The last you heard from us here at KroneBall, we shared that we were trying to find a partner with us to either continue writing and publishing stats and analysis for Eliteserien publicly or with a Norwegian club to provide our statistical analysis to help gain an advantage on the competition. This is still the case. We’ve had positive conversations with people on the inside of Norwegian football about what we do and what we can offer in future. If you want to find out more and talk about a potential co-operation with your media publication or club feel free to get in touch with us on email@example.com.
We could sit on our hands and see what comes in the future, but that is not our style. I was particularly inspired after attending the Opta Analytics Pro Soccer Conference in Chicago. The conference had great speakers who are doing innovative things in football analytics. One of the last speakers featured a question and answer session with an experienced data analyst at a Major League Soccer club, who opened his talk by remarking he could not wait to steal all the ideas discussed at the conference thus far. It was a sentiment I shared, as my mind raced in between each speaker of how I could apply all of these ideas to Eliteserien and Norwegian football.
While where we will get our data to try to apply these innovate new ideas for the upcoming season is still up in the air, we do have data from the previous season that we could apply to some of these new ideas. What we will focus on in this article are stats that can help describe how a club plays. For the most part in the past, here at KroneBall we mostly tried to look at stats that were an indicator of performance for a club or player. These numbers we are looking at today are more descriptive of how they play. There are no “good or bad” numbers here or “right or wrong” way to play. If it works for your club and they are successful doing it, more power to them.
The first metric we will be looking at is something that has been around for a bit. Passes per Defensive Action, also known as “PPDA” is a metric that can measure how intense a team is pressing their opposition when they do not have the ball. PPDA’s name gives you the formula needed to calculate it, dividing the number of passes a team concedes by the number of tackles, interceptions, challenges and fouls that team makes. I first saw PPDA mentioned on Statsbomb from Colin Trainor and had hoped to apply it to Eliteserien, but with the data we previously had it was a bit of a manual process to gather.
Well friends, I put in the manual labor to get these numbers for you the savvy Norwegian football connoisseur. First let me note, Colin in the article linked above only counted defensive actions slightly past the midfield circle. With the data we had available at the time, we could not differentiate defensive actions specifically in this area. Therefore, our numbers might look slightly different than other PPDA numbers you might have seen elsewhere for other leagues.
For these PPDA numbers, the lower the metric is, the higher intensity the team presses. Before examining these numbers on the team level, the first thing that jumps out is how much higher the number of passes Norwegian clubs allow before a defensive action than many of the leagues Colin mentioned in his article on StatsBomb. This means that Eliteserien clubs are pressing much less than other well known leagues in Europe. This is further highlighted by the fact that we are including more defensive actions in this analysis than the one Statsbomb did, so you would expect our numbers to be lower than what Colin discussed – this was not the case.
The conclusion? Teams in Norway are mostly sitting back and trying to soak up pressure from their opponent, rather than try to press them and win the ball back.
Switching our focus to a more micro level, we see that Molde had the lowest number of passes per defensive action in, meaning they were the most intense pressers in Eliteserien last season. They were followed by Sarpsborg and Rosenborg. Now, I prefaced all of this by mentioning these metrics are more to determine a style rather than measure performance, but it is interesting the silver medalists from last year had the highest pressing metrics in Eliteserien and the gold medalists had the third highest.
Now, there could be a correlation does not equal causation situation here, with Molde and Rosenborg having talented rosters capable of pressing successfully. However if a mid to lower half of the table Eliteserien club were able to find players who could successfully press, it could give them an advantage against their peers in the table who mostly sit back and try to soak up pressure. Rather than following what the rest of the league do, trying something different could lead to an edge.
On the other ending of the pressing stats table, we see our overachieving pals Ranheim. These numbers suggest that Ranheim are more than happy to sit back and frustrate their opposition when they defend. We looked at Ranheim in the middle of the season last year, and these PPDA numbers certainly coincide with what we found there. We found Ranheim did well to limit their opposition to shots outside the box and were frequently able to get bodies in between the attacker and their goal to block shots. Ranheim were not able to continue their second place pace they had at the time, but their ability to sit back and frustrate opponents lead them to a surprise 7th place finish in the table.
On the opposite side of the pitch, we can analyse how a team attempt to create shots by looking at their number of passes in the final third divided by the number of shots they took. We can assume a team that averages more final third passes per shot typically tries to maintain possession, use short passes and movement, and works the ball in the channels when trying to score. On the opposite end, a fair assumption of a team that has a lower average number of final third passes per shot typically goes “route one” and tries to play long balls to score more often.
Looking at the graph above with the average final third passes per shot for each Eliteserien team, we perhaps surprisingly see that bottom of the table Sandefjord with the most final third passes per shot on average. On May 31st, Sandefjord hired Marti Cifuentes to be their manager. The Spaniard was given a tough task, trying to keep the marooned at the bottom Sandefjord up in Eliteserien. While he could not pull the great escape, there was a noticeable difference in the club’s play since Cifuentes took over and these numbers help to show that Sandefjord were able to implement the Spaniard’s style of play.
On the other end of the graph, we see champions Rosenborg with the lowest number of number of final third passes per shot on average. With metaphorical large lumps of wood such as Nicklas Bendtner, Alexander Soderlund, and Matthias Vilhjalmsson all over 1.86m tall (6 foot 1 inch if you are that way inclined), it makes some sense why Rosenborg might be at the low end of these numbers. However, when we look at the club who had the second highest number of average final third passes per shot, could we anticipate a change in style at the Lerkendal next season?
After a search for a new manager that seemed to be never ending, Rosenborg hired Eirik Horneland as their next manager. Looking at these numbers, we see Horneland’s Haugesund squad last season had the second highest number of final third passes per shot, quite the contrast from Rosenborg. We had discussed impressive Haugesund’s attacking metrics during the season last year, as they were able to create numerous quality scoring chances on their way to a fourth place finish and a Europa League qualifying spot. With Horneland moving to Trondheim, will we see a big shift in how RBK play? These metrics suggest that might be the case.
We are a mere 75 days away from the start of another Eliteserien campaign. We hope we can continue to provide you with statistical analysis like this for the 2019 season in Norway, so let me give you the hard sell one more time. We would love to partner with either media in Norway or a club to continue either publicly provide stats and analysis that is rare in Norway. If you are interested in something like this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.