10 Points: RvP, Fulham & Arsenal's Defence (wk 15)

1) Close Goal Difference

Close Goal Difference = Goal Difference at minus 1, tied and plus 1.

I've banged this drum for some time now in various places. Close Goal Difference has an almost perfect (r2=0.95) relationship with points won.

Close Goal Difference

Close_gd_15_medium

Total Goal difference has a weaker relationship with points (r2=0.79).

Week_15_gd_to_points_medium

Overall goal differential, which includes blowouts and thrashings (Liverpool, City and Norwich), has a weaker relationship with points won. If we solely focus on Close Game State we retain 82.9% of the goal events and throw out the goals scored that likely had zero bearing on how the points were won.

None of this is groundbreaking news. Incidentally, Man United won the league in 12/13 with a Close GD that was streets ahead of any other team in the league.

13/14 PL Table With Close Goal Difference

Pos Team Close GD Points
1 Arsenal 19 35
4 Man City 14 29
3 Chelsea 12 30
2 Liverpool 12 30
5 Everton 8 28
8 Southampton 4 23
6 Tottenham 4 27
9 Man United 3 22
7 Newcastle 3 26
12 Stoke -2 17
11 Swansea -2 18
10 Aston Villa -3 19
15 West Brom -4 15
13 Hull -5 17
14 Norwich -8 17
17 West Ham -8 13
16 Cardiff -9 14
18 Fulham -10 13
19 Palace -11 13
20 Sunderland -17 8

This is how Close GD and Points through 15 games looks. Tottenham and Newcastle are big outliers in terms of more points gained than their Close GD would suggest.

Man City's Close GD suggest that they should have secured more points.

2) RvP Sad Face

I desperately wanted a GIF of this situation but a plain 'ol picture will have to do. The picture really doesn't do justice to how dejected RvP looked as he trudged off.

1472014_558409210906128_597152386_n_medium

I wonder what goes through van Persie's head in those quiet, reflective moments? Does he pine for 'home'; does he regret his decision to move to Man United? Probably not. But I'm damn sure that a big part of RvP signing for Man United - except for the substantial pay rise - was the chance to work with Alex Ferguson and win trophies.

Man United's ability to win silverware seems to have departed when the genius (with every passing game the word genius becomes apt) finally decided to retire.

Look at van Persie's face. Look at it! Sorrow, regret, sadness.

He looks like a man who left his girlfriend, who was pretty darn amazing and loving, for the hot-hot girl he met in a nightclub. Turns out that the hot club girl is a bit of a dick: nags him when he goes for a beer with his friends, arguments over his failure to fold towels in the correct manner, "football, again?".

Ferguson was like the makeup that the hot club girl wears and he made Man United look more attractive and dazzling a proposition than it actually was. Well, it's morning now for van Persie, the club girl has no makeup on and she's not so hot now. Robin may well be wondering what the hell he has got himself into.

3) What Next For United?

This: Villa, West Ham, Hull and Norwich.

Man_u_fixtures_dec_10th_medium

Moyes' world seems to be crumbling. The players look bereft of confidence and belief. Now is really the time for Rooney and (health permitting) van Persie to step up. That pair are Man United's best players and it's times like this - semi-crisis - that a club needs it's best players.

This upcoming bunch of fixtures are probably just what Moyes needs. United will be favourites in all 4 fixtures, 3 of the 4 are on the road which may not be the worst thing in the world right now.

9 points form these 4 games would be the absolute bare minimum requirement. 12 points, as unlikely as that seems in current form, may just be possible.

This stretch of games which takes us to the end of the year, and the halfway point in the fixture list, will likely define the narrative regarding Moyes and his Man united team.

4) PDO

I love the stat called 'PDO'. A lot of you may not, and you may be highly dubious of it. PDO is team save%+ team Scoring% and it regresses heavily toward the mean on a season to season basis.

It has been said before that PDO captures 'luck' or 'non-skill' or simply put, the unexplainable. Hell, maybe PDO captures systems and those who say that a team (non-Barcelona) post PDO's way out of the normal bounds are able to do so because of these systems. Maybe high PDO's are due to the amount of time spent in a winning position? It's possible.

This is the best explanation I have seen for what PDO actually means:

13/14 PDO's

Week_15_pdo_medium

Arsenal are the big outlier in terms of posting a high PDO. Palace are the team posting the crazy low PDO, but that PDO is regressing. Arsenal are stubbornly holding out for whatever reason.

In 11/12 Man City won the league with a PDO of 116.2. City's PDO the next year? 99.16.

In 12/13 United won the league with a PDO of ~114.9. United's PDO so far this year? 98.52.

My point is: winners of the league, especially if they are runaway ~89 point winners, will likely post a pretty darn good PDO that may sustain for a 38 game spell. But unless you are managed by Ferguson or there is a huge talent gap between your team and the rest of the league it's unlikely that a team can maintain such high PDO's year on year.

If we take Eric's tweet at face value then we conclude that Arsenal are the team who are outperforming their shot differential to the largest degree.

5)Regression in Save%

I talked about PDO in the previous point so now let's look at save%. This time I want to focus on the Save% splits.

I'm going to take the first 8 games and the next 7 games and look at the save percentages posted in each of those buckets.

SV% First 8 Games Last 7 Games
Southampton 88.46 50
Liverpool 82.5 66.67
Stoke 81.58 67.57
Tottenham 80.77 65.63
West Brom 80.65 62.5
Chelsea 79.17 52
Fulham 78.26 63.64
Arsenal 75.68 91.67
Hull 75 65.52
West Ham 75 67.65
Cardiff 74.51 75.68
Man United 69.7 68.97
Norwich 69.05 70
Aston Villa 68.75 75.76
Swansea 64.52 65.38
Man City 62.5 71.43
Newcastle 62.16 77.42
Everton 61.54 86.67
Palace 59.52 73.68
Sunderland 52.38 65.52

It's worth noting that 18 of the 20 teams saw their save percent regress in the last 7 games back toward (or beyond) the mean. Only Arsenal and Cardiff managed to sustain their high (or low) Save percentages from bucket 1 to bucket 2.

Maybe Arsenal and Cardiff employ unique defensive systems. In a way I kinda hope Arsenal are employing a unique and vastly superior defensive scheme in comparison to anyone else in the league. If they were, it would be interesting to analyze and duplicate.

Alas, a 91% save% in the last 7 games may be systemic but is more likely to be simply due to variance and the bounces teams sometimes get.

6) Arsenal's Defense

Whilst we are on the topic of Arsenal's save% I'll take a quick look at Arsenal's defensive scheme. This season we have seen a flexible Arsenal: pressing in one game, sitting deep in the next, using possession to swamp opponents in the easier fixtures.

Throughout these intelligent and varied tactical setups Arsenal's defense has been mighty impressive. Arsenal's 11 goals against is the lowest total in the league. But what do some of Arsenal's underlying defensive numbers look like?

Metric # Rank
Shots Against 172 7th
SoT Against 61 T 7th
SoT Prevention% (av ~67%) 64.53% 17th
D Zone Time 23.64 mins p90 6th best
Save% (~70%) 81.96% 1st

Well, not much of that would help us in understanding why Arsenal have the best GA record in the division. Shots and Shots on Target against are pretty meh. Shots on target prevention (SoT against/shots against) is one of the worst numbers in the league. Arsenal are pretty good at not allowing the ball into their own defensive end and, of course, the save% IS OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Some of Arsenal's middling shots against numbers are caused by score effects (Arsenal leading a lot of the time) but those same score effects should assist Arsenal in posting a better SoT prevention number than 17th in the league. Maybe a deeper video breakdown would help us to get a better feel for Arsenal's defensive scheme, although I'm not convinced that would turn up anything new.

Arsenal are giving up too many shots and too many shots on target for a title challenger, even if those are from a longer distance than the average team posts (my intuition). On the surface, Arsenal's save% is keeping them in the hunt right now.

7) Sunderland

Sunderland, it's been a while since I wrote about you and your crazy antics, but I'm back.

James Grayson posted a chart on twitter that looked at Sunderland's collapse in TSR this season. I wanted to follow that up with a few little bits of info.

Sunderland_shots_15_medium

Paolo Di Canio was fired after game 5 with Sunderland's shots +/- at -5. Di Canio's PDO (see above) was 81.4 which is massively under par. Kevin Ball took charge for games 6 and 7 which saw Sunderland tread water.

Poyet, the great hope, took charge at game 8 and has presided over a complete fucking collapse of Sunderland's shots numbers (-74 in 8 games ).

Poyet's Magic


Poyet
SOT For 2.38
SoT Against 4.38
Goals For 0.88
Goals Against 1.75
Scoring% 36.8
Save% 60.0
PDO 96.8

Poyet's Sunderland are being killed not only by the shots count but the shots on target count too. Goals for and against? Bad news in those categories too, I'm afraid. But there may be some extenuating circumstances.

The Good (less bad)

Sunderland's last 4 home games have come against Newcastle, City, Chelsea and Tottenham and yes, boys and girls, that is probably the toughest 4 game-set of home fixtures and PL club will face this term.

The Bad

Sunderland's last 4 away games have been fairly gentle in terms of away fixtures: Swansea, Hull, Stoke and Villa. In those games Sunderland were -36 in shots, -12 and were outscored 7-0.

Overpowered by tough competition at home. Overpowered by weak competition on the road. Poyet will be given lots of time, and we people that stick our noses in teams' business need more time to properly analyse Sunderland.

Thing is, this looks like O'Neill's Sunderland and that is not a good sign.

8) Fulham & The Dead Cat Bounce

In finance, a dead cat bounce is a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock.[1] Derived from the idea that "even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height"

Is Fulham's recovery in terms of results and underlying numbers to be a small and brief one? The new manager Meulensteen will hope that his systems and coaching will be sustainable and can enable Fulham to rise clear of relegation trouble. I'm not convinced this will be the case.

Fulham's have a lack of talent, especially in midfield, and this prevents them from controlling games. This lack of control leads to being heavily outshot and, ultimately, without a strong defense, outscored.

Meulensteen's target - with the help of a January buy or two - will be to turn Fulham into the team that they were in Martin Jol's early days: a team that is able to beat the weaklings at home and spring the odd rare surprise away from home.

That type of results profile may be enough to survive this season which will be a fine outcome as things stand right now. This season, at best, will be a write-off and a steep learning curve for Khan. Fulham have the money and potentially the coach to gradually improve this team.

9) Shots & Shots On Target

This is pretty simple: How well do shots and shots on target correlate with GD? I've formatted the correlations on a week by week basis. Shots on target has always had an edge in terms of it's relationship with GD, but that edge is closing.

Shots_r2_s_15_medium

It's worth noting that these correlations are a lot higher in 13/14 after 15 games than they were in 12/13. Don't ask me why that is the case beacause I have no idea!

The real test for any of these stats is how predictive they are of future performance. next week I'm going to run quite a few charts and graphs on the predictive ability of certain stats using the tiny, and probably deeply unsatisfactory sample of the first 8 games and the following 8 games.

10) Goal Of The Week

There may well have been better goals this week ( Stoke's, Osvaldo's) but the execution, and the importance, of this goal means it's tops for me.

Deulofeu scores here because of the pace of the shot and the short back lift.

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