Quote of the Weekend
“”I’m looking forward to introducing this manager more than the last one!” -Stadium announcer before bringing on Jose Mourinho for his Stamford Bridge debut.
Five Things We Unlearned
1. Goal-line tech will never work
Early in the second half, it appeared that Chelsea might have sealed their emphatic victory over Hull with a third goal from a corner, save for the stellar effort of Hull keeper Allan McGregor off the line. And so commentators made some references to “beeping watches”—referees this season are equipped with watches that confirm if the ball crosses the goal-line, as the EPL now employs goal-line technology through Hawkeye. Then a quick cutaway screen provided to the Sky Sports broadcasting team showed the ball did not cross the line, some Tweets were tweeted, and everybody moved on.
Well, not everybody exactly; there were a few dissenting voices citing how Hawkeye had gone mental in the Gaelic Athletic Association matches this weekend. But this isn’t missile defense here, and a total system breaking down is far less convincing an issue than the technology yielding a clear false positive. For now, the replay indicated the technology was sound in practice. Oh, and that wonderful sound you heard from the manager, from journalists, from rabid, partisan Chelsea supporters? Silence.
2. Aston Villa’s success this season completely depends on Christian Benteke
We didn’t exactly unlearn this per se in Villa’s shock 1-3 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates, but we did find out that Benteke is not a one man wrecking ball either. While several commentators cited the incisive, daring runs of Gabriel Agbonlahor or the impressive stamina of Karim El Ahmadi, it was Fabian Delph who provided the key presence behind Villa’s attack throughout the match.
Part of Paul Lambert’s approach clearly called for aggressively forcing turnovers, a risky strategy depending on the leniency of the referee but one that Delph managed brilliantly. Delph led in both take-ons attempted and won (6/10) and was tied with Jack Wilshere in ball recoveries with 13, several of which were in crucial areas along Arsenal’s right flank. As Arsenal chased the game following Benteke’s penalty, Villa caught out Wenger’s side and found space behind the Gunners’ defense. Expect more from the former Leeds United player this season.
3. Robin van Persie is due for a regression in goal-scoring
Several analysts have already made note that Manchester United played in highly similar fashion to last season, and the evidence (though from a single match) seem to bear it out. For one, United’s game shot dominance was low overall, with a game TSR of .451. Their TSR Close (TSR at a tied game state) was .600, which shows that United had a slight edge in the early going.
In any case, the team again showed its preference for quick, efficient attacks that rely on the forward’s ability to finish quickly and accurately while the opposition defense tracks back into position. Both Robin van Persie’s goals fit the definition perfectly, with van Persie creating something from nothing on the first goal, making an overhead kick an awkward bounce as the Swansea defense moved quickly to get in front of him, and in the second goal making a quick decision to turn the first defender back and shoot before Swansea could get properly organized.
Again, this strategy might explain why United can score so many goals on a relatively slim shot dominance. Something to keep track of as the season progresses.
4. The era of total shot dominance by Barcelona left with Tito Vilanova
Well, first things first. The win came against Levante at the Camp Nou, so we shouldn’t read too much into Barca’s La Liga 7-0 opener. But Barcelona’s attacking third dominance against the away team was something to behold:
Moreover, the midfield engine was practically nostalgic in performance, with Xavi posting a mind-boggling 97/101 pass success rate, with 48/51 in the final third. As impressive was the movement of Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique in behind him. This could certainly be an indication of the gulf in quality between the top and bottom in La Liga, but already it looks like rumours of Barca’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
5. A move into coaching with Palermo would help calm down Gennaro Gattuso’s temper
- Over at StatsBomb there was a good little discussion this morning of Chelsea’s decision to “shell” against Hull in the second half of the game. Many commentators believed this came down to Hull getting back into the match, but there is equal evidence that Jose Mourinho was deliberately testing Chelsea’s defences. As well, as Michael Cox noted, the double pivot of Ramires and Lampard played well-forward in the first half, which was likely unsustainable. Perhaps Jose Mourinho is going to try to resurrect that 4-6 formation Jonathan Wilson warned might be on its way in Inverting the Pyramid.
- Something to keep an eye on: how dominant sides react to going a goal down, particularly with how we know teams behave at a +1 game state (the losing side takes more shots of lesser quality while opening up space in defense). Arsenal don’t provide the greatest example as they lost Laurent Koscielny six minutes after coughing up a controversial penalty against Aston Villa, but going a goal behind is an inevitable fact of life for some teams, and they need to figure out a way to balance the need to score with the ability to maintain discipline in tracking back.
Rolling Total Shots Ratio/PDO tables for the Premier League
A note to say these totals will roll throughout the season and should NOT be used for anything in their present form. Additionally, PDO is calculated using on target shots only, which explains why it looks weird on a small sample.
|Team||P||W||D||L||GF||GA||TSR||PDO||Final 3rd Touches|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||0||0||1||0||1||0.579||667||151|