Fulham – Opposition Analysis #FFC vs. #MCFC


This is an “Opposition analysis” of Fulham, City’s opponent on Saturday 29 September at Craven Cottage. I used the #MCFCAnalytics Lite data set to do this analysis.

Goals 1.12 per game – 12th (excluding own goals)
% of Open play goals 74.4% – 6th
% of goals from inside the box 86% – 6th
% of goals from outside the box 14% – 15th
Shots on Target 5.13 pg – 7th
Efficiency: Goals/shots On + off Target 11% – 17th
Assists per Goals scored 0.74 – 7th
Strong from inside the box 6st in % of goals from inside the box
Weak from outside the box 15th in % of goals from outside the box
Final 3rd completions / comp % 9th / 8th
Short passescompletions / comp % 8th / 7th
Poor at winning corners and scoring from corners 14th– corners won – 4.92 corners/game18thgoals from corners – 416th Headed goals – 7
Inability to score first Scored the first goal 13 times. (3rd worst in the league).

Fulham – Key attacking players

Goals Clint Dempsey – 17
Pogrebnyak – 6
Zamora – 5
Shots On Target Clint Dempsey – 58, Dembélé – 22,Johnson – 16
Efficiency Pogrebynak – 46.2%Zamora – 21.7%Dempsey – 15.6%
Assists Dempsey – 6
Zamora &Murphy –5 each
Final 3rd Completions Dembélé – 472, Murphy – 461, Dempsey – 416, Duff – 244
Final 3rd Completion% Dembélé– 84.1%, Duff – 80%, Dempsey – 75.4% Ruiz – 71.2%
Touches in opposition box Dempsey – 150, Zamora – 73, Johnson – 64, Duff – 62
Other interesting aspects Duff crosses a lot with a very low % of success

Fulham – Offensive summary

Personnel changes

Fulham has a huge player turnover on the offensive side. The top three players in goals, assists, final third passing and shots in the last season are not with the team anymore.

Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembélé played a huge part in Fulham’s comfortable 9th place finish. Dempsey scored 17 goals and provided six assists. That accounts for about 50% of all Fulham’s goals. Apart from the goals and assists, he completed 416 passes in the final third (third most in Fulham) and had a team, high 150 touches in the opposition’s 18-yard box.

Dembélé had a big impact in the midfield last season and often was the origin of the attacking moves that ended in a Dempsey shot. He was Fulham’s best passer in the final third with 472 completions at an 84.1% completion rate.

The departure of Danny Murphy along with Dempsey and Dembélé means Fulham has lost all three of its top three passers in the final third. They have added Dimitar Berbatov who could probably make up for the goals of Dempsey. Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz is likely to feature a lot more in the construction of the attacks. They are off to a fast start so far with three wins in five games tied with Arsenal & City on 9 points. They have also picked up Giorgos Karagounis, who if healthy can be of great value to the team. Hugo Rodallega from Wigan is also a very good pick up. However, questions on who will fill the void left by Murphy and Dembélé remain unanswered.

What the numbers say

Fulham’s attack ran through Dembélé, Murphy and Dempsey. Short passing and shooting from inside the box is the salient feature of Fulham attack. They are poor in shooting efficiency (17th), converting corners (18th) and headed goals (16th). This points to a predominantly ground based attack through the middle. They do not cross a whole lot and Damien Duff who has attempted most open play crosses in Fulham has very poor accuracy. It is likely that opposing teams know that Duff has a propensity to cross the ball and come well prepared to defend them.

Fulham were also very poor at a scoring the first goal (18th) only better than the relegated Bolton & Wolves. This means they are likely a team that is passive in attack and let the opposition take the initiative.

So far this season

Berbatov, Duff, Ruiz have had fast starts to their season. Fulham have scored the most goals (12) and have the fifth best pass completion rate in the league so far this season. Better numbers than City in both categories. Apart from Manchester United away, they have not played any big teams yet. They are unbeaten at home and this could be a big test for both Fulham and City.

Berbatov – key man for the Cottagers. Photo courtesy : UK Eurosport

Fulham – Defence

Goals conceded 1.29/game – 8th lowest
Final 3rd passes completions allowed 101.1/game 5th highest
Opponents Final 3rd pass completion % 68.94% – 2nd highest
Successful open play crosses allowed 4.08/game – 4th highest
Shots on Target Conceded 3rd highest2nd highest – From outside the box
Tackles Win 77% of their tackles – 3rd most18st in last man tackles
Fouls committed 9.9/game – 4th fewest
Other aspects Allowed the opposition to score first in 22 games (5th most)

Fulham – Defensive summary

The numbers from last year indicate that Fulham tends to defend deep and allows opponents a lot completions and possession in their defensive third. They also concede a high number of shots conceded from outside the box. This is a sign of passive defending. They do not seem to close down quickly enough to avoid good shots from outside the box. When they tackle, they tend to tackle cleanly and win a high percentage of them. They also allow a high number of successful open play crosses. Since crossing is inherently has a low percentage of success, this is another sign that Fulham defenders do not close down quickly. They commit very few fouls and do not concede many corners. All in all a defence, which is not aggressive, “lets you play” and tackle clean cleanly.

Fulham allowed their opponents score the first goal 22 times (5th most) as opposed to scoring only 13 themselves (third lowest total). Another indicator of the recurring theme of passiveness in their play.

Fulham – Goalkeeping – Mark Schwarzer

Goals conceded overall 1.23/game – 10th fewest
Saves made 11th most
GK distribution efficiency(Successful GK distribution/Total GK distribution) 3nd best – 72%
Long passes completion 34% – 3rd lowest
Short passes completion rate 95.2% – 5th best
Ratio of Long to short passes 70-30

Fulham – Goalkeeping Summary

Mark Schwarzer has very high distribution efficiency. He is also very good at short passes. Schwarzer has a propensity to punch the ball than any other keeper in the Premier League (among keepers who started at least 20 games). He is also the second highest in the league in catches/game & sixth highest in saves per game.

These stats correlate to the high number of shots on target allowed by Fulham’s defence. Schwarzer’s good goalkeeping is one of the reasons why Fulham did not concede many more goals.

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

§ Fulham came back from 0-2 down to draw 2-2 at the craven cottage. Aguero scored twice for City. Zamora and Kompany’s own goal tied it for Fulham.

§ City easily won 3-0 at the Etihad. Aguero, Dzeko & Chris Baird – own goal were the scorers.

§ City had more final 3rd completions (139. Season average 135) away from home than at home.

§ Fulham had a better final third completion percentage away from home than at home.

Final word

Fulham have played well and have scored a league-high 12 goals so far despite so many new faces in their attack. City will have their hands full defending the likes of Berbatov, Ruiz and Duff. City has not had a clean sheet so far this season. Will there be a lot of goals in this one?

To win City needs to:

§ Control Ruiz and Duff’s influence would be key to win this game. Berbatov is probably more talented than Dempsey but Fulham’s midfield is not as strong as it was last season.

§ Take advantage of the passivity of the Fulham defence. They allow a lot of possession to their opponents in their defensive third and allow opponents to take many shots on target.

§ Be aggressive and take the lead. Fulham has let opponents score the first goal 22 times last season. City has a great record when they score first (25 W, 2 D & 1 L last season).

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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 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.

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