Juventus likely to turn around, history of xG underperformers

Article at World Soccer Talk:

I found 12 clubs who had similarly good underlying numbers but a gap between real and expected goals of at least five. Those teams historically bounced back strongly from their slow starts. Of the 12, 10 clubs finished in a higher league position than they were in at the six-week point; only one finished lower.

This group includes some of the great comeback stories of the last five years. Udinese marched from 20th at the end of Sept. 2010 to finish fourth in Serie A. Arsenal roared back to third place and another Champions League berth after a slow start to their 2011 Premier League campaign. Everton and Marseille both went from 20th to the top half of their leagues, while Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan won their league titles going away after facing some early competition.

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Finishing Study: Why Do Barcelona and Real Madrid Overperform Expected Goals?

Article at Washington Post:

In the weighted average, these 50 players scored about 52 goals above expectation for Real Madrid or Barcelona, and they scored about 41 goals above expectation for other clubs. This result suggests that most—perhaps 75 to 80 percent—of the “superteam” effect is a relatively simple equation. Real and Barca spend large amounts of money to buy players who are excellent finishers as well as being elite in other aspects of the game, and there is nothing surprising about guys who cost over $50 million clinically dispatching a few extra chances. They do the same playing for Udinese, Arsenal or Valencia.

While this is broadly true at the population level, there is one striking exception. Gonzalo Higuaín has simply been a different kind of player since leaving Real Madrid for Napoli two years ago. He had been one of the most deadly finishers in La Liga, scoring 75 non-penalty goals from 263 shots, beating his expected goals (58 xG) by nearly 20. For Napoli Higuaín has scored 27 of 191 shots, exactly matching his 21 expected goals. Indeed, Higuaín accounts for a significant amount of the variation between “superteam” finishing and “other club” finishing. While greats like Gareth Bale, Luis Suárez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have maintained finishing rates around their career averages, this is not true for every player equally.

Alan Pardew for Manager of the Year

ESPN: Appreciating Alan Pardew’s Great Season

Again, this improvement in attack looks less like a fluke and more like something the manager helped to engineer. Pardew is far from a radical or innovative tactician, but he has shown the key managerial ability to tailor relatively simple systems that get the most out of his best players.

At both clubs, Pardew recognized that his strongest attacking players, midfielders Moussa Sissoko at Newcastle and Yannick Bolasie at Palace, were most effective with the ball at their feet in the open field. He therefore constructed counterattacking setups aimed at striking quickly, tactics that played easily to his players’ strengths.

The statistics bear this out. Not only did Pardew’s sides create more shots from dangerous positions, but they created more shots off fast-moving, direct attacks.

Why Manchester City Will Recover

Washington Post: Manchester City’s slump is going to end

For now, talk of a crisis looks overblown. Manchester City may be on a 4-3-5 run, but the club’s goal difference over that span is plus-six (21-15). The bad stretch has been marked by an inability to pull out close wins while running roughshod over weaker teams in victories. The other issue has been losses in which Manchester City had the better of the balance of chances. By expected goals, an estimate of chance quality based on shot location and several other factors, City has created more than its opponents in nine of these twelve matches despite claiming points from only seven of them. Some of these differences are very small, and so nine victories would be unlikely, but this shows that Manchester City’s primary problem has not been the creation of good scoring chances.

How Philippe Coutinho Drove Liverpool’s Turnaround

ESPN: Freeing Coutinho in the 3-4-2-1 turned Liverpool’s season

The engine of this return to form has been Philippe Coutinho. When Rodgers first instituted the 3-4-2-1, the headline change was the use of Raheem Sterling in a lone striker position. Yet it has become clear that Coutinho’s role is the indispensable one. The Brazilian playmaker has typically been joined by a goal scorer (usually Adam Lallana) in the duo behind the striker, meaning that Rodgers’ trust is on Coutinho to carry the creative load.

We can see the extent of the Brazilian’s contributions by looking at the passes he has attempted and completed into dangerous areas. When a pass is completed into a region that includes the center of the penalty area and extends a little past the top, there is a chance of at least 1 in 3 that this pass will lead to a shot attempt. The map shows the likelihood of a shot resulting from an attacking move following a completed pass to any location on the pitch. The red zone in the center of the box is clearly distinguishable.

How Luis Suarez Made Barcelona’s Attack Unbeatable

ESPN: How Barcelona integrated Luis Suarez into their attack

As usual, Barcelona fill the center of the penalty area with good chances. No other club in Europe has as many shot attempts from the danger zone in league play. Barcelona have attempted 216 DZ shots; England’s Manchester City have the second-most (194) but City have played two more matches than Barcelona.

The key to Barcelona’s dominance in attack is simple. Their front line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez has no equal in world football on paper, but what is impressive here is how Suárez has been integrated into the attack without taking opportunities away from either Messi or Neymar. In fact, he seems to have made them both better. It was to be expected that Suárez (3.1 per 90) would attempt and assist more danger zone shots on a per-minute basis than his predecessor, Alexis Sánchez (2.4 per 90). But strikingly Messi and Neymar have also picked up in chance production at the same time.

The Value of a Corner Kick (Part 2)

Washington Post: The Value of a Corner Kick

There is, then possible attacking value from a corner kick conceded. The more players a team commits forward to playing the corner, the more vulnerable they are to a quick counterattack up the gut.

From the roughly 13,000 corner kicks which did not result in a shot, about 1,800 lead to a counterattack that reached the opposition final third. There were 526 shots from counterattacks off corners and 72 of them were scored. That is a scoring rate about 40 percent better than average. This means that when a team concedes a chance from a counterattack, it is often a high quality chance like McCarthy’s.