us at StatsBomb Evolve on March 17th 2021 to discover how we are revolutionising the football data industry (once again), including the launch of our new data product, StatsBomb 360.

The Players to Watch in the Copa Libertadores Final

Palmeiras and Santos meet in the famous Maracaña stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday in the final of the Copa Libertadores. The two Brazilian teams, both from São Paulo, have a number of interesting players, and here are some to watch out for in the final of South America’s primary club competition.

Rony, Palmeiras

Rony has been Palmeiras’ most productive attacker in their Libertadores campaign, scoring five goals (including one penalty) and providing seven assists. Abel Ferreira’s team take full advantage of opportunities to attack in transition and Rony, fast and direct in all of his actions, plays a key role in the final stages of those attacks. The 25-year-old stood out at Athletico Paranaense last season for the quantity of shots he both created and took, and he has repeated that production at Palmeiras. Not only that, but he has significantly improved his shot locations, taking fewer long-range efforts and more from inside the six-yard box, while also benefiting from an increased throughball supply. Rony is capable of playing on either side of the attack as well as through the centre, as he has done on occasion this season. With or without the ball, he aggressively attacks the penalty area. Only two wingers in the Brazilian top flight, Serie A, touch the ball there more often. Ferreira has a potent attack, with the former Shakhtar Donetsk striker Luiz Adriano at its centre and Willian, Raphael Veiga and the young Gabriel Veron as additional options in the wide positions. Some of them may have had better league seasons, but there can be no doubting that Rony has been the star of the Palmeiras attack in the Libertadores.

Yefferson Soteldo, Santos

Yefferson Soteldo is the key player in the Santos attack. He is at the centre of their ball progression in the attacking half... ...he creates more chances than anyone else... ...and he even gets himself on the scoresheet sometimes, too, as he did in the return leg of the semi-final against Boca Juniors. The pint-sized Venezuelan doesn’t stand out for his ability to break defensive lines with his passing. Amongst all the attacking midfielders and wingers of Serie A, he ranks among those who least often pass the ball forward, both in general and in the final third. But when there is space to attack or when he creates space off the dribble, he is the accelerator of his team’s attacks, driving forward purposefully with the ball at his feet. At an individual level, Soteldo is Santos’ most important player. If he plays well on Saturday, their chances of lifting the Libertadores trophy will be greatly increased.

Gabriel Menino, Palmeiras

Among the primary draws of the Libertadores is that it is a competition studded with ascendant stars, and few enjoyed as ascendant a 2020 as Gabriel Menino. He made his first team debut in January, quickly established himself as a regular starter and was then called up to the Brazil national team in September. Now, after a standout performance in the first leg of the Libertadores semi-final against River Plate, he has the chance to continue his upward momentum in 2021. Menino played as a midfielder in the Palmeiras youth teams, and although he has shown himself to be a versatile player in the first team, playing at full-back, in central midfield and even as an attacking midfielder, he interprets every position in pretty much the same way. National team coach Tite considers him an interesting option at right-back precisely because of his natural inclination to step infield and join the midfield line. The 20-year-old is not especially quick but he does have the necessary strength and technical ability to retain possession under pressure and free himself of his marker to advance the ball via passes or carries. In Serie A, where we have a bigger sample size, he has an important role in progressing the ball forward inside the attacking half, something that is also reflected in a smaller sample in the Libertadores. Menino also provides some output in the final third, with between 2.5 and 2.8 shots and key passes per 90 between the Libertadores and Serie A -- solid figures given the amount of minutes he has played at full-back in both competitions.

Marinho, Santos

Marinho is a wide forward by trade, but he is Santos’ primary shot-taker. Eighteen-year old Kaio Jorge has a more collaborative and supporting role in the centre of the Santos attack -- although he has been more active inside the penalty area during the Libertadores run than he has in the Brazilian league -- and Marinho is the player who takes most advantage of the space created by his movement, cutting in diagonally from the right flank to get off shots. His shot locations do leave something to be desired. If he were still a young player with an opportunity to move on to Europe, it would be something to be worked on and refined. As it is, with a total of 13 non-penalty goals across the Libertadores and the league, the 30-year-old is in the best form of his career. At this stage, he likely is what he is, and this season it is definitely working out for him. Marinho is not an especially efficient player, but he is very active inside the final third and could have a decisive role to play in Saturday’s final.

The Big 5 After 5: Serie A

We complete our roundup of the first five matchdays of action in the major European leagues with a look at some early trends in Serie A. The Highest Scoring of the Big Five Leagues Anyone still clinging to that age-old stereotype of Italian football being boring and defensive needs to readjust to the current reality: Serie A is the highest scoring major league in Europe. Just a glance at last weekend’s results provides a flavour of what the league is now producing. There were two 3-3s, a 4-2, a 3-2 and a 2-2. Not a single encounter ended scoreless. In fact, there has only been one 0-0 draw in the 48 matches (actually) played so far this season. Serie A saw a stable 2.68 goals, between 2.43-2.44 non-penalty goals and 2.36-2.39 expected goals (xG) per match through the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, but those figures shot up to 3.04 goals, 2.64 non-penalty goals and 2.54 xG last time around. That has increased again in the early running of the new campaign, with an average of 3.75 goals per match. That isn’t inflated by an abnormally high penalty count either, as around one penalty goal for every three matches is consistent with the recent average across the major leagues. The average of 3.44 non-penalty goals per match is also comfortably the highest mark across the big five. The early pace is eventually likely to ease off a little. That average of 3.44 non-penalty goals per match is around 116% of the xG sum of 2.96, which is marginally higher than the highest overperformance in any 48-match sample last season, although nowhere near as extreme as the 130% rate across the first five matchdays of the Premier League season. The xG sum itself is also comfortably ahead of any 48-match sample last season. But unless something dramatic occurs, Serie A will remain the prime choice for goal hungry viewers. Just maybe don’t tune in to Hellas Verona. Their matches were some of the lowest scoring in the league last season, and that has carried over into the new campaign, with their encounters featuring the lowest number of both goals (1.40) and xG (2.41). Finally a New Champion? Juventus are seeking a 10th consecutive Serie A title this season, but it is probably fair to say that their long run of successes is in more danger of coming to an end this time around than in any previous campaign. That is partly because of their own level. Last season’s total of 83 points was their lowest in any season in their title-winning streak, and they only had the fourth-best metrics in the division. It is actually necessary to go back to 2016-17 to find the last time Juve had the best underlying numbers in Serie A, despite the fact they’ve continued to accumulate titles. The gift of three points from their unplayed match against Napoli has helped them take nine from their opening five matches of the new campaign, but they’ve not looked convincing in Andrea Pirlo’s first steps as a head coach. Inter and Napoli both had marginally better underlying numbers last season and have both picked up more points with better metrics in the early running of 2020-21. Antonio Conte and Inter finished just a point behind Juventus last season and look particularly well-placed to challenge strongly. In fact, most bookmakers now have them as the favourites for the title. But there is also another potential challenger in the form of early leaders AC Milan, who have carried their excellent form from the back end of last season into the new campaign. No team picked up as many points as the Rossoneri between the resumption of action in June and the end of the season, and only Inter had better metrics. Milan’s recent focus on the signing of the young players seems to be bearing fruit, although it is notable that Zlatan Ibrahimović has been their primary goalscorer since his return in January. We’re not sure if it says more about Ibrahimović or the openness of the league that he’s still putting up numbers like this at the tail end of his 30s. We haven’t even mentioned Atalanta yet, arguably the most entertaining team in Europe, and certainly the one with the best metrics in Serie A last season. They’ve made a slightly less impressive start to the new campaign, although their matches remain the most open in the league, with 4-2, 4-1 and 5-2 victories followed by 4-1 and 3-1 defeats.

The Big 5 After 5: Bundesliga

We are five matchdays into the new Bundesliga season, so let’s have a look at a couple of interesting things from the early action. Predictable Leaders The Bundesliga has taken a lot less time to shake out than many of the other major European leagues, with the top three spots in the table currently filled by the top three teams from last season: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig. Not only that, but the three of them also have the best underlying numbers in the division. Aside from a surprise 4-1 defeat away to Hoffenheim, champions Bayern are humming along just fine, scoring four or more goals in each of their four victories. Dortmund also have a loss on the board, but have won all of their remaining matches to nil. RB Leipzig lead the way early on with four wins and a draw from a kinder opening schedule. Even at this extremely early stage of the campaign, it would take a brave person to back another team to finish in the top three, and perhaps an even braver one to back anyone but Bayern for the title. Hans Flick’s side finished 13 points clear of second last season after winning nine on the bounce following the return to play to May, and then successfully made their way through the final four rounds of the Champions League to become champions of Europe. Aside from that Hoffenheim anomaly (4-1 on the scoreboard; 3.98-1.64 by expected goals), they’ve been dominant so far, outshooting their remaining opponents 79-33, and accumulating 13.44 xG while conceding just 3.48. We are only five matches in and the usual caveats about small sample sizes obviously still apply, but it is difficult to see Bayern relinquishing their mightily firm grip on the Bundesliga title. Robert Lewandowski has also made a great start in his attempt to finish the season as the league’s top scorer for a fourth consecutive campaign. How bad are Schalke? Schalke are second from bottom after picking up just a single point from their opening five fixtures. More globally, they are now winless in their last 21 Bundesliga matches -- the joint second worst run in the history of the league. Their one and only league win this calendar year came way back on 17th January in a 2-0 triumph at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Are they really that bad? In a certain sense, the answer is yes. With penalties included, they’ve given up an average of over two goals per match to their opponents during this run. Extrapolated to a full campaign that would have resulted in comfortably the worst goal difference in the Bundesliga last season. With penalties removed, the average drops to 1.86, which is some way ahead of their average xG deficit of 0.98 per match, but that latter figure would still again have comfortably been the worst in the league last season. So we can pretty confidently state that as currently constituted, Schalke are a bad team. Even so, the likelihood of them putting together a run of 21 matches without victory is still very low. The race charts in StatsBomb IQ display the probability of a match ending in a home win, an away win or a draw based on the balance of chances. We can use these probabilities from each of the 21 matches in their winless streak to establish the cumulative probability of them failing to secure a single victory in that time. It’s worth noting that they are some dreadful performances in here, including four matches in which Schalke’s opponents had a 90% or better chance of winning given the balance of chances. Only once did Schalke’s win probability stand at over 50%. There was an 80% or better chance of them failing to win in 14 of the 21 matches. But if you stack them all, even a team playing as badly as they have done during this run would usually have sneaked a victory or two along the way. The probability of them failing to win all 21 of the matches stands at just under 1.5%. So while performances this calendar year and since the start of this season certainly have Schalke pegged as likely relegation candidates, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they were to bring their winless run to an end before they reach the Bundesliga record of 31 matches without victory, set by Tasmania Berlin way back in the mid-sixties.