Tag Archives: Chelsea

Centre-back analysis of Manchester United vs Chelsea (I’m sorry, I couldn’t think of a pun-y title)

It – Manchester United against Chelsea – was not a match filled with attacking prowess. It was a midfield battle which yielded just 3 shots on target in the entire 90 minutes, all of which were taken by United. Chelsea had one shot in the first half. It was a midfield battle where the defences dropped to absorb pressure too. United completed 94 passes into the final third (which is a lot; 62 in the first half and 32 in the second), and Chelsea completed 101 (24 in the first half, 77 in the second, showing how Mourinho treated going 2-0 up).

As a result, there wasn’t an awful lot for the United centre-backs – who I’d originally been planning on focussing on – to do. Mourinho’s man-marking job of Herrera on Hazard worked perfectly, and after a couple of moments of confusion early on, defending in the right-back area, United worked out how to deal with occasionally having twin full-backs on that side.

Bailly and Rojo made for a good, if rather sheltered, partnership. There was a small difference apparent at some times in the second half, where Rojo wanted to keep a higher line than Bailly, but this may hint at part of why they worked well together. Rojo is a bit of a jumper-inner; Bailly sits back and backs off a little before choosing his moment to challenge. Continue reading


Manchester City vs Chelsea -Time, linear cause and effect, and the word for tomato

Gary Cahill, after suffering the worst fate possible on a football pitch, his right shin still ringing from its connection with the ball, is lying on the ground. He hopes, as all players do after scoring an own goal, that it consumes him, welcomes him into its dark and earthy depths for he, the OG, deserves it. As Sergio Aguero runs towards Jesus Navas in the corner of the pitch, he stoops to ruffle Cahill’s head as he passes. This, no-one deserves.

Ninety-sixth minute. The ball has been overrun; Luiz, the hero, comes across to cover. Aguero dives forth, legs first, wrapping his armoury around the Brazilian’s knees. This, this ‘tackle’, no player deserves.

A long ball is played by Kevin de Bruyne, which Aguero is battling with Cesar Azpilecueta to get there. Azpi, attempting something between control and backpass, knees it backwards into space, beyond his comrade in arms David Luiz and far too far away from Thibaut Courtois for him to collect. Luiz, the hero, takes one step forward and one to his left, the City striker tumbling. Cloaked in darkness, the referee makes no call. This, Aguero deserves. Continue reading

Put your money where your hindsight is – week 2 of 4: The Results

A reminder of how this goes. I make predictions and give them confidence ratings 1-5 (5 being most confident) – this week’s predictions, made last Thursday, are here. Then, after the weekend’s games, I assess my judgement. Firstly, I give them a rating based on how ‘expert’ my knowledge had to be to make that prediction (for longer definitions check out the first week’s results here). Continue reading


Put your money where your hindsight is – week 2 of 4: The Predictions

The Premier League (as well as a bunch of others) start this week, but it’s week 2 of my weekly ruthless predictions. Last week’s predictions and results are there for you to read, but for those who don’t wish to, here’s a summary.

I make predictions and give a confidence score:

1 – Guess. This is a hunch that I have. If I’m giving a 1 for a prediction though it probably means that it’s either very speculative but based on what I feel like is a good gut feeling, or it’s a filler. Continue reading


What to think about PSG

While coasting so breathlessly in Ligue 1, the Champions League tie against Chelsea, a struggling one nonetheless, would be a chance to see what Paris Saint-Germain were made of. One senses as well that the stature of the tie, a knock-out as opposed to the group stages – where they already faced significant challenges against Real Madrid -, had some bearing on the sentiment around this match.

The Parisian kop, as their team entered the field, threw bundles of paper into the air, creating a confetti that, unintentionally, brought memories of that FIFA press conference and bundles of cash, amusing considering the club’s Qatari owners. It was spectacle, possibly designed to draw away from the image of the club as an oil-rich bully strolling to the league title (which will be their fourth in a row). The stage-managing was certainly present in the stadium itself, in its bones, a careful image crafted – the stand along the touch line opposite the dugouts and, more importantly, the TV cameras have new seats, bright blues and reds; in all the other stands those red seats especially are faded, the difference stark. Continue reading


Giving Clearances a Shot

The 3rd match on the 13th of February of the Premier League (or the closest date to the 13th that matches were played).

The above is the first thing I wrote of this article. For a while I’ve thought that the amount of clearances that teams make in matches, and places where they make them, can be used to tell the story of the match, in a similar way to shots.

Both, on the surface, have obvious flaws. You can shoot from anywhere and it’ll boost your shot numbers, and you don’t know how good these shots actually were. Similarly with clearances, many clearances might show good defending* or it might show opposition pressure or both, it might be hard to tell which is which.

I picked a random match to try and use clearances to tell the story because I figured this would help reduce a level of confirmation bias. If I’m picking the match myself, I’ll probably end up choosing one that shows how useful clearances are.

Anyway, the match in question turned out to be Chelsea vs Everton (1-0, from the 11th of February). I do not remember it (I see now that Matic was WhoScored’s man of the match, maybe this has something to do with it).

I go to look at the possession. Chelsea had 58%, Everton 42%, so Chelsea obviously dominated to a degree.

The shots back this up:

Chelsea vs Everton shots

Chelsea had 21 shots to Everton’s 7, with a good handful of Mourinho’s side’s being in the ‘danger zone’, central in the box.

You get something similar with the clearances:

Chelsea vs Everton clearances

Both show Chelsea as dominant. Clearances increases both sides’ in-box presence, although this may partly be due to defending corners, where clearances are likely to happen in dangerous looking areas of the box (although the same goes for shots, if you get on the end of it).

I’ve made some observations about clearances during my year or so looking at defensive stats. These aren’t backed up by thousands of matches of data, but I think they *generally* hold true.

Chelsea vs Everton clearances 2

Clearances made in the dark green area have a fairly good chance of having been headed clearances by defenders (from long, maybe hopeful, balls forwards), and I think the more dominant your team performance, the more likely they are to be headed (if you’re under pressure yourself then clearances in this area are more likely to be ‘genuine’ on the ground clearances, and you’re also more likely to be clearing away hopeful hoofs if your own team is dominating – these are guesses).

The yellow area are clearances that are bordering on irrelevant, having a higher likelihood of being made by wingers or full backs from throw-ins, for example. It is, therefore, somewhat intuitively, the red zone that is most important.Chelsea vs Everton clearances 3

So, if we’re to glance at the clearance map and tell the ‘story’ of the game, we can see that Everton had some presence in Chelsea’s box (1), but given the relative lack of clearances elsewhere (2) we can be suspicious of this and tentatively guess that corners had something to do with it (I checked, it did). Everton were also clearly bombarded (3) and the fact that a lot of their clearances were so deep (as shown by a rough, vertical line of best fit of their clearances, 4) shows just how pressed back they were.Chelsea vs Everton shots

Is there anything there that we couldn’t glean from looking at the shot map? Maybe not. We can see Everton had some presence in Chelsea’s box, but that most of their shots were from outside. We can also see that Chelsea dominated, and that Everton must have been pressed deeply back into their own territory.

So what does this mean for clearances? To be honest, I don’t know. The random match didn’t show anything great in support of taking more notice of clearances, but it also didn’t tear down the idea completely. It also gives a sense of where the team’s defence is in one handy map, almost like a defensive counterpart of the shots map, the other side of the coin.

(You can, of course, get maps of all of the team’s defensive actions, but they are generally more confusing, with tackles and interceptions across the pitch. I think clearance maps, like shot maps, are less messy and that comes with its pros and cons).

The use of the clearance maps in practical terms, probably, isn’t much. They might help you get an idea of how a game went if you missed it, but you can generally watch highlights, read a match report, or your Twitter timeline. It might give you a sense of whether a team was hanging on for a result, or just couldn’t break through to get one, but, as I’ve said, shot maps can give you this sense too.

Basically, this is an idea that’s been knocking around in my head and I thought I’d have a small bit of a closer look and report my findings, whatever they turned out to be. Of course, neither shot nor clearance maps are a substitute for watching the match analytically yourself, nor do I think clearance maps will really change how people think about the game. This is more of a tossing of the clearance hat into the ring and pointing to it, saying “Hey, what about this?”


*(For the record though, in my previous work with defensive stats, I’ve come to the conclusion that clearances aren’t a measure of good defending, at least on an individual level, even when possession adjusted, you’ve got to juggle defensive stats a lot more than that to get something worthwhile. Obviously match to match everything that stops an attack is good, but I believe clearances tell the story of opposition pressure more than individual or team defensive strength).


(clickbait) What will Santa be putting in YOUR club’s stocking this Christmas? (/clickbait)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the games piling up, those teams stuck in a rut can climb up the league. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, it’s Christmas/the non-denominational festive season. And because this time of the year conveniently falls roughly at the half-way point of the season, it’s a good time to ask what presents Premier League clubs might be hoping that Santa/Superman/the Holiday Armadillo brings them. So here they are, club by club (do not expect to be pleased by what your chosen folk legend brings you, and the gifts are non-returnable).

Arsenal: A Christmas Kanu. Clearly, Gooners don’t care about the FA Cup, as they’ve won it and they’re still complaining, so it’s not trophies per se they want, it’s the league. Since Kanu left the club, they haven’t won another Premier League title. He moved on a free to West Brom, where they were the first team to dig their way out of a PoW camp, or something similar. After that, he went to Portsmouth where he helped them win an FA Cup. Clearly, he is a good luck charm that Arsene was an ‘idiot’ (French for ‘idiot’) to let go.

Aston Villa: The season to end now. They’re twelfth, if you can believe it. Hey, twELFth. Geddit. The rest of this is better than that, honestly.

Burnley: Some cough sweets for Sean Dyche. Not for their benefit, but for everyone who has to listen to him give a pre/post-match interview. #ClearSeanDychesThroatOUT

Chelsea: Gaffer tape for John Terry’s mouth. Not to stop him saying racist things, but to stop him ‘doing a Gerrard’ and jinxing the title away. Although, to be fair, he’s already had a trophy-losing slip, maybe he’s got it out of his system.

Crystal Palace: A change of name. They never seem to have done all that much as ‘Crystal Palace’, which is a very ostentatious name that it would be hard to live up to. Perhaps their fortunes would switch and they’d go on to be successful if they called themselves something less showy.

Everton: Two words: David Moyes. I would say they and Real Sociedad should do a manager swap to save David Moyes from the cringe-worthy experience of having to learn Spanish in public, but I’m all for people learning new languages. In that case, Martinez needs his gift to essentially be David Moyes’ Everton tactics – in other words, Tim Cahill up front.

Hull: A real life tiger, which might have the dual purpose of motivating their own players and scaring the opposition into submission.

Leicester: Ulloa to be visited by the ghost of Michus past, present, and future so that he can manage a scoring record that will drag his team up out of the relegation places.

Liverpool: A priest. It’s obvious that, in their handling of Luis Suarez, they did a deal with the devil and now that he is gone they’re lingering in the uncertain fuzziness of mid-table. Failing a good priest, if they’re lucky they might be able to buy their soul back from Milhouse.

Manchester City: What do you buy the club who can buy everything and, if it can’t, threaten to withhold it’s oil supplies until the prices are lowered? Socks.

Manchester United: Magic plasters. With their back-line resembling a cartoon mummy, with bits always falling off – sometimes at unfortunate moments, sometimes just for comic effect – they could certainly do with some way to keep their squad fit. Added to this is Falcao’s knee problems, which may or may not stop him from returning to the quality of player that he may or may not have been, depending who you ask.

Newcastle: I would say Pardew and Ashley being kicked out of Tyneside for good, but where would be the fun in that?

QPR: Probably something that more closely resembles a coherent transfer policy.

Southampton: A limelight, seeing as West Ham are doing such a good job of stealing theirs at the moment.

Stoke: *shrugs* Something to play for.

Sunderland: To play Newcastle United every week. They seem to be mostly rubbish against everyone else but verging on competent when playing against their rivals.

Swansea: A new web address. They’ll never achieve anything with a .net domain name.

Tottenham: Like West Ham (below) they don’t need a thing, because like Arsenal (above) what they need is something with a candy-cane pun related name (Harry Kane).

West Brom: I dunno, something to make them a little more interesting I suppose.

West Ham: Nothing. They have clearly already been gifted the gift of Sam Allardyce being born in England, thus him not being named Allardici or Bigsaminho, meaning that he has to make do with the Hammers rather than being let loose with the Galacticos or something.