In part one of three, Andy takes one final look back at the stats of last season…
As regular readers will know I love a bit of analysis. And as year one of the Farke era has drawn to a close, we aren’t going to rip the plans up and start again as we did last season, so I think it’s important that we look back at the results of last season to see what we can learn in order to improve the Farke blueprint for the season to come.
You may, or may not, recall that last off-season I did an analysis of Ivo Pinto’s defending by looking at the roles he played in the goals we conceded in 2016-17. This appeared to be well received, and so this time I’ve extended the analysis.
I’ve examined every goal scored or conceded by City in 2017-18, and looked at which players were involved, either positively in terms of being involved in the creation of execution of one of our goals, or negatively in being wholly or partially responsible for a goal conceded. From there we can look at which players are key for us at either end of the pitch.
I dislike assists as a metric purely because it only involves passing the ball, however simply or perfunctorily, to the player who scores, and takes no account of whether that pass was key to the goal, whilst also ignoring other important work that may have taken place in the build-up.
Take for example, Tom Trybull’s goal against Middlesbrough. He smashed a long-range winner into the bottom corner from nowhere. The credit for the goal should go solely to him yet in an assist-based system, Tettey, who played a five yard sideways tap to him would receive some partial credit. My system takes into account the entirety of the goals set up, so in the case of Maddison’s winner against Bristol City at Ashton Gate, the sublime crossfield ball by Vrancic to release Pinto for a simple pull back to Maddison to score gives him a partial credit for the goal along with Pinto and Maddison.
It’s by no means intended as an indication of quality in its own right. The system is weighted too heavily in favour of strikers and attacking midfielders at one end of the scale and too negatively against defenders and goalkeepers at the other to be even remotely fair from that perspective. It also doesn’t allow for much insight into deeper-lying midfielders as they rarely get too involved in the penalty areas, but that doesn’t make their role any less important, as we’ll come to in another article that I’m currently putting together.
It’s also fair to note that in terms of conceding goals, it’s not a simple blame game. I’ve also allowed for times when the other team have simply produced good play or an absolute worldy that our defending isn’t solely to blame for (10 occasions). There are times when we’ve been the victim of bad luck, whether it be a well-won tackle that lands unfortunately at the feet of a striker, or the ref in the Hull game conjuring a penalty out of nowhere (8 occasions). I’ve allowed for occasions where no one individual or even combination of individuals is to blame and collectively the team have been lazy or switched off and that has been the sole or partial reason for conceding (21 occasions). And lastly, the times our tactics or lack of organisation have cost us dear, so some of the responsibility lies with Daniel Farke and his coaches (10 occasions).
Without further preamble then, the stats:
So, what do the stats tell us?
- For Angus Gunn, to have played 51 games and only have even partial blame attributed to him for 9 of the 66 goals he was on the pitch for is incredibly impressive. Of those 9 goals only the one where he was outjumped by Matt Smith of QPR in his own six-yard box was solely his fault with the rest being minor errors where he potentially could have done better but which were a result of other errors or contributing factors. Replacing him is going to be a huge task for whoever picks up the gloves next year.
- The left-back spot may not be as sewn up as we thought. Whilst they have played very similar amounts of games, (Lewis 20, Husband 17, Stiepermann 15), the error rate shows a marked difference. Whereas Husband and Stiepermann have been directly involved in 4 and 5 of the goals conceded respectively, Jamal Lewis has been at least partially responsible for 10 goals in the 20 starts he has made. I was shocked too. One mitigating factor for this is that a lot of Lewis’s errors came at the end of a long first senior season in games away at Hull, QPR and Sheffield Wednesday when we conceded goals at an alarming rate collectively, and Lewis looked tired and a bit unsupported. There is also the possibility that he simply got punished for his errors whereas Husband and Stiepermann may have erred as often but been bailed out by teammates. Hopefully, a refreshed Lewis can hit the ground running next season but there’s definitely a red flag here we need to be aware of.
- Zimmermann was partially to blame for 14 of the 67 goals we conceded last year, which, when you consider he only started 35 of the 52 games, is a frighteningly high percentage. To get the true picture you have to dig deeper though. Very few of the goals CZ was involved in were mainly his responsibility, with many being collective errors between him and one or more of his colleagues. And apart from suffering in a few of the late season games as Lewis also did, the majority of Zimmermann’s errors happened early in the season before he enjoyed a relatively error-free mid-season (more of which in a while).
- Franke (involved in 6 goals conceded in 6 games) and Martin (4 in 5) were a disaster and the defence improved immeasurably once Farke pulled them out of the firing line. Klose (9 goals in 40 games) was very solid, and his involvement in the creation of 7 goals was impressive for a defender. The plaudits must go to Hanley though, who only played a part in three goals being conceded over the 30 games he started, which underlines what a great season he had.
- One of the features overall was that the most egregious errors occurred at the start of the season, and the end. Post Millwall and pre-Hull, whilst there was the odd silly cock-up, the majority of goals conceded were a shared responsibility between various individuals, good play by the opposition and the odd slice of bad luck.
- As you’d expect for a team that made a lot of changes a year ago, many individuals got better as the season went on, and the new players settled in. Zimmermann’s errors decreased as the season moved on until he made a ragged finish to the campaign. Vrancic was regularly making appearances in the defensive mistake column in August and September but by the time we reached 2018, it was the goal creation column that he was turning up in. And whereas early doors, a lot of the goals conceded were partly down to tactical or organisational errors by the manager and coaches, by seasons end that was no longer a problem.
- Maddison – Wow. Scoring 15 goals in his first Championship season is wonderful but consider that he had a hand in creating 29 of the 61 goals scored gives you an idea of how difficult it may be to replace him if/when he leaves.
- Whilst Wes Hoolahan was only a bit part player this season he still contributed to 9 goals in 17 starts (and as many substitute appearances), which was the same as Vrancic from nearly twice as many starts. And Alex Pritchard had a hand in 4 goals from the 6 starts he made, which is a really productive cameo. McLean and Buendia have big shoes to fill (although not physically obviously).
- Josh Murphy contributed to 19 goals, second only to Maddison and way ahead of everyone else. Whilst he can blow hot and cold at times, there’s no denying that on his day, Josh is a difference maker. His figures were boosted by early season goal fests in the League Cup against Swindon, Charlton and Brentford but he also notched at the Emirates, and overall he provided a steady stream of creation during the season with his dribbling and occasional long-range howitzers.
- Oliviera – 8 goals in 28 starts and 11 sub appearances is nowhere near his level of capability in this league. And when you consider that he was only involved in the creation or execution of 12 goals, 8 of which he scored himself, his lack of influence has been tangible. Even Jerome was involved in seven goals from his eleven starts. The team is crying out for a striker who can link play up, create and score.
Overall, I found out some information that surprised me, some that reaffirmed what I already thought, and some that left me hopeful for next season as you could see the improvement of many players over the course of the season.
A rest followed by a full pre-season will continue the embedding of Farke’s philosophies, and the likes of Srbeny, Hernandez, Raggett, McLean, Buendia and Godfrey will benefit from seeing how the likes of Vrancic and Zimmermann have been able to adapt over time into quality Championship performers. Now if we can just get the crowd to believe too…