Perusing Premier League Defenses

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As the season winds down time to take a look at what defenses were tough to move ball against and which ones need stiffening up in the transfer window. This post explains more fully what the process is here but no one clicks on links in blog posts and even if you do, you probably don’t read it, it just sits there in an open tab alongside Troy Deeney’s WhoScored page you opened for god knows what reason 3 days ago. So I’ll quickly explain here:

the pitch is divided into 25 boxes, and each pass/dribble/carry from that box is added up to find yardage allowed. The total yardage allowed is then divided by how often a defense wins the ball back through a tackle, forced incompletion, interception, etc. This number is then compared to the rest of the league for a z-score, 0=average, 1=1 st dev above average, etc, etc.

So we start with a mid-table team who often inspire oddly divergent reactions:

The left side in particular of Bournemouth’s defense just outside their box looks incredibly soft. The aging Charlie Daniels is still extremely skilled with the ball at his feet but the tradeoff might be tilting much too far the other way. Bournemouth need more stability defensively out wide left.

Wolves have basically a mirror image in the final third

The defensive setup so many teams try but Wolves pulled off brilliantly this season: stop the ball in the final third, make it hard for opponents to play in the high value areas.

An even more extreme attempt comes from Crystal Palace

They retreat even further, not really breaking up play like Wolves outside the box, but being great at stopping in box movement. Too late?

Quite a difference between the teams who battled for 3rd all year. Chelsea were by far the better team metrics-wise, and here they are again. Tottenham’s defense was actually not that great at winning ball back, you could move it against them in their final third. My quest for balancing the praise for Tottenham and Chelsea bashing continues.

Man United basically went with the reverse Wolves strategy: really good at stopping play in the opponents box and then horrible near their own. This is atrocious, 54 goals allowed with that budget blows my mind. Fix this United, this should be high on the fundamentals ticker in next years first few games. If they aren’t above average or at least around average near own goal, I’d be getting the Ole To Be Fired bets in.

Guess who looks the best at this metric? Yes, Liverpool and Man City, good guesses.

Total domination by these two across the board really.

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