I decided to take a look at some of the underlying numbers and stats behind Madrid and Barcelona's title battle in the 2011/12 season, something I did for the 2011/12 EPL season which can be found here under the 2011/12 numbers review section of the blog.
After the jump I shall be looking at the respective clubs form, shot totals, save %'s, scoring %'s in an attempt to uncover exactly what underlying factors propelled Madrid to the title and why Barcelona failed to defend their crown.
Warning, this is a long post. So, grab a refreshment of your choice and give it a go!
In what was supposed to be a titanic battle for the La Liga title, it ended with Madrid winning by a 9 point margin and Barcelona's evolutionary and silverware-laden coach deciding to quit the managers post in order to take a rest away from football.
Nobody thought the winning margin would be 9 points and especially not in Madrid's favor. How did Madrid do it, what were their strengths which facilitated that 9 point margin?
What really happened at Barcelona that prevented them from keeping up with Madrid and their sensational points total?
Let's see if we can find out.
Madrid And Barcelona Numbers
Points and Goals
These are the raw 38-game numbers. The goals totals are within the range of one another. So why the 9 point gap?
No surprises are seen here, we know Barcelona are the best possession team in the world. Madrid's possession total would have led the EPL.
These are total shots per game which include shots off target or on target.
We see that Madrid, despite 10% less possession of the ball every game managed to shoot more than Barcelona did. But were they efficient, did they manage to convert those shot numbers into on target numbers?
These are the percentage numbers of shots on target from the total shot numbers.
eg, 6 shots on target from 12 total shots gives a team a 50% shooting efficiency rating.
Overall, Barcelona were the far more shot efficient team.Madrid were pretty consistent across the board. But how many of these shots were on target?
Shots On Target
So Madrid, despite having 3 shots more per game only managed 0.42 more shos on target per game than Barcelona.
But shots on target numbers need context and that require scoring% (shots on target/goals for)
Note how similar the overall scoring% numbers are.
Barcelona edge this category by 0.22%, although the respective teams went about achieving that number in different ways.
Madrid were consistent home and away despite seeing their away shooting efficiency dip sharply. Barcelona were very strong at home but only had a 31.78 scoring % number away from home and I think we know that Barcelona's away form will be the area most scrutinized.
How about shots against?
Total Shots Against
So, Madrid having 10% less possession per game meant they conceded more shots against than Barcelona did, this we expect. But remember Madrid had more shots for, again despite less possession per game. Madrid were simply a higher shot event team.
Shots On Target Against
We see Barcelona concede less shots on target against per game than Madrid. Barcelona were simply better at restricting the oppositions shooting opportunities.
So why did Barcelona concede only 3 goals less over the course of the season?
Madrid were simply better at keeping the ball out of the net. This can be due to tactics, team defense and goalkeeper skill level.
The overall difference is 2%, League wide save % is 65.5%. Both teams are well above mean but the telling difference, as illustrated above is teams away save%. Madrid have a 10.3% better save % away from home.
It's all about the away form.
Here is a stat called PDO. It's a method borrowed from Ice Hockey and adapted here. It's the combination of scoring% + save%. Each individual game has a 200 number that is divided up by the 2 teams depending on how they performed in scoring% and save%. PDO is expected to regress toward the mean (100) over time. Man City scored 116.2 in the EPL.
We see both teams are exceptional by this measure and by far and away the league leaders.
Barcelona are the home kings of PDO with a staggering 125.6 number. But Barcelona fall behind Madrid by the away PDO number.
Barcelona, by pdo and it being an accurate reflection of points totals (which it is not), would seem to have had a better home season than Madrid. And vice versa for the away form.
Did it pan out that way?
Points home and away
Well Barcelona despite the better home PDO and home possession and a slightly better scoring% managed only 2 points more than Madrid did.
Madrid's 50 points total at home was by right of having superior home totals in shots for, shots against and save%.
The away points column is the real kicker for Barcelona as they were just not sble to keep up with Madrid's relentless away form and this was underpinned by their away goals totals.
The goals for totals are crazy high for both clubs, but it's on this chart that we see another big sign of a separation between the two teams.
Madrid conceded 8 more goals at home, which didn't hurt them. Away from home Madrid were +38, Barca +23. A 15 goal differential and that is significant.
Madrid's superior shot numbers, and save % enabled them to outscore Barcelona by 10 goals away from home and concede 5 goals less. This is where the 11 point gap between the respective away form comes in.
The only stat in which Barcelona were superior to Madrid was possession. Possession needs context and the above stats provide that context to Barcelona's possession.
So why wasn't Barcelona's excellent away possession converted into more points?
The shots on target +/- don't tell us much on an individual game-by-game basis. Madrid were out shots 3 times (losing only 1 of these). Barcelona were out shot only twice away from home ( 1 draw, 1 win).
So what went wrong with Barcelona's challenge, why did the away form falter?
Let's look at scoring and save %, result by result, in the form of PDO to see if it shows us a trend?
Madrid's PDO (38 games)
Madrid have 17 results that feature under their individual mean line PDO. 11 wins, 4 draws and 2 defeats. Their other 21 results above the PDO mean were all wins.
Game 3 was a loss at Levante (a). Madrid were outshot 4-3 and outscored 1-0.
Game 15 was a loss against Barcelona (h). Madrid were outshot 5-7 and outscored 1-3, despite taking a 1st minute lead.
Real Madrid were incredibly consistent.
Win % above the mean line was 100%.Win % below the mean line was 64.7%
Barcelona PDO (38 games)
Barcelona had 16 results below their mean line. 7 wins, 6 draws and 3 losses. All other results were wins.
Game 13 was an away loss to Getafe. Barca outshot Getafe 6-1 but were outscored 1-0 on Getafe's only shot on target and thus recording an extremely rare 0 pdo score.
Game 22 was an away loss to Osasuna. Barca outshot them 8-3 but were outscored 3-2. getafe scoring on all 3 shots on target
Game 34 was El Clasico in the Camp Nou. Barcelona were outshot 3-6 and outscored 1-2 despite having 72% possession of the ball. Mourinho's tactics and Ronaldo at his very best were enough to effectively seal the title.
But, in essence, it was Barca's 6 draws were led to the 9 point gap between the teams, all 6 draws coming away from home. It's no coincidence that when Barcelona suffered a low PDO score they were highly likely to be unable to win.
Below the mean line win% was 43.7%. Above the mean line the number was 100%
Away form was the over riding factor that prevented Barcelona from keeping pace with Madrid's relentlessly strong form.
But was Barcelona's away form poor in comparison to seasons gone by?
2011/12 39 points (2nd)
2010/11 46 points (1st)
2009/10 44 points (1st)
2008/09 42 points (1st)
Overall we can say Barcelona were a poorer away side than years gone by, but why? Fans of Barcelona may be able to tell that story better than I, but as I hope I have shown in the above numbers and charts, this seasons away form was what prevented them from being closer to Madrid.
A few thoughts.
Madrid and Barcelona are both sensationally good by nearly every stat count. Both teams' home form is outrageous. Madrid's away form in 2011/12 is probably the highest points total I have ever seen, and that fact, more than Barca's 4 or 5 point drop off from historical away form is what enabled this Real Madrid side to win La Liga.
Madrid's away form may not be sustainable to the tune of 50 points a season.
These two teams are the two best sides in the world, who is the best is a debate to be had among the fans of both clubs.
La Liga is not in a good place at the moment. The lack of competition from other clubs, whether due to financial mismanagement or a cruel and unfair tv deal, is something that really needs to be corrected. Only 6 teams scored more goals in total than Messi did individually. Generational talent though he is, this doesn't reflect well on the league from an outsiders perspective.
I shall leave you with one last graph!
The Race For The Prize