On GIFs, West Bromwich Albion and Saido Berahino

The Blues travel to the Hawthorns this weekend in search of their first win of the season.

Following the Chelsea preview when  I talked about Everton (naively) trying to go toe to toe with Mourinho’s men, I started wondering about how to best visualise team approaches over a short time.

The obvious answer was to make a GIF of touch/passing networks. Everton have become a team that tries to imprint its style on a game no matter what standard of opposition it faces. The graphic shows Everton’s opening three matches (Leicester, Arsenal, Chelsea). The basic structure and lines remain the same:


The Baggies on the other hand, have been ‘all over the gaff’:


Several things stick out in those Albion networks:

1. Olsson and Dawson are quite far up despite their lack of mobility. They’ve been caught out already here with Olsson diving in ridiculously on Dyer against Swansea.

2. Mulumbu is seeing a lot of ball in midfield but isn’t finding attacking players ahead of him with any regularity. It’s Wisdom finding attacking players from right back.

3. New boy Pocognoli at left back. Olsson was having to feed Brunt first to get it to the Belgian in the first two games. Davidson came in for the Swansea game on that side and suddenly Olsson was able to directly feed him.

Basically the whole set-up is weird. Irvine’s got a job on to sort it all out.

4. Out of all the forwards, it’s Berahino getting the most involved.

The Burundi-born, Brazilian sounding England U21 international is a really interesting player to watch. The graphic below is his Premier League shot map so far. Yellow dots were goals, blue dots were saved attempts and red dots were blocked or off target. Two of the yellow dots are pens, and there’s a lot of off target and blocked efforts from wide positions. At a glance this shot map doesn’t look all that impressive:

Berahino copyWhat is impressive is the 3.41 shots per 90 that he’s getting off at such a young age (and a good % inside the box too). Also to like is the fact that he’s keeping pace with his expG (6.46) to goals (7) ratio. Thirdly there’s a decent chance that he’ll start to get a few more shots on target as he regresses to the mean. However, this needs to be tempered by the wide locations of these shots – he probably won’t start getting bags of them on target from here (no-one I’ve studied so far does).

Anyway, what I especially like about this kid is his spacial awareness. People often (rightly) talk about movement as being a big deal but so is knowing when not to move too. Berahino shows an appreciation of when to hold position in those wide areas to keep defenders semi-occupied and keep them from protecting the danger zone. He knows how to dart in then step back out to free up space for himself. He knows how to look disengaged on the back stick so defenders forget about him.


Repeatedly do this and it will pay dividends. Watch Berahino goals here and his latest U21 goals here where his ability to hold position often gives him ample time to do his thang.

Come Saturday, Everton will dominate the ball during the game. But as we’ve seen already this season, the Blues struggle to defend direct attacks during transitions, get caught in the channels, and can’t get their offside trap sorted. If WBA do find a way in, it’s likely that Berahino will be the one to sniff it out.

Follow me @footballfactman on twitter.



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