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Football Thread 2019/2020

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9 hours ago, bradigor said:

I got 18 officially as I forgot to spell Van Nistlerooy correctly, then forgot to Google it to check. So spent last moments thinking about who I had missed who played for United. :facepalm:

 

 

 

Yeah, the bbc quizzes all demand proper (english characters) spelling to work at all.

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19 minutes ago, Pants McSkill said:

How does that show the impact of expected goals exactly? Correlation does not equal causation.

 

it shows trends year on year over a large number of years that teams are shooting closer to goal, and taking less speculative long shots from outside the box.

 

that won't be by fluke in such a large data set and something is clearly influencing the shot choices teams are making - with no rule changes that encourage such behaviour its fair to say something is driving this change in team behaviour rather than statistical quirks, what else do you think it could be ?

 

teams are now coached in the positions the ball is to be worked into for shots to be taken (the high xG positions) and City have been the most obvious exponents of this.

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I don't know (having very little opinion about xG either way) that I'm comfortable with this being any kind of proof - could you not equally argue that the tactics of Guardiola have influenced more and more teams into trying the style his teams play with, all of which seem to end up setting up lots of close-in finishes. I dunno. Like, teams would already have started examining stats about speculative shots with or without xG. 

 

Is it 2014/15 that xG began being used? It's strange to me that it would affect results more in its own first season than the ones thereafter, like teams were really quick to start playing for that if so. Again, not saying that's impossible, just doesn't seem a no-brainer conclusion at least.

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EDIT: In reply to Gotters

 

 

Well it's clearly a tactical choice, but to assume that tactical choice is down to the introduction of xG is quite the stretch. 

 

The rise of the high press could alone account for it - high pressing came about as an attempt to win the ball back higher up the pitch so you had fewer defenders to beat to get to the goal. Fewer defenders means more space, which means more passes forward that are on.

 

Or we know that tactical innovation often has many imitators - this could be managers being inspired by the Tiki-Taka playstyle that dominated football around that time. Or with this being the Premier League, instead being inspired by the lightening fast counter attacking Man Utd side that won the treble in 08/09. Counter attacking teams take fewer long shots.

 

There's probably 20 other possible explanations as well. So it's quite the statement that it's all down to this one statistic.

 

 

 

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Does xG still not account for player ability? I remember reading a while ago that a free kick 25 yards from goal is afforded the same xG whether Leo Messi is standing over it or Dominic Solanke.  I know clubs get more detailed and different data to what Opta dish out to the public (and some clubs have their own in house data gathering teams) and playing the percentages is becoming increasingly common but we are still in the very early days of data analysis. Models will continue to be refined for years to come and it's going to have a massive effect in ten or twenty years time when the people who grew up with this are suddenly in charge of football.  I suspect that the tweet above is an indication of xG, but obviously there's no way to prove it. 

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I like the idea that some managers needed xG to learn that speculative shots from distance weren't likely to go in.

 

Anyway, I'm sure data analysis has resulted in teams being more aware of the actual chances they're creating in a match, along with a fuckton more information besides. Information that previously would only be available if someone took the time to specifically look for it.

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it's not proof, an interesting conversation and hypothesis though and I can see how it strongly influences the stats about shots being taken above over time.

 

regarding xG it doesn't measure player quality, and there isn't a single unified model either - but this in itself is revealing as you see some players outperform the wider stat and some don't

https://www.football365.com/news/who-should-have-scored-most-premier-league-goals

 

xG didn't just explode on the scene last year, sports data folks had been pushing the model and gathering the data for a long time, premier league teams were not all keen on the 'data guys' or the benefits of them so different teams adopted at differing rates. If Guardiola was influential and he is a big buyer of an approach based on it then the method itself is influential.

 

there are other analytical models now that are kept on the private side of the data that we don't get to see that often, xA measuring assist quality and some that measure tactical shape retention by teams I've seen mentioned.

 

it may seem obvious now saying shots from better positions yield better results but that is the whole thing about Moneyball and sports data science - it challenges the conventional 'known' thinking and often turns it on its head as people don't challenge thinking unless made to.

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Could we throw in another variable - the Premier League has fewer players who shoot from distance - I'm thinking Lampard, Scholes and Gerrard who would regularly pot from just outside the 18 yard box?  They have been replaced by players technically proficient at scoring from tight angles and close in - Aquero, Silva, Aubameyang plus as mentioned, lots of teams play a high defensive line which can be broken through for 2 and 1 on 1s.

 

Interesting stats though.

 

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Swiss Ramble analysis thread on the latest Deloitte money league report

 

How much are PSG match tickets, you pay a lot to watch them thump tat in the French league it seems

 

 

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I think Michael Cox is one of the most interesting writers/podcasters on football at present

 

Another great tactical write up from him on The Athletic about how the best PL teams in recent years operate a front 5

 

Spoiler

Football formations have always been, and will always be, a simplification. The movement of individuals, particularly in the attacking phase, has always meant the formation changes considerably as the game progresses — and in the era of complex pressing traps, sometimes the formation is harder than ever to decipher without the ball, too.

Perhaps the most curious thing about the nature of a formation is that it is almost exclusively used to refer to a side’s shape without possession. We all agree that Liverpool, for example, are generally using a 4-3-3 this season, but we also all know that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are key attacking weapons, and spend much of their time scampering forward on the overlap, effectively forming a front five. Rarely is the formation given in the attacking phase of play, and yet Liverpool spend far longer with the ball than they do without it.

And perhaps this limitation has meant that a crucial trend has gone slightly overlooked over recent years — almost every top-level side is attempting to play with a front five, recalling the old days of the 2-3-5 “pyramid” formation that dominated the early 20th century.

There’s plenty of logic behind this development.

Top-level managers have begun to understand football and create systems according to a division of the pitch into five vertical strips. These are, broadly speaking, considered to consist of: the centre (the 20-yard strip designated by the width of the centre circle), two wings (the areas on the outsides of the penalty box) and two strips between the centre and the wings.

These final spaces are sometimes referred to as “half-spaces”, a translation from the German term which originated because that was the “space” where the “half-backs” played. The term “channel” isn’t precisely the same — that was more frequently used to describe the space between centre-back and full-back — but it feels a more natural word to use in English.

Look at the training pitch used by Pep Guardiola when he was in charge of Bayern Munich, for example, and you’ll find it divided into these five strips. “The only important thing about our game is what happens in those four lines,” Guardiola told Bayern’s squad in his first week in Germany. “Nothing else matters.”

There are also more complex horizontal lines, which effectively split the wings into six areas of equal size. For now, though, the five vertical strips are most relevant.

The five vertical strips that leading coaches divide the pitch into

To summarise, Guardiola never wants more than two players in the same vertical strip, which means an emphasis on covering the width of the pitch equally. He is renowned for changing his system regularly from match to match, but the same fundamental principles apply. Whether forwards, attacking midfielders, wingers, wing-backs or full-backs, Guardiola’s sides usually position five attackers across the pitch. His City predecessor Manuel Pellegrini once summarised the approach succinctly by saying that his team must position an attacking player in each of the five vertical strips — they just didn’t need to be the same player each time.

There have been three truly outstanding sides over the past few years in the Premier League; two have won the title and a third will almost certainly follow this year. Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have all recorded 90-plus points and helped to raise the tactical level of the Premier League.

All have, in a way, played similar systems because of the presence of a front five.

However they have all formed the front five in very different ways.

Conte famously switched to a three-man defence early in 2016-17, and the system that was often considered 3-4-3 was actually far more like 3-2-5 in the attacking phase of play, or 2-3-5 when David Luiz or Cesar Azpilicueta stepped forward into midfield. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses were given strict instructions to push forward on the overlap, keeping the width and effectively playing on the last line of the opposition’s defence. Chelsea often scored by switching the play across the pitch to find one of them at the far post, unmarked, after the opposition back four had become sucked inside.

Take Alonso’s opening goal in a 3-1 win over Arsenal in February 2017, for example — the back four gradually becomes drawn across to close down each of Chelsea’s five attackers, which leaves him entirely unmarked at the far post. Eventually, Alonso storms in at the far post to overpower Hector Bellerin, who has just been challenging Diego Costa for the initial header. Opponents couldn’t cope with Chelsea’s fifth attacker.

What’s interesting, though, is that the attacking shape of Conte’s 3-4-3 wasn’t actually that different to that of the 4-3-3 he started the season with. In the first half-dozen matches of the campaign, Conte threw right-back Bransilav Ivanovic and left-back Azpilicueta forward to bookend the same three-man attack, while a three-man midfield was given strict instructions to remain as a tight unit and cover the width of the pitch. N’Golo Kante shuttled between defence and midfield — so, before and after the switch, Chelsea were using a 2-3-5/3-2-5 system.

The below image is from Chelsea’s first league game under Conte — even before the switch in system, the effective front five is clear.

The difference, of course, was that Chelsea defended in a different shape, and the defensive transitions were smoother after the formation change, with more mobile players out wide who could get back into position more quickly.

Guardiola’s all-conquering City side also used a front five — but in a completely different manner.

Whereas Conte’s front three drifted inside with wing-backs overlapping to become the wide players, Guardiola instructed Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling to hug the touchlines, stretching the opposition defence and creating gaps for Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva to exploit either side of Sergio Aguero. This was the front five.

To compensate for emptying midfield, the full-backs would generally tuck inside and form the 2-3-5 system, although this has sometimes been 3-2-5 too.

Here’s the build-up to City’s opener at home to Manchester United last season — the quintet of Sterling, Silva, Aguero, Mahrez and Bernardo is clear.

Guardiola’s many variations stick to the same approach.

When Benjamin Mendy is used as a rampaging left-back, for example, it’s almost never been with Sane ahead of him — that would generally mean them covering the same vertical strip. It’s been more common for Guardiola to use Mendy behind someone who can drift inside — for example, in last weekend’s 6-1 thrashing of Aston Villa, Gabriel Jesus was deployed from the left, but effectively acted as a second striker in the left channel, allowing Mendy to hold the width.

On the other flank, the combination play between De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez or Bernardo has been the key part of City’s campaign. Although Mahrez and Bernardo are left-footed and therefore naturally drift inside, they have generally been told to remain in wide positions, ensuring the opposition are stretched enough for De Bruyne to play in the right-hand channel.

When right-back Kyle Walker has been handed a more attacking role, it’s often been when De Bruyne has been absent, and Mahrez or Bernardo are drifting inside more to play in that channel.

Liverpool’s attacking follows many of the same principles. Klopp generally uses 4-3-3, like Guardiola, but the front five is formed with the full-backs overlapping, which allows Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to tuck inside into goalscoring positions. Last season, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were the side’s highest assisters, and Salah and Mane the side’s joint-top scorers.

Like both Conte’s Chelsea and Guardiola’s City, Liverpool can look like both 2-3-5 and 3-2-5. Fabinho is capable of dropping between the centre-backs to form a three-man defence, while increasingly Jordan Henderson can effectively become a temporary right-back to cover for Alexander-Arnold. It is, in possession, much the same system as Liverpool’s two predecessors as Premier League champions — broadly speaking, 2-3-5.

Here’s a goal they scored against Red Bull Salzburg earlier in the campaign. It’s converted by Robertson, popping up in a centre-forward position, and therefore there has been some switching of roles between players here. But it’s nevertheless an interesting situation because of how far removed this ‘front five’ is from the rest of the team, who are all out of shot.

It’s worth remembering that Guardiola bought into this concept so much he literally used a 2-3-5 on occasion at Bayern, filling his side with five outright attackers because he was so confident they would dominate possession so much that they may as well consider their attacking shape their default formation. The defensive transitions asked a lot of the wide players, but Bayern played the system with great authority and fluency.

On the back of all these success stories, it’s been significant that the two most notable managerial appointments of recent weeks have both attempted to get their side playing with an effective front five, from a starting system of 4-2-3-1.

Jose Mourinho’s debut with Tottenham Hotspur saw him pushing right-back Serge Aurier forward aggressively on the overlap, while left-back Ben Davies tucked inside. On paper they were both full-backs, but on the pitch one became an outside-right while the other became a left-sided centre-back.

In turn, Mourinho’s left-winger has stayed wide, while his right-winger has drifted inside, ensuring the five vertical strips are all filled.

Mourinho hasn’t entirely stuck to this approach — the ankle injury Davies suffered against West Ham and the manner of the 2-0 home defeat by Frank Lampard’s Chelsea appear to have forced him to reconsider, but it was interesting that he appeared to be learning lessons from the likes of Conte, Guardiola and Klopp.

It was much less surprising that Mikel Arteta borrowed some of Guardiola’s tactics upon leaving his Manchester City staff to take charge of Arsenal.

His approach has been similar — purely in terms of player positioning — to Mourinho’s initial approach with Spurs, albeit a mirror image. Arteta’s overlapping full-back has been on the left, Sead Kolasinac or Bukayo Saka, while his right-sided full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles has narrowed his positioning and becomes a right-sided central midfielder rather than a right-sided centre-back, maintaining the 3-2-5.

The overlapping of the left-back has allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to play in the inside-left channel, while the conservative nature of the right-back means Nicolas Pepe or Reiss Nelson has stayed wide, while Mesut Ozil fills the inside-right channel.

Arguably the most significant thing about Arteta’s approach is not that his “front five” is a surprise, it is that it’s entirely as expected — this has become the default approach for top clubs.

With such similarities between many of the elite sides, maybe we’re talking about football formations the wrong way around. We should think of them in terms of their structure in possession, and the differences come mainly in terms of the defensive transition.

Modern football’s dominant shape isn’t 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 but 2-3-5 — a throwback to tactics from 100 years ago.

 

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Tottenham are crap. Mourinho has been overtaken by innovations in football thinking and can't keep up.

 

Such a negative manager.

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Erling Haland has just scored a twenty minute hattrick since coming on as a sub for Dortmund. They were 3-1 down, he made it 3-2 with his first goal, it’s now 5-3 Dortmund.

 

Not a bad debut.

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1 hour ago, Adrock said:

Tottenham are crap. Mourinho has been overtaken by innovations in football thinking and can't keep up.

 

Such a negative manager.

We were just as bad under Poch for almost a year too.

 

The whole squad needs gutting and starting again.

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Watching the City vs Palace game and the commentators reckon the VAR is wrong and it should have been a penalty. I thought the handball rule gave clear consideration for deflected inadvertent handball. Which is exactly what it was.

 

The City pressure is immense though. I'd be very surprised if they don't score.

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7 minutes ago, Adrock said:

Watching the City vs Palace game and the commentators reckon the VAR is wrong and it should have been a penalty. I thought the handball rule gave clear consideration for deflected inadvertent handball. Which is exactly what it was.

 

The City pressure is immense though. I'd be very surprised if they don't score.

 

You jinxed us!

 

To be fair, we'd been getting away with daylight robbery until then, Palace being Palace if 3-0 up at the Etihad with 5 minutes to go I'd take a draw if offered.

 

Re. the VAR, it's so tough to know, I would have chalked it down to one of those things if given but I think that's a symptom of the inconsistency/lack of clarity on the rule itself.

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Where the hell would Villa be without Jack Grealish?  

 

(I mean the answer is obviously "in the Championship" but he's legitimately a fantastic player. He's got to go to the Euros.) 

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1 hour ago, Charliemouse said:

We were just as bad under Poch for almost a year too.

 

The whole squad needs gutting and starting again.

Exactly. There is a myth that we were somehow amazing under Poch... The performances had tailed off massively. Losing Dembele was key. And Eriksen deciding he could coast on 50%.

Injuries haven't helped us this season either. 

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Hat trick on his debut. Erling Haaland is that rare example of a footballer with a famous dad being better than his old man was. 

 

 Augsburg did make it very easy though, that high line.  :facepalm:

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50 minutes ago, Adrock said:

Zaha woke up for a couple of minutes there, he is one of the most streaky players I've ever seen. 

 

He's got the hump because he isn't getting his move, second half of last season when he came back from his injury and it was consistent brilliance game after game, but this year you can't even blame the 3 men marking him every game or the rotational fouling for his drop in form, he has a habit of being given the ball in the corner and stopping before trying to take his man/men on, he's having minimal success with this tactic and it really breaks up the rhythm of any attack.

 

He's been brilliant over the course of his Palace career but it's sadly time to send him on his way, the issue being that nobody is likely to meet Steve Parish's valuation.

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40 minutes ago, Stoppy2000 said:

Exactly. There is a myth that we were somehow amazing under Poch... The performances had tailed off massively. Losing Dembele was key. And Eriksen deciding he could coast on 50%.

Injuries haven't helped us this season either. 

The double loss of Dembele and a fit Wanyama has basically ruined the entire team, then add a uninterested Eriksen and a rarely 100% fit Kane has affected us to the point to where we now look like a mid-table team at best.

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