Thursday, August 26, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
So I have been on Twitter for a number of months now, and I am finally getting around to adding the standard Blogger social media buttons at the bottom of each post. Please feel free to use those buttons for any of the services with which you have an account. I appreciate all the help in spreading the word about my blog.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I got the following email in response to an earlier post from a friend who has been an Arsenal supporter much longer than me.
Up until last year, [my wife] and I have been huge fans of Sagna and Clichy, but last season we got really frustrated with both of them. Defensively they are great, but too often they make the pass (cross) that makes us lose the ball. Especially Sagna C-A-N-N-O-T cross the ball. Always too low, or to an opponents feet, and then we are caught in a counter attack. Against Liverpool Sagna made 6 attempts to cross the ball into the box- all unsuccessful! Which must be considered a crime now when we have Chamakh who is a beast in front of the goal and famous for his headers. Check out the attached chalkboard.
It's interesting to see that only Clichy had a worse completion percentage than Sagna. Perhaps my theory of missing RvP and Fabregas is only part of the story. If my friend is correct, it won't matter who Arsenal stick in the middle up front if they can't get them the ball due to poor passing.
Good statisticians never use statistics to prove something we already know to be true. Using them to prove something that is intuitive is a massive waste of resources and time, no matter how entertaining the subject. This study (HT: John) clearly falls into this category. While not related to football, it earns my "BS Stat of the Day" award in the "You're Kidding!?!?!" category.
PS - I hope guys understand the natural end game of such decision making. C'mon, haven't you guys watched enough horror/reality movies to know where this all leads?
Sunday, August 15, 2010
When the 2010-2011 Premier League schedule came out, I circled the season kickoff between Arsenal and Liverpool. You see, if there's one set of matches I will always make time for at the George and Dragon (rather than my own couch) it's the two Premier League ties between the Gunners and the Reds. It's a way for me to enjoy the beautiful game with one of the guys who got me into the sport, and he just happens to be a Liverpool fan.
I say "make time for" because most Premier League matches are on the weekends - when I have my children from my first marriage three out of every four a month. It's not right for me to take time away from them, and you can imagine it is very difficult to find a babysitter for that time of day. So, on these two weekends a year, I call on my now-wife (then-fiance) to watch the children while I enjoy some Premier League action early on a weekend morning.
A lot has changed since I last watched my Gunners at the George for last year's second win against Liverpool. I've made it through my first World Cup as a dedicated fan. I also got married this summer. Too bad my team hasn't changed much during that time.
As I showed up at the George this morning I was greeted by a starting lineup with no van Persie, an active squad without Fabregas, and the painful reminder of no goal keeper upgrade by seeing Almunia's name over the goal. It didn't take long to make this reminder of 2009-2010 turn into a painful reality.
Almunia gave up another early second half goal that any other goal keeper would have turned into a picture perfect save. Why Arsene Wenger refused to make a keeper his top transfer priority this offseason is beyond me. Arsenal has plenty of defensive holes to worry about, but the squad has absolutely ZERO confidence in the goal keeping squad. Watching that early defensive collapse and Almunia failure had me muttering, "not this again."
On the offensive side, it was yet another match with no van Persie and no Fabregas in the starting lineup. This translated to a lot more passing than usual, even for Arsenal! Passing statistics for both teams were:
- Arsenal: 451 successful passes out of 511 attempts
- Liverpool: 193 successful passes out of 263 attempts
A graphical representation of all that passing can be seen in Figure 1.
The benefit of all this passing showed up in the number of opportunities for Arsenal, but not perhaps the quality of them. They had double the shots (18 vs 9), with Liverpool benefitting from a higher proportion of blocks (6 for 33% vs. Arsenal's 2 for 22% of the shots). Watching the match, I am sure many of those Arsenal shots came in that flurry of action 10 minutes from the end.
The frustrating reality for an Arsenal fan like myself is that without van Persie or Fabregas on the pitch, teams are not fearful of all the passing. Arsenal has no real finisher under those conditions, and they truly look like a team just happy to keep passing for passing's sake. In reality, they have a bunch of role players on the pitch that are used to passing to set up someone else. Arsenal is in real trouble if they have to go through yet another season with such a situation being the weekly reality. I hope that is not the case.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
With the start of the 2010-2011 English Premier League season less than a week away, I will embark on a series of posts analyzing Arsenal's 2009-2010 campaign and see if anything can be learned from it. The Gunners finished a distant third to Manchester United and Chelsea in 2010.
All data used in this series comes from the Guardian's Premier League Chalkboards. As I was made aware of these chalkboards via a fellow Gooner in an email lamenting the high number of passes in a particular match from last season, I will dedicate my first post in this series to looking at Arsenal's passing. I will look at three statistics - number of passes, ratio of Arsenal passes to opponents' passes, and percentage of successful passes - and compare Arsenal's performance in each against their competition.
Total Number of Passes
One of the common comments (criticisms?) of Arsenal is that they pass so much more than their opponents. This can manifest itself in supporters' frustrations as it sometimes seems that the Gunners seem to enjoy passing for passing's sake and less about setting up a score. It can also be a sense of enjoyment, as such an emphasis on passing can sometimes open up opportunities not realized by other teams' strategies. The first task I set about was quantifying just how many more times Arsenal pass in a match vs. their opponents.
Looking at my transcription of the Guardian data, I took the differential in the total number of passes made by Arsenal and their opponent for each of the 38 matches in last year's Premier League season. This is noted by the variable PD. I then used Minitab's "Graphical Summary" module to look at the data's distribution. See Figure 1 for that module's output.
The one sample t-test shows us that Arsenal do indeed have a statistically significant mean difference in their number of passes. To be exact, the mean is 180.5 passes per match, with the 95% likelihood of the true average being 153.4 passes or greater.
One other question that could be asked is: Do Arsenal show a statistically significant gap in their increased number of passes against the competition at home vs. while on the road? Turning to my copy of the Guardian data, one can see that the data has been categorized as "home" vs. "away". Luckily, both sets of data, when grouped by venue, also test to be normal. This means a two-sample t-test can be applied to the data to determine if there is a statistically significant gap between home vs. away passing differential. See Figure 3 for the results.
Ratio of Arsenal Passes to Opponent Passes
One other way to look at the passing gap is to look at the ratio of the number of Arsenal passes to those of the opposition (PR). When looking at this statistic, we get an even cleaner distribution. See Figure 4 for the graphical summary.
As the results indicated a normal distribution (p-value > 0.05), a one-sample t-test is used again to quantify the size of the ratio. See Figure 5 below.
What does this look like within a match? One way to look at it is via the Guardian Chalkboards. Figure 6 shows the chalkboard for the passes made during the Arsenal/Sunderland match on February 20th, 2010.
- made 181 more passes per match than their opposition
- made 72% more passes per match than their opposition
- passing accuracy was 7.2% higher than their opposition