Data point: September player performance

September 30, 2011 Tags: , , Reads 9 comments

In partnership with the EA Sports Player Performance Index, Rant Monthly uncovers the data behind Manchester United’s strong start to the 2011/12 campaign. Here’s a sneak preview of the data from October’s magazine…

The EA Sports PPI covers Premier League performance based on a mathematical model developed Dr Ian McHale (a Liverpool fan) and Professor Phil Scarf (a United fan). The index provides objective ratings for players’ performances in a match and over a season, enabling comparisons across positions and identifying how much a player genuinely contributes to a team’s success.

Players are allocated points based on set criteria, including points won by the team, specific actions during a match, time on the pitch, goals, assists and clean sheets. McHale and Scart have analysed hundreds of matches since the Premier League’s inception in order to quantify the relationships between player actions and the match result.

The index demonstrates what many United supporters will already know: Sir Alex Ferguson’s side has made a strong start to the Premier League season, backed up by performances by key individuals

Between the sticks few United players have had more column inches dedicated to them than David de Gea. Despite this the young goalkeeper is the top ranked stopper in the Index, having made an incredible 45 saves already this Premier League season, and conceded only five goals at a shots-to-goals ratio of 9:1. By comparison, Manchester City’s Joe Hart has made 25 saves, conceding five goals, at a shots-to-goals ratio of 5:1. The PPI data draws two obvious conclusions: United is allowing far more opposition shots on goal than the side’s rivals but de Gea is more than up to the task, backing the conclusion that Ferguson’s 2011/12 incarnation is a more open than in the past.

Meanwhile, in a defence that has been disrupted by injuries to first choice pairing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, United’s younger players have been thrown into the spotlight far earlier than Sir Alex Ferguson may have intended. Yet, Ferdinand and Vidic may have some concern about their long-term positions in the side, after strong showings from Phil Jones and Jonny Evans over the first six matches of the Premier League season. The Northern Irishman is now ranked 24th overall in the Index and is the seventh ranked defender. Phil Jones is ranked 30th overall and ninth in the defenders’ list. Remarkably, the pair hasn’t lost a tackle between them in the Premier League and contributed 13 clearances too. Patrice Evra, now one of the senior men in United’s defence, is the 13th ranked defender in the Index, perhaps underlining the slight loss-of-form some fans have noted in recent months.

The much criticised United midfield has also performed strongly in the Premier League this season according to the Index. Brazilian Anderson has shown signs of fulfilling his promise, ranking sixth overall in the Index, completing 123 passes in his opponents’ half, which works out as one every four minutes 14 seconds. Demonstrating the all-round game the 22-year-old is now developing, Anderson has won 78 per cent of tackles he entered into and made five interceptions.

Darren Fletcher’s return is also a boon to Ferguson, with the younger Scot demonstrating his box-to-box credentials by covering 7.65 miles and 7.37 miles against Chelsea and Stoke respectively. Meanwhile, Tom Cleverley’s emergence is underscored by the young midfielder’s performances in his four appearances to date. Cleverley successfully fired 80 per cent of his shots on target and covered an average of 7.4 miles per match before being injured against Bolton Wanderers.

It is, however, in attack that United’s has performed ahead of all expectations this season, scoring 22 goals in six Premier League games to date. Wayne Rooney is the Index’ leading player this season, scoring nine goals and contributing two assists in five games. Ashley Young, ranked third, has started his United career in fine fashion, while the winger on the other side, Nani, is ranked fifth. Between them United’s attacking trio have made 37 shots on target, netting 68 per cent of the side’s goals so far. Demonstrating the hard work the Portuguese has put into his game over the last 18 months, Nani has also covered more ground – 43.8 miles – than any other United player this season.

Adding some level of proof, if any was really needed, of the delightful attacking football Ferguson’s side has put together since August Rooney, Nani and Young have each completed over 100 passes in their opponents’ half this season – 118, 157 and 116 respectively.


Mongoletsi - October 1, 2011 Reply

The telling thing is that it aids the sneaky suspicion that Ando might actually be getting his shit together.

Ed - October 1, 2011 Reply

Yes… I’ve been sent the methodology presentation of how this index works, including all the mathematics, and I have to say its a pretty thorough analysis.

ltel - October 1, 2011 Reply

danni disagrees

Waxfoot - October 2, 2011 Reply

More food for those of us who believe Ando is coming good.

danniitronix - October 3, 2011 Reply

ltel said:
danni disagrees

I do. I’m in favour of the stat. analysis but weight should be given to end-product, i.e., goals and assists. On that basis, Ando remains a retard in his entire career at United.

A few points:

– 123 passes in his opponents’ half, this is meaningless in the extreme; if it were assists that led to a shot on goal or a proper assist or heaven forbid a goal, fair enough credit where credit is due but for those who watch the games, it’s 99% of the time side shuffling to Rooney, Evra, Fletch or Carrick. Not convinced.

– Anderson has won 78 per cent of tackles he entered into. Again, if you enter into 5 tackles per game, that doesn’t mean shit. However, I think Ando probably enters into 3 tackles. His all round contribution is diabolical.

– Five interceptions. THIS IS QUITE FRANKLY A DISGRACE. That is ONE interception per game. Are you fucking out of your minds? This only proves that he is a complete amateur – as I have always said, I lumbering buffoon wandering aimlessly looking for the white leather thing.

Again, 18m and four season – all that investment, training, opportunity and leaving others in the reserves and on the bench for a contribution that is woefully below par.

I think these stats are a statstical anomaly at best.

If you want to really compare Ando’s performance – look at his generation in terms of age and experience. Look at what little gay boy Wilshere has managed to achieve in less time at Arsenal. Look at how Ramsey’s and Alex Song’s game has developed. See the energy (and I’m talking 80 mins plus) that Rameries brings the table. Only a red dinted doofus would suggest that Ando is better than Wilshere.

Give it two years – based on development to date, Song, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ramires will be better (if not already), than Anderson.

reddread - October 3, 2011 Reply


Yang - October 4, 2011 Reply

All this stat stuff is nice read but it is still nowhere near good as Fergie’s after game analysis. After read Norwich after game interview, I am amazed at how old man still read game so clearly and quickly decide how to solve the problems.

Probably, Fergie’s season review will be most succinct team assessment but manager cannot make detailed comments for various reason I guess.

squigs - October 4, 2011 Reply

Ed said:
Yes… I’ve been sent the methodology presentation of how this index works, including all the mathematics, and I have to say its a pretty thorough analysis.

Not looking for a fight but didn’t you use stats from the Bolton game to slag Anderson in particular his passing only 2 weeks ago?

Ed - October 4, 2011 Reply

Squigs – I certainly didn’t do any “slagging” but if you mean did I use statistics to make an observation and point out, correctly as it turns out, that Anderson’s passing breaks down in the final third? It does… and in the Bolton match he lost 40 per cent of possession in the final third. For a guy people still obsess about being a ‘creative’ this isn’t good enough in my opinion. But deeper, playing alongside Cleverley, he has done well this season, gets involved in the play more and uses he assets better. Subjectively we’ve said this on the pod. Objectively the Index seems to back that up.

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