There’s a lot that’s good on the web right now, so here’s a breakdown to prevent you from suffering internet overload.
In-Game Total Shots Ratio
This week Infostrada’s Simon Gleave directed me toward a post he wrote on Feyenoord’s in game Total Shots Ratio (shots for/shots for + shots against), which is just a simple but effective metric to judge dominance. Gleave in this case was making a simple and effective argument against the persistent idea that possession stats matter in football (readers of this site will know well they don’t, really).
This approach was spurred by Benjamin Pugsley on his WordPress site, which he’s been doing over the last few weeks. The lates is in application to the Real Madrid Galatasaray match. Pugsley deftly applies the graph to demonstrate the effects of game states altered by scorelines. Again, these things may seem “obvious” but they further peel away the layers of dross to look at what actually matters in determining true dominance in a football match.
I think it’s all Paywalled up now unfortunately, but the Times’ Gary Jacob wrote an interesting post on the prospect of performance-related pay in order to encourage players by tethering wages directly to pitch performance.
Jacob notes this approach exists already in some cases, as with Luis Suarez’s bonuses and Swansea’s low base pay augmented by appearance and performance boosts. He writes:
“At present, players nearly always earn a fixed sum each week or a basic wage that is boosted by bonuses for appearances, goals, clean sheets and maybe a win. In some contracts, there are bonuses for league position and qualifying for European competition. Never are there any more complicated performance-related elements in the contract.”
Jacob specifically hints at advanced metrics which may be hitherto unknown being applied as a means to gauge “true” good performance, which could theoretically be tied to pay. I actually don’t think this is a good approach, for several reasons. One, each player has a distinct role within a club, which may change based on formation, tactical approach, and opposition. A “good” performance in one game may be a poor performance in another. Two, while players should take responsibility for their results, they are often only as good as the manager who directs them, the physio who attends to them, and their teammates. Three, and Jacob acknowledges this, a single player metric as bonus scheme could lead to players making selfish decisions to boost their own pay at the cost of the team.
In the end the current system of bonuses for appearances, goals, clean sheets and perhaps wins seems good enough to me. The manager should as much be part of this scheme as the players, if they aren’t already. Clubs win as teams using smart tactics against the opposition.
If you’re not a reader of Wallpapering Frog, you should be. The author has been working on a predictive model since January, and it looks fascinating. He’s a big fan of a simple, tailored approach, too.
Steve Fenn did some similarly great work using a method devised by Gleave for MLS. Some okay news for Toronto FC fans in there, I guess. Well worth your time.
Duped, rich footballers
Simon Kuper has a post up on FT on a criminally under-covered aspect of footballers’ lives: bad money management. Kuper writes:
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Hannah Southon, a solicitor at Harcus Sinclair in London who has represented several footballer-victims, diagnoses: “They feel slightly embattled. They know they are a honeypot and there are flies around them. Quite early on they are introduced to these financial advisers who hang around the scene. And the footballers are quite trusting of them. I think it’s because they met them so young.” Once an adviser has penetrated footballers’ circles, he often collects multiple footballer clients.
As I’ve learned recently, football is a sport surrounded by chancers and conmen and crooks. It’s very difficult for players without access to a reliable solicitor or accountant to prevent themselves from getting involved with someone who wants to steal their money. It’s a short post but I imagine there is more to this story…
Big Chances, Big Conversion Rates
One of the central mysteries this season is how Man United with a lower TSR than City and with some tepid performances in the Premier League managed to run away with the title. The “We Are Premier League” blog takes a look, and the results are very interesting, following upon Wooly Jumpers for Goalposts good work on Gareth Bale’s goal-scoring ability for Spurs.
Their conclusion is one of the more simple and decisive I’ve seen:
Man Utd have created the most Big Chances and also have one of the best conversion rates, in terms of total goals scored this explains most of the difference between them and Man City this season.
In other words, Man United both created and converted the most clear cut chances or CCCs of any English football club. This rate well exceeded their TSR. When United created chances, they were excellent, and they were not wasted. Whether that can be sustained beyond this season, and how United have managed it, is a subject for another day.