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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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.

On Payroll and Depth during the Holiday Fixtures

Published at ESPN.

How Payroll Predicts Holiday Outcomes in the EPL:

Clubs with wage bills among the top four in the league tend to do very well no matter the circumstance, but particularly at the New Year. They average about 2.0 points per match over most of the season; during the holidays, that rate jumps 10 percent to 2.2 points per match. This means that every festive period, one of the four richest clubs wins a match they otherwise would have drawn or lost. Given that the title and fourth place races are often decided by a point or two, those extra points at the holiday can make all the difference.

At the same time, not every high-payroll club sees the benefits of depth every year. If a high-payroll club like Manchester United or Arsenal goes on a run through the winter fixtures, it should not be surprising, but such a run is in no way guaranteed.

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.

The Entirely Predictable Newcastle Turnaround

Published at SB Nation.

Newcastle’s 2014 Comeback Was Predicted By the Stats:

So Newcastle’s turnaround is not unusual. Clubs that massively underperform their expected goals early in the season typically click back into form and start winning matches at a respectable rate.┬áThese teams started out the season with only about four points on average, but they averaged about 41 points over the remainder of the season. So if Newcastle follow the averages, they should end up easily safe with a mid-40s points haul.

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.