Arsenal – Opposition Analysis


This is an “Opposition analysis” of Arsenal, City’s opponent on Sunday 23rd September at the Etihad Stadium. I used the #MCFCAnalytics Lite data set to do this analysis

Arsenal – Offense

Open play goals – bread & butter

Goals scored

% of Open play goals

Shots on Target

Shots on Target inside the box

Shot efficiency

Goals/shots On + off Target

Overall

Outside the box

Inside the box

Assists per Goals scored

 

3rd in Aggregate, from inside the box and from open play

1st

3rd

1st

 

 

3rd

7th

5th

5th

 

Strong from inside the box

1st in # of shots on target

Weak from outside the box

16th in % of goals from outside the box

Passing

Final 3rd  completions / comp %

Short passescompletions / comp %

Long passes completions / comp %

Long balls completions / comp %

 

3rd / 4th

1st / 6th

16th / 7th

20th / 19th

 

Other

2nd – open play touches in the opposition’s 18yard box

18th in open play crossing efficiency

  • successful open play crosses/successful + unsuccessful open play crosses

Importance of 1st goal

Scored the first goal 23 times – 3rd in EPL

Record when scoring first 16 W – 3 D – 4 L

Record when not scoring first 5 W – 4 D – 6 L

Arsenal – Key attacking players

Goals Van Persie – 30Walcott – 8Arteta & Vermaelen – 6 each

Shots On Target

Efficiency

Van Persie – 82, Walcott – 34, Ramsey – 18, Gervinho – 17

Van Persie – 21.2%, Arteta & Verlmaelen – 23%, Walcott – 13.7%

 

Assists

Song – 11, Van Persie – 9, Walcott – 8, Gervinho – 6
Final 3rd passing

Completions

Completion %

 

Arteta – 617, Ramsey – 502, Rosicky- 501

Arteta – 85.7%, Gervinho – 80.9%, Sagna– 80.1%

Other interesting aspects Immediate impact of Santi Cazorla, Lucas Podolski and Olivier Giroud

Arsenal – Offensive summary

Personnel changes

RVP was colossal for Arsenal last season with 30 goals. The 2nd highest goal-scorer for Arsenal was Theo Walcott with 8. The Dutchman is not with club anymore. He is replaced by the three-headed monster, Podolski – Giroud – Cazorla.

At first sight it might seem like an RVP-less Arsenal would be a lot easier to defend. It might even be true for the first handful of games of the season. However, once Giroud, Podolski and Santi Cazorla are in-sync with each other and with Arsene Wenger’s scheme, they will be a much harder team to defend.

As Arsene Wenger pointed out after the 6-1 win over Southampton, when you have someone like RVP who scored 30 goals, the opposition knows who will get the ball. Arsenal have added variety to their attack with Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla upfront. All three can shoot, score, assist and work to create space for the others.

While Giroud has not scored yet, his movement has been intelligent and has been unlucky on occasion. Santi Cazorla has slotted in seamlessly at Arsenal (and in the EPL) and much of the same for Lucas Podolski. Cazorla leads EPL in completions in the final third and already has a goal and 2 assists. Podolski has 2 goals and an assist.

What the 2011-12 numbers say

Based on last year’s numbers Arsenal attack is primarily based on short passing and taking high percentage shots from close range. They are 1st in short passes completed and 1st in shots on target from inside the box. Arsenal also gets majority of their goals from open-play. They are 2nd in touches inside opponents’ 18-yard box. Arsenal also have a high assist to goal ratio. Arsenal are bottom of the table in long balls and are 16th in long pass completions. They also do not cross particularly well.

All this put together: Arsenal pass, pass and pass some more until they get inside the area. Once inside the area they try to pass again before taking a high percentage shot (or miss the shooting opportunity).

They were average to mediocre at converting corners and set pieces, although that might change with the arrival of Steve Bould as Wenger’s deputy. Steve is known for his preparation and tactical work on the set pieces. We have already seen some of it this season with Cazorla making some signs holding up the ball before taking corners. Both Cazorla and Lucas Podolski are very good free-kick takers and Cazorla has a powerful outside shot. He led La Liga last season with 5 goals from outside the box (including direct free kicks).

Santi Cazorla – Genius : Photo Courtesy – Guardian

I have written a piece about Santi Cazorla’s impact on a football team a few weeks ago. He has already had a big impact at Arsenal. Not only does he add bite to the attack upfront, his arrival also allows Arteta to play much deeper in the central midfield, which seems to suit him better. This also allows Arsenal to quickly transition to their defensive shape when not in possession. Cazorla (and Podolski) both track back to defend when they lose the ball. Something that RVP was not very good at.

To slow the Arsenal offense, City needs to find a way to minimize the impact of Cazorla and Podolski. Arsenal is a bit weak at fullbacks due to the absence of right back Bacary Sagna. Carl Jenkinson is playing in his place and has looked suspect. They do not attack much on the right, as Jenkinson stays conservative for the most part. Gibbs on the left side has been much more adventurous. If you do a heat map of Arsenal attacks so far this season, I will not be surprised if it is skewed to the left.

To slowdown Cazorla will not be easy. During his time at Villarreal, teams like Barça would push their fullbacks up and force Cazorla to defend the full back, thus pushing him deep and further away from the high-value areas.

Arsenal – Defence

Goals conceded

49 – 8th lowest

Touches in final 3rd allowed

Lowest in EPL

Shots Conceded

3rd lowest3rd lowest- From inside the box2nd lowest – From outside the box

Tackles

1st in last man tackles

Clearances

2nd lowest in all clearances & headed clearances

Blocks

Lowest

Arsenal – Defensive summary

After their early season funk and the 8-2 loss at the Old Trafford Arsenal have defended really well last season. They allowed the lowest # of touches in the final 3rd and the 3rd lowest # of shots in the league.

Arsenal are also 1st in last man tackles with 25 (12 more than the 2nd best). This implies that they most likely defended with a high backline and tried to recover possession as quickly as possible. Since they keep the ball a lot, it reduces the touches for the opposition in Arsenal’s defensive third. The last man tackles were by center-backs to cut out the through balls.(Koscielny – 9, Vermaelen – 5 & Mertesacker – 3). With such a defensive scheme, it is not surprising that Arsenal forced the highest # of offsides and have let in 4th highest # of through balls. Arsenal defence also has the lowest # of blocks and 2nd lowest # of clearances. They defending far away from their area, so there is a less need for clearances.

This season, so far has been a slightly different story. Arsenal are defending deeper (opinion based on watching games) and more compactly (2 lines of 4 very close to each other). There is more emphasis on defending set pieces and corners. This could all be due to Steve Bould but could also be due to the absence of Bacary Sagna or probably a bit of both. They have conceded just once so far (on what seemed like gaffe by Szczesny).

By defending deeper Arsenal might concede a lot more corners, crosses and throw-ins close to the area but it also reduces their giving up breakaway attacks and through ball opportunities.

Arsenal – Goalkeeping – Wojciech Szczesny

Goals conceded overall

49 – tied for 11th lowest

Saves

Lowest in EPL

Clean sheets

13 – tied for 5th most

GK distribution efficiency(Successful GK distribution/Total GK distribution)

2nd best

Long passes completion

39%

Short passes completion rate

95.5% – 3rd best

Proportion of Long to short passes

51-49

Arsenal – Goalkeeping Summary

Szczesny is one of the best young goalkeepers in the league prone to the occasional error (like last week vs. Southampton). He is one of the best short passer and 2nd best distribution. He also has one of the most balanced long passes to short passes ratio at 51:49. This stat underlines further the Arsenal philosophy of short passes.

He did concede a lot of goals (49) but a lot of it is down to Arsenal’s defensive scheme. They used a high backline, which means when the opposition forwards beat the high line, they were more likely to have a favourable match-up in terms of numbers and a clear sight of the goal. Szczesny’s league lowest # of total saves could very likely be a side effect of the overall defensive scheme.

City vs. Arsenal Head – to – head 2011-12

  • City won at home 1 – 0 and Arsenal won at home 1 – 0
  • City missed Yaya Toure in the game at Emirates and failed to register a shot on target for the only time all season.
  • City also had a season low 53 successful passes in the final third in the game at Emirates (season average : 135)
  • Even at the game in Etihad City only managed 105 successful passes.
  • Importance of 1st goal – Both teams have impressive records when scoring first, especially City
    • City’s record when scoring first is 25 Wins 2 Draws and 1 Loss
    • Arsenal’s record when scoring first is 16 Wins 3 Draws and 4 Losses

Final word

Last season Arsenal gave Manchester City two of its toughest games of the season. They did not allow City to enjoy the possession dominance in the final 3rd they are used vs. rest of the teams in the EPL. The games were very close. Small details and moments of individual brilliance (or an error) determined the results.

To win, City needs:

  • to limit the influence of Cazorla and Podolski.
  • Take advantage of one of the few weaknesses of Arsenal, the fullbacks – especially on the right side.
  • Minimize Arsenal’s touches in the final 3rd – Arsenal will enjoy a lot of possession due to the nature of their game. However, limiting their possession in the high-value areas will be key to City’s success.
  • Score first – City has an impeccable record of 25W 2D 1L when scoring first
  • David Silva, Yaya Toure, Balotelli and Tevez need to have great games for City. The injury to Samir Nasri at the Bernabeu could be a big blow if it forces him to miss out the Sunday’s clash.

Visualizing momentum shifts in Bolton vs. Man City


This is an attempt to visualize the momentum shifts in Bolton vs. City with goals scored and substitutions using the #MCFC analytics advanced data tier – I.

I used possession as a proxy for momentum. The game is divided into 5 minute buckets. If a goal is scored in a bucket, the bucket will end at the minute of the goal scored.
E.g.: 0-4 is bucket #1. If a goal is scored in minute 7, then 5-6 is bucket #2. 7-11 is bucket #3 and so on.

Plots

Figure 1 – Overall cumulative possession difference vs. game time in minutes.

CumulativeAll

2. Figure 2 – Cumulative possession difference up until a goal is scored.
E.g.: Say 1-0 is scored in minute 27 and 2-0 is scored in minute 38. The cumulative possession difference is calculated from minute #1 through 27. After 1-0, cumulative possession difference is calculated from minute 28 onwards (the date of minute 1 through 27 is excluded).
This helps to see if there is any noticeable shift in the momentum of the game after a goal.

CumulativeMomentumShifts

Findings

  • Overall City has dominated possession. The cumulative possession delta was always negative (= in favor of City) in Figure 1.
  • When the cumulative possession difference was reset after each goal scored (Figure 2), we see that Bolton tried to take the initiative after City took the lead in Min 26. They really pushed hard after City scored the 0-2, pulling one back within 2 minutes of City’s 2nd goal.
  • Bolton continued to push for an equalizer until City scored the 1-3 right after the half-time.
  • Bolton enjoyed more possession as they searched for a goal and did a substitution at min 60 (an attacking midfielder for a holding midfielder) – it seems like the move paid off as they scored 2-3 in min 62.
  • Bolton continued to push for an equalizer. City subbed out Aguero for Tevez, both attacking players but Tevez is better at playing a deeper role and hold up the ball.
  • As the game progressed Bolton switched D.Pratley for Chris Eagles (probably a shift in attacking style) and City responded with a defensive move by subbing out Dzeko for Adam Johnson
  • Those two moves by City helped them restore control. Towards the end, City subbed out attacking midfielder David Silva for fullback Zabaleta, a defender to secure the result in the dying minutes.

This is a very quick and simple interpretation & visualization of the moment shifts. All feedback is welcome.

Stoke City vs. Manchester City–Opposition Analysis


This is an “Opposition analysis” of Stoke City, Manchester City’s opponent on Saturday 15st September at the Britannia Stadium. I used the #MCFCAnalytics Lite data set to do this analysis.

Stoke

Stoke – Offense

Offensively bad
Goals scored
Shots on Target
Shots off Target

20th
20th
14th
Strong in the airHeaded goalsHeaded shots (on + off target) 14 – 3rd in the League  -  40%  (14/35) of their goals are from headers
2nd
Poor Final 3rd passing
Completions in final 3rd

19th
Lots of “throw ball”
Attempts on goal from throws (on + off target

1st

 

Stoke – Key attacking players

 

Goals Peter Crouch10  – 5 from headers
Jonathan Walters - 7
Shots 55 – Jonathan Walters took the highest # of shots for Stoke followed by
49 – Peter Crouch
Robert Huth leads the Headers with 13 (on + off target)
Assists Mathew Etherington7
Jermaine Pennant
6
Jonathan Walters5
Final third passing Peter Crouch (286 – 46% completion rate) had the maximum completions in the final 3rd.
Glenn Whelan (268 – 63%) and
Jonathan Walters (253 – 54%)
are the next best passers in the final 3rd.
Other interesting aspects 1st in Assists to Goals ratio

 

Stoke – Offensive summary

Stats from last season indicate that Stoke is very “direct” in its attack (my “Eureka” moment right there!). Headed goals constitute 40% of their total goals scored. They were last in goals scored and shots on target. Overall, a very poor offensive record.

Peter Crouch is Stoke’s top-scorer. Jonathan Walters is the most valuable offensive player who can score (7 goals) as well as provide (5 assists) and is one of their most active passers in the final third.

Peter Crouch has the most # of completions in the final third, but that is not saying much. His completion % is below par. It is very likely that Stoke’s offensive game plan is to lob long balls in the direction of Peter Crouch, whose subsequent pass(or header) is easily intercepted. Stoke ranked last in the  # of corners won. This is partly explained by the fact they are 19th in final 3rd completions – Could it be because Stoke is not spending enough time in the final 3rd to force clearances or mistakes from opposing defenders?

Stoke have the league’s highest Assist-to-Goals ratio. Stoke are very poor shooting from outside the box. The two stats put together imply that they neither have someone who can make dangerous solo runs at the defence and create a goal scoring opportunity on their own nor possess a goal-scoring threat from outside the box. Pulis has addressed the latter by signing Charlie Adam, whose 40-yard boomers will at least add another dimension to their attack. Adam’s signing should also improve their passing in the final 3rd.

They signed free agent Michael Owen last week in an effort improve their goal scoring. It is likely that Tony Pulis is looking for someone who can pounce on the knockdowns by Peter Crouch in and around the 18-yard box and take high percentage shots on goal. Not a bad idea in theory but I am skeptical on the kind of impact Michael Owen is going to have in the Stoke system.
New signing US defender Geoff Cameron will provide cover for Rory Delap with his powerful throw.
All their new signings are geared towards upgrading personnel for their direct approach rather than try something different.

Stoke – Defence

Goals conceded 53 – tied for 7th
Penalties conceded 7 – tied for 4th
Shots conceded 2nd - From outside the box
13th - From inside the box
Corners conceded 5th
Aerial duels 2nd – Total duels
1st – Duels won &
1st – Duels winning %
Ground duels won % 20th
Tackles 20th – Tackles won
20th – Tackles winning %
Clearances 1st – headed clearances
1st – total clearances
Fouls committed 5th
Pitch size 100 x 64 (vs. Man City’s 105 x 68) – smallest in EPL

 

Stoke – Defensive summary

Stoke rely heavily on their strong and physical aerial game in the defense as well. Stoke create the 2nd highest # of aerial duel situations in the league and are the best in the league in winning % of aerial duels. This shows Stoke’s clear affinity to play the ball in the air to take advantage of the physical conditions of its players. On the flip side, Stoke are the worst in the league  in winning ground duels & tackles.

Stoke have the highest # of clearances 1910 (459 more than Norwich who are second. League average 1128). They also have the highest # of headed clearances in 959 (159 more than QPR who are second. League average is 575). This indicates that Stoke defenders are probably slow and tend to react late and get into situations where they have to make a clearance. They conceded the 5th highest # of corners in the league.

Britannia stadium has the smallest pitch in all of Premier league. It is 4 meters narrower, 5 meters shorter and 10.36% smaller in area than that of Manchester City. This means less space to work with on the ground. The passing angles for players like David Silva, Tevez et al, will be restricted. It will make it easier for Stoke defenders to close down the attacking players of the opposition despite their inferior technique and slowness. It also makes the aerial game a bit easier as the likelihood of completing a pass through the air is probably easier than passing on the ground in a small and crowded field. (This could also be the reason why Stoke defenders are forced to make so many headed clearances as the opposing teams are forced to play the ball in the air to have a better chance of completing a pass in and around the 18-yard box).

City should field as many players as possible who can pass the ball in tight spaces to move the ball on the ground close to their 18-yard box to force hurried clearances, defensive mistakes and set pieces. Stoke give up the 2nd highest # of shots on target from outside the box. Yaya Toure must fancy his chances of scoring a goal in this game.

Stoke are reasonably good (13th lowest) at conceding shots from inside the box. This could be due to their physical defending style. If the ref is “letting them play” then Stoke defence could frustrate attackers of the opposition and force them to settle for shots from the outside.

 

Stoke – Goalkeeping (Asmir Begovic)

Goals conceded 31 – 1.41 goals per game 7th (for All GKs with 20 or more starts)
GK distribution efficiency
(Successful GK distribution/Total GK distribution)
67% – 11th
Long passes completion 51% – 1st
Short passes completion rate 75% – 19th (only 24 short passes attempted)
Proportion of Long to short passes 95% – 1st (league average 76)

 

Stoke – Goalkeeping Summary

I have considered only Asmir Begovic’s numbers for this analysis, as he is the starter this season. He is the best in the league at completing long passes and one of the worst goalkeepers at completing short passes. 95% of all passes attempted by Begovic are long (1st in the league). He gave up 1.41 goals per game, 7th highest in the league. However, he only conceded 0.727 goals per game ( 8 goals in 11 games)  with 4 clean-sheets at home. Overall Stoke gave up only 20 goals in 19 home games. This was one of the main reasons for their survival last season.

 

City vs. Stoke Head – to – head 2011-12

  • City drew 1-1 at the Britannia and won 3-0 at home
  • Can you guess who scored the away goal for City and from where? Yaya Toure, from outside the box. Peter Crouch scored for Stoke.
  • In the home game at the Etihad, Aguero – 2 and Adam Johnson – 1.

 

Final word

City will find the going tough but should win this game. The key for City is to stay patient with their passing game and not be drawn into the physical and aerial battle that Stoke is so comfortable. Stoke do not create many clear scoring chances. If the City defence can keep their errors to a minimum, Stoke will most likely not score.

MCFC Analytics – summary of blog posts # 2


I got good response for the first summary post I did last week. Here is a summary of articles done using MCFC Analytics data in the past week.

@MarkTaylor0 did a great post called “How teams win”. Mark calculated a list of various correlations that lead to wins.

Mark also did another interesting post  on  Newcastle’s 2011/12 season and the role of luck in their success.

@JimmyCoverdale Did a post enumerating how “Will he score goals in the Premier League? Is a wrong question to ask “ of newcomers to the league.

Jimmy also has a great post discussing the “Effectiveness of Crossing and the correlation with chances created”

@Zahlenwerkstatt did a post ranking goalkeepers in the 2011-12 season based on minutes played, save % and goals conceded.
I have made a couple of follow-ups based on the feedback of Final 3rd Analysis  Follow up #1 & Follow up #2

I have a couple of new posts lined up for later this week.

@OptaPro & Gavin Fleig‘s update on the Advanced data & T & Cs

Simon and Gavin released the updated T & Cs this past week allaying apprehensions of some of the bloggers regarding some of the language in the original T & Cs.

They have also announced that the first installment of the advanced data set will be released this week! I am excited.

If you find an article that is using MCFC Analytics data and is not posted here, please let me know. I will add it in the next week’s summary.

Final 3rd analysis – more follow ups


Thanks a lot for all the feedback and discussion regarding the final third analysis. Here are a few follow-ups on the feedback.

Feedback: The correlation between goals scored and passes in the final third is driven by the top 5 goal scoring clubs. If they are removed from the data set, the correlation might be weak.
This was brought up by @WillTGM & @Chumolo

Follow-up:

  • The correlation is not nearly as strong if the top 5 (goals scored) are removed. However, 5 teams constitute 25% of the sample space. If we cherry pick the top 5, it is not surprising that the correlation becomes much weaker.
  • I did an experiment choosing 15 clubs randomly from the 20. In several such experiments, the correlation was strong and significant. R2 varied between 0.56 and 0.87. The regression was significant. (F-test)
  • On a similar note, if outliers like Liverpool and Newcastle are excluded, the correlation becomes much stronger.

Feedback: Significance of the regression

@rui_xu brought up a great point about the importance of the significance of the regression and how just R2  might not tell the whole story.

Follow-up:
I did the F-test for all the regressions with the following results

  • However, when I did the same analysis using data from all the 380 games of last season (760 samples), the correlation was weak (as observed for the 38 games of Man City) and the regression was significant for the larger sample space.

Please keep the feedback coming!

Follow-up analysis: Final third passing and Goals scored per game


This is a follow up to my post regarding the strong correlation between completed in the final third and goals scored.

Question

Is there a correlation between the final third completions & goals scored at the game level?

Analysis

I investigated to see if this correlation exists at the game level using the #MCFCAnalytics data set. I plotted the completions in the final third vs. goals scored for Manchester City in all their 38 games of English Premier League.
Blue = Away
; Orange = Home

Manchester City Goals vs. Pass completions in the final 3rd on a per game basis

Findings:

  • Linear regression had an R2 of 0.04  implying that there is no correlation between passes completed in the final third and goals scored at the game level.
    I did the plot for a few other teams and got similar results.
     
  • Arsenal – Away and Liverpool – Home. In both cases, Manchester City had very little success completing passes in the final 3rd. However, they lost 1-0 at the Emirates and won 3-0 at home vs. Liverpool.
    Against Liverpool, City had 6 shots on target and 2 off target.
    Against Arsenal, City had 0 shots on target and 3 off target.
  • QPR – Home and QPR – Away. City scored 3 goals each against QPR home and away. However, they had a season high 326 completed passes in the final 3rd at home vs. just 74 in the away fixture.
    Shots vs. QPR Away – 5 on target & 10 off target.
    Shots vs. QPR Home – 15 on target and 10 off target.

The City – QPR fixture was that crazy season finale. City fell behind and they threw everyone forward to go for the win and the Premier league title. QPR was a man down from 55th minute and they defended at the edge of their 18-yard box for most of 2nd half. This explains the unusually high number of completed passes in the final third.

The above examples underline the rarity of the “goal” event. In any given game, there could be factors like bad shooting, luck, the opponent’s goalkeeper having a great game etc., which could influence the # of goals scored. However, over a season those things seem to even out.

In the next step of analysis I will add a 2nd variable to the model and analyze.

MCFC Analytics – summary of blog posts # 1


Here are some of analysis pieces based on the #MCFCAnalytics data published in the past couple of weeks. I plan to do a weekly post linking to all the articles I come across on Twitter.

My objectives for the weekly post are:

  1. Capture all the work done using the MCFC data set
  2. Provide a forum of discussion – you are welcome to use the comments section of this blog to discuss these posts.
  3. Get to know more people working on the data set and learn from the knowledge and ideas of others.

@MarkTaylor0 goes in-depth into the short passing ability of the keeper . Data shows that keepers had the best average short pass completion rate in the 2011-12 EPL season. However, that stat is not telling the full story.

Mark also has another interesting post on how Stoke City commit more fouls than Arsenal but end the season with the same # of yellow cards

Looks like Mark is working on more posts. I will check back next week to see what is new on Mark’s blog.

@MarchiMax  has a couple of posts

Passing in EPL post looks of the delta between the average pass attempts of a team and the average pass attempts they allow their opponents. Some of the outliers like Fulham, Newcastle and Swansea are interesting.

The Passing efficiency is more interesting. It looks at the passing completion % of all the teams and attempts to identify factors that affect the passing completion %. Factors like opponent, stadium as well as the zone of the pitch in which the pass is completed.

@Philby1976 has interactive dashboard of the whole data set. This is a great tool to visualize different metrics and data points. The site’s response time might vary based on the speed of your internet and the browser you are using.

Data viz and tableau expert @acotgreave has couple of early examples of what can be done with the data set using Tableau Public. There are 3 different examples  A) # of players used by the teams  B) How did the players of two teams fare against each in the previous meetings and C) Comparing  two strikers . The post not only highlights the data set but also the different visualizations you can do using  Tableau Public.

@DanJHarrington has another great on visualization using Tableau  – How does a team pass the ball . The post visualizes how each player in a team passes the ball (# of forward, backward & sideways passes). There is another post from the same website on  who should have been England’s # 1 GK at the Euros using the MCFC data.

@JimmyCoverdale  has a post on how data gives enough evidence on Why Walcott should be moved to a central midfield role

Apart from these I have a couple of posts on this blogs so far. Correlation between goals scored and pass completions in the final third and an opposition analysis of QPR. 

If I missed any, please add them in the comments section, I will cover them in my next weekly post.

MCFC Analytics data – The story so far


I have been playing with #MCFCAnalytics data set for the past 4-5 days. I have been having a lot of fun with the data.

One of the key reasons is “ease of use”.

The data is provided in the very simple Comma Separated Values (CSV) format.  CSV is one of the simplest data formats where each column of data is separated by a comma. You may open this file in Notepad, excel or any text editor. I have worked a lot with data football or otherwise. I end up spending the majority of my time in getting the data into correct format. I was pleasantly surprised to find the MCFCAnalytics data in CSV format. I opened the file in excel, created a pivot table and I was on my way.

If you have ever used excel before, using this data set is very easy. Unzip and open the file in excel. In excel you can start playing with the data using a Pivot table . A pivot table helps you slice and dice the data the way you want.
For example :- if you want to see the # of goals conceded by Manchester City in each of it is 19 away games, you could do that with 3-4 clicks in the pivot table.

If you are comfortable with excel, for visualizations you may you use charts in excel or try Tableau Public. Tableau Public is free. It supports the CSV format. Tableau provides much slicker visualizations than excel charts but you might need a few days to get ramped up on it.

While the Lite data set doesn’t capture every event in every game, it is an exhaustive list of almost every stat about teams and players aggregated at a game level for all the 380 games of the 2011-12 EPL season. Playing with the Lite data set helps you get an idea of the metrics and KPIs available for analyzing performance. It leads you to more questions and in a way prepares you for working with a more extensive and complex data set.

For example :- I always wondered if there was a relation between final third passing and goals scored .I did some analysis and found out that there is a strong correlation between passing in the final third and the goals scored. Now I want to dig further and find out if there is a particular zone within the final third that has a stronger correlation to the goals scored. I need the (X,Y) data associated with each pass to figure it out.

That brings us to the most important aspect of data analysis. Before taking a deep-dive into the data, always ask yourself:
What is the question you want to answer using the data.

Without a question in mind you are bound to get lost or lose interest in the data very quickly. The question could be anything – from “Who took the most shots in EPL in 2012” to “is there a correlation between wins and shots taken” etc. In my example above if I never ventured to answer my first question, I could have never gotten to the second question.

I thank Gavin Fleig and Manchester City Football Club, Simon Farrant and Opta Sports Pro for starting this great initiative.

I have seen some interesting work produced by a number of people already.  I hope to see a lot more in the coming days and weeks.

Passing in the final third and goals – EPL 2011-12 #MCFCAnalytics


Question:

Is there a correlation between passing in the final third and the goals scored?

I used the #MCFCAnalytics data set to find the answer.

Analysis

Plot of  Total # of completed passes in the final vs. Goals scored for all the 20 teams in the 2011-12 season of the Barclays Premier League

 Findings:

  • Linear regression had an R2 of 0.671indicating a strong correlation between passes completed in the final third and goals scored.
    Excluding the outlier of Liverpool from the dataset the R2jumped to 0.827.
  • Liverpool is ranked 3rd in the # of passes completed in the final third. However, they are only ranked 15th in goal scored.
  • 75.73- Liverpool’s expected goals scored based on the above regression. However, they managed to score only 42 goals.
    • What is the reason for the huge negative difference?
  • Swansea’s case is interesting. You may remember the term “Swansealona” was one of the favorites with EPL analysts and reporters last season due to their reputation for passing style and high amounts of possession. However, they are below the league average on passes completed in the final third.
  • Newcastle  is ranked 18th in passes completed in the final third. However, Newcastle is ranked 7th in goal scored.Expected goals scored for Newcastle is 29.6. They managed to score 51!
  • Blackburn is ranked last in passes completed in the final third. However, Blackburn scored a lot more goals (44) than their expected goals scored (24.2)
  • Stoke is at the bottom – Lowest # of goals scored and 2nd lowest # of passes completed in the final third.  Not surprising based on their style of play.

Liverpool

I hypothesized that

  1. Liverpool might be crossing a lot and
  2. Most crosses occur in the final third. (I would love to look at (X,Y) data to establish this fact.)
  3. Poor shot quality (which might or might be related to their propensity to cross)

Findings:

  • 1103 – Liverpool attempted the highest # of crosses +corners of all teams in 2011-12
  • 840 -  Liverpool attempted the highest # of open play crosses in 2011-12
  • 19th in overall crossing efficiency  (#of successful crosses+corners/# of successful  + # of unsuccessful crosses+corners)
  • 14th in open play crossing efficiency (# of successful open play crosses/# of successful + # of unsuccessful open play crosses)
  • 18th in overall shooting efficiency ( shots on target/shots on target + shots off target + blocked shots)
  • 15thin shooting efficiency not including blocked shots (shots on target/shots on target + shots off target)

    A glance at the top 10 open play crossers of Liverpool in 2011-12.

Player

Attempts

Efficiency

Downing

148

0.209

José Enrique

138

0.210

Henderson

72

0.125

Adam

70

0.157

Gerrard

69

0.203

Bellamy

67

0.194

Johnson

65

0.185

Kuyt

57

0.246

Suárez

47

0.149

Kelly

38

0.105

Liverpool Average

0.192

League Average

0.202

  • 2 – According this article on EPLIndex, Liverpool scored just 2 goals from 840 open play crosses all season. That is 1 goal per every 420 open play crosses.
  • 79 – The average # open play crosses per goal scored in the 2011-12 season. Liverpool are almost 10 times worse than Man United (44.5)  and Norwich (45.1) in open play crosses/goals category. If there ever was a stat that would (or should) regress to the mean, this is it.

Liverpool had a very talented team in 2011-12. This manifested itself in their high # of completions in the final third where the defensive pressure is highest. Once they are in possession in the final third, they seem to have relied heavily on “crossing the ball” to enable their center-forward Andy  Carroll to take a shot (or head) OR knock it down for their attacking midfielders and wide forwards to take a shot. One big problem was that delivering  crosses is not a very efficient way of passing the ball.  Another problem was they did not seem to have a plan B. It is quite possible that opponents have figured out Liverpool’s crossing strategy and their lack of plan B. The combination of these three factors has contributed significantly to the poor offensive display of Liverpool last season.

Newcastle United

  • 4th - Newcastle is 4thbest in shooting efficiency (goals scored/(shots on target + shots off target)). They stayed 4th even when I included blocked shots in the denominator.
    • This could be the reason why they are an outlier in the final-third completions vs goal scored plot.
    • Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United are the top – 3 in shooting efficiency.

Newcastle had two great strikers in Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse who accounted for 29 goals between them. These two were the focus of Newcastle attack and were very efficient with their shots. They did not need a high # of completed passes in the final third to score their goals as they were able to convert a higher % of their shots into goals.

Blackburn Rovers

  • 7thBlackburn are 7th best in shooting efficiency inside the box (goals scored from inside the box/(shots on target inside the box + shots off target inside the box)).
  • Yakubu scored 17 goals for Blackburn and has the 2ndbest  Goals to Shots ratio among all the forwards who have scored than 10 goals.
    • This could be one of the reasons for their big positive differential between actual goals scored (44) and the expected goals scored (24.2).

Summary

# of successful passes in the final third has a strong correlation to goals scored.

Final third is a “high-value” area for scoring goals. More completions in the final third means a team is spending more time in the high-value area. This translates into more opportunities to take a shot or draw errors from defenders to win set pieces from close range, which further increase scoring opportunities.

A high number of completions in the final third alone might not guarantee goals. Liverpool and Newcastle , two examples from the two extremes of the outlier spectrum are cases in point. However, it is one of the key contributing factors to scoring goals. The fact R2 jumped from 0.671 to 0.827 when Liverpool’s data was excluded from the data set strengthens is a case in point.

All future posts on Onfooty.com


Some of you might know this already. All my future posts will be published on On Football.

The objectives remain unchanged. A visual and a data-driven view of all things football.

Here are my first two posts on Onfooty.com

Agents in Football – Focus on EPL

Putting Manchester City’s spending into perspective

 

Follow us on Twitter at @AnalyseFooty and Sarah on @Onfooty

 

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