Sunday, 28 October 2012

Man City 1 - Swans 0 Chalkboards and Stats

Despite this match and the corresponding fixture last year both being goalless until an hour in, the difference between the two matches was enormous.  Last season was like target practice for Man City and only an incredible display from Michel Vorm kept the score respectable.

This season was far more of an even contest with the best chances falling to the Swans.  Whenever a big side doesn't roll over their opponent the focus is naturally on the big team 'not performing'.  It was true that some of their passing in the first half was pretty sloppy but the most shocking thing for me was the amount of space Michu found himself in as if Man City believed the 'no striker' selection and thought there was nobody to pick up.

Man City managed only 11 attempts at goal in the whole match, to put that in to perspective, that is the same as their lowest total at home for the whole of last season (which was against Liverpool where they scored early and coasted to victory) and they only managed a single attempt on goal in the first half.
Attempts by Team.  For both sides the vast majority of attempts came in the 2nd Half
Man City were keen not to let the Swans settle on the ball too much which made for a staccato tempo with relatively little flow, although when they could string a sequence together it resulted in plenty of space to attack the Man City defence.

There were a couple of areas I thought didn't go too well for Swansea and they were from long kicks from the keeper and throw-ins where possession was often lost too easily.  From the kicks the ball would usually go towards Michu but the knock down end up with a Man City player.  Similarly with throw-ins there were a number of cases where the ball was lost easily.
Long GK passes from both sides: Neither particularly successful but lack of variety in Swansea's kicking often meant second ball went to Man City.
Throw-ins from each side: Swansea had 7 unsuccessful throw-ins, more than they had in any game last season 
Overall for Swansea, there were excellent performances throughout the team but have highlighted a few in particular:

On a number of occasions, Rangel was quick of mind and feet and was able to get away and start promising moves:
Take-ons by Rangel (left) and whole Swansea team (right).  Rangel with 3 had the most successful take-ons of any player
Ashley Williams made 10 of Swansea's 13 successful clearances and had a solid game overall:

Chico was again impressive going forward and along with Ben Davies, is fitting in to what is hopefully a settled back line (although the loss of Vorm could be a big blow).
Chico with 4 tackles was joint top tackler but credit to Ben Davies for winning 4 out of 4 tackles including what I'm sure was an enjoyable 'man and ball' tackle against Balotelli
Looking back on the stats after the game I was surprised to see how good De Guzman's passing figures were with 51 from 53 attempted.  Looking at the chalkboard it can be seen that these are all over the pitch and not just 2 metre passes.
Passing from De Guzman against Man City (left) and previous game against Wigan (right) showing an impressive rage of passing
Ultimately it was still a defeat and another game without a clean sheet, but the performance was impressive and it shouldn't be forgotten how many of the players in that side have played just a handful of games together so the level of understanding between players can improve even further suggesting that there could well be some big-name scalps to match those of last season.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Swans 2 - Wigan 1 Initial Chalkboard review

For me this game was a fantastic example of the importance of frame of mind in defining how a game progresses and rather than the proverbial 'game of two halves' was a stylish 50-60 minutes from the Swans bookended by a nervous start and finish although to be fair to the team those nerves were more from those watching than those playing.

With all the talk of unrest in the camp (regardless of how much of it is or isn't true, I can't imagine there's a side anywhere where the whole squad are happy all the time) and with Man City and Chelsea to come, it was obvious how important this game was.

The opening 15 minutes saw an assured Wigan happy to knock the ball around with Swansea playing (relatively) longer balls:
From around the quarter-hour mark however Swansea seemed to settle down, given the number of early goals conceded over the last few weeks, it was probably a relief not to be facing another uphill battle and there was some fortune that this wasn't the case again after a good opportunity fell to Maloney early on.

Passing from 16-45 minutes

Where Wigan early on controlled possession but rarely got over the half way line, Swansea had a fair bit of activity further forward along both flanks, it might not have been a pummelling but I'm sure Martinez would have been happy to get in for half-time.

The second half again started well for Swansea without maybe creating too many chances, a superb bit of skill from Routledge however created space and he passed to De Guzman who played it in to Pablo who spun and finished superbly.

I've seen the same stat mentioned several times that prior to this game all of Swansea's goals had come from open play, while it is great to have a free flowing approach, I felt this was more criticism than praise.  Goals aren't always easy to come by and making the most of your set pieces can make a big difference.

After Swansea's second, there seemed to be a brief feeling of 'Job Done' which obviously didn't last long with Wigan pulling one back quickly and very, very nearly getting a second which was judged offside.  What this meant though is that the atmosphere went from a carnival to edge of the seat stuff.

For the last 25 minutes or so (including injury time), Wigan dominated the ball but created relatively little consider from the 72nd minute to the end of the game they completed 6 times as many passes as Swansea.
Wigan may have had significantly more of the ball in the final stages but most of this was in front of a well organised Swansea defence.  Whenever there was an attempt to push the ball in to a more attacking area this would usually be quickly dealt with.

11 points from 8 games is a tidy return and means that Swansea can go in to the next two games with far less fear than if Wigan had taken something from the game.

I'm hoping to look sometime during the week at individual performances from the game, obvious ones to look at will be Routledge, Chico and the selection of Michu as the main striker.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Monday, 8 October 2012

Premier League Weekly Review

I've combined my interest in football with my day job in analysis and put together a dashboard of the main stats from the 10 Premier League fixtures over the weekend.

This has been created by taking a load of images from the superb Stats Zone app and then linking them all in to a Powerpoint presentation.  The file has got the chalkboards of shots/tackles/interceptions and other main stats of each of the games along with a link to the Yahoo Goals site which has highlights for each game.

Click the icon in the bottom right of the window to view full-screen:

Some of the areas of interest include:

Leighton Baines completed 31 passes to Steven Pienaar, almost twice as many as any other combination in the Wigan-Everton game

Norwich's missed tackles around the penalty area

Liverpool only managing 2 attempts on target (out of 18)

Manchester United winning 28 tackles out of 31 attempts against Newcastle, the highest number over the weekend.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Swansea 2 - Reading 2 Stats and Chalkboards

It would be easy to point to the huge difference in attempts at goal between the two teams to argue this was two points dropped, but given the status with 20 minutes left this was a hugely important turnaround.

Reading may not look like they're going to rack up too many points this season, but a gap of five points on them rather than the two it looked like it was going to be is a huge difference.

In terms of shots, Reading scored with their first attempt at goal and 2 goals from 5 attempts in the first half.
29 of the top 30 passing combinations were between Swansea players with Ki and Britton playing a huge part in this.
Ki was top passer overall, and as can be seen from his passing chalkboards by half his influence was further forward in the second half.
Top combination for Reading was their keeper McCarthy's long balls out to Hunt with 7 passes completed with every single one of McCarthy's passes played in to the Swansea half.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Match Stats: Created using Statszone
Chalkboards: Created using Statszone

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

How Mark Gower became 'The most creative player in Europe'

Much was made last year of Swansea's Mark Gower being deemed to be 'The most creative player in Europe' ahead of the likes of Messi, Silva and Rooney.

The original story which started it off talks about how this is an example of 'Moneyball' with statistics being able to identify lesser known players who punch above their weight.

The reality may not be quite as impressive but there's still something to suggest that Gower offers something different.

The story came about in early November 2011 that Gower had created an average of 4.39 chances per game, more than any other player in Europe (below are the figures for the Premier League taken from the article):
Although the figures themselves are accurate there are a couple of issues that helped Gower top the charts:
The stat was taken 10 games in to the season but Mark had only played in 6 of those, making it easier to maintain a high average.

As he'd only played 472 minutes in this period, the 27 minutes against Arsenal where he'd created 3 chances (equivalent of 9 over a match) had a far bigger impact that someone who had played in all 10 games.

Also, the two big performances in terms of chances created were against two teams that ultimately would be relegated (Wolves and Bolton).
Mark Gower's Chances Created stats
By the end of the season, Gower had created 36 chances in the 1127 minutes played (2.87 chances per 90 minutes) which although a long way from 4.39 was still the second highest at the club by some distance.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was top with an average of 3.0 per 90 minutes but him and Gower had almost double the average of any other players, although this was partly due to these two taking the bulk of set piece activity over the season.

Whilst the above might take some of the shine off Gower's accolade there's still some merit in highlighting Gower's ability to pick a pass and the fact that he had the most assists at Swansea (5) despite only playing the an equivalent of a third of the season.

So often when teams are chasing games late on, the tactic is to throw more strikers on, sometimes putting on a player who can make the right pass when defences are sitting deep could be the better tactic and Gower arguably fits the bill.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Stats: Created using data provided by Opta MCFC Analytics 
For more about the data and process behind the stats visit my business blog: Analysis Marketing

Monday, 1 October 2012

2011/12 Opta Stats Review - Top Players by Club

With the release of last season's stats by Opta looking at activity by player by game (more details here), I've put together a summary presentation looking at the top 3 players per club for a number of different metrics such as shots, assists, touches etc.,

To be able to use the interactive features of the presentation, either download it or select the full-screen option (bottom right of the box).

This is still a work in progress but gives some interesting details about the key stats at each club.  For Swansea, despite only playing the equivalent of 12.5 games (1,172 minutes) Mark Gower had the most assists with 5 (I'll come back to how Gower became 'The most creative player in Europe' in a later post).

Some of the other stats of interest include:
  • Song topping Arsenal's figures for both Assists and Tackles
  • Silva having 15 assists for Man City, two more than any other player
  • Fellaini winning more than twice as many tackles as any other Everton player
  • Suarez making only 3 assists for Liverpool
  • Cabaye having most assists, touches, tackles and interceptions for Newcastle
  • Mulumbu having the most interceptions and winning most tackles by some distance for WBA
  • Ward having over 50% more touches than any other Wolves player
This is still a work in progress with more stats to come but is an example of how you can go from a mass of data to some useful summaries.  All figures are total activity and minutes played not factored in which will be included at a later stage when looking at activity across all teams.

Twitter: @we_r_pl
Stats: Created using data provided by Opta MCFC Analytics 
Anyone interested in knowing more about the data and process behind the stats visit my business blog: Analysis Marketing