I’m imagining being asked “How do we attack this team with the ball?” as an analyst preparing for a match in a week. I pause my heavy deadlift that I’m doing pointedly in the middle of the gym to show I can hang with the team, gaining the respect of these generally meat-headed athletes and ingraining myself deeply into the team culture so my recommendations will be taken and I’ll get a positive chapter in the inevitable Das Reboot 2: Reboot Harder that comes after our Mainz team wins the Europa League. After I pause that, I head to my office, open R, run a summary, then minimize it so I can open it quickly and open Excel.
Step one: finding how previous teams have exploited our opponents defensive setup. Should we use yards gained? Of course we should, but we need to normalize it for how often teams try to attack through an area. Per pass? Maybe. Per ball loss? Yes, that’s where we will start. How many yards teams gain per ball loss in each portion of the field. Normalize it to league average and pull up a chart…say we are playing Bayern
Bayern’s midfield is generally tough to move the ball through, and their left side has been death to opposition attacks. Down the right side however looks somewhat promising and if you get the ball in front of their goal, it becomes quite soft. This is good preliminary info to have.
Let’s look at our match after Bayern, Dortmund.
Dortmund are drilled pretty well vertically: they let you pass it around from your own goal, then in the extended midfield areas they are basically equal across the midfield while getting tougher in the areas in front of their own goal. No obvious imbalances or weaknesses really (that one green box isn’t enough for me to say anything other than dead center is open) and a well-drilled defense.
Then my bosses are dreading playing the brutal pressing of Leipzig and ask for the hit graphs I’ve been churning out:
Does this mean we don’t want to have the ball in midfield so often as they totally snuff out play there? Well we will need to look at the chance map that is coming in part 2 to know more, but it does tell us that we can’t plan on moving the ball or finding yards anywhere across the midfield at all.
Schalke tried to be a Leipzig type defense but if you get past that first line you can find yards:
Wolfsburg love to press, best way to beat the press is through our right side, good to be aware of:
So now I’ve started to help my team find those hard yards, now excuse me I can go back and finish deadlifting and impressing Mateta with that last set of 3 that I might drop pretty loudly. Can analysts get protein shakes from the cafeteria?