Today was, of course, the Manchester Derby. Having written our statistical preview of the match, I’m pretty pleased with myself to have picked the scoreline, though no one could have predicted how it would go down. It was a fairly even match punctuated (and won) by one of those unpredictable moments of brilliance (Rooney’s goal) that makes statisticians lose sleep and makes all of us love this damned game so much. It was a matchup between two very different managers. Let’s have a look at their substitutions, and how they affected the match.
The substitutions were:
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(Note: Yes, I know how long it’s been since I posted on this blog. I could explain, but I won’t. I’ll just make with the blogging.)
Well, here it is again, April. Showers and all that. More importantly, European club football is wrapping up, with 8 total teams vying for the two continental trophies, the Champions League and the inaugural rebranded Europa League. But another race is heating up as well, to decide who will finish this season ranked as the third-best league in Europe, Serie A or the Bundesliga. There’s been a lot of talk about Germany overcoming Italy for the third spot (and its valuable fourth Champions League entry), but now that we’re almost through, we can see exactly what’s necessary to make it happen.
It’s that time of year again, and after a few qualifying rounds, both the UEFA Champions League and the newly branded Europa League have drawn their group stages. 80 clubs remain in European competition, 32 in the Champions League and 48 in the Europa League. The question now is, who will survive the next cut and make it to the knockouts? Of course, that is an open question. If I had a perfectly accurate predictor, I wouldn’t be sharing it here so much as using it, Back to the Future II style, to build myself a small betting fortune. Since I don’t, let’s look at what the numbers say about who will advance and who will be going home early.
Though it is highly imperfect, the best measurement of comparative club quality across Europe is the UEFA club coefficient. It ranks every team in Europe based on performances over the past four seasons. It would be easy to say that the highest-ranked clubs in each competition will be moving on, and that will happen in a lot of cases, but chances of advancement depend on more than your own quality – they also depend on the quality of your groupmates. So I compared the coefficients of each club still alive in Europe with those of the other clubs in their group to determine the likelihood of each club surviving beyond this round. For Champions League clubs, that means finishing at least third, since third place drops into the Europa League. For the Europa teams, that means first or second place. So obviously, the CL clubs have a big advantage here, but what else is new?
So what we are measuring here is how much better (or worse) each team is compared to the team they would have to finish higher than to move on, with UEFA coefficients as the measure of quality. Here’s what we get:
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Every once in a while, in addition to looking at wider trends in football statistics, I’ll be examining a particular match that sticks out for one reason or another in a series I’d like to call “Dissecting the Match”. First up, the thrashing that Arsenal gave Everton today, 6-1 at Goodison Park.
All-time Series (before today’s match)
190 matches played
92 Arsenal wins, 40 draws, 58 Everton wins (+73 goal differential for Arsenal)
Last time Everton lost by 5 or more goals : May 11, 2005 (7-0 away to Arsenal)
Last time Arsenal won by 5 or more goals : September 23, 2008 (6-0 at home to Sheffield United, FA Cup)
Last time Everton lost by 5 or more at home : November 6, 1982 (0-5 to Liverpool, old Division 1)
Last time Arsenal won by 5 on the road : January 27, 2001 (0-6 over QPR, FA Cup)
Shooting and Scoring Stats
Total Shots: 15 for Arsenal, 8 for Everton
Shots on Target: 9 for Arsenal, 5 for Everton
Shooting Accuracy (% on target): 60% for Arsenal, 62.5% for Everton
Shooting Efficiency (goals/total shots): 40% for Arsenal, 12.5% for Everton
Time of Possession: 54% Arsenal, 46% Everton
Passes attempted: 419 for Arsenal, 319 for Everton
Pass Completion: 82.3% for Arsenal, 77.4% for Everton
Everton’s best passer: Jack Rodwell (off the bench) – 10/11 – 91% completion
Arsenal best passer: Denilson – 44/45 – 98% completion
There are two kinds of blowouts, and they have very different profiles statistically. First is the kind where one side completely dominates, holding all of the ball and barraging their opponent with shots at a fairly average level of accuracy and efficiency. Then there are the kind where both take a roughly equal number of shots on goal, but one side is far more efficient in taking high-quality shots. It’s basically a question of quantity vs. quality, and today, Arsenal’s win was based on the latter – quality. Chelsea took 11 more shots than Arsenal today in their skin-of-the-teeth win over Hull, but most were not particularly dangerous. High shooting efficiency means that when Arsenal took shots, they were often in a position to beat the keeper, rather than having to gun from awkward angles and distances. Basically, they could pick their chances, and did. And of course, Denilson completing 44 passes and scoring a goal didn’t hurt their cause.
As for the historical aspect of the match, it’s a major one in the annals of Everton, the worst home loss for them in the Premier League era. Although Arsenal beat Everton 7-0 in London in 2005, you have to go back to September 6, 1958 to find a similar result in Merseyside, another 6-1 for the Gunners. Overall, it’s only the 4th 6-goal scoring day Arsenal have ever had against Everton in 191 total meetings.
Rough day to be wearing blue in Merseyside. Only time will tell whether the scoring display we saw from Arsenal today was a flash in the pan or the beginning of a real title push.
As anyone with even a passing interest in English football knows, Newcastle United and its formidable Toon Army of fans will be headed down to the Championship in 2009-10, after the club’s first relegation season in 20 years. For today’s Table Tuesday column, I wanted to take a look at the biggest clubs to have been relegated in recent times in the big European leagues. One disclaimer – this table will not include any teams relegated because of large points deductions or disqualifications. It just gets messy and confusing, and so I’ve chosen to remove them completely from the study. Plus I’d like to have something other than Italian clubs represented. I kid. Sort of.
To define a club as “big” or “small” is always controversial. For the purposes of this table, we are talking historically big clubs. I am ranking the size of relegated clubs by the contents of their trophy cases, with one point for each domestic cup, three for each league, five for a UEFA Cup and ten for a European Cup. Here are the 15 highest-scoring clubs by this metric to have been relegated in the past decade from England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.
So, all you depressed Geordies out there, take some solace in the fact that you’re not alone. Bad management has sunk Atletico Madrid and their 9 La Liga trophies, and Nuremberg, Koln and Monchengladbach (who have a combined 17 German titles between them) have gone down a total of nine times in the last decade. And for those of you resting on the laurels of the massive club you support, remember that it can also happen to you.
I’ll do my best to keep the Numbers Offside as topical as possible, which is difficult when the numbers of the game lag necessarily behind the game itself. This week, there was really only one story on the front pages of football rags around the world. I speak of course about Australia’s 0-0 with Qatar. No, it was the blustering start of the transfer madness, with Kaka and Ronaldo joining Real Madrid for the new #1 and #2 transfer fees (not respectively), along with talk of the rest of the Milan squad following Ricky out the door.
The question is, what can the two most expensive transfers in history, along with likely the two biggest wage bills, do for Real Madrid? I won’t belabor the point everyone else has already made about building a team exclusively out of attacking midfielders and then being shocked when you concede in the fifth minute of matchday one. We can’t see the future, but we can look at the past for some ideas, and so I took a look at the fourteen biggest transfers in European history to see how both teams did before and after the deal. Is it better to sell or to buy, in terms of league standings?
The 14 biggest transfers of the pre-K-Ron era have, of course, been a mixed bag. Some have ended well for the buyer or seller, and a few even for both, and of course some have been disasters. Yes, Sheva, we are looking at you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But when we look at the data set as a whole, a few trends do emerge. Just looking at the raw averages, sellers of big players tended to slightly slide in the rankings (2 places total in 14 cases, so barely noticeably), and buyers rose, but only just as slightly. But if you take away one outlier from each, and look at them without this one most extreme case, things are a bit different. In 13 such transfers, sellers lost a total of 15 places, more than an average of a position per sale, while buyers get even more neutral, actually losing a ridiculously insignificant 0.07 average places. So it’s fair to say that while selling and buying big both average out to a wash, selling has a tendency to be a lot more negative than buying does to help.
But of course those numbers don’t mean much on their own, so let’s look a little deeper for some situations that are similar to the K-Ron insanity. Real fans can take some cautious optimism from the case of Juventus in 2001, who bought two big names after finishing second, and rode them to the league title the next year. Now, the reality check. One of those two players was arguably the best goalkeeper alive, Gigi Buffon, the ultimate build at the back. In fact, 2 of the 3 buyers that were able to spend their way to a league title the season after the purchase paid the big bucks on defense – Juventus for Buffon and Manchester United for Rio Ferdinand. To be fair, positional comparisons are a bit difficult with such a top-heavy set of data … 10 of the 14 on the top money list are primarily or exclusively attacking players. Factor in Ricky and Cristie and that’s 12 of 16.
The scatterplot below shows the effects on buyers and sellers the season after the sale. Higher means league improvement, and farther right means a higher transfer fee. Like so many datasets, the most important thing to look at here isn’t the trend, it’s the distribution. Buyers (red) didn’t see any extreme effects, mostly because they started in very high positions. The average buyer had just finished a 3rd place season, while the average seller had just finished in 5th. The effects of sales on the seller (blue) were extremely mixed and much more volatile, ranging from an improvement of 13 places to a loss of 10.
Of course, this is a small set of data. In the future, I’ll take a look at all the smaller transfers that, in the end, mean more to the fate of teams. But if you’re Manchester United, AC Milan, or Real Madrid now, you’re not thinking small. You’re about 2 months from starting what will be the ultimate experiment in whether the financial insanity of 100 million pounds changing hands on two players has a footballing reward for anyone involved.
Data Sources: Wikipedia (Checked all primary sources, so stop your whining)
The positions of goalkeeper and defender can be thankless and difficult ones, and it’s hard to imagine a more frustrated group than the solid defensive core of a football team with no offense to speak of. That hard-won clean sheet doesn’t seem so bright and shiny when all it gets you is a point. So, for our inaugural Table Tuesday, here are the most frustrated defenses in the Premiership, measured by points per clean sheet.
As you can plainly see, a Manchester defender is a happy defender, with City going perfect in their nine shutouts, and United astoundingly dropping only six points in their 24 clean sheets. Newcastle, surprisingly to no one, tops the frustration table. More surprising is Hull, who only dropped four points in shutouts, though admittedly they only had six of them overall. Friendly advice to the Tigers : buy at the back.
Data source: Soccerbase
Hello everyone and welcome to the Numbers Offside, quite possibly the nerdiest blog on the whole site. Before I get started doing my thing here, I wanted to explain exactly what that thing will be, and why. Recently, there was a post on the main Offside blog about the statistics of football, and whether we need more statistics in the game. There were heated opinions on both sides, but I think we can find a happy medium between the two. Is football ever going to be like baseball, with its sea of data and stat-obsessed fans? No. And it shouldn’t ever be. Football is a flowing game, which makes it infinitely more difficult to break down into numbers than a stop-and-start game like baseball. But does this mean numbers have no place in the game? Of course not. There is room for both aesthetics and statistics in football. It’s this middle ground, where beauty meets the geek, if you will, that I’d like to explore with this blog.
So why not call it the Statistics Offside? The answer is that I didn’t want to limit the scope of the blog to just traditional stats. This blog is about the numerical aspect of the game, and any football-related data is fair game.
Now, as some of you might know, I’ve been around the Offside for quite a while now. I started, and still maintain, the Caley Thistle Offside, and write for the Scotland Offside as well, and helped out writing on the main blog during Euro 2008. But my original background is in science, particularly in marine biology. Hopefully, the combination of an obsessive love of the sport and an almost equally unhealthy love of data and numbers will allow me to produce something on this blog that is at least a little bit different and interesting.
So, here’s what this blog will look like: Each week, I’ll be presenting two posts. On the weekend will be the main post for the week, and on Tuesday or Wednesday, there will be a shorter post in a couple of columns I’ve chosen to call “Table Tuesday” and “What If Wednesday”. Table Tuesday is going to be just that, a league table type graphic, with a short explanation, showing standings in some (probably obscure) statistic. What If Wednesday is a series of posts using real numbers to talk a little about hypothetical situations, like proposed rule changes or made-up tournament formats.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the blog. For those against the quantification of football, keep in mind that I at least partially agree with you – I love to just sit back and watch the game flow. This is just my way, and I think a lot of people’s ways, of understanding and appreciating the game on another level too. Cheers.