Author Archives: timmyg

Bring Back Hugo … ?

Woah hey maybe it’s time for Hugo Rodallega to get some more minutes? The fella hasn’t started in last 7 games, and although his performances right before his benching were quite bad, our offense isn’t getting that much better without him.

Here are some shot figures, in a table (filtered so no less than 5 shots) and bar (no less than 3 shots) format.

fulham shooters table

fulham shooters bar

For comparison, here’s similar data from early March and late February.

You see Hugo is still our #2 shooter by an absurdly wide margin, despite being benched for the past month and a half.

Things can’t get much worse (okay yes they can) than reintroduce Hugo (and possibly give Kaca more minutes). As of yesterday our Shooting Percentage was 30.69. In the past 8 games where Hugo has barely featured, the Shooting% is 31.37. That’s not a great increase.

But rather than diversify our offense, his absence has resulted in Ross just shooting from distance, by himself, a lot.

I dunno. Just spit balling.

(Say is Adam Taggart still alive?)

Highway to Fulham’s Danger Zone, Part Deux

About this time last year I wrote about Fulham’s terrible defense, honing in on how many shots in the “Danger Zone” they were conceding.

A refresher: not all shots are created equal, and thus attempting or conceding shots closer to the net is easier for your/their offense to score. Shots further away are more difficult to score. Shots conceded in Zones 1-3 are dubbed the “Danger Zone”. You want to shoot there. You dont want to concede shots there.


(courtesy of Michael Caley)

Well guess what, that’s where Fulham concede a metric shitload of shots!

Note part 1: this data is dated March 20, so it’s slightly out of date, but more importantly it’s courtesy of Ben’s wonderful Stats and Snakeoil Blog. (Thanks Ben!)

Note part 2: I took Ben’s data, and modified it to fit the provided shot locations with Michael Caley’s Shot Matrix zone map. Apologies if I violated a few scientific laws; I’m only a dilettante. Full data can be seen here.

Team Shots For DZ Shots For DZ For %
Birmingham City 479 143 29.9%
Blackburn Rovers 548 243 44.3%
Blackpool 396 129 32.6%
Bolton Wanderers 454 186 41.0%
Bournemouth 593 226 38.1%
Brentford 530 188 35.5%
Brighton and Hove Albion 541 207 38.3%
Cardiff City 449 179 39.9%
Charlton Athletic 377 135 35.8%
Derby County 486 179 36.8%
Fulham 468 161 34.4%
Huddersfield Town 521 176 33.8%
Ipswich Town 536 259 48.3%
Leeds United 406 116 28.6%
Middlesbrough 545 216 39.6%
Millwall 467 159 34.0%
Norwich City 583 204 35.0%
Nottingham Forest 531 217 40.9%
Reading 465 185 39.8%
Rotherham United 496 200 40.3%
Sheffield Wednesday 483 193 40.0%
Watford 521 189 36.3%
Wigan Athletic 439 152 34.6%
Wolverhampton Wanderers 472 175 37.1%
Team Shots Against DZ Shots Against DZ Against %
Birmingham City 569 224 39.4%
Blackburn Rovers 494 195 39.5%
Blackpool 607 218 35.9%
Bolton Wanderers 551 199 36.1%
Bournemouth 435 151 34.7%
Brentford 518 184 35.5%
Brighton and Hove Albion 456 180 39.5%
Cardiff City 500 169 33.8%
Charlton Athletic 560 201 35.9%
Derby County 454 164 36.1%
Fulham 558 234 41.9%
Huddersfield Town 516 192 37.2%
Ipswich Town 475 191 40.2%
Leeds United 554 204 36.8%
Middlesbrough 399 157 39.3%
Millwall 479 192 40.1%
Norwich City 354 122 34.5%
Nottingham Forest 482 160 33.2%
Reading 460 179 38.9%
Rotherham United 503 205 40.8%
Sheffield Wednesday 440 180 40.9%
Watford 510 187 36.7%
Wigan Athletic 423 152 35.9%
Wolverhampton Wanderers 489 177 36.2%
Team DZR DZ Shots +/-
Birmingham City 0.390 -81
Blackburn Rovers 0.555 48
Blackpool 0.372 -89
Bolton Wanderers 0.483 -13
Bournemouth 0.599 75
Brentford 0.505 4
Brighton and Hove Albion 0.535 27
Cardiff City 0.514 10
Charlton Athletic 0.402 -66
Derby County 0.522 15
Fulham 0.408 -73
Huddersfield Town 0.478 -16
Ipswich Town 0.576 68
Leeds United 0.363 -88
Middlesbrough 0.579 59
Millwall 0.453 -33
Norwich City 0.626 82
Nottingham Forest 0.576 57
Reading 0.508 6
Rotherham United 0.494 -5
Sheffield Wednesday 0.517 13
Watford 0.503 2
Wigan Athletic 0.500 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0.497 -2

There’s a lot of data, but for this post we’re only going to look at the second table. If you were to sort it by the DZ Shots Against metric you’d see that Fulham have actually conceded the most shots in the Danger Zone in the entire Championship (and on par to eclipse last season)!.

DZ Shots Against Plot

Additionally, whereas just 34% of our shots taken are from the Danger Zone, about 42% of our shots conceded is from the Danger Zone. So nearly half of all shots our opponents are taking are almost from point-blank. As of now there’s not a way to deduct DZ Shots on Target from the overall DZ Shots Against, but regardless that statistic is damning.

In a few hours Fulham travel to Charlton, who boast the worst shot totals, nearly worst DZ Shot totals, 6th worst DZ Shots Against totals, and a worst DZ Ratio than us. Should be a terrible, terrible game.

Matchdays 35-40 and no things aren’t improving

Latest dataset is up courtesy of Owain Thomas’ blog The Only Statistic That Matters, and nope it’s not that pretty.

MATCHDAYS SHOTS FOR SHOTS AGAINST CORSI/TSR SOT TOTAL SOT AGAINST TOTAL
Week 5 77 65 0.542 18 24
Week 10 133 125 0.516 44 44
Week 15 194 206 0.485 68 65
Week 20 272 282 0.491 92 94
Week 25 324 372 0.466 106 118
Week 30 380 470 0.447 127 151
Week 35 451 538 0.456 143 177
Week 40 533 632 0.458 167 220
MATCHDAYS SOT SHARE SHOOTING % FOR SAVE % PDO
Week 5 0.429 16.66 58.33 74.99
Week 10 0.5 27.27 54.55 81.82
Week 15 0.511 32.36 56.91 89.27
Week 20 0.495 32.61 58.51 91.12
Week 25 0.473 33.01 62.71 95.73
Week 30 0.457 33.85 64.91 98.76
Week 35 0.447 32.15 66.66 98.82
Week 40 0.432 30.54 67.27 97.81

There are several warning signs: the immense increase in Shots on Target Against, and the decline of our Shooting %.

sot vs sot against lines

Above we see a major uptick in the SoTA and SoT between matchdays 35-40. How does this happen? Let’s investigate:

Opponent Fulham Shots Fulham SoT Opp Shots Opp SoT
Brentford 16 7 16 8
Huddersfield 10 3 31 13
Leeds 27 8 8 5
Sheffield Wed 14 5 11 4
Bournemouth 19 3 24 11

(Holy shit that Huddersfield game!) In the past five matches Fulham have been averaging 17.2 total shots, 5.2 SoT, 18 shots against, and 8.2 SoTA. That’s worrisome.

Whereas matches 30-35 were all against top 10 opponents, this set was against mid-table oppositions (Bournemouth aside) and was to better show the club’s true standing. And no it’s not great.

But, dig a little deeper. Huddersfield was clearly a statistical outlier (and played with 10 men) and Bournemouth are the best team in the league (and also played with 10 men). The numbers otherwise are quite even if not slightly skewing in our favor. So why the terrible results?

What the Huddersfield and Leeds game show is Variance 101: nine out of ten times Fulham beat Leeds handily, and nine out of ten times Fulham lose to Huddersfield.

Not to mention on another day Fulham might have at least nicked a point from Brentford. The numbers from that, and the Leeds match too, are much more promising than the Bournemouth massacre or the Huddersfield miracle.

Yet that’s why they play the game and we watch. Luck sometimes can even out. No, we’re not a good team by any stretch. But the numbers are showing we’re also not as bad as we may currently seem.

So now, back to data-land, if we stack the difference between SoT and SoTA in each preceding week, we see SoT is keeping pace whereas SoTA is worrisome.

sot total vs sot against total

Regardless, this is having a major impact on our SoT Share, as seen nose-diving below:

SOT Share

Oy vey. Fulham have almost come full circle from where they were under Magath.

Now onto the Shooting % (apologies for the incorrect labels. 1=Week 5, 2=Week 10, etc)

shooting% line

Whereas before Fulham’s Sh% was plateauing within 1.5 points from Matchdays 10-35 (i.e. it wasn’t fluctuating), it recently dipped below 32%, the first time since Kit was named permanent manager.

Unfortunately if you take this all this data and compare it with the club’s rather stable PDO and TSR to date, you come to the conclusion that we’re about where we should be in the table.

pdo tsr graph

Thankfully there are just six matches remaining, with three against teams below us. April 10-18, with home games versus Wigan and Rotherham, and a trip to bottom Blackpool, will be massive.

Not to mention they will be statistically fascinating.

UPDATE: Something I missed in initial post but warrants mentioning: Fulham are leading the league in Shots on Target Against. Yes, 2 more (as of yesterday) than Blackpool. Go about your business.

Latest 5 Game Set

Hot off the statistical presses, here’s data for Fulham’s latest 5-game set (Week 35; courtesy of Owain Thomas’ blog The Only Statistic That Matters).

Matchdays Shots for Shots against Corsi/TSR SOT total SOT Against Total
Week 5 77 65 0.542 18 24
Week 10 133 125 0.516 44 44
Week 15 194 206 0.485 68 65
Week 20 272 282 0.491 92 94
Week 25 324 372 0.466 106 118
Week 30 380 470 0.447 127 151
Week 35 451 538 0.456 143 177
Matchdays SOT share Shooting % For Save % PDO
Week 5 0.429 16.66 58.33 74.99
Week 10 0.5 27.27 54.55 81.82
Week 15 0.511 32.36 56.91 89.27
Week 20 0.495 32.61 58.51 91.12
Week 25 0.473 33.01 62.71 95.73
Week 30 0.457 33.85 64.91 98.76
Week 35 0.447 32.15 66.66 98.82

Which results in an increase/decrease of the following:

Matchday Set Shots for Shots against Corsi/TSR SOT total SOT Against Total
Week 30-35 71 68 0.009 16 26
Matchday Set SOT share Shooting % For Save % PDO
Week 30-35 -0.01 -1.7 1.75 .06

Not catastrophic, but not great either. All told, Fulham gained 4 points in their past 5 games. The opponents were: Ipswich (currently 7th), Millwall (23rd), Wolves (8th), Derby (2nd), and Watford (3rd).

I also charted our shot locations by player. As if you didn’t already know it’s the Hugo & Ross show around here…

More data to come later, but there’s a match in about 45mins.

Until then, enjoy!

Fulham’s Offensive Woes in One Chart

Perhaps Bryan Ruiz staying is a blessing in disguise, and Matt Smith returning at the end of the month might be the catalyst Fulham need, because currently they are extremely over-reliant on two players, and two players alone:


(image courtesy of @stats_snakeoil and his great http://statsandsnakeoil.wordpress.com/ blog)

Oy vey.

The “Emergency Loan Window” runs until mid-March right? Might need to do some dumpster diving…

Kit and Fulham’s Regression

In December I (timmy not rich) wrote about how Fulham were doing quite well under new manager Kit Symons. Naturally, things regressed almost immediately. Sorry.

The playoffs, which at the time seemed within reach but required the amazing run to continue, are gone. Relegation looks closer in comparison. Reality is midtable mediocrity.

Seven games have passed since my last post, which has allowed us to really analyze Kit’s reign as there are over four five-game blocks. And when collecting data on matches, five game blocks seem to offer the best sample size.

As Fulham have played 30 games, here is the raw data (courtesy of @owain_thomas and the extremely vital http://theonlystat.blogspot.co.uk/) broken down into five matchday blocks (n.b. Magath was fired after Matchday 7):

Matchdays Shots for Shots against Corsi/TSR SOT total SOT Against Total
Week 5 77 65 0.542 18 24
Week 10 133 125 0.516 44 44
Week 15 194 206 0.485 68 65
Week 20 272 282 0.491 92 94
Week 25 324 372 0.466 106 118
Week 30 380 470 0.447 127 151
Matchdays SOT share Shooting % For Save % PDO
Week 5 0.429 16.66 58.33 74.99
Week 10 0.5 27.27 54.55 81.82
Week 15 0.511 32.36 56.91 89.27
Week 20 0.495 32.61 58.51 91.12
Week 25 0.473 33.01 62.71 95.73
Week 30 0.457 33.85 64.91 98.76

Rather than charting all of these data points on a graph, I subtracted each row from the preceding row to display the changed between each five game set:

fulham stats2

The big takeaways are the gradual but noticeable decrease in Fulham’s TSR (i.e. we’re getting outshot, consistently), and the utter plateauing of our shooting % (i.e our shot selection and quality).

For TSR, just look at the shot charts from that past five games:

bolton

Oh my.

brum

Eh not so bad.

bburn

Dear. Lord.

forest

WE WON THIS GAME?!?!

reading

THIS ONE TOO?!? OKAY OKAY MAKE IT STOP

So as you can see we’re getting outshot significantly, something that doomed us last season when we had 5 managers and the likes of John Arne Riise in the squad (yet, at this point last season Fulham’s TSR was .371. It somehow wasn’t the worst in the EPL, yet, would be far, far worse than current Championship bottom-dwellers Blackpool. Shows how even this league can be…).

Although not dropping at worrying rates, regardless this is not a good omen and something that needs to be addressed in the coming games. I’m a bit unsure if it’s because our offense has seemingly dried up (more on that next), or if our defense is the liability. I defer to other more intelligent folks on that one.

Now onto our Shooting Percentage, which you can see has totally flat-lined since Matchday 16 (that 2-2 draw with Blackpool in early November).

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 10.51.31 AM

A nugget of data I found interesting but did not post above is that our passing percentage is actually higher than our opponents in most games; we’re just not doing enough with our shot selection and quality. I need to watch some game tape to determine this, but happy to hear what others think.

Yet despite all this Fulham’s PDO is currently at 98.92 (100 is league average), and has dipped and risen within a few percentage points since Matchday 16. This means were aren’t terribly lucky, but also aren’t terribly unlucky. So we’re about where we should be (look at teams like Derby who have extremely high, or Brighton with extremely low, PDO. Their other numbers are a-okay, which mean their respective fortunes are bound to change soon).

Holistically, what are we to make of all this? My theory is that we’re a horribly unbalanced side and Kit is just a four months into a major rebuild. It may explain the very manic-depressive graph that the great Ben of @stats_snakeoil provided the other day:

Here we see the massive uptick once Magath was fired, followed by a gradual decline that has seen intermittent spikes. It will be fascinating to see if this keeps up for the remaining 15 games.

Speaking of, Fulham will need to somehow play worse (always possible!) in order to get relegated.

Despite the horrid results and performances of late, Fulham are still grinding out results when they need to. Take the total point haul over each matchday set:

Point Haul
Matchdays 1-5 1
Matchdays 6-10 6
Matchdays 11-15 8
Matchdays 16-20 7
Matchdays 21-25 6
Matchdays 26-30 7
35

For every five games Fulham are gaining about 5.83333 points (or, 1.16 PpG). If you add that average to their current total of 35, they’ll end up with about 53.66 points. In the past 5 seasons, 53 points would place you (in descending order): 16, 22, 18, 19, 20. We are currently 18th.

To allay any fears, the teams relegated in 2012-13 each had 54, 51, 41 points. Current relegation places have: 30, 22, 20. Yes miracles do happen, but I don’t see either Millwall, Wigan, or Blackpool earning anywhere from 20 to 30 points over the next 16 games (and read this about Millwall: https://statsandsnakeoil.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/visualising-the-championship-historical-context-charts/) to match the tallies of the 2012-13 season. But that doesn’t mean Fulham aren’t in for a rough ride if they don’t address the things I wrote about above.

Finally, to quote Ben of @stats_snakeoil again (https://statsandsnakeoil.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/visualising-the-championship-an-introduction/),

“While Fulham’s underlying numbers have remained fairly constant, it took a while for their results to catch up. Moreover, the rate at which their GR caught up with their TSR perhaps suggests that the rate at which they have accumulated points since game 10 is also slightly misleading; I would suggest that they are unlikely to continue to rack up points at near title pace throughout the rest of the season and are instead more likely to end up solidly mid-table.”

Feel free to speculate why this is all happening in the comments below. If I am totally misinterpreting the stats, please let me know.

Fulham are doing very well under Kit Symons but you probably already knew that

It’s probably not a coincidence this website hasn’t been updated since: “Kit Symons: the right appointment”.

In all seriousness, what else needs to be said?

Fulham find themselves comfortably (as comfortable as one can be in the Championship) mid-table: almost away from the relegation quagmire, almost within touching distance of the playoffs. Yet Kit’s 15 games in charge is more than each of last year’s 3 managers.

Fortunes could continue improving or regress, so why not investigate the club’s fortunes under Kit’s reign to date and look at some fancy numbers (courtesy of Owain Thomas)

When Kit took over on September 18, Fulham were 24th with just 1 point, 0-1-6, a -12GD, and scored 6 goals in 7 games.

The club’s TSR (Total Shots Ratio; often has strong correlation to points and goal difference) was .503, which despite the terrible record was good enough for 13th overall (context: last season in the EPL Fulham had an awful TSR with .392). Yet their PDO (go here) and Save% were both atrocious, a league-worse 72.2 PDO (100 is the mean) and 49.98 Sv%.

In layman terms, and within the statistical prism, Fulham were not getting horribly outplayed and outshot under Magath (as they were a year prior under Jol). They were simply terribly coached from a tactical standpoint.

Attributing Sv% is tricky, but in my opinion conceding 18 goals in 7 games and having a Sv% under 50% basically means that our opponents had time to “pick their spots” per se. Just take this: in Felix’s final game, Nottingham Forest scored its first 5 goals via their first 5 shots on target. That’s not just absurd, it’s an indictment of the defense.

As these things tend to happen (and something statistician Owain Thomas suggested when Felix was sacked) , Kit Symons saw an immediate reversal in the team’s fortune (what pundits call “new manager bounce”).

As of last week, sans the Sheffield Wednesday game, Fulham posted a slightly decreased 0.485 TSR; but saw improvements in their PDO and Sv%: 92.09 and 59.79 respectively. [Update: as of 12/23 TSR: 0.482; PDO: 94.94 and Sv%: 60.61%]

Translation: the team is about the same in terms of overall shots for/against but has shored up the defense immensely.

Which has then translated to Fulham’s current standing of 13th with 28 points, 8-4-10, -4 GD and 35 goals in 22 games.

Overall Kit as posted a 8-3-4 record in his 15 games as caretaker and official manager of the club. This equates to an amazing 1.8 PpG, which is better than all but 3 teams entire season’s PpG to date. Further context: Magath posted a .142 PpG in the Championship. (Yes, that’s a decimal before the 1.)

If Fulham can maintain this streak over their remaining 24 games, they should end up with about 71 points; not a sure thing for the playoffs but certainly within touching distance.

Kit has also settled on an established 11, with a majority of the subs coming in defense due to the numerous amounts of injuries there. Whereas Magath was making an average of 3+ changes per game, Symons is making a just a hair over 2 per game (and just exactly 2 per game in last 5 games; with a defender involved in 3 of the 5 games).

Intriguingly, the likes of Woodrow, Roberts, David, Hyndman, and Eisfeld, aka the promising youngsters that were the only panacea to Magath’s reign, have barely featured under Symons. Roberts’ late substitute appearance last week was his first action since November 5. Woodrow scored a goal last week from the penalty spot, but hasn’t started since late October and logged just 54 minutes total since then (about 10mins per appearance). David has made the bench once under Kit.

Conversely the reintroductions of Hugo, Burn, and Ruiz have come to define Kit’s stint as repairing the damage done by Magath (and to some extent Rene and Jol).

But if there is one feather to Kit’s cap, it surely must be the emergence of Lasse Vigen Christensen, who has started all 15 matches under Kit and scored 5 times—as many as Ross McCormack.

Kit’s tenure has been thrilling. We should look back and really enjoy what he’s done, and hope it can continue.

Last word on Magath, for now

[by timmy]

A few pieces come to mind when thinking of Magath. The fact they’re about American football and their titles and the specifics don’t really matter as much as their essence.

Piece #1, from a former football player who spent one week at a certain team with a hated coach:

The psychology goes like this: Players used to love the game. They enjoyed their talent and had high self-esteem. If a coach comes along who makes them feel insecure and paranoid, they begin to hate the game. Then they begin to hate the man who made them hate the game. When they hate the man, they hate his agenda. His agenda, in this case, is an impersonal obsession with winning a football game, with (the perception is) little respect for the players who are doing the winning. The result: a player who doesn’t care whether his team wins or loses. And it happens constantly.

The good coaches are malleable, open-minded, humble. The good coaches make it feel like it’s our team, not his team. The good coaches understand that there is a fine line between being prepared and being confounded. The good coaches adjust their approach when they see 53 grown men ready to cry on a daily basis. These are the best athletes in the world. You don’t have to run them into the ground and call them pussies. You simply have to turn them loose. Sure, you must do so intelligently, with the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. But you can’t project your own pedantic, inactive analysis of the game onto the athletes who actually have todo it.

Piece #2:

In the 21st century, NFL players are smart enough to distinguish between actual discipline (having a well-structured operation) and the bullshit old-school disciplinarian discipline. They know that a guy like Schiano is being a hardass because a) he gets off on it and b) he doesn’t really know what the fuck he’s doing. If you know what you’re doing, you usually don’t have to be a cock. If you haven’t, read former NFL tight end Nate Jackson’s account of Eric Mangini’s reign of terror in Cleveland for a good idea of just how far these nutjobs can take it.

Study after study has proven there are many good substitutes for Schiano’s redassed brand of leadership, and that it should be phased out of all aspects of American society entirely—in coaching, parenting, teaching, business management, etc. And now most NFL teams are doing just that. You can’t separate head coaches into “player’s coaches” and “disciplinarians” the way you used to. A good NFL head coach wins his players’ confidence by being detailed and having an answer for everything, not by being some stern daddy figure who demands you fight for his grudging approval. He doesn’t demand discipline. He inspires it.

Why Khan Hired Felix and Why He’s Still our Manager

[RA – This fine piece is by Timmy, incidentally]
khanfelixbuck

John Arne Riise mentioned the other day how, after that horrible defeat at Derby, Magath called a late night meeting and announced practice first thing in the morning. Usually days after matches are for recovery. Que the horror.

The practice allegedly consisted of “tactics training” and lots of running.

When I played varsity sports in high school, heavy defeats were often followed by impromptu practices that contained lots of running. Same for those I helped managed in both high school and college. It didn’t matter if the coach horribly prepared us for the game, or if it was just a ‘bad day at the office’. Our actions on the game field had repercussions on the practice field.

I have no record (and done little research) that Khan played sports in his teen years. I can say that he has a lot of business acumen, and probably learned a bit about coaching methodologies I mentioned above while pursuing an NFL team before eventually owning the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And the fact he owns an NFL team, and not say an MLB team (more on that later), in relation to Magath is key.

American Football coaches, by and large, are insane (http://deadspin.com/5958802/coaches-are-freaks). Outside of baseball, no sport has sees much over coaching by managers. They routinely pull 100-hour work weeks. Everything is planned out. Game film is pored over again and again. It’s so intense that last season, one NFL coach had a heart attack while leisurely playing golf. Another had a stroke in the middle of a game.

The response from his colleagues were a shrug.

(Just read this from the now-fired Jim Schwartz: “That’s probably the same way you would talk in the locker room about a player that saw another player get an ACL or have another injury — if you let that affect the way you work, you’re in the wrong boat … Coaches don’t work 100 hours a week because they’re doing it because that’s healthy. They do it because the job requires it. It just is what it is.” Let that seep in.)

Compare that to the methods allegedly reported when Jol was in charge. If the rumors were true, the man rarely showed up to practice. The team was clearly out of shape and horribly ill prepared to do, well, anything. The defense, the bedrock of coaching, was on track to set historic lows.

Khan arrives and sees the mess. No, he’s not a football man; but he knows (or, thinks he does) enough about how teams are supposed to function that the current setup is a recipe for disaster.

But, he’s new. He doesn’t want to pull a Tony Fernandes and make an ass of himself in the first few months on the job. Nor does have the ego (or naiveté) to throw money at the problems like Abromovich or Sheikh Mansour did when they first arrived.

So he waits. Things don’t improve. He has Ali Mac hire esteemed assistant Rene Muelensteen to whip the team into some semblance of shape. Things continue to go sour. Jol gets fired, Rene takes over.

Things change slightly, but not enough. Rene’s reign was too short to make any sort of inferences, but I sense he found him to be too “salesman-y” (anyone who watched his videos on the team’s website will know what I mean; i.e., only speaking in cliches and platitudes) but mostly the results continue to remain poor.

Eventually Khan has enough. He played the modern English/European game to no avail, so now it’s the Puritanical American game. Cajoling is replaced by commanding. Obliging replaced with ordering.

He hires Felix Magath, a man hated in the game for his “methods”. He’s cold. He yells. He demands peak physical fitness. He’s ruthless. In Felix, Khan must have seen a familiar face. And what Felix has been implementing isn’t new to any American athlete or anyone involved heavily in sports. Khan sees him as someone who can whip this horrible, and horribly prepared, team into cohesion before it’s too late.

Well, it was too late. Although we may think otherwise, and have hindsight to prove (somewhat), Khan was a bit off in his belief. But, he still believes in Felix. The work is not done, the time to relax the control has not arrived. So he currently remains manager.

Sure, there’s been ultimatums given but that is to be expected in this hyper-competitive environment.

I mentioned baseball earlier as a comparison to the NFL. Although I can’t speak to say NHL or NBA coaches, baseball managers are a different breed. They have to be considering the long, daily season. Yes, some are “players mangers” and others are “disciplinarians” but it’s all quite relative.

Except for Buck Showalter, current manager of the Baltimore Orioles. And it’s with Buck that I think Felix Magath can learn from, and hopefully follow.

Buck is described as a control freak by many fans. Others would call him an asshole. According to Pat Jordan in a Sports on Earth (RIP) article, “Showalter hates to be called a control freak. He hates it because he doesn’t consider himself a control freak, but mostly, he hates it because he can’t control people calling him a control freak. To assuage his hurt feelings, I offered to call him one of the many other names people associate with him: passive-aggressive, taciturn, sarcastic, caustic, suspicious, paranoid, Machiavellian. He did not laugh.”

(Before I proceed, we could probably apply any of those adjectives to Magath. I highly recommend reading this piece and think about Magath.)

But Buck wins.

…Sort of.

The rap on Buck is (or was) his an uncanny ability of taking underperforming or new teams (New York Yankees in early 90s, when they sucked; Arizona Diamonbacks in late 90s; Texas Rangers in early aughts) and turning them into a contender. But before they could clear that hurdle and become great teams, Buck got fired (each would go on to win a World Series, or many in the Yankees case, or at least appear in them shortly thereafter).

Usually it was a mutual departure.

Essentially, teams got tired of his attention to detail (the man reportedly picked out the Diamondbacks color palette upon his hiring) and players grew weary of his methods and tuned him out.

So it was no surprise to see him hired by the Baltimore Orioles in late 2010, a team that was suffering their 15th (was it more?) straight losing season.

It took a little while to turn the teams fortunes around, but the O’s magically made the playoffs in 2012. They’re currently on par (KNOCK ON WOOD) to win their first division title (not a pennant, just a freaking division title!) in nearly 20 years.

Four years into his current job, Buck has already lasted longer than he did at any of his prior MLB managerial positions. Part of it is probably the team has sucked for so long that everyone will take the warts with the wins. But a bigger part of that is he (reportedly) mellowed out a bit before his Orioles gig. He (again, reportedly as it’s late and I don’t feel like searching for articles to back this up; just going on what I hear) pays close attention to the appropriate things instead of all the things.

Which is what I think plays into the ‘Felix as manager story’ I’m attempting to spin here. As Rich said Felix is still experimenting, the team is still evolving.

I don’t know if it’ll work and whether Felix can survive. I hope he himself can evolve himself and lighten up; and this team and season provides that perfect opportunity. Like Buck who after third time of of being fired only for his team make the World Series just a few years later; perhaps finally being relegated and managing a bunch of 18 year olds in AAA will be that humbling experience.

Results to date haven’t been helpful, but it’s really up to him. I don’t see Khan changing just yet; we need to see Felix do so.

Highway to Fulham’s Danger Zone

By Tim

The fact that Fulham stink, that we’re terrible on both ends, that we can’t control the game anywhere, isn’t news.

But what’s worth exploring is just how bad we are.

Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) of Cartilage Free Captain has some great shot statistics that I highly recommend you check out. But what I want to focus on here is how he divvied up the one half of a football field into several Shot Matrix Zones. The word “matrix” makes even my head spin so bear with me.

Here’s the map:


(courtesy of Michael Caley)

And here’s why divvying the offensive zone is important: conceding shots closer to the net are easier for the offense to score. Shots further away are more difficult to score. This is a very simplistic maxim exists in most other ball/net games.

So, if a defense concedes a higher amount of shots closer to the net than they do the further away, it’s representative of bad defense.

Michael took Zones 1-3 and placed them into what he dubbed the Danger Zone (cue the Kenny Loggins!). Basically, if you’re conceding a high amount of shots from there your defense stin–

OH, OH MY, THAT’S FULHAM FC’S MUSIC!

Fulham are leading the league with 241 shots in the DZ. Next to them is Cardiff with 232, followed by West Ham at 184. If you take the total of all DZ shots (3040) and average it out per club we’re nearly 100 over the average.

Of that total, 92–NINETY FREAKING TWO– are what’s considered on DZSoT, or shots actually target (what Bent is incapable of doing; also somehow Cardiff are one worse than us). We all know how we are repeatedly getting outshot, but this takes that figure to a whole new level.

What about the Wide Shots? Fulham aren’t as bad in that category–17th!–but second worst when it comes to Wide Shots on Target.

What we can glean from this is our opponents don’t need to shoot from odd angles inside the 18-yard box. No, they just can pass or dribble to a better location! (Cue 2nd half highlights from that home Southampton game)

Next up is Shots from outside the 18 yards box, or Zones 6-8.

Fulham are 2nd worst behind West Ham, and just 3 above Cardiff and Sunderland with 242 shots conceded from outside the 18 yard box. 34 of those are on target.

So not only are teams literally dribbling down our throats, we’re affording them time and space from outside the box. Think Mucha at home in September. Or both times Shelvey scored for Swansea. Or or I’ll stop now.

What does this mean? It means we literally cannot defend in any facet of the game. The 5-0 loss on Saturday wasn’t an anomaly, down to some refereeing decision, or because we were playing a team who exponentially outspent us. There is empirical precedent for losses of that magnitude to happen; and will probably happen again this season.

In fact, it might even happen this Sunday!

Although not particularly notable in one specific facet, Everton are still in the Top 8 in Offensive DZS, WS, and SoB. Hopefully the spectre of catching Arsenal/4th place will be a bridge too far for them and they’ll bottle it. Otherwise it’s going to be a long, long day.

So what about our offense?

We’re currently 19th, tied with Crystal Palace on just 117 shots in the Danger Zone. Let me repeat: We are tied with Pulis-ball. Let me repeat again: we are tied with Pulis-ball. For DZ shots on target, we’re tied for 18th with CP, Cardiff, and Swansea at 45. Moving away from the net, we’re not as awful in the wide areas or outside the box, but still in the bottom half of the league.

But our offensive futility is a chicken/egg thing: is it bad because our defense is awful, or is it bad for other reasons? In January we shipped off our moody but still very talented forward, and only mercurial play-maker, and thus have been left with starting highschoolers and the-footballer-formerly-known-as-Darren-Bent. Hence since the start of 2014 we’ve scored 11 goals in 12 games.

What’s the point of all this?

I suppose if this was a business, lawyers would recommend we file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (or whatever equivalent you guys in England have) and reorganize everything.

(Kenny Loggins cued!)

[Quick tangent: Kenny Loggins looks so 80s in this video but I’m fairly certain the barista that served me coffee this morning looked just like him. Everything old is new again..]