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A Glimpse into STATS’ new Touch-by-Touch Data Points for Soccer

By: Andy Cooper

The 2015–16 English Premier League season was only four weeks old as we moved into its first weekend off for the international break, but that small sample size didn’t stop many fans and even media outlets from openly wondering if the title race had already been decided.

Reigning champions Chelsea have been tossed aside as an afterthought in favor of a resurgent Manchester City team just one season removed from a title of their own. City finished the first month of the season 4-0 with 10 goals scored and zero conceded, an impressive accomplishment to be sure — but this stretch is just a small fraction of their 38-match campaign.

At first glance, crowning them the league winners after four matches seems to be an overreaction to a hot start, but with the world of high-level data analysis continuing to grow in international soccer, fans are getting smarter and maybe, just maybe, they’re on to something here.

STATS has introduced brand-new, touch-by-touch data points to its soccer coverage in order to keep up with the increasing demand of a more statistically focused soccer market. These new data points give a glimpse into a previously underutilized area of soccer analysis, affording everyone a better understanding of what it is that makes a champion.

Manchester City has been exceptional on both ends of the pitch this season, as they have scored the most goals in league competitions, and, as of the international break, they remain the only team yet to concede a goal. While these two facts don’t seem to be directly related, they can both be attributed in large part to the passing dominance exhibited by the team.

[av_table purpose=’tabular’ pricing_table_design=’avia_pricing_default’ pricing_hidden_cells=” caption=’Overall Passing Accuracy’ responsive_styling=’avia_responsive_table’ av_uid=’av-28ccdli’] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-26jdk2e’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-24ea4xy’]Manchester City[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-22s25p2′]87.8%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-21f86nq’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-20f5j46′]Arsenal[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1yoe88m’]87.5%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-1whiiau’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1uron4m’]Manchester United[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1suo2om’]84.6%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-1r0soba’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1q0eg3q’]Swansea City[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1oa85ee’]82.8%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-1nghrg6′][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1l75b2e’]Chelsea[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1jkcbna’]82.1%[/av_cell][/av_row] [/av_table]

Manchester City boast an 87.8 percent overall passing accuracy, more than 5 points higher than their title rivals Chelsea, and 7 points higher than the league average. This means when they get possession of the ball, more often than not they’re going to keep it, resulting in more scoring opportunities for themselves and limited scoring opportunities for their opponents.

[av_table purpose=’tabular’ pricing_table_design=’avia_pricing_default’ pricing_hidden_cells=” caption=’% Passes in the Final Third’ responsive_styling=’avia_responsive_table’ av_uid=’av-5d73gm’] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-58g21y’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1ds8wae’]Arsenal[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1c8p5jq’]34.2%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-4s6x8m’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1a6veja’]Manchester City[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-17ruora’]33.2%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-15vtww6′][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1400n3a’]Chelsea[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-3v1xpi’]32.2%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-112jp9y’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-zgvvc6′]Crystal Palace[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-ycpbpy’]31.6%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-vrep86′][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-v2wxee’]Leicester City[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-shfvfa’]29.7%[/av_cell][/av_row] [/av_table]

[av_table purpose=’tabular’ pricing_table_design=’avia_pricing_default’ pricing_hidden_cells=” caption=’Final Third Passing Accuracy’ responsive_styling=’avia_responsive_table’ av_uid=’av-qx8c7a’] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-q3vgd2′][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-oi5wp2′]Manchester City[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-mngpsm’]82.7%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-knycbq’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-jkhax2′]Manchester United[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-hadmli’]78.7%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-fpe0km’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-dzkkty’]Arsenal[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-cg0enq’]78.6%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-bbq05i’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-wrmsm’]Chelsea[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-7pcxja’]74.7%[/av_cell][/av_row] [av_row row_style=” av_uid=’av-ikg0m’][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-45v61y’]Norwich City[/av_cell][av_cell col_style=” av_uid=’av-1tp49i’]74.5%[/av_cell][/av_row] [/av_table]

Another key component of their success is the amount of passes they make in the attacking third of the field, along with the efficiency of those passes.

A third of City’s passes come in the final third of the field; while that might not seem so impressive mathematically, that number is significantly higher than the league average of 26.3 percent, and they’re the only team in the league to successfully complete more than 80 percent of those passes.

Maintaining possession in the final third has been absolutely crucial for Manchester City’s success this season. By attempting so many passes in the attacking third of the field, they put themselves in the best position possible to capitalize on attacking opportunities, while also providing help to their defense in that any turnovers they do commit are happening as far away from their goal as possible.

This information is just a tiny piece of the new data points collected by STATS and barely scratches the surface of the in-depth analysis that can be done using information gathered from our touch-by-touch data collection. In addition to passing information, we also track all defensive actions along with ground and aerial duels, making this data a must-have for in-depth analysis.

These data points are collected for all matches in numerous competitions including the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League.

By: John Hopfinger
Operations Statistician