Sep 4, 2014
Sep 4, 2014

Are Swansea & Villa experiencing a good run of luck?

Are Swansea & Villa experiencing a good run of luck?
Aston Villa and Swansea both currently occupy Champions League places, however theyare perhaps not as good as the EPL table suggests. This shot-based analysis highlights that both have been lucky, and a bottom half position in the EPL would be more realistic.

Over 720 attempts on goal have been made as the Premier League pauses for International friendlies and qualifiers. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have already topped 50 attempts apiece, with shot shy Leicester, Crystal Palace and highflying Aston Villa registering barely half of these totals.

Defensively, Leicester have been dealt a tough set of opening matches, comprising of Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal, which accounts for their eye watering 64 shots faced. They are joined by Palace, Hull QPR and Swansea at the foot of the table for most shots conceded.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool currently have the most impressive combination of attempts made against attempts conceded, while Leicester, Palace, Hull and Swansea have the least impressive.

Likely match outcomes in Week Three of the EPL based on 10,000 shooting simulations
Home TeamHome Win %Draw %Away Win %Away TeamActual ScoreMost Likely Score
Aston Villa 37 44 19 Hull 2-1 0-0
Burnley 22 40 38 Man Utd 0-0 0-0
Everton 21 23 56 Chelsea 3-6 1-2
Leicester 11 18 71 Arsenal 1-1 0-2
Man City 55 34 11 Stoke 0-1 1-0
Newcastle 44 26 30 Crystal Palace 3-3 1-0
QPR 45 30 25 Sunderland 1-0 1-0
Swansea 45 32 23 WBA 3-0 1-0
Tottenham 7 16 77 Liverpool 0-3 0-2
West Ham 7 18 75 Southampton 1-3 0-2

City unfortunate not to claim at least a point

Last weekend’s matches largely saw the sides which created a net positive goal expectation from the quality and quantity of chances they both faced and attempted, rewarded with league points.

Nine of the ten sides which were more likely to win than their opponents based on the goal attempts made by both teams during the game, picked up at least a point – the exception being Manchester City, who lost 1-0 at home to Stoke.

Manchester City had gained six points from their first two games without being dominant in terms of goal attempts. Constantly playing whilst in the lead, as City were, inevitably skews shooting statistics.

The side leading is often forced onto the defensive, resulting in them conceding more frequent, but often lower quality chances, and creating fewer, possibly higher quality opportunities themselves on the counter attack.

Against Stoke, the extra layer of information contained in a goal expectation model helps to better describe the tactical events of Saturday afternoon.

The Laser Blues outshot Stoke 16 to 7 and had 70% of possession. Of those 16 Manchester attempts, typically they would have scored once, find the target between 5 and 6 times and see 4 of their efforts blocked – this article explains how to calculate this.

Over half of Mark Hughes’ Stoke team were veterans of the Tony Pulis School of defending – defending in numbers and playing on the counter – and these qualities were evident on Saturday. Defensive pressure required Stoke keeper, Begovic to make just 2 saves and 9 were blocked by Stoke players. That was over twice the expected number, based on shot location.

The winning goal was a remarkable counter attack, scored by Mame Biram Diouf who started on the edge of his own box. As with many counter attack goals, weaker defensive pressure is a feature of both the creation and execution of the score.

Diouf ran 70 yards with the ball, but only encountered two outfield challenges, his shot had the second highest goal expectation of the 7 Stoke attempts, but still required poor positional sense from City keeper, Joe Hart to be successful.

Judged on the pre-game odds, the Stoke win will be one of the season’s biggest upsets and reinforces the need to allow for every possible outcome in a betting contest, no matter how unlikely. Stoke City’s terrible record away to the current Champions would have marked this game as a home banker for many.

After the fact, Manchester City take at least a point from 89% of match simulations, but that still allows for an 11% chance that a Hart error and “body on the line” defending will cause a major upset.

Interestingly Stoke have topped the Pinnacle’ handicap table for the past two seasons, and barring their slip-up on the opening game of the season, have covered the spread in their other games to sit joint third in the table.

Current EPL league positions compared to 10,000, shot based league simulations
TeamActual league positionShot based positionDifferential
Chelsea 1 1 0
Arsenal 7 2 +5
Liverpool 5 3 +2
Southampton 8 4 +4
West Ham 11 5 +6
QPR 12 6 +6
Man Utd 14 7 +7
Man City 4 8 -4
Newcastle 16 9 +7
WBA 18 10 +8
Aston Villa 3 11 -8
Stoke 10 12 -2
Swansea 2 13 -11
Burnley 20 14 +6
Sunderland 13 15 -2
Everton 17 16 +1
Crystal Palace 19 17 +2
Tottenham 6 18 -12
Hull 9 19 -10
Leicester 15 20 -5

Are Swansea & Villa on a lucky streak?

This type of analysis is most useful in identifying over or under rated teams compared to judgements based solely on league position. Swansea briefly topped the table with a 100% record early on Saturday evening until Chelsea met Everton. However, they have been out shot in each of their three matches and by 30 attempts to 42, overall.

As with Manchester City until Saturday, the Swans have yet to trail at all in their games. Therefore, current score line effects, as well as limited sample size is a concern.

They did however create sufficient quality shooting positions at home to WBA to record a greater goal expectation than that of their opponents, which was not the case in their previous two matches.

If you simulate the league table so far, based on all 723 goal attempts, Swansea would be 2nd (their current actual position) or better just 3% of the time. They are over twice as likely to be 10th.

By taking a weighted average of Swansea’s finishing position in 10,000 simulations of all Premier League games so far, bettors can see an attempt-based appraisal of their this season.

The Swans are only 13th, on average if you use shot location data from each Premier League game. This is much more in keeping with their average finishing position of 11th over the previous three EPL seasons, than their current 2nd spot.

So from a betting perspective, it may be more accurate to consider them as a mid-table team on recent and current evidence, rather than a new or aspiring member of the elite.

Streaks are common, for every team, especially in low scoring sports like soccer and too much weight may be placed on the importance of such streaks when they fall in the early part of a season and their presence is highlighted by league position – read this article which highlights the dangers of betting on winning streaks.

Aston Villa share a similar lofty actual position of 3rd, when recent historical achievements and current shot simulations also indicate more modest potential. They are ranked 11th by shot simulations and also have struggled in the bottom half of the table in recent seasons. Given the small sample size this far, they are also more likely to also be a team that has benefitted from short-term luck.

Strength of schedule is an obvious issue early in the season. For example, Chelsea are currently a habitual contender that has impressed against relatively poor opposition. And Southampton have produced strong shooting statistics against three above average opponents.

Red card events also explain why some teams are currently out of sync with their actual position, notably West Ham and Tottenham.

The differential between actual and simulated positions will reduce as the season progresses and sample size increases, but it will still be possible to identify teams that may be in a false position and therefore may be wrongly priced in the long term betting markets or in individual matches.


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