Is possession always nine tenths of the law? | Stats Analysis

Is possession always nine tenths of the law? | Stats Analysis

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Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Champions League. If you did not see the game and looked at the data you would have been confused on the basis that Barcelona had 84% Possession and still managed to lose. If we look at the Barcelona data for the game we can see that they had 25 shots, so in relation to possession, that is one shot per 3.36% of possession.

Celtic won the game by restricting the amount of shots on target that Barcelona had. Barca had just eight shots on goal, just 32% of their total number of shots. Celtic’s prevention of 68% of Barca’s shots hitting the target is known as accuracy prevention and is a very good indicator of how well or poorly a defense is playing.

Celtic had five shots and a seemingly measly 16% possession. However, this still equates to one shot per 3.2% of possession, making them more effective then Barca in the use of the little possession they had.

If we look at the Premiership data it can give as an insight into how well teams are playing.

Looking at the table below,  Everton average the most shots per game at 19.8 but what is more interesting is that they average one shot per 2.68% of possession, the best in the Premiership by a big margin. We can conclude that Everton are very effective in the attacking areas and I think Leighton Baines can take a lot of the credit for his ability to link up with attack in open play.

We can see how well Spurs play on the counter with a very impressive 1 shot to 2.86% possession. Spurs have had more shots on the counter-attack then any other team.

Sunderland are the least effective with 1 shot per 4.99% of possession. This indicates simply that they are lacking penetration in the final third, which is obvious issue given their lack of goals.

What is of more interest is that the data for Arsenal and Man Utd is almost the same, except that Man Utd are rather better at scoring goals at the moment than the Gunners. The data then can sometimes be deceptive.

As it is in the case of Liverpool, whose data shows that they are effective in the final third with one shot per 3.23% of possession. Yet the fact that they have only won 5/21 games shows that they have a problem winning that cannot be masked by the stats.

Indeed, we must not simply accept what the data is telling us because a team like Stoke are not interested in ball retention at all, with an average of 41.03% possession per game.

When Stoke played Swansea this season it was obvious with their contrasting styles would dictate that Swansea would dominate possession. Indeed, Swansea had 61% possession in that game, but only 10 shots, a very poor one shot per 6.1% of possession. It comes as little surprise that Swansea scored no goals, then. During that game you could have seen that Swansea were struggling with their patient build up against a Stoke side that love to sit back and allow the opposition to keep possession.

You can click on the columns to sort the values in the table.

[table id=97 /]

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.

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