A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post comparing Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in which I started looking at completed passes, both into the final third and into the penalty area, without really explaining much about why this might be an interesting topic to look at. In this post I´ll focus on completed passes into the penalty area, using passing data from the Premier League and Bundesliga from the 2014/2015 season.
The definition of a completed pass into the penalty area is pretty much self explanatory, it is a pass that is attempted outside of the penalty area and is successfully received inside the penalty area. Alternative but very similar measures could be passes completed into the ”danger zone” or just completed passes inside either the penalty area or danger zone regardless of whether they were attempted from inside or outside of those areas. I do plan to investigate these alternative measures as well at some point, but as mentioned above, todays focus is on completed passes into the penalty area, on a team level.
First up, a few correlations. I used data from both the Premier League and the Bundesliga for these correlation charts, as the league samples would have been quite small on their own. One seasons worth of data is still a small sample, and I´ll make sure to investigate these correlations further as I gather more data in the future. With that said, let´s have a look at a few plots:
There´s a pretty decent correlation between passes into the offensive penalty area and scoring goals, with the number of successful passes explaining 47% of the variance in goals scored per game. As is almost always the case when looking at team metrics, defensive performance is much harder to predict and the correlation between passes conceded into the defensive penalty area and goals conceded is quite a bit weaker, with passes conceded into the penalty area explaining only 27% of the variance in goals conceded.
If you want to take it one step further (and I do), you can turn the passes completed and conceded into a ratio, much like the ”Total shots ratio” or the ”Shots on target ratio”, and see if there´s a correlation to points per game (or goal difference if you´d prefer that).
So looking solely at last seasons numbers, there is a correlation between points earned and the ratio of passes completed/conceded into the penalty areas, but it´s not a whole lot stronger than raw possession, and it´s weaker than the shot ratios. It´s still strong enough to be useful in my opinion, certainly for team profiling purposes if nothing else.
It it´ll be interesting to compare this correlation to the ones of alternative passing metrics to see if there´s a stronger correlation to be found when looking at a slightly different area or a slightly different set of passes. As I gather more data, season to season repeatability is another very important issue that needs to be adressed as well as possible differences in style of play between leagues.
Premier League 2014/2015
So lets have a look at the numbers from both leagues last season. First chart: Passes completed per game in the Premier League:
This chart tells a similar story to the ones that were told by many different metrics last season. City and Arsenal were both excellent, Southampton did great, United were lucky, Tottenham even more lucky, and Swansea were terrible.
Relegated side Burnely is a surprising inclusion in the top 5, completing more passes than both Man United and Liverpool. Spurs acquisition Kieran Trippier turns out to be the player who completed the fourth most completed passes into the penalty area per 90 minutes played in the entire league, boosting Burnleys numbers quite a bit.
The bottom 5 hold some dull and not very surprising teams, with the exception of the previously mentioned Swansea side that managed to finish 8th in the table despite being the leagues worst team by a bit when it comes to passing the ball into the opponents area. If you´re worse than Sunderland at anything, that´s not a very good sign.
Defensively, Swansea did a little bit better, but still really bad. QPR:s struggles were mainly at the defensive end of the pitch, and the same goes for West Ham. Tottenham ends up in mid table, and Burnley once again does surprisingly well in this metric.
When you combine the defensive and attacking numbers into a ratio, you get the following result:
Man City might have been a decent side last season. Surprise surprise.
Swansea and Tottenham still stand out as the two teams that did remarkably well given hos poor they were not only in this metric, but in all the shot metrics as well. Burnley were truly unlucky to be relegated judging by this metric alone.
It´s no great surprise that Bayern Munich sits top of the list, but it is all the more interesting to note yet another measure where Borussia Dortmund does really well, in fact better than all other teams bar Bayern. Gladbach, overperfoming wildly compared to their shot metrics does quite poorly in this one as well, not to mention Schalke 04. Werder Bremen does surprisingly well going foraward, and Wolfsburg surprisingly bad.
This was more like what I was expecting from Werder Bremen, who clearly struggled a lot more defensively than going forward. Gladbach looks even worse when it comes to restricting passes into the penalty area, and Schalke looks mediocre once again. Wolfsburg does well, Dortmund great and Bayern even better. The Dortmund debacle from last season that saw them finish 7th while posting the second best scores in pretty much every single metric I´ve looked at so far is mind boggling, and a great reminder of what a pain variance can be over even extended periods of time. Dortmunds shot profile was super strong all season, up there with the best, yet they found themselves dead last when half the season was played. That is brutal.
Oh well, on to the ratios:
It seems Thomas Tuchel didn´t inherit such a bad side after all.
Thanks for reading!