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.

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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.)

Team Trends in Chance Quality

Published at SB Nation.

Shot Matrix IV: Team Trends in Chance Quality:

Now, one of the peculiarities of shot quality is that there are lots of ways, tactically, to take good shots. Arsenal are the classic example, they pass and pass, looking especially for through-balls into dangerous areas, and eventually look to “pass it into the net.” The traditional passing game is our primary model of high-quality shot-taking, but in fact it’s not the only one.

The exact opposite tactical method, the “go 4-4-2 and put crosses in” strategy, also produces high-quality shots. If your primary strategy around the box is to get the ball wide and try to play crosses into dangerous areas, you’re going to be taking relatively few low-value speculative long balls. And even though shots off crosses from close areas have lower expectation than normal shots from these areas, they’re still a lot better than shooting from outside the box or from wide areas in the 18-yard box. A bunch of those dots in the top right are Arsene Wenger’s clubs, but another good portion are Tony Pulis.

Shot Type and Location Studies

My first expected goals studies, published at SB Nation.

Shot Matrix I: Shot Location:

Shots from outside the box kind of suck. If you really do have a shooting lane to put the ball on target, they’re not necessarily the worst, but a huge percentage of shots from outside the box result in turnovers, either goal kicks or blocked shots that can produce transition opportunities. The cost of shots from outside the box comes in those 75% of instances when the keeper is not called into action at all.

Shot Matrix II: Headers and Crosses:

Once you get outside of the six-yard box, chances off crosses and headers lose a lot of their value. I like how the numbers on headers off crosses and other headers converge to an 8% conversion rate by quite different means. Hitting a cross ball with your head from twenty feet or more and putting on target is very difficult. If you do get it on target, there’s at least a non-terrible chance that you got enough power and precision behind the ball to score. On other headers, where the ball is most likely coming in at a kinder speed and angle, directing it to goal is relatively easy. Beating the keeper, though, is incredibly difficult as you rarely get enough power on the header to trouble the keeper.

Shot Matrix III: The Incredible Through-Ball:

I have a total of 1738 shots off through-balls logged in my database. A negligible number come from either outside the box or from Zone 1. No professional keeper would stand rooted to his line as a pass split his defense which allowed an attacker to run onto the ball in the center of the six-yard box. I presume that the 12 shots off through-balls from Zone 1 in my database represent shots where the attacking player collected the ball further from goal, rounded the keeper, and then finding himself in front of goal, took the shot.

Barcelona: The Statistical Effects of Tiki-Taka

Published at SB Nation.

How Barcelona’s Tiki-Taka Stymies the Advanced Statistics

Perhaps the most striking thing about Barcelona’s clinical striking is that it’s a consistent aspect of their game all over the pitch. Whether shot created comes from directly on top of the goal mouth or 25 yards out, they are more likely to convert than anyone else in La Liga. There is no region of the pitch where Barcelona don’t score more goals than would be expected.

How Atletico Madrid Shocked the Football World

Published at the Washington Post.

The Secrets of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid:

In a mirror image of its defense, Atlético’s attack focuses on creating chances in the danger zone, spurning lower-expectation opportunities. As Rene Maric describes, when its defense springs into action, it presses decisively to win the ball and drive forward for high-quality shots.  Atlético is third in La Liga in shots attempted from the danger zone, behind only Barca and Real. However, in shots attempted from outside the box, Atlético stands 20th, having taken the fewest shots from distance in the league.