Friday 21 September 2012

Bolton v Manchester City. Overall Team Passing Using MCFCAnalytics Data.

In this post  I looked at the individual passing statistics for Nigel Reo-Coker during the first half of the Bolton Manchester City match from the start of last season using the xml data from MCFCAnalytics. Account was taken of the starting and finishing co ordinates for each pass made by Reo-Coker to determine the difficulty of each attempt. Comparison was then made to all the other pass attempts made on the day to see if he over or under performed compared to an overall standard. The higher the expected completion rate associated with an individual pass, then the easier it should have been to complete.

Below I've charted the passing records for each team's starting eleven from the game and compared their actual number of successful passes to the number of expected completions when the difficulty of each individual pass is accounted for. I've also listed the average difficulty of each player's attempted passes. Generally the longer the attempt and the deeper the intended target is into the opponents half of the field, the more taxing the execution. Therefore it's unsurprising to note that both keepers, who hit a disproportionate amount of long balls, overall tried to execute the most difficult passes for each side. Pass difficulty is expressed as how likely it is that the pass is completed, so the lower the figure in the "Pass Difficulty" column, the harder the pass attempt.

Passing Record Of The Bolton Starting Eleven Verses Manchester City.2011/12.

Sorted in descending order of difficulty.

Player. Successful Passes. Expected Completed Passes. Average Pass Difficulty %.
Jaaskeliainen. 21 15.3 37.3
Steinsson. 15 18.9 66.8
Knight. 14 17.5 72.8
Eagles. 29 26.5 73.5
Petrov. 35 38.4 73.8
Cahill. 21 18.8 75.1
K Davies. 19 30.2 77.4
Reo-Coker. 39 41.2 77.7
Robinson. 36 34.2 77.7
Klasnic. 25 27.5 80.7
Muamba. 13 15.7 82.5

Passing Record Of The Manchester City Starting Eleven Verses Bolton.2011/12.

Player. Successful Passes. Expected Completed Passes. Average Pass Difficulty %.
Hart. 15 18.3 52.3
Richards. 29 28.7 71.6
Milner. 52 47.0 73.2
Kolarov. 37 36.7 76.5
Dzeko 20 19.3 77.1
Silva. 61 54.1 77.3
Barry. 44 41.6 78.5
Aguero. 22 24.3 81.1
Lescott. 29 28.2 83.0
Toure. 60 53.5 83.7
Kompany. 35 33.5 83.8

The immediate stand out feature of each table is the under performance against expectation of the Bolton players and the over performance of City. Only four players from the host side beat expectations, while only Joe Hart and the recently signed Aguero fell below average. Numerically, City were also far superior in terms of passes attempted.

Passing statistics are a double edged sword because they quickly provide copious amounts of data ripe for analysis, but they also can quickly overwhelm the senses. A game map containing every pass often merges into a mass of block colour that lacks definition. Even passing wheels for individual players can soon become cluttered and confusing. Therefore in an attempt to mimic the player influence plots, I've tried to produce for each player one single pass that attempts to encompass the essence of his passing contribution in a single game. I've combined the average start and end point for each player's passes in an effort to highlight where each player is seeking to influence the game. In conjunction with the figures in the table above as well as raw passing numbers, we may be able to distill each individuals passing contribution in a few powerful numbers and graphics.

Passing Profiles For Bolton's Starting Eleven Verses Manchester City.

Passing Profiles For Manchester City's Starting Eleven Verses Bolton.

The starting position for each pass summary is denoted by the players name and the length of the line equates to the average pass length. Direction indicates whether a player is passing predominately in field or towards the flanks and in the case of central midfielders their most likely pitch position is used as the origin of the pass.

Hart and Jaaskelainen's plots are similar, but there are subtle differences that do inform. Hart's overall pass length is shorter than his Bolton counterpart and also more pronounced towards the flanks. Jaaskelainen is more route one and deeper, but his overperformance against the expected norm partly justifies this approach or at the very least reveals it as a deliberate and practiced tactic.

Overall both pairs of fullbacks attempted, on average, difficult passes. This is partly unavoidable because many of their pass attempts will have been from the restricted flanks into the more vigourously defended central areas of the pitch and they will probably be longer in length. Steinsson's attempts were generally from advanced positions, but his completion rate was poor, even after allowing for the difficulty of making a completion. However, he fared no worse than many of his colleagues.

As with the keepers, the central defenders appear similar, but Lescott and Kompany attempted much easier and shorter passes from deeper in their half compared to Knight and Cahill. They appear to be primarily defenders who pass the creative burden quickly onto teammates. The Bolton pair in contrast had a much more advanced passing position and chose to play the ball into deeper, more difficult areas. On the evidence of their expected completion rates, Cahill was much more comfortable with this approach than was Knight on this particular gameday.

Toure appears to have principally functioned as a circulator of the ball, his influence was centred around halfway and he attempted and over completed copious amounts of simple passes in a contest where City were never required to ever chase the game.

Milner, Silva and Dzeko's "typical" passes each arrow from wider to more central and advanced areas and are again in stark contrast to Bolton's creative intent where only Eagles performs a similar function. Klasnic and Kevin Davies both make more passes outwards towards the flanks, either by design or necessity. Overall an easier pass to complete, although Davies' completion rate suggests a bad day at the office for the Bolton striker.

Aguero shares with Petrov the distinction of playing the ball on average back towards his own goal albeit from a fairly advanced area of the pitch, possibly indicating an afternoon spent holding up the forward passes.

Passing data often contains much that is merely recycling the ball between players before a more decisive and effective action is attempted. Using an approach that largely cancels out much of this type of pass we can try to illustrate the main thrust of each individuals passing intent and highlight who was trying to do what on the day. By further reference to their actual success rates compared to an league average norm we can then begin to see how successful they were in those attempts, before moving onto more granular details that should highlight individual assists that may be atypical of an otherwise lacklustre showing.

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