After yesterday’s progression report I felt like the opposite side needed to be worked on: a defensive report. Today I’ve done that and combined the two so fans can be more informed when ranting online about what player the manager needs to drop. So I’ve thrown together a poor man’s version of Thom Lawrence’s PATCH, which remains one of the most intriguing stats articles I’ve ever read. I know people generally don’t click on links in articles, but please go read it to understand how he innovated and what I’m basically directly moving from. So to set out what I’m doing clearly:
-I measured how a player “allowed” ball progression (measured by yards gained per ball loss by the opposition) in his area and
-also measured how often shot involvements came in his area (touches in final 10 seconds before shot) and
-measured how often a player disrupted an opposition possession personally (blocks, tackles, interceptions, clearances…but not ball recoveries for now)
So to take an example player who graded out extremely well in Michael Keane:
-Crystal Palace progressed through his zones way worse than you’d expect. In one of his primary areas of the pitch, Palace lost the ball 5 times while gaining 15 yards, the “normal” team would have allowed 45 yards. Sum this up for all his areas and the opposition gained yards at just the 3rd percentile.
-Do the same thing with shot involvements, we see that there was one Shot Involvement (pass/carry/dribble in direct shot buildup) than you’d expect through Keane’s areas. This is fine, 60th percentile stuff.
-Last we look at how many opponent possessions Keane broke up on his own, Keane has 10, which when compared with Palace’s possession puts him in the 99th percentile here.
-Mix all 3 together and you have a 99th percentile total.
-Is the mixture scientific? No, it’s just gut call used to try and get a feel for how players defended.
-What is missing? Errors, errors, errors. This is an important part of defense, but it’s also the easiest to measure and account for on your own. I think in general errors are so easy to recall they take up about 85% of our gut judgement of a players defensive ability when they should account for certainly less than 25%. That’s why I’m beginning to call the defensive part of this DUTRAW, Defensive Under The RAdar Work.
So…onto the players and roles and systems that didn’t quite work out.
A Man City masterclass destroyed Spurs…no need to go into detail. They couldn’t slow City down at all and couldn’t get the ball upfield at all. That’s why 4 of the bottom 5 players on this metric are Walker-Peters, Sissoko, Alderweireld and Kane.
Pablo Fornals, West Ham ML
Brighton gained yards easily right through the of the middle of the West Ham defense, often using Fornals left-side as a base to attack through. Groß, the Brighton right-sided attacker he was matched up against graded out with an A+, which hurts Fornals DUTRAW grade.
But for attacking players, low DUTRAW and minimal defensive work can easily be overlooked if they produce with the ball. Fornals did not. He had just one single Danger Zone action (completion, reception or carry into Danger Zone, 22 yard radius around goal. He also had just one Shot Involvement, touches in final 10 seconds before a shot. Last week he had 0 and 1. The only other players with such low numbers this week from attacking positions were Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg at Southampton, James McArthur and Andros Townsend at Palace. It’s been just a wretched start for Fornals, this weekend vs Watford the coaches need to be working on his role or considering another player in the lineup.
Jorginho, Chelsea CM
Second straight week that Sarri’s man makes it on this list. It’s a combination of the above average yardage, the ease of shot involvement through his zone and the fact that Jorginho doesn’t disrupt possessions personally that contribute to his poor defensive grade, but I’ve always thought Jorginho’s “defense” came from his careful passing style. That seems to be gone now under Lampard as he’s racked up a pedestrian 79% rate over the first two games. No DZ involvements in either game and he picked up less yardage than Pulisic, Mount, Pedro, Emerson, Azpi, Willian and Kante. Jorginho under Lampard feels a bit like a MINI Cooper convertible driving fast through the rainy backroads of the rural South. That isn’t the purpose of the car and Jorginho doesn’t seem suited to play this aggressive, forward passing, massive room to cover on defense type style that Lampard is pushing. Sarri knew what he was doing with Jorginho, like it or not, Lampard…might not yet.
Adam Smith, Bournemouth RB
Bournemouth’s strategy of sit back and pray Villa don’t score after we took the lead was terrible. I love Eddie Howe but something went badly wrong after about 20 minutes this weekend and Adam Smith bore the brunt of it. Jack Grealish surged through the right side again and again creating chance after chance and spending time camped in the final third.
Jack Cork, Burnley CM
There’s nothing more I can really add to what I said last week. I still can’t quite see what Jack Cork does.
Grischa Prömel, Union Berlin CM
It was a tough debut for Union Berlin, with their fans holding an atmosphere boycott to protest Leipzig for 15 minutes and then Halstenberg curling home a beauty about 45 seconds after they started creating noise. The noise was great all game, on the pitch it was not.
An der Alten Försterei is maybe the greatest stadium in Germany and one of the best in Europe to my mainly English speaking ears. Quick stadium name ranking of the top of my head
- Stadium of Light
- Craven Cottage
- An der Alten Försterei
- Wanda Metropolitano
- San Siro
Prömel had no DZ actions, no shot buildup involvements and only two players playing as far forward as he did gained fewer yards: Streli Mamba of Paderborn and Daichi Kamada of Frankfurt.
Georg Teigl, Augsburg RB
Bundesliga expert, and publisher of a strong newsletter covering the league, Abel Meszaros said that Augsburg’s right side of Hahn and Teigl should be illegal. It was brutal to watch them try to move and hold the ball and it showed in the grading. Only 6 players who played 70+ minutes gained fewer yards than Teigl and he joins Maximilian Mittelstadt, Rani Khedira and Keven Schlotterbeck as those with zero DZ actions or shot buildup actions and the putrid yardage gained. He barely saw action in the Dortmund half
Marco Friedl, Werder LB
An odd one to see here because the team as a whole progressed through the field easily and with 24 shots and 1.7 xG you wouldn’t think attacking production would be a problem. But it was for Friedl
Düsseldorf’s higher graded progressive players tended to come down the left, even central players like Morales and Karaman (top two) drifted toward Friedl’s side more than through the center.
Thommy and Zimmermann also graded out much higher than Gießelmann and Suttner.