Portland Timbers

Soccer statistics – home and away…

I won’t take up much of your time with this article so here goes…

I took a look at www.whoscored.com as well as www.squawka.com and then went back to www.mlssoccer.com and here’s my impressions about what soccer stats are available.

  • All three sites are using some very good graphics and the former two have even developed an Index to go with their site.
  • MLS offers up the OPTA Chalkboard for the fans – the EPL, (as a Soccer League) does not offer statistics; it appears whoscored and squawka fill that void?
  • Only one site gives the fan the ability to filter out activities within and outside the attacking third – mlssoccer.com
  • whoscored and squawka provide some very good individual statistics on players; mls does this as well but the graphics don’t appear to be as good.
  • Only one site gives the fan the ability to visualize where, on the pitch, specific activities occur during a game – mlssoccer.com.
  • in viewing whoscored and squawka; they both provide possession and passing percentage statistics but just the percentage of success; I was unable to find ‘unsuccessful attempts’ for teams.
  • Odd is that squawka.com and whoscored.com have different percentages for possession; in sampling 15 teams only one team (Newcastle United) had roughly the same possession percentage on both statistic data sites.
  • The same was true for passing percentage completion rates; though the variation was less obvious (most varied by .4% or less) but in one case (Arsenal) Squawka was different by over 3% points.
  • Whoscored and Squawka both have their own Index’s; how they calculate their Index’s is not publicized.
  • It is odd that both statistical sites track and leverage Yellow and Red Cards in their Index’s/Performance ratings; I say odd because the impact of a team receiving a Yellow or Red Card already manifests itself/impact/influence in the game by seeing an increase or decrease in other statistics already measured.
  • In other words; if team A is playing with ten men it is likely that that team will have less possession, less shots, less passes because they have fewer players than the opponent; an improvement for those statistics folks should include deleting Yellow and Red Card totals from their performances Index’s.
  • For me Yellow and Red Cards are more about an individual player performance that negatively impacts a team and its performance; fun fact  – in considering that Lamar Neagle and Juan Agudelo were the most effective “disrupters” last year in MLS out of the top 15 players with the most fouls conceded – Neagle and Agudelo only got booked 3.70% of the time they fouled; while Tim Cahill came in third with a 5.13% rate.
  • On the other side of the coin Aurelien Collin had the most Yellow Cards per fouls conceded at a 24.07% rate; and if you noticed in their first pre-season match against Portland Collin got two Yellows and was sent off before the first half finished; well done son – looking in mid-season form already!
  • Odd is that the shooting accuracy for Squawka shows 42% for Aston Villa but with Whoscored it registers 32%; the same was noticed with Arsenal – Squawka.com shows an accuracy percentage of 53% while whoscored.com shows 40%; perhaps those two statistical sites measure shooting accuracy differently?  Others who leverage those sites more frequently might be able to explain the why on that one?
  • Only mlssoccer.com allows the analyst to measure team and player performance within the attacking third; whoscored and squawka seem to make data available based upon the attacking half or defending half.  With penetration into the attacking third being a critical component on success with respect to possession and creating goal scoring opportunities it would seem reasonable that whoscored and squawka might change their approach?
  • All three sites provide great detail on striking data to include locations of shots and success rates though whoscored appears to provide the best visual for that information.
  • I have heard that some folks believe major soccer teams do not hire many analysts; I would disagree, in speaking with a noted soccer player and now consultant the other day, he indicated that a team like Manchester City might have as many as 8 full time analysts that study team performance (through video analysis) from U-12 on up and that by the time a player reaches the first team in the Premier League they have gone through as many as 8 years of ‘individual personal performance analysis’…  hopefully that learning approach begins to take greater shape as the MLS matures and grows?
  • I don’t offer that my analysis on these three sites is comprehensive; others have leveraged these sites more often than I – I’m sure – so feel free to throw darts; if I got it wrong I’m okay with hearing that and I’ll correct as appropriate.

In closing…

I wanted to apply my Possession with Purpose approach to the English Premier League but it’s not possible at this time; the data to capture unsuccessful and successful passing attempts within and outside the attacking third is simply not there.

And yes; some might see that analysis as simple and ‘pie in the sky’ possession bollocks but in looking at the outcome it’s pretty darn good!  And while it’s common sense to many it’s data that substantiates common sense about the game; with that as the baseline it should lend greater value to outcomes as further analysis occurs that has relevance to that grounded approach.

All things considered the data provided by for the MLS is free of charge and more comprehensive; though less user friendly in some aspects compared to whoscored and squawka.

I’ll take that approach and just apply a few more stubby pencils for now; hopefully the Golazo addition offered up late last year gets even better this year!

The greater the ability to analyze the game the more likely others will better learn the game – that’s not saying every Tom, Dick, Jane or Harry offering up statistical analysis has got it right but more is not less when it comes to statistics.

All the while never forgetting that statistics don’t tell the whole story – decision making in soccer is as much if not more about ‘art’ than science…

For me “moneyball” type statistics don’t have extensive value in soccer – this game is played with 22 players, 2 head coaches, 1 referee and 2 assistant referees all potentially acting at any given time (separately or together even) to perform any given action that can influence the outcome of a game.

In my limited view of baseball it’s a game played in ‘series’ – where one action directly relates to the previous action.  When is the last time you saw a soccer player only pass it to one other player every single time in every single game?

Never… it’s fluid with physical and mental activities that can occur at any time that influence outcomes – statistics that have value in this game also need to recognize that fluidity to have value.

I can only come up with restarts (as a moneyball type stat) where some history on set-pieces might drive an outcome that is played in ‘series’; otherwise ball, player, referee and head coach interaction/guidance can occur at anytime any place on the pitch…

I guess I told a porky pie in my opening statement; this short article is longer than I intended… a late edit here as whoscored.com, in reviewing 2013 data, shows Diego Valeri with just 8 assists when he actually had 13 this last year leading MLS; wonder why whoscored is 5 assists off the mark?

Next up…  Preseason write up on the Timbers as they prepare for 2014… and after reviewing Whoscored and Squawka I’ll stick with MLS stats; a BIG thanks to MLS for providing some pretty cool information free of charge!

Chris Gluck

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.