Pressing Matters – Closing Down Metrics

So Mike Goodman’s piece about Arsenal for NordicBet and Will Gurpinar-Morgan’s Statsbomb piece finally jolted me into doing something about measuring ‘pressing’.

Now, when I was a lad, it was called ‘closing down’, but if you’re a football hipster it’s ‘pressing’ and the higher up the pitch you do it, the better you are. Or something.

In real life every team does it at some point when defending an opponent’s attack, and I’m interested to see where they do it on the pitch. Using data.

I’ve made a short vid with three examples.

Clip 1 shows Man City seeing Everton dawdling at the back in possession and deciding to push forward as a group. This ends with a one or two sideways/backwards passes before Everton lump it and lose it. Job done.

Clip 2 shows Everton not bothering to do the same to City. Instead they back off into the middle of their own half before closing opponents out one at a time. City have to keep going back before trying a difficult vertical pass that doesn’t come off.

Clip 3 shows City in their own half putting pressure on Everton players, forcing them back, and pushing up as a unit. The result is Everton having to move the ball backwards intot heir own half before deciding to lump it forward. They lose possession again.

So the key things here in every example is the opponent being forced to pass back or forced into misplacing a pass. The video shows you this is what happens when defenses apply pressure. Pour moi, this gives you more data points than fairly rare events like tackles or interceptions. Pour moi, it’s a more realistic measure of pressing than ones I’ve seen around.

Anyway, the vid:

‘High’ pressing is en vogue right now with managers like Guardiola and Klopp in the Prem. And its City that push highest on my measure (which concentrates only on outfield players).

I’ve narrowed the below graphic down to passes made in centre back areas. Red dots are backwards passes or passes that have gone astray. Blue ones successful. The graphic switches between opponents that City have played, and opponents that WBA have played. Proportionally, City force the oppo backwards or into errors twice as much as WBA:

Enjoy the football this weekend.

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Posted in Sports

Wayne Rooney – Shot or Hot?

Former Boy Wonder Wayne Rooney is increasingly coming in for stick from Everton fans as the season wears on.

Today I ran a poll on the Everton forum I read:

I updated my chance creation numbers this week and saw this:

KPs are key passes – passes which lead directly to shots on goal. xA is expected assists: my model is based around where on the pitch key passes were delivered from and to and how often these types of pass were converted historically.

My model basically says that Rooney has been one of the most directly creative players in the Premier League so far this season. I’ve cut some video for you to check it out:

So yeah, my model says Rooney’s been unlucky not to have laid on a goal or two by now. In fact it says he’s more likely to have laid three on by now rather than the actual big fat zero he has:

The video also shows part of what many fans see as Everton’s problem. Rooney is popping up absolutely all over the place. He’s being played here there and everywhere. Not good for a player that naturally does this too much anyway. Is he simply being accomodated too much for no end product?

The treemap below shows the distribution of chance creation throughout the squad. The bigger the rectangle, the more directly creative they’ve been. The bluer the rectangle, the more minutes they’ve played:

No one else is anywhere near Rooney. Is he part of the cure, or part of the disease for Everton this season?

Posted in Sports