Trying to rank the players

NB – please try to take this in the spirit it’s intended: I’m exploring.  Trying to see where I can get.

You may recall that recently I tried to find a way to objectively assign credit to a football team’s players based on the team’s overall performance. I ran this through the Leeds United team of 1972-73 and was happy enough with the conclusions.

The method is driven by a simple enough ‘engine': in each game, did Fulham perform better against an opponent than would be expected given that opponent’s record across the season? Or worse.

It’s calculated as follows: say Fulham played a team that averaged 10 goals a game and kept a clean sheet. Whoever played in that match would get a +10 for that game defensively, as this attacking giant was kept quiet. If Fulham scored 10 and our team averaged a clean sheet then they’d get +10 there, too, for a total of +20.

If Fulham had lost 10-0 then this would have been a zero, as Fulham kept the opponent exactly to their seasonal average.

We add up the totals for the season and see which players played when opposing teams were kept above or below seasonal tallies.

Phil Magnus took my Leeds spreadsheet and filled in the latest Fulham season. If we apply the above literally we get the following ranking of players:

Christensen
Ruiz
Burn
Bettinelli
Rodallega
Stafylidis
Parker
Hoogland
McCormack
Hutchinson
Bodurov
Tunnifcliffe

This is all players who played 20 games or more. Which is to say that the team performed MUCH better with Christensen in the side than without him, and a fair bit worse with Tunnicliffe in the side than without him.

Okay, the elephant in the room is McCormack, who played so much he had to take one for the team, which is to say that we couldn’t get a with or without you for McCormack because there’s no without you part. He’s largely alone in this, although Betinelli (39 games) does well because Kiraly and Joronen had bad happenings when he was absent.

Among non-qualifiers Elsad Zverotic (5 games) was actually top, having played his part during a relatively unspectacular but almost unbeaten run halfway through the season. Turner was up there between Ruiz and Burn, and we did okay in games when Richards played. The team did badly in games when Fofana started and also Woodrow, Amorebieta and Hydman (Magath effect!).

I did a second version of this in which defenders got more credit for defensive performance and attackers more credit for attacking performance. So, if we lost a game 6-4 the defenders who played would get fried and the forwards would get credit. That’s probably reasonable enough.

For context, I put these numbers up against Whoscored.com’s ratings and against a subjective view from Mike Gregg, who is good at these things and, I find, takes a balanced approach that neither swings too far towards the ‘populist view’ nor tries to be too contrarian (which I, of course, am prone to do).  These are all rankings. The numbers are meaningless in this context, really:

umbers

RAW is just the pure data: how did the team do when he was playing?  POS is when I adjust this for position played; WS is WhoScored; MJG is Mike.

Hmmm. I think Whoscored is too high on our defenders (top ratings generally going to these people) which can’t be right under the circumstances. Mike’s views, I think, cover a consensus quite well.

So I don’t know. My initial ratings are essentially facts (facts that are open to all kinds of distortion and factors beyond folks’ control, but facts regardless.. kind of): when LVC played, teams did worse against Fulham than they did against all other opponents. Ruiz and Burn had similar impacts (as did Turner later on). You can slice this around a bit to try to account for responsibility and maybe that works, too. Not sure. Clearly I have a way to go here. But the key messages are:

Christensen is really good
Dan Burn did about as well as anyone could in that defence (which is a slightly circular argument, I realise)
But both look like the pillars on which this team needs to be rebuilt
If you take out the Whoscored defensive bias (?) then Hoogland, Hutchinson and Bodurov get panned. Ryan Tunnicliffe doesn’t come out of any of this well.
McCormack was unfairly held back by the raw approach to all this because he played so much, so he must be seen as a success (duh!)
Rodallega’s probably a fair bit better than the fans give him credit for
Parker did okayish

How Matt Smith explains the universe (more on how we can bounce back)

One of the central thrusts of recent posts has been how little of a difference single players make to teams. I’ve currently settled on a range of about -5 to +5 goals per season per player, which doesn’t sound like much but which, really, is about all that makes sense (see previous posts for more).

A nifty example of all this lies with Matt Smith, widely acknowledged as having been a great success with Bristol City this year.

Smith scored 13 in 17 games and his manager at the time was extremely positive about his contribution to the team.

Thing is, while Smith was at Bristol the team averaged 2 goals per game to .8 conceded, and while Smith wasn’t at Bristol the team averaged 2.1 goals per game and .8 conceded.

Pro-rata that over a whole season and you get a +59 goal difference without him and a +54 with him. Both are phenomenal, and I’m not about to suggest that the team were actually better off without him, but the point stands: even at this level of productivity, the team didn’t miss a beat without Smith. They worked as a team, and while he was there Smith was good enough to turn this overall play into tangible results; when he wasn’t someone else was.

mattsmith

(There is some substance to what we might call a ‘launch pad’ theory here: Bristol were good but not superhuman before Smith, got really good with Smith, then were astonishing after he’d left. This is without correcting for opposition, and is skewed by two thrashing late in the season, but those thrashings did happen: you don’t win 8-2 or 6-0 without being a really good team. So.)

This, I think, brings us back to the coaching. A good coach builds a system to the extent that it doesn’t necessarily matter which players are on board on any given day. We saw this with Roy Hodgson, and while few managers build system-based squads to this extent, you need to be some way in this direction if you’re ever going to succeed: managers who insist on keeping on changing personnel, looking for “the right combination” are sometimes, I feel, just deluding themselves. The right combination is always just around the corner, if only the right player can be secured. This is true to a degree, but again we come back to to point we’ve made a few times this week: you need a solid tactical base (you need to put players in a position to succeed!) and solid recruitment.

Fulham need a platform and a profile. It’s become too scattergun, too random. We need to get back an ethos, and build a team around this. This, I feel, is crucial to our bounce-back, if it’s to happen.

Alright, maybe it is possible: how Fulham can bounce back

wall

Thank you to those of you who took yesterday’s post in the spirit it was intended.  The idea is not to literally claim that we need players of a certain absolute quality, more to point out that there’s a long way to go between here and there.  The comments section was suitably thought provoking, which leads me nicely onto why we may be better able to bounce back than I think.

First, this notion of a +5/-5 player relates to what that player accomplishes on the pitch. So a -2 player might be a +2 player in other contexts.  That other context here cuts two ways:

one, if we have a new manager, or if Kit gets a full head of steam, can this player contribute to a good Fulham team?  Put another way, is the player better than he’s shown this season?

two, if the answer to the above is no, is there reason to believe that the player can mature into the player we need him to be?

And here’s where things get more encouraging.

Having watched a lot less of Fulham than most of you this season, here are a few thoughts to start things off:

Good enough to make Fulham effective again: Christensen, McCormack.  I think these two speak for themselves. McCormack lacks for nothing at this level, Christensen emerged as a potential star.

Good enough to be part of Fulham’s next effective team: Bettinelli, Burn, Kacaniklic, Smith, Rodallega. I might be overreacting to Bettinelli, who seems to have had one of those superficially spectacular seasons whilst conceding bucketloads of goals.  Hunch is that he’s done about as well as anyone could have been expected to this season and that the issues are largely in front of him. Burn gets a pass having demostrated some ability at this level before and indeed, to a lesser degree, in the Premiership.  He’s not the finished article but I feel the materials are there.  Kacaniklic – and I appreciate I’m in a minority here – is a Premiership player so ought to be more successful than has been the case here.  He’s been messed about no end and needs a defined role and some patience. Smith I like, and have been gratified by his performance this year.  No, he might not be your first choice striker in a promotion chasing team, but he’s good enough to be in the conversation.  As is Rodallega, who can happily function at a higher level and therefore presumably just needs better teammates/managers/attitude?

Not in either of the above groups but shows potential/some evidence that might be improvable: Joronen, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Kavanagh, Grimmer, Tunnicliffe, Hyndman, Williams R, Roberts, Woodrow, Taggart, Dembele, Burgess, Eisfeld, David, Mitroglou, Williams G.  More on this group in a minute.  Some real talent in here, which is encouraging for our purposes.

Not in any of these groups: Kiraly, Hoogland, Stafylidis, Voser, Parker, Amorebieta.  I’m being harsh here because Fulham aren’t going to progress by not being harsh.

The missing link in all this is the manager.  We’ve talked about needing a 40 goal swing next season and as people pointed out in the comments below, that absolutely can happen.  A bit of positive momentum and the squad we’ve just itemised above can look rejuvenated in no time.  So while we have castigated the team all season, there’s some talent in the group.  It just needs unlocking.

Can a new manager do this?  Absolutely.  The current manager *might* be able to.  Momentum’s everything: with a good start and some new ideas, anything might be possible.  The season’s a bit too long to fluke anything (unless you’re Derby, for whom the fluke worked backwards) but for sure things can get better.

What does it take then?

First, we need to address the whole “diabolical defence” thing. I think that means a commitment to 4-4-2 until we’re good enough to grow out of it.  No, it’s not sexy in this day and age, but for as long as I can remember we’ve wondered whether Scott Parker can protect a back four (no); whatever happened to the midfield protecting the back four as a group? Two banks of four, hard to beat, then let the McCormack and Smith combination do its bit as and when it can.

I do think this means we need to buy the best centre-half we can lay our hands on. We need two very good full-backs whose first job is to defend, and from there we might be able to muddle through with a midfield built around LVC, Tunnicliffe, Kacaniklic and an up and comer on the right learning his trade. If Kacaniklic doesn’t work back enough he can’t play; from now on it’s about teamwork.  The team is incentivised on clean-sheets, the team becomes about clean-sheets. Nobody wants to play Fulham. That kind of thing.  This Fulham side is far, far too easy to play against: those Norwich goals were just the latest in a constant stream of dreadfully defended concessions, whereby opponents entering our area were neither closed down, tracked, or any of those things that might make it harder to score.  You don’t concede nearly 90 times in a season with any idea what you’re doing back there.

So yes, maybe I can see grounds for optimism, and maybe it doesn’t need millions of pounds either. But it’s about time Fulham stopped just throwing muck at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. It’s time to address the very obvious weaknesses, not by constantly trying new players and hoping they’re the answer, but by making a real commitment to doing things better.

There’s no coming back from this: why I don’t think Fulham can achieve promotion any time soon

ks

Based on the final analysis it looks like Fulham will end with a goal difference of about -20, which means they’re something like 5 net goals above the relegation places.

Looking at the table, the promoted clubs had goal differences of 41 and 50, which we’ll call 45, and the playoff clubs are 19, 31, 32 and 38, which we’ll call 30.

In short, next year Fulham need to be a +30 team for the playoffs and a +45 team for promotion, from a base of -19 (this season).

lt

That’s going to be a +50 odd swing for playoffs and a +65 swing for promotion!

The other day we figured that a really good player might be worth 5 net goals to his team.

You might think of footballers on a 10 point scale, ranging from -5 to +5. At one end you have a team that, if comprised of players of this quality, would end with a goal difference of -50, e.g. Blackpool. At the other end you’d have a team romping away with the league at +50, e.g. Bournemouth.

If we think Ross McCormack really is a top quality player, a +5, then his teammates are most likely a bunch of -1 to -3 players. Nothing else adds up. I mean, we can argue that the players are better than they performed, which might be reasonable, but ultimately good players play well. Fulham’s players didn’t play well, so it’s hard to say they’re good players.

If I’m going to keep this mathematical, Fulham need to turn the -1 and -2 players into +1 and +2 players. To make the requisite jump you’re looking for a 50 goal swing remember, either not conceded or scored.

You’re either having to improve players who almost got relegated into a promotion machine (how?), or you have to find the equivalent of 10 more players who can all play at a level that’s 4/5 net goals better than the player they replaced. I don’t think that’s really possible.

In any case there are two possibilities:

1) better coaching can radically transform these players
2) we need a complete overhaul and even then need to spend massively and effectively

Does point 1 work? As best I can tell there aren’t many managers who have made a career out of turning water into wine. Most managers achieve what they should with what they have. Now, we come back to this argument that the squad significantly under-achieved, and I’m not completely against this idea, but it seems more likely to me that the players simply weren’t very good.  Our eyes might see promise there but the goals against totals suggest that something’s up.  That the team was unable to stem the flow at all suggests that either the coaching was awful or the players didn’t have it in them, probably both.  Either way, if you want a +50 swing in goal difference it’s not going to happen by magic.

Does point 2 work? No. To acquire that many good players, without misjudging any of these acquisitions, is too big an ask.  You can’t just buy 9 more Ross McCormacks.  You couldn’t afford to even if you could find them all.

As things stand I simply can’t see how this squad can become the squad it’s meant to be. To believe otherwise seems to me too great concession to wishful thinking.  It’s too much.

Fulham 1-0 Blackpool; Fulham Survive And Yet…

Jesus H Blackpool is but 1 point away from setting an all-time low record for points and yet:

blackpool

Blackpool. Shot. Nearly. Twenty. Times.

This (tragic) dumpster fire of a club is 22nd in total shots for and, thankfully for Fulham, 23rd in shots on target for. Their Shooting %, despite somehow better than Rotherham, is 22nd but not even 24% (i.e. only 1 of their 4 shots on target go in the net.)

As of last month, they barely had 130 DZ shots total in about 40 games. On Saturday they got 5.

And Fulham set out a fairly defensive lineup.

Which may explain whey they had six total shots. Against an opponent that is DEAD LAST in total shots AND shots on target against (Spoiler alert: Fulham also had two shots on target. TWO. But hey, 50% Shooting Percentage!)

Oh and looks like Fulham’s second leading scorer and shot taker was left on the bench, again.

Statistically speaking, this may match may have crossed the rubicon for me. There’s no tenable reason to keep Kit as manager after the Norwich match. The defense is bad, the offense is petering, results are being achieved when they shouldn’t be, and the team selection is confounding.

Any of those in isolation would be acceptable. Two of four? Eeeeep. All Four? Toodle-oo.

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?)

How important can a single player be?

One of the things I always wonder about in football is how important any given player really is. When you think about it, there are only so many points to go around.

First, a disclaimer: this is all theoretical. I know, I really do know, that football is a team game. That the interactions between players are complicated, that assigning individual value to a player transcends this kind of analysis. That managers sign players to fit into a role in a system, and that this system is often what makes a team win or lose. I get all that. This said, players must have some inherent value, right? Or why buy them? If you pay whatever million for Ross McCormack it’s with an expectation that he will make the team better. My question, then, is how much difference can one player make?

For reasons we’ll get to in a minute, take a look at the 1972-73 season. That year Liverpool won the league with what would have been an 85 point haul (2 pts for a win then). WBA were bottom with what would have been a 37 point haul. So over 42 games the best team in the league were just over a point a game better than the worst team. Put another way, Liverpool scored 34 more goals than WBA and allowed 20 less, so you’ve effectively got a 54 goal swing between the best team in the league and the worst.

table

So over 42 games the best 11 players in football are combining to be 54 goals better than the worst 11 players in football! If you want to divide this up and assume 11 players played all the time, we might assert that the very best players are worth 5 goals a season more than the very worst players!

Think about that for a moment.

In baseball they call “the worst players” replacement level. Simply put, it is assumed that most first division teams could field a team as good as the worst team in the division, so what you’re looking at is a concept of value over a replacement player. Here we see that to be the best team in the league you need to find 55 net goals over an awful team. So, on average, your players need to be worth five goals a season above bad. That doesn’t seem like much, but really, nothing else adds up. Sure, it may be that this 55 net goals breaks down as 15 goals above replacement for a superstar and everyone else four goals above replacement, but you get the general drift. The point is: there’s only so much value to go around. Unless something very odd happens, most players can only ever have incremental value.

For reasons best known to me I dug deep into that 72-73 season, focusing on Leeds United. I looked at all the games, looked at how Leeds did, how good their opponents were, and which Leeds players were playing at the time.

What I did then was to assign credit for good performances and debit for bad ones. So against Liverpool that season, if Leeds held Liverpool to fewer goals than Liverpool usually scored they got defensive credit, if Leeds scored more than Liverpool would usually allow, Leeds got attacking credit.

Leeds also finished 50 goals above WBA, so let’s divide up those 50 goals based on the digging I’ve hinted at above (I won’t go into the details). We get this:

Leeds

What? All it is really is apportioning the surplus points based on how the team did when each player was on the pitch. So here we have a number of players who were on the pitch when Leeds did well. John Giles by this method was the most important player per appearance, Leeds doing best of all when he played, but he only played 33 games. The numbers respectively are those 33 appearances, 27.7 means that when Giles played opponents were held 27.7 goals (for/against remember) below what they achieved in all other matches that season, and pro-rated is just fitting all of this into our 50 goal surplus (how much better Leeds were than the worst team in the league).  When Giles didn’t play Leeds underperformed a bit, so players like Peter Lorimer, who played most games, don’t get much more overall credit than Giles. If Giles had played 42 games he’d be the clear leader.

Anyway, by dividing things up we get a sense of who contributed what. True, we can’t untangle exactly who did what, but we have some clues: when Roy Ellam played, Leeds struggled mightily. This wasn’t likely all Roy’s fault, but he played in what were otherwise full-strength teams. They lost 4-0 to Chelsea, 2-0 to Liverpool and 2-1 to Birmingham in those three games, as well as drawing 2-2 with Palace. Given that Leeds were arguably the division’s best team that year, we can see that Roy’s presence was not conducive to Championship form. It might have had nothing to do with Roy but I have no way to untangle that.

Otherwise most of Leeds regulars might be said to have contributed about 5 goals above that replacement level. I appreciate that this is fudged slightly because I set 50 as the total ‘pie’ to share out, but hopefully by working through a single team in detail we can see how – almost by definition – no single player can have *that* much impact on a season. There are only so many points to go around, even on great teams. If you think Allan Clarke’s worth 20 points a season to the team, if you think Giles and Lorimer and other superstars are similarly gifted, then before long you realise that you’ve run out of points, and that the likes of Billy Bremner and Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter, well they’re worth a piece of the pie, too, right? And so on and so on… So you come back to where you started, that even the best players in this team may only have contributed 5 net (attacking or defending) goals more than an average player might have done in their place. Nothing else adds up.

Right, if by some miracle you’re still reading, you’re wondering if this is the right way to look at things. It probably isn’t. But again, when we buy a footballer we assign a value to him, an expectation. And I’m saying that these expectations almost have to be too high. There’s only so much surplus value you can fit into a football team.

This affects the way all teams do business. If Fulham needed 50 net goals to be competitive this year (and actually the Championship still seems to broadly support this) then they had to understand a) what they had and b) what they needed. Ross McCormack brought all those goals with him, and we had a good wonder about what that might mean for Fulham, but in retrospect we needed more players of that quality, because a single star player on his own isn’t going to cut it.

The Secret Footballer on the Championship, and how Sam Allardyce’s analytics made a difference

davies460

More brilliant stuff from the Secret Footballer about how Sam Allardyce used analytics to his advantage:

Allardyce’s analytical ideas were impressive. He looked at everything, every component of the game.

At one point, he stationed a player at attacking corners in an area of the pitch that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere.

His logic was based on seasons of statistical research that determined where the clearing header was most likely to land on average.

The clearing header is the most likely result from a corner so it pays to know where it’s most likely to land.

The reason for that is because the stats for goals from a corner go down with every recycled ball.

It goes something like this. The corner is aimed at the middle of the goal.

Statistically, this is the area, actually just slightly towards the near post, where most direct goals, usually headers, are scored.

But there are stats at work here, within stats.

Because if that header isn’t a shot, then the next area that it is likely to end up in is the back post or “Pomo” – the position of maximum opportunity.

Allardyce would station a man here, running in on the outside of the back post for what would be a tap in. Very often this was Kevin Davies.

The third part of the area that the ball would end up would be just in front of the goalkeeper and you can still see Allardyce’s stats at work here. This time, with West Ham United.

In front of the keeper is exactly where Kevin Nolan stands and I’ve lost count of how many goals he’s scored from this position.

All of these three parts of the penalty area are dependent on a Bolton player winning the first header. After that, the stats go down markedly.

After that, the stats in play are for a recycled ball … or the second phase of play.

And given that the clearing header is generally towards the dugout near the halfway line, there are two options when keeping the attack going.

Either hit the ball to the back post, where players like Davies will knock the ball down for someone to shoot, or pass it to the corner taker, who hits an inswinging cross, usually nodded home by a centre half or a striker.

People thought that Bolton were a big, cumbersome team. They weren’t; they just played the stats better than anybody else.

He’s likely to talk about Fulham tomorrow, which should be interesting to say the least. It’s a fascinating series so far.

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.