Borussia Dortmund are Bundesliga title contenders

Article at SB Nation:

Instead of discarding what worked well, Tuchel has added improved possession attacking and positional play to the side’s arsenal without diminishing their strengths. (For more on Tuchel’s “positional play” style of attacking, see this analysis from Tom Payne.) While Dortmund only drew with Hoffenheim on Wednesday, the club’s one goal exemplifies what Tuchel has added. With Hoffenheim trying to sit back and defend a precious one-goal lead, Dortmund strung together multiple passes, switching the point of attack and then finding a way through Hoffenheim’s back line for a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang big chance.

These sorts of attacks, where Dortmund create chances from established deep possession, are new. I created a stat for chances off established possession, tracking attacking moves to see if a club completed four passes within the final 40 yards without passing the ball out of the attacking zone. Under Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund tended to be in the upper-middle of the pack in shots from established final 40 possession. Suddenly this year Dortmund are elite.

Advertisements

The Bundesliga Is the World’s Most Exciting League

Published at SB Nation.

How the Bundesliga Became the World’s Most Exciting League:

So what is going on here? The Bundesliga features more goal-scoring, more shooting, and much more attacking at speed than any of the four other largest leagues in Europe. It seems unlikely this should just be random chance.

Indeed, there is one man most responsible for the Bundesliga’s speed explosion. Jürgen Klopp. The Borussia Dortmund manager introduced his version of the high press to Germany years ago, and his ideas have spread.

Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen are all playing aggressive, high-pressing styles, while Roger Schmidt at Bayer Leverkusen has introduced a shockingly fast new style which appears to have turned Klopp’s gegenpressing up to eleven.

Tactical Analysis of Bayer Leverkusen

Published at SB Nation.

(The debut of gegenpressing statistics.)

The Breathtaking Rush of Schmidt’s Leverkusen:

The attack is structured to create shots as quickly as possible. Bayer Leverkusen have attempted 27 shots where the strike was the first action in the attacking move. That is, 27 times a Leverkusen player has recovered or won the ball and immediately looked to goal and taken his chance. On top of that, Schmidt’s men have attempted 62 shots from attacking moves of seven seconds or less. (To calculate these statistics, I have removed shots from set plays and shots off rebounds.) This is how those rates compare in the Bundesliga:

If you’re looking for a Premier League analogue, you can stop. There isn’t one. The side with the most shots to start an action this year is Sunderland, with 18. Arsenal lead in the seven seconds or less category with 42 fast shots. But Arsenal have fired off only 10 shots from the start of an attacking move, and Sunderland have just 21 attempts in the seven seconds or less bucket. If you want to see this style of football, you have to watch the Bundesliga. (Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund run closest, but they are still not nearly as quick to shoot as Leverkusen.)

Comparisons Between European Leagues

Published at SB Nation.

Shot Matrix International I: The Differences Between the European Leagues

The primary driver of England’s shot total, compared to the other largest continental leagues, is shots taken from the danger zone. That’s the old English directness right there.

If we look at shots from a wide angle inside the box, we see a very different picture. Despite the larger number of shots taken overall in the EPL, there’s no meaningful difference in total shots taken from wide areas inside the box. And when we narrow down just to shots from a difficult angle inside the box, the numbers really jump out. There are far more shots taken from those difficult angles in Spain and Italy than in England and Germany.

Shot Matrix International II: Shot and Pass Type

The zone-by-zone breakdown doesn’t teach us much. But the broader point here is that shots assisted by through-balls are attempted at massively differing rates. These tend to be extremely high-quality shots, converted at rates double or more regular shots from the same area. A successful through-ball by definition splits the defense and leaves an attacking player in space. We should expect higher rates of shot conversion in leagues where these sorts of attempts are more prevalent.

The Value of the High Press

Published at the Washington Post.

How the high press creates attacking opportunities:

What does it mean that pressing is a form of playmaking? A great pass creates a new attacking formation. It breaks up the other team’s defensive organization and forces them to respond to a new threat at a new angle. That moment where defensive organization has broken down is the moment when an attack is most dangerous. What Klopp suggests is that while a great passer can create such moments, a high press does the same. By winning the ball back in a dangerous area while the other team is still in its attacking shape, a high pressing team can start its attack with the opposition just as out of sync as they would after being cut open by a perfect pass from Luka Modric.