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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Fulham 1 - Swansea 2 Stats and Chalkboards

It certainly wasn't a comfortable victory, but clinical finishing from a couple of goalkeeping mistakes resulted in yet another away win.

I don't normally include the chalkboard of total passing by team as they often look like a big mass of lines, but have included it below for its rarity with Swansea only having 41% of possession, even under the 'relatively' more direct approach under Laudrup Swansea usually have the majority of the ball:
Passes by Side, Fulham with plenty of the ball in the Swansea half with most of Swansea's passing coming down the right
In terms of attempts at goal, Fulham had 23 to Swansea's 10 (but fewer attempts on target) and had more attempts in the first 15 minutes of the second half (11) than Swansea had all match.
Attempts by Side, Ruiz had the most overall with 7 (4 on target) and Danny Graham managed 4 attempts (all on target)
Looking at where the ball was intercepted by each team shows how Fulham often won the ball back within the Swansea half:
Interceptions by side, similar totals but Fulham winning the ball often in the middle third
In keeping with this level of pressure, Fulham rarely allowed Tremmel an easy pass out of defence with the ball usually going long and most of the time going back to Fulham, repeating the cycle of pressure-clearance -pressure:
Passing by goalkeeper, Stockdale having twice the pass success rate partly due to a greater proportion of short passes
In terms of player performances from Fulham Ruiz was impressive and most things went through him and any team with him and Berbatov will end up nowhere near the relegation zone even if their recent form isn't great.

For Swansea, it shows the level of competition in the side that the goalkeeper and two of the back four from the Reading can be changed with little disruption (along with Tiendalli playing on the left as opposed to the right in previous games).

I also really like the option of being able to switch Tiendalli to the right and play Rangel at right wing, it's not something you'd want to start a game with but offers both extra defensive cover if required and also added aerial ability for defending set pieces and also as an out ball for long clearances.  You can tinker too much sometimes especially within games, but in the squad there's a greater level of flexibility than there was last season both in terms of personnel and the 'philosophy' of the manager.

Dyer had arguably his best game for some time and highlighted one of the flaws in taking some of these stats as gospel.  When I came to look at the take-ons, I was amazed to see Dyer had 0 successful out of 3 attempts even though he goes past a player in the lead up to the first goal.  Unlike a pass, a take-on is a more subjective thing, if you start to go past a player and then pass, it may be that technically speaking you haven't gone past your opponent but what you have done is create enough disruption to allow a meaningful attack.


Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Reading 0 - Swansea 0 Stats and Chalkboards

At the end of the review of the Man Utd match, I mentioned that the point from that game took some of the pressure off the Reading match and that a point wouldn't be so bad a result.  Depending on whether you want to focus on the first 70 or last 15-20 minutes probably determines your feelings about the result.

Overall, Swansea completed almost four times as many passes as Reading, with the first half in particular being dominated by Swansea.

A clue as to where the ball spent a lot of time however is the fact that Williams and Chico completed more passes (184) than the entire Reading team (141).
First half passing by Team, Swansea dominant but most of the time ball is in the Swansea half with little passing in the final third
Given selections over recent weeks, it seems that either for on or off field reasons, Laudrup doesn't believe in Danny Graham, although given Michu's injury (even if just a little knock) and the heavy Christmas schedule he may get another chance.

With De Guzman rested, Moore played as the attacking midfielder with Michu up front, which meant that Moore received the ball significantly more than Michu, with Pablo possibly back for Fulham on Saturday, it'll be interesting to see what kind of line up starts in that game and against Villa.
Passes Received by Moore and Michu
I still think there's potentially a great player inside Luke Moore but it just seems to not quite click on a regular enough basis, although at the Arsenal game for example I was amazed and the amount of stick he got for not 'running around enough' (this was before he set up the first goal).  It's easy to be an amateur psychologist about these things but for me he needs to really believe he can do it and we may yet get to see him reach his full potential.

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone

Monday, 24 December 2012

Swansea 1 - Man U 1 Stats and Chalkboards

Along with the performance against Spurs last week, this was another superb performance by the Swansea defence.  There may have been some help from the woodwork (and some good reflex saves from Vorm), but this was another great display by Williams and Chico:
Chico top tackler with 7 (next highest 3) and Williams with 7 blocks (next highest 1)
The selection of Kemy was an interesting one and gave a more direct option, not in terms of hoofing it but with thoughtful longer balls.  Kemy was Swansea's top passer but only half the total of Carrick who was top passer overall by some distance:
Carrick had an impressive game, often passing to Rooney who frequently dropped deeper to receive a pass in space.  Kemy with fewer passes but often more direct.
United's pressing often meant long clearances with Michu having 14 aerial duels, 6 more than any other player.  With Evra however winning all 8 of his duels, it may have been worth moving the location of clearances away from him:
Evra with a perfect 8/8 compared to Jonny Evans who only won 3/7
The draw avoids the issue of having 3 successive league defeats and although the Reading game is still the proverbial '6 pointer', another draw would not be too disappointing.


Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone


Monday, 17 December 2012

Spurs 1 - Swansea 0 Stats and Chalkboards

60% of Premier League games last season were either draws or won by a single goal, in a game such as the one yesterday, the margins between hard fought draw and disappointing defeat are pretty small.

The top level shot stats suggest one-way traffic but against a talented and well organised Spurs, it was always going to be the case of defending solidly and trying to restrict clear-cut chances.
Swansea with no attempts on target and the 3 attempts including one from almost half way
Given the goals conceded last week, it was particularly disappointing to concede again from a set piece.  Swansea did all they could to try and minimise opportunities conceding only 8 fouls all game.

Comparing halves, Swansea had more of the ball in the second half compared to their activity in the first but most of it came to nothing, partly due to Spurs having a huge 31 interceptions in the second half.
Swansea's Final Third Passing by Half - Twice the number in the second half but little near the penalty area (due in part to the huge volume of Spurs interceptions)
Spurs with 39 interceptions, 31 of which in the second half.  Chico made most interceptions overall with 8
It's a second straight league defeat with Man Utd to come next, but nowhere near time to panic, this was a spirited performance against a quality team.

If Arsenal sort themselves out and beat Reading tonight then the top 6 will comprise what I would consider to be the best 6 teams in the league.  Beyond them from 7th down to the edge of the relegation places you could make a case for any of the remaining teams ending the season being the 7th best in the league.  I would argue there is little difference from West Brom (currently in 6th) down to Sunderland in 16th.

This means that a top half finish for Swansea is perfectly achievable but with 4 games in a 10 day period to come I'm still a bit twitchy.  It says something however about how we've progressed that the FA cup game against Arsenal could see us field a weakened team with the League Cup semi to come where Arsenal will see it as their best chance of redeeming something from the season.

Other Posts - How Lawro beats the bookies by sitting on the fence: http://www.wearepremierleague.com/2012/12/in-defence-of-lawro-how-one-man-is.html

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone

Friday, 14 December 2012

In defence of Lawro - How one man is beating the market

Quite often on football forums I'll see something along the lines of "Lawrenson's tipped us to win, we're doomed" as if Lawro was some sort of reverse Midas.  Lawro tends to get a lot of stick but is rare among pundits for giving his predictions on a regular basis and also having them held up to scrutiny by being collated and published on the BBC Sport website.

Far too often I'll listen to podcasts where the prediction goes along the lines of "I'd expect Chelsea to win, but it wouldn't surprise me if West Brom got something from this game" where pretty much every base is covered.

What I've done is look at the results of the 158 predictions on Premier League games made this season and the expected return if a notional £10 was placed on each game according to Lawro's predictions (I've used Home/Draw/Away rather than looking at correct score betting).  I've taken the odds from Bet365 as held at Football-Data

Top level figures are:
Overall it can be seen that sticking a tenner on each game based on Lawro's predictions would net a decent profit.  The expected loss figure comes from the fact that the combined odds of Home/Away/Draw for Bet365 come to around 105%, if you were willing to shop around using a dozen or so different bookies and picking best odds for each individual bet this would come down closer to 100%.

How does Lawro achieve this profit?  Breaking his selections down into the type of prediction, it can be seen that all the profit comes from the Draw predictions:
Lawro has been correct with half of his predictions where he's said it'll be a draw where the actual odds for the draw were never below 3 (or 2/1 in traditional odds).

Is Lawro a mystic? Is it that his football brain is smarter than the market? Ultimately bookies odds are a mix of what they think is going to happen and where the money is going, if they feel Man Utd are unlikely to win but are taken significantly higher than expected bets on that happening then they'll shorten the odds accordingly.

It may be just be that selecting draws is for boring people and the amount of money going on a Home/Away win is more than the true probability of that happening, resulting in over-generous odds on draws.  If you were to just pick one kind of outcome and have bet on that each time, below are what you would get back:
If you knew nothing about the matches and just stuck a tenner on a draw for every game then you'd end up with a profit not far off Lawro's.

The above is far too small a sample to say definitively that the easiest way to make money is just to back the draw, there's no guarantee this would happen in the future but is arguably something worth looking at in more detail across historical data for multiple seasons/divisions.

Looking at Lawro's actual score predictions also highlights how he tends to come to these predictions.  Ultimately he has to spend the weekend defending them, so looking at his predictions suggests he likes to give some comfort to any team he's predicting will lose by at least predicting them to score.
In over three quarters of predictions, Lawro goes for one of 2-0, 1-1 or 2-1 and pretty much always goes for more than one goal being scored in a game with 38 of his 40 predicted draws being predicted as 1-1
Picking these three scorelines suggests (either deliberately or subconsciously) he's playing it safe, if you say 1-1 and the actual result is 2-1 or 1-0 or 0-1 then you could easily claim to be "not far wrong" and avoids being even further out when the 5-2, 0-5 or other freak scorelines come in.  It's also interesting being a former Liverpool play that he's never predicted Everton to lose this season.

It could also be argued that given 1-1 happens almost twice as often as 0-0 in the Premier League so far, if you felt the game was too close to call that 1-1 is more likely a result than 0-0.  That doesn't however explain the over prediction of 2-0 and 2-1 compared to 1-0 and to me suggests a relatively straightforward process is happening:

  • Easy home win for a Manchester team: 3-0 (all 6 of these were home wins but at tiny odds)
  • Easy home win: 2-0
  • Tough home win: 2-1
  • Too close to call: 1-1
With a few odd exceptions where a "bigger" team is playing away making up most of the rest of the predictions.

Just because it's simple doesn't make it wrong however, an awful lot of how bookies make money is where people get seduced by "big" odds that are actually poor value.  It may be sitting on the fence is the easiest way to make a profit.

Notes:
There are 158 rather than 160 predictions as Sunderland-Reading was postponed from its scheduled date and no prediction was made for the brought forward Chelsea-Reading game.  Lawro did pick Sunderland to beat Reading when originally scheduled and I'd be very surprised if he would didn't expect Chelsea to beat Reading so could argue these would have also been called correctly.

Bet365 was chosen as it was first bookie in the supplied spreadsheet, as mentioned above, shopping around can improve odds received reducing expected loss if an average punter.

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Football Stats/Analysis: www.wearepremierleague.com 
More around Data and Analysis:  Analysis Marketing

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Swansea 3 - Norwich 4 Stats and Review

As well as the usual stats, I've included a number of key images from the match as the match was lost largely due to a number of individual errors.  After only conceding one goal in the previous three games, it was big blow to concede three in one half.

In terms of stats from the game, the chalkboards below of attempts by half show how few attempts Norwich had in either half but in particular the second:
First half attempts, Norwich with the better quality chances as well as the goals
Second half attempts, Swans with almost all the action but picked off from a free kick coming from a counter-attack
In terms of passing, Swansea made more passes in the second half than Norwich made in the whole match and completed almost 4 times as many passes as Norwich in the second half:
2nd Half Passing: Swansea with plenty of the ball but relatively little in dangerous areas with disciplined defending from Norwich
In terms of take-ons, it was again a relatively disappointing set of figures with only 4 out of 23 attempts successful:
Take-ons by Routledge and Dyer.  For Swansea as a whole they had 1 successful from 14 attempts in the first half and 3 from 9 in the second.
The first goal was the result of a neat one-two but ultimately I felt that Williams allowed Whittaker to come inside too easily to have the shot.  Tremmel may have been beaten at his near post but from that distance and  from a shot with that power I don't think he could have done much.
Williams allows Whittaker to cut inside to get a shot away from a better angle
The second goal was largely down to Tremmel taking a chance and assuming Bassong was going to head back across goal.  If you look at the image below and had to guess what was going to happen next you would assume the ball would be headed back across the six yard box.  Unlike other positions, when a keeper makes a split second decision that turns out to be wrong he ends up looking foolish.
Bassong must be credited for spotting the gap to score the header
For the third Norwich goal it can again be argued this was due to bad Swansea defending, this time Ki completely loses Grant Holt.
Ki ends up losing Holt to give him a free header
Norwich's fourth was an excellent free-kick, but that free kick came from clever play from Holt to run across Williams' path, wait for contact and get the free-kick.
Holt in front of Williams: due to their relative positioning, Holt doesn't need to be exceptionally quick, just gets in between Williams and the ball and waits for the foul.

Despite the finger-pointing above, it's not a time for panic or rubbishing the team.  Some days you make mistakes and they get punished, over the course of a season there are bound to be games after which you say 'How did that happen'.

The absence of Britton again shows his value and I was a bit surprised not to see Agustien play, either instead of De Guzman or instead of Graham with Michu as the lone striker and De Guzman as the attacking midfielder.  There are plenty of positives from the second half display and another two goals for Michu.

I remember a few weeks ago seeing him being 66/1 to be top scorer in the league this season, I thought it looked a big price but didn't think that a Swans player would be top league scorer any time soon, although at this rate I may well be wrong.


Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Swansea 3 - Norwich 4 Review

For the initial review of the match I'm going to go more for images than stats as the match was lost largely due to a number of individual errors.  After only conceding one goal in the previous three games, it was big blow to concede three in one half.

The first goal was the result of a neat one-two but ultimately I felt that Williams allowed Whittaker to come inside too easily to have the shot.  Tremmel may have been beaten at his near post but from that distance and  from a shot with that power I don't think he could have done much.
Williams allows Whittaker to cut inside to get a shot away from a better angle
The second goal was largely down to Tremmel taking a chance and assuming Bassong was going to head back across goal.  If you look at the image below and had to guess what was going to happen next you would assume the ball would be headed back across the six yard box.  Unlike other positions, when a keeper makes a split second decision that turns out to be wrong he ends up looking foolish.
Bassong must be credited for spotting the gap to score the header
For the third Norwich goal it can again be argued this was due to bad Swansea defending, this time Ki completely loses Grant Holt.
Ki ends up losing Holt to give him a free header
Norwich's fourth was an excellent free-kick, but that free kick came from clever play from Holt to run across Williams' path, wait for contact and get the free-kick.
Holt in front of Williams: due to their relative positioning, Holt doesn't need to be exceptionally quick, just gets in between Williams and the ball and waits for the foul.

Despite the finger-pointing above, it's not a time for panic or rubbishing the team.  Some days you make mistakes and they get punished, over the course of a season there are bound to be games after which you say 'How did that happen'.

The absence of Britton again shows his value and I was a bit surprised not to see Agustien play, either instead of De Guzman or instead of Graham with Michu as the lone striker.  There are plenty of positives from the second half display and another two goals for Michu.

I remember a few weeks ago seeing him being 66/1 to be top scorer in the league this season, I thought it looked a big price but didn't think that a Swans player would be top league scorer any time soon, although at this rate I may well be wrong.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Arsenal 0 - Swans 2 Stats and Chalkboards (updated)

Just when you think things couldn't get any better after a superb display against West Brom, things get taken up another level with a fantastic performance and incredible result.

Swansea had more attempts overall but the top line figures don't do justice to the comparative quality of the chances.  Where Arsenal were largely restricted to speculative shots outside the box, there were a number of opportunities for Swansea where a player was clean through against Szczesny.
Swansea with more attempts, more on target and (most importantly) more goals
One interesting stat is that Tremmel now has the best Saves to Shots rate of any Premier League keeper (88%) although a lot of that has been down to the defence as Tremmel has rarely been left exposed to the level Szczesny was on Saturday.

Looking at the overall pass stats, the biggest difference between the two teams is the Territory figure, it's true that an lot of the play (especially between the 46th-75th minute marks) was deep in Swansea territory but very little was created by Arsenal and allowed plenty of space for Swansea to create far better opportunities on the counter-attack.
As with the West Brom game, this was another match with over 1,000 passes attempted in total
Closely linked to the Territory stat, the final third passing was far higher by Arsenal, but achieved little of note with the majority of it focused wide of the penalty area causing little trouble.  It was notable that when Arsenal had a free kick in a relatively dangerous position late on they decided to take a quick short free kick which meant they quickly returned to the same sort of possession that brought little joy the rest of the game.
Final Third passing, plenty of it from Arsenal but out on the flanks and of little danger
Cazorla was the only Arsenal player to have more than one attempt (having 5 of Arsenal's 10) and also attempted twice as many take-ons as any other player (although this was from twice as many attempts as anybody else).
Cazorla's 4 successfull take-ons tended to be in areas of greater space, with attempts closer to goal  being unsuccessful   Of his attempts at goal arguably only 1 was a really good opportunity.
It was also interesting to see (especially early on) Arsenal looking to press the Swansea defence with Tremmel having to make far more long clearances than usual.
Passes by Goalkeeper with Tremmel often forced long (12 of the 25 passes coming in the first 25 minutes)
After the match much was made by Wenger of Arsenal players being 'tired', watching the match it seemed that if there was any tiredness it was as much mental as physical as there seemed to be a real lack of imagination as well as a lack of any pace to their passing.

Despite Swansea's goals coming from counter-attacks late in the game this was certainly not a smash and grab, Swansea created the better opportunities and passed the ball with more purpose.

In what was a superb team performance it is difficult to highlight individuals although Rangel in particular was fantastic and Mr Consistent Leon Britton put in another controlling performance and Michu's two finishes were taken expertly and with supreme confidence.

For the second, he knocks the ball quite a long way in front of him but not far enough to tempt Szczesny, in doing so he can sprint instead of having to dribble giving him that extra second to make his mind up about where to put his shot a player lower in confidence would have kept closer control of the ball and possibly have been caught.

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Arsenal 0 - Swansea 2 Stats and Chalkboards

Just when you think things couldn't get any better after a superb display against West Brom, things get taken up another level with a fantastic performance and incredible result.

Swansea had more attempts overall but the top line figures don't do justice to the comparative quality of the chances.  Where Arsenal were largely restricted to speculative shots outside the box, there were a number of opportunities for Swansea where a player was clean through against Szczesny.
Swansea with more attempts, more on target and (most importantly) more goals
Looking at the overall pass stats, the biggest difference between the two teams is the Territory figure, it's true that an lot of the play (especially between the 46th-75th minute marks) was deep in Swansea territory but very little was created by Arsenal and allowed plenty of space for Swansea to create far better opportunities on the counter-attack.
As with the West Brom game, this was another match with over 1,000 passes attempted
Closely linked to the Territory stat, the final third passing was far higher by Arsenal, but achieved little of note with the majority of it focused wide of the penalty area causing little trouble.  It was notable that when Arsenal had a free kick in a relatively dangerous position late on they decided to take a quick short free kick which meant they quickly returned to the same sort of possession that brought little joy the rest of the game.
Final Third passing, plenty of it from Arsenal but out on the flanks and of little danger
Cazorla was the only Arsenal player to have more than one attempt (having 5 of Arsenal's 10) and also attempted twice as many take-ons as any other player (although this was from twice as many attempts as anybody else).
Cazorla's 4 successfull take-ons tended to be in areas of greater space, with attempts closer to goal  being unsuccessful   Of his attempts at goal arguably only 1 was a really good opportunity.
It was also interesting to see (especially early on) Arsenal looking to press the Swansea defence with Tremmel having to make far more long clearances than usual.
Passes by Goalkeeper with Tremmel often forced long (12 of the 25 passes coming in the first 25 minutes)
After the match much was made by Wenger of Arsenal players being 'tired', watching the match it seemed that if there was any tiredness it was more mental than physical as there seemed to be a real lack of any pace to their passing.

Despite Swansea's goals coming from counter-attacks late in the game this was certainly not a smash and grab, Swansea created the better opportunities and passed the ball with more purpose.  In what was a superb team performance it is difficult to highlight individuals although Rangel in particular was fantastic and Mr Consistent Leon Britton put in another controlling performance and Michu's two finishes were taken expertly and with supreme confidence.

Twitter: @we_r_pl http://www.twitter.com/we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone