Category Archives: ‘Research’

Our lexicon for defending in football isn’t good enough

Problem: Why is making more interceptions correlated less well with conceding fewer shots (as pointed to here and here) than making more tackles?

Hypothesis: One can quite easily ‘passively intercept’, by essentially having the ball passed straight at you, through no skill of one’s own; one is much less likely to ‘passively tackle’.

Experiment: Go through all of the Opta collected interceptions in a selection of games and categorise them into ‘active’ and ‘passive’.


This was my starting point. I would look up online (I used WhoScored) the minutes in which interceptions were made and players who made them, and work out what action during the game this was. (This was generally quite easy, though infrequently required going back and re-watching the minute). Continue reading


Team Defensive Correlations: Opposition shots vs defensive actions

This is kind of a follow-up to the article a week or so ago based on individual players, which is here.

This time, I wanted to look at how making more defensive actions correlated with conceding fewer shots on a team level. I looked at the season averages of teams from  5 years of the Premier League (2015-16 to 2011-12).

Below is are the correlations for the raw stats (ie not adjusted in any way) Continue reading

Defensive Correlations: The Return


A couple of years ago I made some posts on correlations between defensive actions and how many shots were conceded while that central defender was playing. A helpful commenter aided me, but my stats know-how was very poor and I recently took the posts down to try and avoid someone stumbling on bad work in their search for solid stats.

However, I’ve since gone back to the data I collected (by hand, from the very excellent StatsZone app, in the days before I’d even heard of a data scraper, not that I know what to do with them now I’ve heard of them).

I went back to the data from the 2014/15 season, across the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, and Ligue 1. I took the guys who’d played more than 900 minutes (141 of them) and did some correlations for defensive actions per 90 against shots conceded per 90. Continue reading

Crosses for Nought? Xs and Os: Traditional crosses, are they ‘good’, and how to improve them.

Believe it or not, I had this idea before Stan Collymore started his own brand in ‘goal scored by a cross’ alerts. I was wondering whether the stats community’s general disdain for crosses, built up as a reaction against the ‘chuck it in the mixer’ cliché, was a little unfair. That doesn’t mean ‘we’ think you should never cross, just that there can often be better options and maybe, y’know, we should be thinking about what we’re doing a bit on the ball.

Collymore in his tweets on the subject mentioned things like cut-backs, which stats guys (I use the term as a loose generalisation) like, but I particularly wanted to look at what I called ‘traditional crosses’. These would be balls into the box from wide areas, the kind of thing that generally comes to mind when people think of crosses.

The way I see it, crosses are statistically ineffective because they can often the result of frustration or boredom at not breaking down a defence. Whereas with most passes you weigh up the possibility of completing it, ‘traditional crosses’ are often basically thoughtless, purely hopeful that someone will get on the end of it. Continue reading

Why I don’t think Arsenal are title contenders

This article should more accurately be titled ‘Why I’m a bit sceptical about Arsenal being title contenders but they might be but I think they probably won’t be and not because they can’t keep their first team fit’. But that’s a bit long.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this on the same subject, which ended with a rather piping hot take, so I should make it clear that I don’t have an agenda against them. Actually, Manchester United aside, they’re probably my favourite of the traditional Big 4 contenders.

This season, they have good shot and expected goals numbers, hinting that their good form over the first twelve games may be genuine ability this term. However, Continue reading

Extending the chain of conversion

I recently started watching basketball, and one of the things that struck me was how important it was to get a shot away, as opposed to having the ball stolen, and the importance of converting your attacks. In a high-scoring game like basketball, it seemed that it wasn’t so much a case of having to out-score your opponents, but kind of out-converting them (these are the same in essence, but feel different to me, I guess, semantically).

Could this be applied to football? Basketball is obviously a higher-scoring, higher-percentage game than football (higher-percentage in that each shot in basketball has a higher percentage chance of being converted than in football), and the nature of attacks is quite different. The idea that you should try to convert all of your attacks into shots is a far, far cry from analytics at the moment, where differing quality of chances is clear in the data.

However, there was something about the idea of converting possessions to attacks, and attacks into shots that stuck, and seemed feasible within the footballing context. Continue reading

More of a look at the new method

A few weeks ago I posted the method to a new ‘rating’ (for want of a better word) I had for central defenders (here: It is clearly not going to be perfect, but it has a logical base behind it, which is more than my previous attempts have had, and it doesn’t seem to suggest anything too ridiculous. With the Opta Pro deadline looming (tomorrow, as I write this) and me unsure whether I should cheekily ask for tens of seasons worth of data so that I can check it more thoroughly, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the ‘results’ in more depth.

Due to the fact that it uses ‘deep completion attempts conceded’ (passes attempted within a deep area of the field), a stat which I don’t have available for any seasons other than the 14-15 Premier League season, that’s the only one I’ve been able to do so far. Here below are 65 players who played at central defence in that season who had a rating. All of them must have had over 10 90s. Continue reading