Last season, I found the Bundesliga. I mean, I knew it existed before, but this time I actually started to follow it. Conclusion?
It is FUN.
Now, both Michael Caley and Mike Goodman have written articles on why the Bundesliga is great (read them HERE and HERE), so if you need convincing, I suggest you read those. To further these guys points, this is a table I made for the blog a while ago when I wrote in Swedish, looking at differences between the major European leagues. As you can tell, over the last two seasons combined, Bundesliga has the most shots, shots on target, goals and dribbles per game out of the five leagues. It also has a high number of passes attemted, but a low figure for percentage of passes completed, indicating that the speed of the game is really. It is also worth noting that the conversion rate in the Bundesliga is the highest out of the five leagues as well. In short, the Bundesliga is where the action is.
Rather than doing a full preview (@SaturdayOnCoach has already done a fantastic one for Statsbomb, read it HERE ) I´ll be focusing on a couple of questions that I´m hoping to get the answer to during the 2015/2016 season. Here goes:
How good are Gladbach?
Last seasons Borussia Mönchengladbach finished third, but they remain one of those teams that the amateur analytics scene can´t seem to figure out completely. The shot metrics that usually do a decent enogh job of accurately explaining and predicting results miss out completely on Gladbach. Their shot ratios and expected goal difference have gone from pretty bad in 2013/2014, to no more than ok in 2014/2015, while their actual goal difference has gone from quite good to even better. In 2013/2014, Gladbach outscored their expected goal difference with over 28 goals, and in 2014/2015 they finished with a goal difference just under 27 goals better than their expected goal difference, according to the model.
When looking more in depth at their ExpG numbers, it´s clear that Gladbach have outperformed the model in both attack and defense over the last two seasons. However, in 13/14, the attacking component of the ExpG measure provided the biggest overperformance compared to the model, with the team scoring 20 goals more than expected, whereas in 14/15, it was the defense that widely overachieved compared to the models output, conceding only 25 goals with an expected goals tally against of almost 43 goals.
So is Gladbachs overperformance down to pure variation or to something that the shot models aren´t picking up? The fact that the overperformance comes mainly from the attacking side in one year and the defensive side in the next, could be used as an argument in favour of variation. However, the previously mentioned @SaturdayOnCoach has written another excellent post, (read it HERE) in which he makes a very convincing case, arguing that Gladbachs tactical setup enables them to outperform the shot models.
I´ll be sure to follow if Gladbach manage to overperform versus the expected goals models for a third year running, and if so, by how much.
Will Dortmund bounce back?
Borussia Dortmund had a terrible season in 2014/2015. At least as far as the final table goes, not to mention the table halfway through last season that had Dortmund rock bottom. However, Dortmunds shot numbers remained really strong throughout the season, and they managed to bounce back to seventh place, which still has to be considered a big disappointment.
Another disappointment among the fans will surely be the departure of the every so popular coach Jürgen Klopp. Having previously led the club to the Bundesliga title as well as the Champions League final, Klopp decided during the season that he wasn´t the best suitable man to lead the club going forward, and announced that he would leave the club once the season was over. His replacement is the former Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel, supposedly a significantly less charismatic albeit a strategically capable coach. So will Tuchel inherit a squad in shambles, much like the one David Moyes inherited in Manchester two years ago, or is there still hope for the Dortmund squad?
Looking at last seasons numbers, regardless of whether you look at raw shot numbers or expected goals numbers, Dortmund fairs really well.
For a while there were rumours surrounding all of Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan and Marco Reus, three immensely important players in the Dortmund squad. Right now, it seems like the club will be able to keep them all onboard for at least one more season. This would mean that Thomas Tuchel is getting a squad that is clearly competent, arguably one of the best teams in the country, with expectations potentially lower than in a long time due to the 7th place finish last season and the departure of Klopp. It´ll be very interesting to see if the tactician Tuchel is capable of filling the void of the club icon Jürgen Klopp, but at least he still has the tools on the pitch to do it.
How good is Bas Dost?
For me, Bas Dost pretty much came out of nowhere. He started the season on the bench, but eventually got an opportunity, and boy did he take it. Even though he cooled of a little towards the end of the season, Dost scored an incredible 0.94 non penalty goals per 90 minutes of play which was the highest in the league, and even though that´s a pretty large overperformance compared to his ExpG-tally of 0.56 ExpG per 90 minutes, that ExpG-tally was the third highest in the league, beaten only by Robert Lewandowski and Alexander Meier.
When looking at Dosts previous seasons in the Bundesliga and his goal scoring record, it´s surprisingly good, given that he wasn´t deemed good enough to be first choice at the start of the 2014/2015 campaign.
Those 0.4 non penalty goals per 90 minutes played that Dost racked up in 2012/2013 doesn´t look to impressive when compared to the incredible 0.94 NPG in 2014/2015, but 0.4 NPG is actually slightly above the average striker, and 0.60 NPG90 in 13/14 is very, very good.
There is a small issue with Dost regarding playing time. Sure, Dost did play over 2000 minutes in 2012/2013 when he scored a decent 0.40 NPG90, but he only saw 605 minutes of playing time in 2013/2014 season which makes that seasons scoring record hard to judge. In 14/15 he played was at the pitch for 1530 minutes, so in total Dost have now played 4144 minutes of Bundesliga, scoring 29 non penalty goals, which translates to an excellent record of 0.63 NPG90.
But is that scoring record sustainable? The magnificient 14/15 season certanly doesn´t look sustainable. Dost converted a massive 37.2% of his shots and 59.3% of his shots on target, compared to league average numbers of 10.3% and 28.6% respectively. Looking at his entire Bundesliga career, Dost has converted 29% of his shots 100 and 48.3% of his 60 shots on target. These measures tend to regress towards the mean, which is why we can expect Dosts scoring to cool off eventually, provided he doesn´t increase his rather poor shooting frequency of 2.17 shots per 90 over his entire Bundesliga career, and 2.53 shots per 90 for the 2014/2015.
The jury is still out on Dost, but there are certainly warning signs. Dost is a one trick pony, he scores goals and that´s it. Given the increased competition in Max Kruse (and the Lord of course, let´s not forget the Lord) and the fact that Dosts finishing numbers aren´t likely to be sustainable, I wouldn´t be too surprised if Dosts finds himself back on that bench eventually.
Will Pep play the youngsters?
Pep Guardiola came to Munich with a mission to transform Bayern somewhat into a side that not only relied on their lethal counter attacking, but a side that also dominated games. So far he´s two for two as far as league titles goes, and he´s won a cup or two in the process. Bayerns underlying numbers are truly excellent, and the bookies give them about a 90% chance to win the league once again. It´s hard to say that his tenure in Munich has been a failure, and personally I think that they are one of the very best sides in Europe.
However, not everything has gone exactly as planned. For one, Bayern has yet to win the Champions League under Pep, but another interest point is that Guardiola has been unable to fit that many of the young, very talented players that Bayern have on their books in the starting eleven. David Alaba and Juan Bernat have managed to become regular starters, but Xherdan Shaqiris tenure was brief and now he´s ended up at Stoke, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg spent the second half of last season on loan in Augsburg, and Sebastian Rode was limited to less than 1000 minutes of play in the Bundesliga last season. With Höjbjerg and Rode still at the club, and the acquisitions of the very highly rated Joshua Kimmich as well as 24 year old Douglas Costa, it´ll be incredibly interesting to follow Bayern and potentially watch a new Bayern take shape. Robben, Ribery, Lahm and Alonso are all fantastic players, but they are all aging and wont be around forever. Will this be the year when Pep really transforms Bayern, or will he just win the league with the same old players and then say his farewells?