#21 A View of the Suspended 2019/20 Season by Shots

Here’s a quick look back to see where the suspended seasons were left. I’m going to take a look at how efficient teams have been at converting shots into shots on target whilst simultaneously limiting shots on target against. How many shots a team takes is the most basic indicator of attacking output. You don’t shoot, you don’t score after all. Shots on target goes a step further to add a qualitative element to the shots. You don’t shoot on target, you don’t score.

If shots are indicative of how likely a team is to score and shots on target are even better, then we can also turn that around defensively. To win a game you need to score more goals than the opponent, which means that as well as trying to score yourself, you need to prevent the opposition from scoring. Reducing the shots conceded likely reduces the chances to concede a goal, and reducing the shots on target conceded does even better.

During a game, teams will try to maximise their own chances of scoring and reduce the opposition’s chances of scoring at the same time. A measure that captures both aspects of this sufficiently is known as the total shots ratio, with a respective total shots on target ratio as well. For a specific game, the total shot ratio is calculated for each respective team below:

Total Shot Ratio = Shots by Team / Total Shots of both Teams

Since every shot one team takes is a shot conceded by the other team, the sum of ratios for each team will always be 1. This also means that a total shots conceded ratio can be calculated, which turns out to be equal to the total shot ratio for the opposition in a single game.

This measure considers the proportion of shots you take against the total shots in a game. This means that if both teams have lots of shots, then the match is more likely to be equal. Whereas if one team takes lots of shots AND stops the opponent from taking lots of shots then that must be better, which is reflected here.

I’ve taken the shot and shots on target information for each match so far in each league to calculate the total shot ratio and total shots on target ratio for each match. Although not every team has played each other just yet, an average of these per game ratios was easiest to represent how each team has performed so far. Teams with high total shots on target ratios are likely to be the stronger teams in the league. Teams with higher total shots on target ratios than total shots ratios appear to be more efficient in terms of creating shots on target for themselves and limiting their opponents to just shots. Whilst teams with lower total shots on target ratios than total shots ratios seem to adhere to quantity over quality when it comes to shot selection or are susceptible to concede lots of shot on target.

Below are the results for each league, they seem to be pretty good approximations for the current league tables and manages to potentially group teams into tiers.

La Liga

La Liga 2019/20 – Total Shots Ratios and Total Shots on Target Ratios
  • Barcelona and Valencia are both getting a much higher proportion of shots on target in their matches, suggests that they perhaps are hesitant to shoot and rather manufacture better chances. Or they are great at limiting their opponents to settling for off target shots
  • Sevilla, Eibar and Espanol are at the opposite end of the spectrum, pretty inefficient at both ends
  • Real Sociedad are deserving of their top 4 place and Bilbao arguably should be better off than their mid table place suggests

Serie A

Serie A 2019/20 – Total Shots Ratios and Total Shots on Target Ratios
  • Yet another reason why Atalanta are so good this year, they create shots on target at a higher rate than their opponents more than anyone else in the league
  • 2nd down to 7th consists of the remaining European challengers and Sampdoria, who actually sit 16th! Potentially unlucky to be that far down based on shot counts

Premier League

Premier League 2019/20 – Total Shots Ratios and Total Shots on Target Ratios
  • Man City and Chelsea lead the way but are both pretty inefficient considering their shot dominance.
  • Liverpool have clearly been the best team in the league and are 3rd here, with a suggestion they have been one of the more efficient teams. This goes to show that game state can have an impact on shot counts.
  • Doesn’t look so good for Tottenham/Arsenal who are actually below 0.5 for Total Shots on Target Ratios, either by chance or design they both aren’t getting shots on target as much as top half sides expect let alone Champions League teams.

Ligue 1

Ligue 1 2019/20 – Total Shots Ratios and Total Shots on Target Ratios
  • Lille are way up there almost with Paris which bodes well for them!
  • Lyon look to be an efficient mid table team, which goes with their below par season so far. Expected them up with Marseille/Lille at least.

Bundesliga

Bundesliga 2019/20 – Total Shots Ratios and Total Shots on Target Ratios
  • Top 4 looks as expected, with Gladbach’s incredibly efficient shot to shots on target helping them keep pace.
  • The bottom half seems to be pretty inefficient, Hertha don’t appear to like shooting on target that much..

All data from: http://www.football-data.co.uk

@TLMAnalytics

#14 What Defines a Successful Season?

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No matter what happens, Liverpool’s season is a success.

With the best Premier League title race going down to the last day of the season, it’s a large contrast to last season where Manchester City had the league wrapped up and were aiming for 100 points. They became the Premier League team with the most points in a season, beating Chelsea’s 04/05 95 points by 5 points, arguably becoming the most successful Premier League team. They were so good that it’s not such a surprise that this year Manchester City are on 95 points with a game to play, potentially getting 98 points and becoming the team with the second most points scored the year after smashing the record last year. The surprise of this year is that despite Manchester City being so good, the title is still going down to the final day. Liverpool have got 94 points with a game to play and a win will bring them up to 97 points, becoming at least the team with the third most points, depending on how Manchester City’s game turns out. We are likely seeing two of the top three premier league sides ever in the same season, with the best team being one of these teams last year! It’s truly an incredible season and hopefully we appreciate how good these teams are.

This brings us to the imminent question and judgement on the whole season that comes from these last games. One team will be champions and one team will not. One team’s season will be a success and one team’s won’t. That may seem unfair since as discussed, these could be two of the three best teams to be seen in the Premier League.

However, there are of course more trophies to be won and means to success than just the Premier League. Manchester City got 100 points last year, on course for 98 points this year, have already won the Carabao Cup, Community Shield and are in the FA Cup final. They are on course for the domestic treble and the only team to get more points than them in a season were themselves last year, but they got knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals to Tottenham. Which people are keen to focus on, despite domestic success once again Manchester City failed in Europe. The criticism is fair, Manchester City were favourites to beat Tottenham over two legs but they didn’t, largely due to prioritising the league over their first leg match. That’s where the problem with success lies, Manchester City were going for the Quadruple and looks likely they will have to settle for a domestic treble. This just shows how high their standards are and what perceived success is for a team of their quality. With two games to go, one in the League and one in the FA Cup final, from here they expect to go on to win both. However, if they don’t they already have the joint second highest points total and have won the Carabao Cup, this is probably not successful considering how close they got to all of their goals but is one hell of a season with all the chance to do the same again next year.

In comparison and with the incredible Champions League semi-finals just behind us, Liverpool have made it to the Champions League final for the second time in two years and are favourites to win this time against Tottenham. Liverpool are in contention to win the Premier League and the Champions League this year, that is an incredible achievement in itself. They lost to the Real Madrid three-peat side with Cristiano Ronaldo and without Mohamed Salah last year, as expected. Most teams don’t get to a single European final, let alone get to back to back finals. They have managed to beat Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich and Barcelona on their way to the final, even with Lionel Messi largely pulling the semi-final tie away from them in the first leg, they were the better team across both legs and you can’t argue they don’t deserve to be there.

As a worst-case scenario for the finish to this season, if Liverpool lose in their final Premier League match and lose the Champions League final to Tottenham, they will still have the fourth highest points total in a season and have got to back to back Champions League finals. Even at worst case scenario, you could argue that’s a successful season. They are expected to win the Champions League and beat Wolves on the final day, ultimately getting 97 points and coming second to the second-best team in the Premier League. Their expected finish to the season is definitely a success. If Manchester City were to drop points and Liverpool won the League title, doing the Premier League and Champions League double whilst getting the second highest points total in a season would cement this team among the Premier League’s best. It’s not possible to on one hand potentially be considered the best ever, but also potentially be considered to have an unsuccessful season based on 2 games of football. No matter what happens, Liverpool’s season is a success.

@TLMAnalytics

#13 The Top 4 Race

At the end of 2018, Liverpool were 7 points clear of Manchester City with the title fully in their hands after Man City’s slip up over Christmas. Tottenham were only 2 points behind City and arguably had to be considered in the title race too based on points alone. Chelsea were a further two points behind Spurs and while not honestly title contenders, they were very much in control of the final Champions League spot in fourth. Arsenal and Man Utd were in seemingly no mans land behind the top 4 but ahead of the bottom 14.

Figure 1: Premier League table @ 31/12/2018

This was halfway through the season, and it looked like we weren’t going to have a title race or even a top 4 race at all. Fast forwards ~10 more games, and things look a whole lot different. The two at the top have cemented themselves as the only title challengers, whilst Spurs and Chelsea have been dragged back into a race for fourth by the upturn in form of both Arsenal and Man Utd. It makes the remaining games of the season all the more meaningful.

Figure 2: Premier League table @ 29/03/2019

I’m going to focus on the top 4 race, with only four points separating Spurs I 3rd from Chelsea in 6th, take a look at each team’s chances and suggest who might miss out.

Spurs:  

Up until the end of 2018, Spurs were having the best season ever. Despite the fact that they are still playing Home games at Wembley, having several injury problems to Kane, Alli and not having a central midfield, they have managed to grind out win after win. It seems that after perhaps over performing the first half of the season to keep up with the top 2, they have regressed to the level that you would expect them to be in terms of points. Spurs are comfortably behind City and Liverpool but better than the rest in recent seasons, and the table now reflects that.

It has really only been the last 4 games that has clawed Spurs back, losing to Burnley and Southampton really only being the terrible unexpected results. But surround that with a loss to Chelsea and a lucky draw to Arsenal, two rivals for the top 4 and 1 point out of 12 will stop any team in their tracks.

Looking forwards, Spurs have still got to play away to the top 2, so could have a huge influence on where the title goes. But these aren’t the games that they should be worrying about. Moving into a new stadium midway through a season isn’t the norm and considering they have 5 winnable home games left, how well they settle into New White Hart Lane will determine whether they comfortably remain in 3rd or make things hard for themselves and rely on the rest faltering too.

Still in the Champions League, however they face Manchester City in the quarters so wouldn’t rely on that too heavily.

Arsenal:

So far, the first season without Arsene Wenger hasn’t gone as bad as it could have, they have always been comfortably a top 6 team but it was still a question whether they would be able to challenge for top 4. They seem to be one of the most polarizing teams when playing home or away this season. The last time they didn’t win a home game was in November and the last time they won an away game that wasn’t Huddersfield was in November. Arsenal at the Emirates are a completely different beast to otherwise.

In 2019, they’ve won all 6 of their home games but only 1 out of 4 away games (v Huddersfield). Admittedly drawing away to Spurs and deserving to win and losing away to Manchester City isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but losing to West Ham isn’t great. Recent form has been fantastic as a result, you know what you’ll get with Arsenal at home and anything could happen away.

Their remaining fixtures look great on paper, arguably the easiest in the league. The highest placed team they face is Wolves and they play Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Brighton all at home. Home form isn’t an issue and would expect to win all those games, however that means they still have 5 away games to play against mid table sides, the level of teams just below the top 6 but not going to get relegated. West Ham are also in that group.

To keep their top four spot, Arsenal will have to be better away from home. It’s non-negotiable as they will likely need more than 9-12 points out of the remaining 8 games.

Manchester United:

United have just appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their permanent manager, which doesn’t come as a surprise after the form that he has brought with him. After, cutting the 10-point gap to Spurs down to only 4 points in 2019 and progressing through to the Champions League quarter finals after beating Paris St Germain, it doesn’t seem like he could have done any more. The change in mindset around Old Trafford since Mourinho left has been exactly what they needed to try to turn their slow start around.

In 2019 they’ve won 5 of their 6 away games (including a 1-3 win away in Paris), losing away to Arsenal where we’ve established they’re pretty good. But only won half of their 4 home games, drawing to Liverpool and Burnley. The style of play that OGS has got Man Utd playing reflects the results pretty well, giving license to a mobile front three of Martial, Rashford and Lingard with Pogba supporting from behind is a devastating counter attacking team that relies on playing high defensive lines with lots of space behind them to exploit. Away from home it’s easier to set up this way due to the home team having more confidence, however when teams come to Old Trafford it seems as though if they set up to not to lose and deny United space in behind then they find it harder to break teams down.

This hasn’t been such a problem so far as they’ve managed to not lose when they can’t win for the most part. United only play 3 more games away from home, Wolves, Everton and Huddersfield, and you wouldn’t expect Wolves or Huddersfield to allow much space behind their defence. Whilst Everton have been much more robust defensively this year despite appearances.

With 5 games as home, they will need to improve their home form to push into the top 4. Though they will be playing Manchester City and Chelsea at Old Trafford, it will depend on how results have been up to that point but potentially all three of these teams will see these as must win games and that could bode well for United if City and Chelsea both push forward a bit too much trying to win the game.

They unfortunately have been drawn against Barcelona in the quarter final of the Champions League, however we also didn’t give them any chance against Paris St Germain and look what happened.

Chelsea:

Chelsea are a peculiar team, they have got much of the same team that has won multiple Premier League titles but every other season they seem to look disinterested. This has started to look like one of those seasons. By the end of 2018, they looked to be well established as the fourth best team in the league, however that was probably due to Man Utd and Arsenal underperforming rather than Chelsea doing anything exceptional. Since the two below them have gone on a great run of form, Chelsea haven’t been able to respond. They are an incredibly inconsistent team and it seems their performance depends on Maurizio Sarri’s mood or ability to motivate his players, which he claims he can’t.

In 2019 they’ve had pretty poor form, and not exactly for you’d expect of a top four side. They’ve won 4 and lost 4 of their last 10 games, two losses include 6-0 and 4-0 thrashings by Manchester City and Bournemouth both away from home. Aside from those, they’ve lost to Everton and Arsenal and only beaten Fulham away this year. The most worrying thing is the lack of goals, they’ve only scored 2 goals away (against Fulham) this whole year. Whilst at home looks okay at best, beating Spurs, Newcastle and Huddersfield and drawing with Wolves and Southampton.

Chelsea have a really bad problem in football away from home where they can’t seem to score goals and let in way too many. Whilst at home they can’t seem to score enough, but don’t let too many in either. Looking into more detail as to why this is happening might be worthwhile here, as they’re regularly playing (arguably) the best defensive midfielder in the world albeit out of position and an incredible controller of the game behind him. That combination shouldn’t be getting overrun in midfield.

Chelsea still have to go away to Liverpool and Man Utd which sounds scary, though they do have winnable home games and so need to win those if they want to remain in the top four race.

Overview:

Spurs – Focus on 5 winnable home games at their new stadium

Arsenal – Need to bring home form away with them as 5 tricky mid table away games remaining

Man Utd – Need to do better at home, more dominant with the ball to break down teams

Chelsea – Open up more at home to try to win games, get tighter away and don’t collapse.