Last week I picked up on Cardiff’s lowly shot differential (Corsi) so far in the Championship and suggested this needed to improve quickly if the team was to maintain a realistic promotion challenge.
Well it did not improve against Fulham. Nowhere near in fact, as Fulham confidently outshot the Bluebirds 18-9.
However, Cardiff managed to scrape an away point from the 1-1 draw to sit ninth in the table at the international break.
|Position||Team||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals For||Goals Against||Goal Difference||Points|
So Cardiff are just about clinging on to the playoff teams, just one point behind Charlton in sixth (the last playoff place) and level with Derby and Brentford on eight points.
Meanwhile the draw was the first point of the season for the west London side and the improved performance has eased some of the pressure on Felix Magath.
But how long can Cardiff keep doing this? If it continues much longer they may gain the reputation (in analytics circles at least) of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs who last season were massively outshot game-in game-out but relied on stellar goalkeeping and some other massive goal scoring luck to push to the playoffs – until it all came crashing down in the last month of the season.
Well the Bluebirds are following a similar path in this early season, but it is hard to see exactly what is the real issue.
If we look at the shot differential table the Bluebirds are now the second worst team in the league and have slipped below the 40% mark – with only Leeds below them (more on the Yorkshire team later).
|Position||Team||Played||Shots for per game||Shots vs per game||Shots for total||Shots against total||Corsi|
So surely Cardiff must have a massive PDO (luck) score? Not so.
|Position||Team||Shooting % For||Save %||PDO|
As we can see from the tables it is a little high at 103, but that really is nothing compared to some of the other early season scores. And it isn’t dominated by either one of the factors being considerably high – 75% is a perfectly plausible save percentage, while 28% is not far from the average scoring rate either.
So what gives? Well, we need to delve a little deeper into the numbers to find what is crossing the path between the two primary indicators – shot difference and luck.
|Position||Team||On target % for||On target % against||Shots for total||Shots against total||Corsi||shots on target for total||shots on target against total||Shots on Target ratio|
Here it becomes clearer. The Bluebirds are far and away the best team at getting shots on target. More than 42% of the shots taken by Cardiff end up on target – way above the league average of 31%.
Cardiff also has the lowest on target shooting rate by opponents at just 21%. So this turns a horrible negative Corsi score into a more than respectable shots on target ratio of 57% - sixth best in the league.
Why is this happening? Well, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be a tactical genius in guiding the Bluebirds to only take shots from the best locations or where a clear shooting opportunity has opened up. Or the Bluebirds may just be particularly accurate shooters facing some top quality goalkeepers (hence why the shots are frequently on target, but scored at a below average rate.
And at the other end the defence may be well drilled enough to consistently force opponents to take shots from lower quality scoring positions.
This explanation is possible. Shot quality work is still in its infancy and while in the NHL it appears to have very little influence on whether a shot becomes a goal (maybe as little as 10%), in football it seems there is a greater importance in where it comes from.
I’m not comfortable in writing off OGS’s tactics just yet, but I’m not so inclined to believe that is the reason. I want to have a closer look at the real game data so far, but I’d suspect Cardiff has just got a little lucky with hitting the target and opponents not.
If my gut feeling is right and those two trends do reverse... whoa boy it is going to be interesting at the CCS shortly.
Another key game I flagged up last week was the meeting of Leeds and Bolton in an early season relegation six-pointer.
Well after sacking Dave Hockaday and beating Bolton to claim a second win of the season and move into 18th position, all is clearly well at Elland Road again.
Errr hold on a second Leeds fans, you might want to buckle up for a rocky ride this season.
I also mentioned the importance of score effects on games last week. Now taking a one game sample to prove a point is not great, but there are score effects and then there’s Leeds vs Bolton.
Leeds scored 17 minutes in with their second shot of the game and did muster another six throughout the match.
However, Bolton hit 20 in that time to add to the two they managed before Leeds took the lead.
To be outshot 8-22 at home, even if defending a lead, is mighty worrying and continues the Yorkshire club’s poor Corsi form.
For a dramatic role reversal of home fortune last weekend look no further than a few miles up the A19.
Middlesbrough took 4 shots in first 6 mins before Reading scored on their first shot of the game a minute later.
The Royals then took four more attempts at goal in the 20 minutes following their goal and then nothing for the remaining 63 minutes.
Middlesbrough attempted another 20 shots after Reading’s goal but just couldn’t find a slice of luck to get an equaliser.
Again, score effects could be playing an overall role here, especially in this one game as Reading were the away side where the desire to cling on to whatever position you have is often strongest. But as we see from the tables, Middlesbrough is consistently outshooting opponents but just getting burned by PDO.
For Reading; well, the Royals now have only the aforementioned Leeds and Cardiff below them in the Corsi stakes. Not a good place to be.
Nottingham Forest – Overvalued
Forest are without doubt a decent Corsi team at the moment, but their bus is being well and truly driven by a massive PDO at present. Assuming that returns to a more normal level sometime soon then we could see a regression back down towards the playoff places.
Watford – Indisciplined
I mentioned last week that Watford’s poor Corsi score could be due to the pummelling from Norwich. Well after going down to ten men against Huddersfield while being 2-2, the Hornets scored just three minutes (and two shots) later before shipping another 10 shots in the remaining 20+ minutes.
Oh, and they also scored a fourth late on as the Terriers pushed forward.
All that contributes (AGAIN) to a massive PDO and low Corsi score.
It would be interesting if Watford could keep 11 players on the field for a decent stretch of games so we can get an idea of just how good they are.
Andorra – Travels
As part of my protest of not spending any money at Cardiff while the current regime is continuing its present course I've decided to take in some international football for the foreseeable future. So that means I'm off to Andorra this weekend to watch Wales play on an artificial pitch that UEFA decided was fit to play on just six days before kick off.
What could posisbly go wrong?
And finally.... Charts
It seems I have the tables sortable now (just about), so please feel free to play around with them as you like and let me know any other interesting trends or figures you spot.