Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Theory of Everything (to do with clearances and how teams set themselves after they make them)

This Wednesday was the Opta Pro Forum, the gathering of the great, the good, and the darn right mediocre (presenters, proper football men and women, and ‘public analysts’ respectively).

While there, someone (I think it was Julien Assunção, who you should go and follow) mentioned that I didn’t write on this blog much any more. A couple of days before(?) the Forum, someone else (I’ve forgotten who) tweeted that part of what public analytics had lost was the half-finished experimentation that people just *~*~put out there~*~*, which people could then discuss and evolve (or, if it was good, blatantly copy).

So, here’s something that I’d been meaning to do for a while, and something which I now realise is similar to a (rejected) submission for the Opta Pro Forum I made last year, tying this whole thing up quite nicely.

I had a theory. Continue reading

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A splurge of footballing and footballing statistic theory

“Stop. Calling. Over. Or. Under. Performance. Of. Expected. Goals. ‘Finishing. Skill’.”

Is what I would have liked to have tweeted had I not decided that that would have been annoying to almost everyone who follows me.

The point, though, is a good and meaningful one, even if I do say so myself.

The narrative around stats and finishing skill appears to have gone something like this:

  1. Finishing skill does not exist
  2. The people who said ‘finishing skill does not exist’ are dummies. Finishing skill does exist, obvs, we just can’t detect it
  3. Not only does finishing skill exist, but we can detect it, but it doesn’t do very much

And 4., more recently, is a good article from Bobby Gardiner which says

  • Not only does finishing skill exist, but we can detect it, and it does more than we think, but it’s still less important than actually getting in good positions in the first place.

This is all good, fine, and fascinating to people interested in stats.

It’s also consistently incorrect in the most important way, which is that what is commonly known as ‘finishing’ to, like, normal people, isn’t what stats people mean when they talk about finishing.

Which is a problem. Continue reading

On Squawka and its new owners

Squawka is dead. Long live Squawka.

On the morning of 3 November, the news of Squawka’s demise filtered out on Twitter, slowly.

Everyone was sad that people had lost their jobs; former employees mourned what sounded like a good working environment; journalists who had been, temporarily, within the site’s orbit mumbled about plagiarism or poor pay; more niche members of stats twitter mourned ‘what could have been’. Continue reading

The Curious Case of Who Are Scoring Headers

The power flexes from knees to pitch; a doorframe filler of a man stretches beneath the murky sky, elbows, like wings, extending outwards.

An inch of flesh, two centimetres above Andy Carroll’s elbow, glances a defender’s head, and the player, toes still touching grass, folds into a collapse.

The whistle blows, because football is soft nowadays, or so it’s often said. With the traditional values of British football – being big and strong and heading the ball – hagiographically mourned as a dying art in the Premier League, one would imagine that they are better exhibited in the not-quite-so-modern Championship. Continue reading

One Man, One Game: Federico Fazio PART ONE (vs Chelsea 01/01/2015)

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that.

Federico Fazio is an interesting case. At Tottenham Hotspur for 2014/15 before being kept off the wage books (presumably, at least partly) for the following two seasons, he was regarded as a flop in London, and had become something of a butt of jokes. Fast forward to 2017, and – first on loan, and then permanently this summer – at Roma he has emerged as one of their starting choices, displacing Antonio Rüdiger as the main man on the team-sheet alongside Kostas Manolas last season.

Opinions of players do swing wildly, but generally on a more short-term timescale, and often based heavily around one or two isolated moments in high-profile matches. With Fazio, the feeling – both with the mockery and the redemption – is, unusually, that his image has been altered by the long-term trends of his seasons in England and Italy.

So then, what’s the boy actually like? Is either reputation fully justified? Continue reading

One Man, One Game: Lewis Dunk (vs Leicester City 19/08/2017)

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that.

Lewis Dunk belongs to that class of players, so large that it must make the outsiders feel left out, who have been touted as a future star for about the length of time that most people retain interest in their fantasy football teams. From there, they – like your ‘Wanyamas in Pajamas’ et al – fade from memory until they’re mentioned by someone else, at which point the thought ‘ah yes, that name meant something to me once’ drifts through one’s mind.

Dunk, after having been deemed one of the best centre-back in the Championship for the past couple of seasons, now has his chance to prove himself at Premier League level. At 25, he’s probably past the stage of his career where he would make the leap upwards, if he was ever going to do it. At around 23, the age that Michael Keane (who Dunk has received comparisons to) had his break-out season, the chances of potential being reached are still pretty good. Above it, it becomes a matter of what they’re producing now. Continue reading

One Man, One Game: Davinson Sanchez (vs Manchester United, Europa League Final 2017)

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that.

We should start by dispelling a myth. Two myths, even. The first is what Jose Mourinho actually thinks of Davinson Sanchez’s ball-playing ability, which has been slightly overblown. The quote on the matter, as translated from the Tribuna Expresso, read “We let them go out to play, but blocking the right center, De Ligt, and letting the ball go to the left, Sanchez, who had more difficulties”.

I don’t read that quite the same as United targeting Sanchez as a specific weak point in the side, rather that United could limit Ajax’s build-up to an extent and that the better player to limit was De Ligt. Sanchez did indeed have difficulties, which is not exactly the same as that he has difficulties. (I’m also slightly suspicious about a manager talking through their tactical plans after the game has been won – it’s easy to spin things, whether by manager or by press, as genius decisions in hindsight of victory).

It’s also so misleading it should be expecting a visit from the Advertising Standards Agency. Continue reading