GC Analytics: Football data vizzies!

I havent had the time to write any articles of any kind lately so i thought i would post some recent data visuals i have sent out to various clients over the past few weeks with some brief explanations of what they entail, enjoy and any questions feel free to contact me on my social media channels.

A recent model of mine i have been working on is an expected points model some of which i have posted on here before (search this site and you will find explanations for the model). This one is an updated SkyBet League 1 table. I compile these concurrently for all English based leagues and these are a useful tool in seeing how a team ‘should’ be doing and i keep these up to date on a weekly basis.

These are my brand new pass sonars inspired by the guys at @AnalysisEvolved. They are designed to show the pass directions of a team. This example is of PSG in a 3-4-2-1 shape. Again i can compile these on any team in the world if i have the data. Below is Thiago Silva’s individual pass sonar.

The first graphic in this set is an xG timeline designed to show the xG of two teams in a certain game and the second and third graphics are pass maps of the two teams from the same game.

This viz is showing Brentford’s Neal Maupay’s shot map so far this season (it needs updating as it is from earlier on in the season).

This screenshot is from a recent opposition report for a few clients i compiled. This shot shows a brief set piece analysis but is part of a detailed 20 page report.

Another xG graphic this time showing Aston Villa’s rolling xG and xGA for the season so far.

RB Leipzig’s ELO rating throughout the last few years this one created using Python software.

Using a mathematical equation called a convex hull we can show the positions that a given player seems to intercept the ball on average this viz shows Hernandez and Pavard’s success for France at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and was inspired by David Sumpter a well known mathematician after i had read his book Soccermatics.

Again using a convex hull we can determine some passing networks in the Spanish team against Russia and once this is from the 2018 World Cup.

Above is some tactical analysis from the Dortmund Bayern game.

And finally player radars. These are becoming an increasingly popular tool when scouting players and a lot of data is able to shown in one eye pleasing visual.

Gareth Cooper

GC Analytics

Part 2: Using Expected Points & Goal Difference to predict a league table

In my previous post on Expected Points I discussed the differing metrics I can use in roughly trying to predict the outcome of a league season in the format of a final league table. Due to the length of part one on the EPL I decided it would be easier to do a second post rather than bore everyone to tears on the first post but thanks for a massive response all the same! For the explanations of the parameters and metrics used in compiling these tables I suggest you refer back to the first post which can be found here https://wp.me/p8dqLB-8l

EFL Championship and SkyBet Leagues 1 and 2

Having been involved in differing capacities with clubs below the EPL, alongside supporting the best team in the midlands, Aston Villa (don’t @ me!), I have not only a vested interest in the Championship and League’s 1 and 2 (I will leave the National League out of these posts for now for post length reasons) but I also compile and collect these 3 league’s data throughout the season and find that they are very interesting when it comes to using various measures when producing data work.

Although there is some work published I believe that there is nowhere near enough detailed data and stat work around given the availability of various data sources however publicly available data is few and far between in all fairness. These three leagues are all well supported of course and fans maybe don’t get enough stat work done, or publicly published anyway, on their clubs but especially fans from clubs in Leagues 1 and 2. I should say that the data I used is up until and including the 6th of October’s fixtures in all three leagues.

More on Leagues 1 and 2 later but I will start with the Championship and alongside the tables I will sum up little about what I found and then see what possibilities could end up taking place come the end of the season.

EFL Championship

Champ xGD
EFL Championship goal difference table

As I mentioned in the first post on this subject I had my doubts about using expected goal difference as a valid measure of a team’s final league position but in the process of exploring the data and using the metrics went along it kind of grew on me a little.

Dean smith
Will Dean Smith’s departure for Aston Villa radically effect Brentford’s promotion hopes?

Brentford fans will be pleased as punch to see their side at the top of the goal difference table but they might want to hold off due to the fact manager Dean Smith has now left the club to join Aston Villa and this of course will most probably have a huge impact on where their season goes from here. A +22 goal difference would have earned you a final league position of 5th or 6th position if we go, as we have done in our parameter, by last season’s final league table. Wolves won the league with a +43 GD with the nearest being another promoted club Cardiff City with +30 GD and of course it’s still possible to achieve Cardiff’s GD but unlikely anyone will touch Wolves’ 17/18 season total surely.

My doubts creep back in again when I see the high pressing Marco Bielsa’s Leeds team finishing the season with a GD of +14 when they already have a +13 GD at the time of writing but there is a long way to go of course and goal differences will sway, some considerably,  as the season progresses. Sheffield United have started very well but xG doesn’t always match up with the reality but in theory a playoff spot, if not more, is easily attainable for Chris Wilder’s men.

Sheff wed
Sheffield Wednesday bottom of a table? I have my doubts

So who should be worried? Well Hull and Ipswich (yes really) could be in trouble as most certainly will relegation favorites Rotherham United but the surprise (okay MASSIVE surprise!) is seeing Sheffield Wednesday at the bottom of this table. This is just not going to happen Wednesday are currently 6th in the table with a GD of +1 so how is it feasible they could finish bottom? They have conceded 15 goals with an xGA of 18.1 (9th highest in the Championship) so still conceding 3.1 less than predicted, a small margin granted. And they are exceeding there xG by 4.3 goals (xG is 11.7 and actual goals scored is 15) again this isn’t a great number but it is still 8th highest in the league, not bad (I am planning on publishing all leagues current xG numbers when I get a chance). The issue is essentially conceding 18 goals and scoring 19 isn’t sustainable over a 46 game season and if this continues they will find themselves slipping down the table somewhat however not to the extent that the table above shows. Wigan, Bristol City, Stoke, Villa in 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th respectively all have similar records so the although the final table is skewed somewhat it’s easy to see how, given the four teams positions noted above, Wednesday could end up much lower down the league come May next year.

Anyway let’s move on to the final expected points table to see if we can correlate anything the goal difference table tells us.

Champ xP
EFL Championship expected points table

Now this is more like it. For me this passes the eye test quite well. The top 6 sits quite well with me and the fight for the title, I expect, will be just as close as the table suggests although Sheffield United winning the title may be a stretch for me.

Sheff utd
Some numbers suggest otherwise but I think Sheffield United should be taken seriously this season

 

 

Brentford as we have discussed may have issues now Smith has departed. In general the top five are the same give or take (yes I know there are is no such thing as 77.04 points but you can see what we are trying to achieve here) 7th-18th is again very familiar and also the bottom 4. Sheffield Wednesday have managed to get out of the bottom four and finish 20th,  probably more believable but I still have my doubts they will finish that low we shall see.

Summary

The two tables do correlate in general but with complications for teams in regards to managerial changes, injuries and schedules etc there can always be a massive swing either way on how things can change especially with two or three big wins changing goal differences up and down the table. I like the expected points tables in general and although being massively swayed by the teams xG numbers these are consistently more reliable than using current points per game. I would expect Leeds and Middlesborough to better their positions in my table but I’m interested to see how Brentford, Sheffield United and Derby progress and also how the Dean Smith effect at Aston Villa pans out.

SkyBet League 1

SkyBet L1 xP
SkyBet League 1 goal difference and expected points tables

Four out of the last five seasons have seen the League 1 title won by a team with a points total of 90 or more and Barnsley look on course, even at this early stage, to achieve this, well maybe.

Image result for barnsley fc v luton town
Barnsley earned another 3 points against Luton on Saturday

With the lowest xGA conceded (12.5 actual conceded is 9) and the highest xG at 23.1 (they exceed this by 2.9 with 26 goals scored) and scoring at 2.1 goals per game the numbers are looking really good for the Oakwell outfit so far who are in 3rd.  Portsmouth and Peterborough lead the way currently and both of those sides are looking good and with the latter’s expected goal difference of -5 in my final table this again questions my thinking but 19 goals conceded with an xGA of 21.2 kind of skews the table given that Posh have currently scored 30 goals and exceed their xG by a whopping 8.8 this then answers the question of my table somewhat in terms of goal differences but again slightly questions the sustainability of Steve Evans’ teams goal scoring and goal conceding ratios over the course of a season.

Luton Town are another side that has real potential in at least achieving a playoff spot. In their first season back in League 1 and in both the goal difference tables and the expected points table the Hatters are predicted to end up in the higher echelons. With a predicted GD of +17 (last season this would get you 4th-5th position and the predicted 77 points would get you the same position wise) Nathan Jones has a real team spirit and huge work ethic ingrained into his side which I believe will all help in them in achieving a somewhat surprising top 5 finish.

_91527152_nathan_jones-4
Luton Town manager Nathan Jones

Sunderland,  Southend and a resurgent Blackpool all look to have decent chances of a playoff berth each come the end of the season. At the other end of the table Plymouth, who finished 7th last season but currently sit bottom of the table this season, already look worryingly frail at the back with a rather large 2.18 xGA per match (actually conceding 1.83) and with a huge total xGA of 26.3 after 12 games played they have been very lucky to concede just the 19 goals maybe they have a kind of alright defensive policy after all? Or does it say more about the shooting ability of the teams they have faced? You can decide (Hint: it’s not the first one) anyway it doesn’t make for optimistic reading and I predict them to finish bottom, and some way short of 23rd, in both of my predictive tables.

These results and metrics used are probably shoved to the back of any clubs data driven stat work at this level of football and is probably paid no attention to at all when in reality this could be massively important and relevant in a clubs performance now and in a predictive nature.

SkyBet League 2

SkyBet L2 xP
SkyBet League 2 goal difference and expected points tables

So to the last league being covered in this article SkyBet League 2 and one of the most competitive with a standard being very similar throughout the league. There are some interesting outcomes here but let’s start at the top as it stands.

cowley brothers
Nick (left) and Danny Cowley have got Lincoln firing again

One thing is for sure so far this season. The Cowley brothers and Lincoln City side have found their promotion winning form when winning the National League two years ago. Finishing 7th last season, The Imps already have just over half the points they achieved in the whole of last season. With an xG total of 14.3 this season Lincoln have scored 20 goals at the time of writing (games inc. 6th of October remember) a plus of 5.7 xG means they sit pretty at the top of League 2 and also predicted to keep that top spot come the end of the season with a points total of 83.68 (or 84 if you like your numbers rounded up) a points total that last year would have got your team a 4th place finish stretching to 3rd (Wycombe finished in 4th with 84 points last season).

I can’t quite get my head around a +18 GD when winning a title in this league but this is what MK Dons are predicted to achieve in my goal difference table and its odd I agree especially given Lincoln already have +17 currently but in achieving fourth last season Wycombe did finish with the same goal difference so again although doubt creeps in it is still feasible, maybe. Speaking of MK Dons I have them coming very close in the expected points table with a predicted total of 78 points which last season would see you end up in either 5th or 4th position so comparing my table with last season’s it won’t be far off.

Looking up and down there isn’t much that sticks out between the two tables in terms of positioning and GD is pretty good as well with Grimsby predicting to have a -18 GD (23rd and 24th ended with -13 and -15 respectively last season) and could Mansfield end up with the same amount of points as last year (72) as predicted in my table? Can Notts County recover from a disastrous start to the season and end up escaping to 20th position with 51 points by the end of the season? in any instance it is more likely than them achieving 77 points as they did last year.

In the last two seasons 46 points or above would see you safe from relegation but using my measures 50-52 will be the probable cut off this year and the likes of Macclesfield (currently on 4 points), Cambridge (8), Cheltenham (9) and the aforementioned Notts County (12) will not be wanting to hear that I’m sure.

So there we have it I hope I have cleared up a few things and maybe reaffirmed some peoples thinking and hopes for the season ahead or maybe I have opened a few eyes to what is possible when using these metrics alongside the parameters I have used when compiling these tables.

Probably worth putting a few quid on anyway, maybe.

Gareth Cooper

GC Analytics

If there are any queries or questions in regards to the past two articles on this subject or others involving xG, xA or any predictive measures you have seen and if you think they may help when scouting teams or players or even if you think I could help your club or department in any of these areas feel free to get in touch.

 

Newcastle United v Chelsea: Did Sarri’s team make hard work of getting the win on Sunday?

Hazard after scoring his penalty.

Watching the first 10 minutes of the game at the Sports Direct arena on Sunday it was clear to us all that the tone was set for the rest of the game. Rafa Benitez had clearly set his team up to not lose the game but afterwards claimed he also wanted to try to win the game, the latter didnt appear to be the case at all.

Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri also remarked that Newcastle were very compact which made his sides efforts all that more harder. But were his tactics enough to really hurt Newcastle’s back five?

Formations and tactics

Chelsea though made hard work of their 1-2 win and almost played into Newcastle’s hands. Having 73% of the possession compared to United’s 27% Chelsea dominated the ball but huffed and puffed and were frustrated by Newcastle and the 5-4-1 shape they had employed.

Newcastle and Chelsea line ups

Sarri again went with his much favoured 4-3-3 set up with the excellent Jorginho at the base of the midfield three. N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovačić were stationed either side of the Italian international and had clear licence to play as close to the penalty area as possible with what seemed minimal defensive responsibilities. Eden Hazard was given a free role across the final third and this is possible due to Marcus Alonso playing as high as possible from left back effectively taking up Hazards position on the left hand side with Kovačić able to move inside but also supporting on that left side. Pedro likes to keep the width made possible by the fact Ceśar Azpilicueta isnt in the same mould as Alonso and tends to play a more withdrawn full back role. Alvaro Morata seems almost redundant at times in this set up and this probably needs to be addressed if he is to be more involved in games.

Sarri watches on from the sideline

This Chelsea side is very well balanced with a clear focus of attacking down the left hand side. In the first 20 minutes of the game Chelsea attacked down Newcastle’s right 62% of the time compared to centrally (28%) and only 10% down the left. A clear focus indeed.

Chelsea’s attacking shape

N’Golo Kanté- suited to the role?

In the graphic above we can see how Chelsea group two players in the inside left and right positions when the ball is with Hazard. Alonso is not as far forward in this graphic but for the majority he would be easily on the back of Newcastle’s Yedlin.

N’Golo Kanté has a new role in this side, favouring a more attacking mindset and given his boundless energy he is still able to fulfil his defensive duties. He is tending to hang around on the edge of the box and if he does this Kovačić and Jorginho are reserved in their attacking intent especially the latter, more on him later. But is this what suits Kanté the most? In my opinion he isnt effective enough in this role and his qualities are wasted in the attacking phase.

In the second half Sarri realised that Pedro wasnt in the game and so decided on dropping Kanté back slightly to enable the Spaniard to fill these spaces on the edge of the box the problem was Azpilicueta was very reluctant to fully overlap like his fellow countryman Alonso on the opposite side probably knowing that Pedro has very little enthusiasm when it comes to defending.

Kovačić linked very well with Alonso and Hazard on the left hand side during the game with some slick interchanging of passes to get Alonso into crossing positions.

Jorginho- The pass master

In the past i have championed the fact i would love to see Jorginho in the Premier League and although i thought he may fit in with Guardiola’s 4-3-3 system at Manchester City but i now see why Chelsea brought him in from Napoli. He fits in perfectly at Chelsea and although his defensive qualities are at times questionable, and he is no Fernandinho in terms of tackling etc, but if he gets Kanté beside him in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 hybrid maybe, he has the ability to control and dictate games with his passing, especially his progressive passing into Hazard and co, something that Fernandinho severly lacks.

My pass map above is a carbon copy of Jorginho’s pass maps from his time at Napoli under Sarri. The similarities of the central positioning within the vacinity of the centre circle is uncanny and as his dot size shows he completed 155 passes in Sundays game.

Newcastle’s Mo Diamé did his upmost to stifle the Italians movements but to no avail and although third behind Hazard and Pedro in regards to xGChain (chance involvement) he really is going to be key to Chelsea’s progression this season.

Could it have been easier?

Newcastle v Chelsea xG timeline

Judging by my xG timeline above we can see Chelsea really applied more pressure starting around the 61st minute and on 76 minutes Eden Hazard duly dispatched his penalty after a clumsy foul on him by Newcastle defender Schär.

Up until halftime Chelsea made difficult work in breaking The Magpies down and this theme continued into the second half until the time bracket mentioned above.

Referring back to the pass map i would expect Chelsea to have more width across the pitch from Azpilicueta to Alonso (yes i know i gave reasons in regards to the former earlier on in the article). Pedro although started the game wide but as the game grew he became a tad narrower and, as Kanté retreated, even more so.

Given Newcastle had five across the back i get why Sarri employed the tactic of trying to play a more narrow shape than usual. But Chelsea slightly played into Newcastle’s hands in playing this way partly due to the fact their was barely any width provided due to the issues with Pedro and Azpilicueta but also due to Hazard coming in off the attacking wide left position.

Newcastle had enough personnel in the full back and wide areas to cope and forced Chelsea inside a ploy that worked pretty well until Yedlin had put into his own net on 87 minutes to hand Chelsea the 3 points.

Gareth Cooper

GC Analytics

The Scouting Network

Take a look at the services that thescoutingnetwork.co.uk can offer your club

Opposition reports, detailed data and mathmatical driven scouting, traditional scouting, pre match analysis reports and so much more and all at very competitive prices.

Keep an eye out for the blog on the website in the next week or so for detailed breakdowns of all the metrics we use when compiling our pre match data driven analysis reports if you have seen my articles and other work posted on here and you have been interested in finding out how it is done go to thescoutingnetwork.co.uk to find out more you won’t be dissapointed.

Gareth Cooper

Data Analyst @ thescoutingnetwork.co.uk