Sunday, 14 August 2016

How does Joe Hart's Passing Compare to Other Keepers?

Pep Guardiola’s first team selection caused more than a few raised eyebrows, with the former Barcelona and Bayern manager dropping Yaya Toure, playing Alexander Kolorov at centre back and opting for Willy Caballero over Joe Hart in goal. Guardiola’s main reason for leaving out Joe Hart was his passing ability, so how does Hart compare to other keepers?

First let’s compare Joe Hart’s passing statistics with those of Guardiola’s previous keepers Victor Valdes and Manuel Neuer. Figure 1 shows the average pass completion for each keeper over the past seven seasons. From this we can see Hart has had the lowest passing success of any of the three keepers. The  impact of Guardiola's playing style can be seen in the graph from the passing successes of Valdes and Neuer. Valdes' passing success dropped  from around 80% from 2009-12 (under Guardiola), to just above 60% for the following two seasons (post Guardiola). Neuer's passing success jumped from 70 and 75% prior to Guardiola manging Bayern to 88, 86 and 80% under Guardiola's management. So there's an argument that we would expect Hart's passing success to improve to from its baseline of around 50% under the Spainiard. 

Figure 1

Perhaps the reason for this can be explained by team's playing a greater proportion of shorter passes, which are more likely to reach there target, under Guardiola.  We see thaat Neuer played an average of over 20 short passes per game each season under Guardiola compared to 9.2 and 13 per games in the two previous seasons at Bayern (see Figure 2). 

Figure 2

In terms of long balls there is no real pattern in terms of the number of accurate and inaccurate long balls under Guardiola.  It is interesting that Hart has played a higher number of inaccurate long balls than the other two keepers but this could be a result of the characterisitcs of the different leagues. 

So how does Hart compare to the other Premier League keepers? Last season Hart's passing success was above the average (50.04%) but was the 9th highest in the league (for keepers who had played ten or more games), see Figure 3. 
Figure 3

Also compared to other Premier League keepers Hart played one of the lowest numbers of long balls (both accurate and inaccurate), Figure 4. In fact Hart played the lowest number of average passes per game (21.3) in the league last season. This may have been a tactical ploy on City's behalf, perhaps they knew Hart's ability on the ball was lacking or may be they had more control of games so needed to utilise Hart less. 

Figure 4

From the above analysis it is clear that Hart's passing game could do with some work compared to both Guardiola's previous keepers and also other keepers in the Premier League. Encouraging shorter passing and getting Hart on the ball more would likely see his passing average improve. It's likely City will build from the back, especially with John Stones' ability on the ball so don't be too surprised if we see this happen. 

Of course it's also possible that Guardiola simply dropped Hart to try and get the best out of him after a disappointing Euro 2016, Sunderland at home was never likely to be the most testing game for Caballero and on top of that Caballero looked far from convincing with his kicking - I would not be at all surprised if we see Hart back in goal much sooner than some expect. 

Data courtesy of 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Premier League's Best Centre Back?

Last season Southampton had the second best defensive record, conceding just 33 goals in 38 games. This season Ronald Koeman’s side have been less assured at the back (although that may have been in some part due to Fraser Forster’s absence; since his return Southampton have kept three clean sheets) and have shipped 24 goals in 23 games. In the summer Southampton tried to secure the permanent signing of Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid, the Belgian defender had impressed during his loan spell and had been a large part of their good defensive record.

However, Alderweireld instead joined Tottenham on a permanent basis and since then has not missed a minute of football in the Premier League for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Alderweireld has formed a strong partnership with his countryman Jan Vertonghen, who has also featured in every Premier League game for Spurs this season.

It’s been easy to overlook the steady progress of Tottenham this season with Chelsea and Manchester United self-destructing to varying degrees and Watford and Leicester continuing to win the plucky underdog plaudits. Even when Spurs have been gaining exposure it’s been almost exclusively for their attacking play, with Harry Kane and Delle Alli getting most of the headlines.

However, as good as their attacking play has been Tottenham also deserve credit for their defensive work. They have conceded just 19 goals this season, the best record in the league and have lost only three games (only Leicester can better that record).  

It’s worth noting that bar the inclusion of Alderweireld the Tottenham defence has been largely unchanged from last season, Pochettino’s first choice back four this season has been Walker – Vertonghen – Alderweireld –Rose, in the 2014/15 campaign it was Walker – Vertonghen – Fazio – Rose. Last season Tottenham conceded 53 goals, barring a defensive capitulation they will better that total by some distance this time around and whilst some of the difference could be ascribed to the defensive stability that Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele have offered in front of the back four I think a lot of it is down to Alderweireld.

He is accomplished on the ball, capable of playing accurate long balls out of defence, which have allowed Spurs to launch quick, incisive counter attacks. In fact Alderweireld has 2 assists to his name so far this season, more than any other centre back (and the same amount as Eden Hazard). As well as the cultured side to his game, Alderweireld is still very strong physically and powerful in the air, as you would expect from a centre back.  

Alderweireld averages 1.7 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per game, the latter figure is indicative of a player who is capable of reading the game well, putting himself in a position where he doesn’t necessarily need to make a tackle. Alderweireld is also a very clean tackler, he has picked up just one yellow card so far this season and of centre backs to have played more than five games only John Terry, Ramiro Funes Mori and Phil Jagielka have commited less fouls per game (Terry and Funes Mori 0.2 fouls per game, Jagielka and Alderweireld 0.3 fouls per game).      

With the also impressive Jan Vertonghen set to miss a chunk of the remainder of the campaign after damaging his medial ligament in the victory over Palace Tottenham fans should rest assured that their defensive is in good hands with Alderweireld at its heart. 

Statistics courtesy of

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Premier League Previews: 12-13th January 2016

Thanks to the FA cup games being played this weekend we have a full schedule of midweek Premier League games this week and there’s some good looking games in there as well. I’ve picked out three of those games to previews and betting tips for

Newcastle vs Manchester United: Under 1.5 goals @ 3.25

United needed a last minute penalty to beat League 2 Sheffield United in their FA cup tie, it’s fair to say that the performance and result have done little to dispel the pressure on Louis van Gaal and his approach. Newcastle lost 1-0 to Watford despite naming a fairly strong side, Steve McClaren’s side look bereft of confidence and have started to struggle in front of goal, they haven’t scored in their last four games now, all of which have been 1-0 defeats. This game looks on paper like it will be incredibly dull, I think this is a definitely a contender for last on Match of the Day.  

Stoke vs Norwich: Stoke win @ Evens

It’s fair to say that Stoke have been inconsistent this season, they’ve absolutely demolished teams but then also lost games they’dexpect to win. A lot of that comes down to how the front three of Bojan, Shaqiri and Arnatouvic perform, all three were rested for the trip to Doncaster but will return for this game. Norwich have lost five of their last six away games, although the other was the historic win at Old Trafford, I think they will continue their poor away form when they visit a Stoke side who are always tough to play at home and have greater strength in their squad to help with fixture congestion.

Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace: Palace win @ 2.50

Given that Villa look destined for the Champioship next season and Palace are genuine contenders for the Europa League I think the odds for this game considerably underestimate Palace. Palace have the fourth best away record in the league, they’ve picked up more points on the road than at Selhurst Park. They should add three more points to that tally against a Villa side who have picked up just three points at home all season and will probably face a hostile reception from their own fans given how poorly they’ve been performing this season and that there are reports that Micah Richards had a confrontation with fans after the 2-2 draw with Wycombe. Pardew’s Palace will add to Garde’s misery this week. 

Odds correct at time of writing and courtesy of

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Weekend tips: 18th-19th of December

So I said I was going to do tips every weekend this season but since then I’ve gotten a new job, moved house and generally life’s been pretty hectic, but it’s settled down now so hopefully I’ll start doing this on a more regular basis again. Here are this weekend’s tips:

Stuggart vs Wolfsburg: Wolfsburg win @ 2.05

Wolfsburg have a really talented squad of players and it says a lot that they’ll probably be disappointed to be in fourth going into the final game before the winter break. Stuttgart are struggling again this season, they are currently bottom of the league and haven’t won in five games. Wolfsburg have a poor away record this season but you have to fancy them to beat a struggling Stuttgart side if they are to challenge for the Champions League places.

Troyes vs Monaco: Monaco win @ 1.90

This game also sees a struggling side face one with European ambitions. Troyes are bottom of Ligue 1 and look out of their depth having picked up just seven points all season and are without a win this campaign, they have lost four of their last six games and the winter break can’t come soon enough for them. Monaco are currently third but are already 17 points behind the imperious PSG, expect Monaco to get their third win on the bounce this Saturday.

 Newcastle vs Aston Villa: Newcastle win @ 2.00

Newcastle have won back to back league games for the first timeinover a year and have the best oortunity of extending that run against an Aston Villa side who have continued to be woeful under Remi Garde’s leadership. Newcastle are unbeaten in their last six fixtures against Villa and whilst the fact they underperform against lesser teams has been pointed out it’s also worth noting that they play a lot better when their games are on TV, which this one is. Villa have lost twelve of their games this season and really need a result here to keep pace with the sides above them. Unfortunately for them I think Newcastle will be full of confidence and have enough quality to see off Villa.

Odds correct at time of writing from

Friday, 18 September 2015

Weekend Preview Round 3

Last weekend two of my picks came in with Charlton failing to win but AZ and Monaco winning their games. If you’ve been following the tips so far this season (and placing the bets as singles) you should still be in profit (£2.05  profit if you put £1 on each bet), so let’s hope to keep that going this weekend.  

Swansea vs Everton: Over 2.5 goals @ Evens

This game should be really entertaining, both sides play attractive football and there’ll be plenty of attacking talent on show. Swansea will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat away at Watford whilst Everton should be full of confidence following their convincing win over Chelsea.  I think there will be at least three goals required for this bet to win.

Werder Bremen vs Ingolstadt: Werder Bremen win @ 2.05

Ingolstadt have had a solid start to life in the Bundesliga and will be looking to build on that when they visit Werder Bremen this weekend. After successive wins Werder Bremen should be full of confidence and have the crowd behind them, and that home advantage could be key as Ingolstadt have proved tough to beat, only Dortmund have managed it so far this season. I think the home side will just edge this one.

Willem II vs Utrecht: Utrecht draw no bet @ 2.10

Utrecht are unbeaten since the opening day of the season and will be looking to build on their good run of form when they travel to play Willem II. Utrecht also have history, as well as form, on their side, having won four of the six meetings between the two sides. Willem have started poorly and are yet to win this season, but they have picked up points against AZ and Vitesse. I don’t see Utrecht losing this one and the odds for draw no bet are really good.  

Odds correct at time of writing from Bet365.
Statistics courtesy of

Friday, 11 September 2015

Weekend Preview Round 2

I said I was going to do weekly tips but the last few weeks have been hectic and I haven’t had chance to. My first round of tips were pretty successful with two of my three tips winning, I’ve gone for another three tips this weekend and hopefully they’ll all come in.

Charlton vs Rotherham: Charlton win @ Evens

Charlton have won all three of their home games this season (two in the league) and face a Rotherham side who have picked up just one point so far this season. Charlton lost their unbeaten record last time out away at Wolves and will see this as the prefect chance to bounce back.  Rotherham last won away in mid March and I can't see them doing that this weekend. I fancy Charlton to continue their good start and pick up another home win.

GFC Ajaccio vs Monaco: Monaco win @ 1.90

GFC Ajaccio have had a torrid start to life in Ligue 1, they haven’t scored a goal in their opening four games and have picked up just one point in the process. Despite losing Martial and Kurzawa in the transfer window I think Monaco should have more than enough quality to see off Ajaccio and get back to winning ways.

De Graafschap vs AZ Alkmaar: AZ win @ Evens

Much like GFC Ajaccio in France it’s fair to say De Graafschap have struggled in the Eredivisie so far this season, they are yet to pick up a point and have only managed to score once. AZ are also yet to pick up a win, having drawn two and lost two, despite a poor start they will still be hoping to challenge for a European spot this season. In order to do so these are the kind of games AZ must win but they will fancy their chances of getting all three points this weekend and kick starting their season.   

Friday, 7 August 2015

Weekend Preview Round 1

It's the weekend we've all been waiting for, the opening weekend of the Premier League, Football League and also Ligue 1 in France. This season I'm going to offer weekly tips and I've picked three games for this weekend, one from Ligue 1 and two from the Premier League. 

Nice vs Monaco: Monaco win @ 2.05

This is probably the most glamorous derby in the world, with two sides from the south of France meeting for their Ligue 1 opener. Monaco hammered Young Boys 7-1 on aggregate to reach the Champions League play offs where they’ll meet Valencia. Monaco have made some exciting signings and with a number of key players departing Lyon this summer they’ll fancy themselves as being PSG’s main rivals for the title. Monaco have won four of the last six meetings between the two including the same fixture last season. Having relied on a solid defence last season Monaco will look to be more expansive going forward this season, especially with the signings they’ve brought in.  I think Monaco will be dark horses this season and can push PSG all the way, they’ll need to start with a win and should do so on Saturday.

Arsenal vs West Ham: Arsenal to win to nil @ 1.95 

Arsenal have had a really impressive pre-season, winning all their games and conceding just one goal. Their performance in the Charity Shield has caused much optimism amongst Arsenal fans who feel they can offer a sterner challenge for the title this year. West Ham’s season started early because of their involvement in the Europa League, they lost on Thursday in Romania meaning they will not reach the group stage. West Ham fielded a youthful side on Thursday to have a full strength side for Sunday, there are issues up front with Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia both long term absentees. Arsenal have won the last six meetings between these two clubs and will be looking to get off to a winning start here. Given how strong Arsenal’s defence has looked and West Ham’s frailties up top I fancy Cech to keep a clean sheet on his debut too. (This is the same as Arsenal to win and BTTS: No, you might need to look for that instead!)

Newcastle vs Southampton: Over 2.5 goals @ 2.10 

 Newcastle look set to field a centre back pairing of Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor, which is calamitous to say the least. In pre-season the results haven’t been good for Steve McClaren and the defence has looked particularly shaky, but there are some positive going forward, most notably Wijnaldum looks like he should get a few goals. Southampton fielded a strong side in the Europa League on Thursday but won comfortably to advance to the next round. Southampton are a side who will score goals and seem to like doing so against Newcastle, scoring ten in their last three meetings. There have been at least three goals in four of the last six meetings between the two and with Newcastle’s defensive frailties I think we should see goals.

Statistics courtesy of
Odds correct at time of writing with Bet365