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.

 

Analysing goalkeepers part 2: EFL Championship, Leagues 1 and 2

Goalkeeper data analysis part 2

Following on from my previous article on using data to analyse goalkeepers in the EPL I said I would do the same for the keepers in the last of the three EFL leagues, so as promised here we go!

SkyBet Championship

Now im not going to go into all of the detail of the metrics published in my previous post as I think we all had a fair bit to read in that post so if you need a refresher I suggest you screenshot the methods and refer back.

So for the three leagues I will be showing the following-

  • Save percentage
  • AAGS (above average goals saved)
  • xGA (expected goals against)
  • adjsve% (adjusted save percentage)
  • I wont be adding in some of the other metrics like-
    • Distribution
      Coming off line
      Throws

    This is purely because I am basically then doing a lot of other peoples work for them and they would have a decent set of numbers to work from but also I have people who are relying on me for a complete set of the information above and to share all what I have wouldnt be fair on them either.

    All of the tables ahown here are based on the 6 games played so far.

    So lets start with what most pundits, analysts, players and managers probably consider the toughest league to get out of, the infamous SkyBet Championship.

    Championship save percentages

    You dont need me to tell you that Middlesbrough’s Darren Randolph has started the season in exceptional form in between the sticks for Tony Pulis’ team.

    Boro’s No.1 Darren Randolph

    Having faced 20 shots on target so far the former West Ham keeper has managed to save a whopping 18 of them and only conceding on 2 occasions hence the excellent 90% save percentage. A stat that will be backed up furthermore in the next table.

    A keeper, more importantly a young keeper, that has really caught my eye is Leeds United’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell. The 6′ 4″ 21 year old joined Leeds after being released by Middlesbrough in 2013 after spending 7 years on Teeside in the academy.

    Peacock-Farrell looks to have a bright future and under goalkeeping coach Marcos Abad, who previously worked under Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough, he has an excellent tutor. Shot stopping (18 saves out of 22 faced) is another good record to rival Randolph’s.

    Two positive features of his game I have noticed is firstly his ability to be able to read what could happen infront of him in regards to coming off of his line quickly for a big lad and secondly his willingness to come for practically every cross into the box. An impressive start from the Northern Ireland international.

    As I alluded to earlier Randolph continues to impress in this AAGS table. Having directly saved Boro of nearly 5 goals, an excellent tally indeed.

    Mulder, Dawson, Camp and Archer of Swansea, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City and Millwall respectively all boast decent records as well so far. As of course does the aforementioned Peacock-Farrell.

    Keepers in the bottom five of the table are maybe a tad hard done by as we must take into account the defensive capabilities of the players in front of them as of course we should for the keepers at the top having a decent defence in front of them, however being responsible for nearly 4 of the 9 goals your team has conceded doesnt make for good reading.

    Dean Henderson has adapted well to life at Sheffield United as has Sam Johnstone at West Brom. Early days but there are some very good goalkeepers in the Championship and their needs to be.

    SkyBet League 1

    For me this is where things get interesting. Can we find a keeper in theses type of leagues that would be capable of making a step up in class.

    Posh’s Aaron Chapman

    Peterborough United’s 6′ 4″ keeper Aaron Chapman has come to the fore after signing for The Posh in May of this year from Accrington Stanley. 28 year old Chapman has had some serious injury issues in the past but has been a shining light for Steve Evans’ side in their top of the table start to the season and with a AAGS of 7.57 he really has won his side some games already with a save percentage of 83% as having faced 30 shots and only conceding 5 goals (with an xGA of 12.51) it will be interesting to see if he can keep this kind of form up. A tall keeper who likes to come for crosses is also always a bonus.

    Another impressive keeper is Pompey’s Harrogate born Craig MacGillivray.

    Saving 19 shots of 23 faced and conceding just 3 goals with an xGA of 9.75 is another excellent return for the south coast side. After making ninety appearances for Harrogate Town MacGillivray signed a two year deal with Walsall in 2014 and then went on to play for Shrewsbury on a one year deal before joining Portsmouth in June of this year.

    I have watched him on several occasions and I have been very impressed with his decision making on coming off his line quickly and also his positioning and his stand- up-as-long-as-possible attitude when facing a one on one situation.

    He is good enough to be playing in the Championship in my opinion.

    Walsall’s Liam Roberts is another keeper I like and at only 23 he hopefully has a good future after a spending a lot of time out on loan in the Vanarama conferences in recent seasons.

    SkyBet League 2

    Topping the league at this moment in time the Cowley brothers Lincoln City team have made an excellent start to life in League 2 after gaining promotion on winning the National League title last season. A key player in the side is goalkeeper Grant Smith. The former Reading and Fulham youth team player joined Brighton’s development squad in 2012 but was released in 2014 and spells with Hayes (twice) and more recently Boreham Wood. Smith joined The Imps in June of this year and looks to have started very well indeed.

    Lincoln keeper Grant Smith

    With an AAGS ratio of 5.37 and conceding only twice with an xGA of 7.37 the early signs are good.

    Yeovil Towns on loan Chelsea keeper Nathan Baxter is also a very exciting prospect. The 6′ 3″ 19 year old has been with Chelsea since 2006 when he was 9 years old and he his thought very highly of at Cobham so I am told. Loan spells at the Met Police, Solihull Moors and Woking have helped him ease into senior football and then into League football with Yeovil.

    These early numbers that Baxter has produced are testament to his confidence in his goalkeeping ability. Having faced 20 shots conceding just 3 goals with an xGA of 8.01 is impressive for any keeper let alone a lad his age. Being responsible for keeping out 5.01 goals so far this season is credible indeed.

    In summary

    I hope these metrics and methods have been as enjoyable to read and decipher as they were for me when compiling them.

    I havent covered the National League purely for current on going reasons although I have compiled lists and so forth for it.

    Any questions do give me a shout on Twitter

    @ThatGarateyjc

    or on my LinkedIn page

    http://linkedin.com/in/gareth-cooper-b78502136

    Thanks for reading.

    Gareth Cooper

    GC Analytics

    xG and xA: Some (really) early numbers

    Oh not this again, isnt it to early for this??!

    The critics of xG (expected goals) and xA (expected assists) will be so annoyed that I have brought this up so early on in the season. In fact some of the main supporters of the two metrics will probably frown upon it as well.

    Personally, I like to start as early as possible in collecting the data and also to publish some early tables, I have my reasons and they are the following.

    • Have last seasons top players according to these metrics started the season as they left off in 17/18?
    • Are there any new players that have started the season well?
    • Given relegations and promotions are they any players who have performed well with their clubs?
      Transfers. Have any new signings started well with their new clubs?

    The EPL

    This is one reason why I like to get a look in early on.

    Mo Salah has indeed it seems carried on his form from last season in to this one. Okay i hear you, and I cant push it any further than what it is and of course xG is a minor factor in performance statistics but Salah looks to have returned from an unsettling time with Egypt at the World Cup with confidence and his performances so far have backed that up. His xA numbers arent quite their but they will be, we all know it.

    Another Liverpool man Andy Robertson has provided an assist so far and a question to be asked is does Jurgen Klopp want more of this type of attacking threat from the Scotsman this year?

    Sergio Aguero is already exceeding his xG numbers and still looking like a world class striker season after season. It should be noted the xG stat is probably irrelevant at this stage (no player will get near .90 per 90 mins all season).

    When we talk about assists in the EPL we tend to think of De Bruyne, Salah and Hazard and with KDB out for a few months it will be up to Salah and Hazard (I also expect David Silva, Lucus Moura and James Maddison to have decent numbers xA wise) to have excellent seasons in providing assists for their respective clubs.

    SkyBet Championship

    According to the pundits and a lot of professional people within English football, this is probably the toughest of the four leagues to get promoted from that I have written about in this piece.

    Dean Smith’s Brentford side impressed many people last year and they have began this season well again. With his preferred 4-3-3 shape, with Josh McEacharan in the heart of the midfield, Brentford play a quick, free flowing brand of attacking football and with Neal Maupay at centre forward and having scored 5 goals in as many games and 3 assists to boot Brentford have a striker in form and after his 17 goal haul last term Bees fans will hope it continues.

    One of the reasons I gave earlier for wanting to look at some xG numbers this early was to see if some goalscorers would adapt to their leagues after relegation. Step forward West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez. Injury hit Rodriguez looks to have come into some early form and the Championship is suited to him theres no doubt.

    Former Villa and Derby striker Andy Weimann is also playing well after his transfer to Bristol City with 5 goals exceeding his xG by 2 goals.

    Can Norwich get a good return out of the much travelled Jordan Rhodes? Can Marco Bielsa do the same with the strikers he has at Leeds United until he can get new faces in in January? Both cases are in the balance in my opinion.

    Sheffield Wednesday’s Barry Bannan is player who has the ability to change a game in the Championship but needs to improve on his assist tally from last year (3 assists) and would do well to repeat the 8 he achieved in the 16/17 season.

    Another of Bielsa’s charges at Leeds, Pablo Hernandez, is another man who is very good on the ball and has 2 assists to his name already contributing to Leeds top of the table form.

    I expect Leeds United’s Samu Saiz, QPR’ s Luke Freeman and Derby County’s Tom Lawrence to top the assist and xA tables come the end of the year especially Freeman who is more than capable of beating his 12 assists from last year.

    SkyBet League 1

    Walsall’s Andy Cook has had some very good chances to have at least 3 more goals than the two he has so far. His xG total of 5 suggests the former Carlisle man isnt finishing as well as he should do.

    On loan Nottingham Forest hitman Jason Cummings has the opposite issue he cant stop scoring. Having scored 6 goals and with an xG of 3.93 the Scotsman hasn’t had any trouble in finding the net and in doing so propelling Posh up up the table.

    Shaun Whalley’s delivery from set pieces doesnt come as a surprise to some of us hence him always having pretty decent numbers when it comes to asssits and he will pick up as the season progresses.

    Sunderland’s Liam Gooch looks to be finally finding some form and long may it continue. Gooch has 3 assists already this season and with an xA of 1.95 the signs are looking good for him if he can stay injury free.

    SkyBet League 2

    In the table above are two reasons why I like to do these tables early.

    MK Dons were relegated from League 1 last year but have began the season in League 2 unbeaten but they lack serious potentcy upfront. Kieron Agard has had some very good clear cut chances to add to his 2 goals, trust me ive seen it with my own eyes, hence his xG of 5.3. But his finishing needs a lot to desired and Paul Tisdale will need to think about this area of his squad if the Dons are to mount a serious promotion push.

    On the flip side newly promoted Tranmere have a promising goalscorer in James Norwood who has scored 5 times this season and exceeding his xG of 4.07.

    Assist wise bottom of League 1 Notts County have Dutch winger Enzio Boldewijn. The former Utrecht and Crawley Town man looks impressive early on and although mangerless after the sacking of Kevin Nolan, County shouldn’t be in the current situation come the end of the season given the squad they have to compete in League 2.

    In summary

    As I have said a great deal in this article it is still very early days in the season but I hope I have given you some insight as to what you can expect from your team in the coming season.

    xG and xA numbers are always open for criticism for different reasons but they are a good marker when looking at taking goalscoring chances and also the creation of chances by the main players who try to provide those opportunities.

    Gareth Cooper

    GC Analytics

    Style and football: Are things finally looking up for MK Dons under Paul Tisdale?

    Paul Tisdale
    Photo: MK Citzen

    Lets start from the beginning

    The appointment of Paul Tisdale at MK Dons on the 6th of June 2018 surprised some but maybe not MK Dons fans as whispers of his imminent arrival was hot on the lips of many fans who attend Stadium MK. Tisdale hadnt agreed new terms with Exeter City with whom he was the longest serving manager in English football after Arsene Wenger had left Arsenal.

    Exeter City

    Having led Exeter for the last 12 years Tisdale, for the majority, had an excellent relationship with the board and fans but cracks had started to appear with fans becoming increasingly anxious at his refusal to change his style of play. This came to a head in April away at Stevenage last season in a 3-1 loss. Fans were clearly disgruntled and chants of ‘Tisdale out’ rang across the Lamex Stadium despite Exeter sitting in fourth place in League 2. Steve Perryman, then director of football at Exeter, bizarrely started his own chant of ‘Theres only one Paul Tisdale’ which probably didn’t help matters at all.

    Fast forward to May 2018 and the aformentioned whispers were gathering pace. Darren Ferguson, Simon Grayson and then caretaker manager Keith Millen were names being mentioned in regards to the vacancy left by the unfortunate but inevitable sacking of the very likeable Dan Micciche.

    Yeh get on with it, whats changed?

    Im getting there, stay with me.

    Having spent time at Stadium MK around the first team it was clear to me that all wasnt well but the players clearly knew what was required but moral was ok considering but the legacy from the sackings of firstly Robbie Neilson then Dan Micchie to the brief stint of Keith Millen the players were asked to play in different styles with different tactics and do different things in training and all in a relatively short space of time with Micchie given from January to April to implement his ideas in an already pressurised situation with MK in a relagation fight and seemingly very little light at the end of the tunnel.

    Players and fans were together for the most part with the latter doing their upmost to stay with the team in what was looking back, inevitable relagation.

    After the Rochdale game last season Micciche had said he wanted 6 wins plus 4 more points to stay up.

    Micciche’s wishes in numbers

    Needless to say it didnt happen and Dons were relgated and big changes were needed. No matter what calculations i tried i couldnt get MK higher than 22nd.

    Example of one calculation

    Enter stage left a smartly dressed man born in Malta.

    Tisdale and a new era

    “Tisdale is renowned for ensuring his teams play short and tidy football” – Sky Sports top ten League managers 2008

    Tactically Paul Tisdale is one of, if not the best at League 2 level in regards to his teams playing style and game management.

    Tisdale’s Exeter sides in more recent seasons have played attractive, crowd pleasing football now results have varied with the highlight being a League 2 play off final last season albeit being well beaten by an excellent Marc McNulty inspired Coventry City side.

    Tisdale seemed to prefer a 4-3-3 shape whilst at Exeter but his thinking seems to have changed somewhat at MK Dons starting in pre season with variations on a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 as shown below in a pre season friendly against Oxford United

    MK Dons 4-4-1-1 vs Oxford United

    This clearly shows Tisdale’s ability to adapt to the players at his disposal and rightly so he is the manager after all.

    A summer of much needed new faces

    The signings of Jordan Moore-Taylor at centre back and the welcome return of Joe Walsh alongside him have added strength to a defence that leaked 69 league goals last season.

    But more importantly the addition of England Under 20 midfielder Jordan Houghton a confident passer and mature midfielder has been excellent business, MK Dons missed a ball playing midfielder like Houghton last year who could control the pace of a game, a much needed quality missing since the days of Darren Potter some might say. With the aid of a long awaited return from injury of Alex Gilbey the Dons midfield is finally looking much more solid.

    Ryan Harley, Lawson D’Ath, Ryan Watson, Mitch Hancox, and Robbie Simpson all came to Stadium MK all in relative quick succession it must be said and this points to Tisdale getting his house in order early so as to get plenty of time with the players and getting them into a system he believes they will be at their best in, being tactically flexible is a fantastic quality to have as a coach as well as being able to stick to a playing style of course.

    The appointments of Matt Oakley, Danny Butterfield and Tisdale’s DOF at Exeter Steve Perryman to the backroom staff is equally as important.

    Starting the campaign well

    Opening game vs Oldham (A)
    First home game vs Bury

    My pass maps above show the passing networks by MK Dons in the first two games and its clear to see how much more compact the team are this year. With the two wins one away at Oldham and the second at home to Bury setting up in a 4-2-3-1 away at Oldham and a 3-4-2-1 (both are variations on Tisdale’s favoured 4-3-3) against Bury the flexibility of the team not only reflects on the manager but also the fact the players have brought in to what he wants them to do something which was badly missing last season.

    Of course every manager wants to start a season well and as i said to people associated with the club building a winning mentality is key especially after last year and Tisdale seems to have done that so far with the Dons sitting in 3rd position in League 2 with 2 wins and and two draws after 4 games and with 6 different goal scorers already the signs are looking good.

    I sense there’s a but coming

    I have watch every game under Tisdale this year (apart from one pre season game in Spain) mostly on Wyscout due mainly to moving house and its clear things have changed for the better but im sure most Dons fans will agree that striking options are not at a premium with Chuks Aneke’s (top scorer last year with 9 league goals) future in doubt and Kieron Agard’s issues in hesitating when chances come his way this still needs to be sorted come January if no loan deals can be arranged before then with Robbie Simpson the only real option apart from the younger players Dylan Asonganyi, Sam Nombe and the pacey Brandon Thomas-Asante of course.

    I have gone on way to long and i hope its been interesting and i will revisit how things have progressed later on in the season.

    Thanks for reading!

    Gareth Cooper

    GC Analytics