Showing posts with label statistics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label statistics. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spain 1-1 Finland: In numbers

I'll admit in the preview to this match, I didn't give Finland much chance. In the build-up to the game on Twitter, I forecasted that Finland would be solid, nick a goal on the break... I also said they'd concede three or four goals. But thankfully I, and most people, were wrong. Finland defended well and did nick a goal, and the goal was an equaliser to make it 1-1.

The Finnish squad celebrating in Gijon

Rather than summarise the game, I'll bombard you with some numbers that seem significant. There are also some gratuitous photos and highlights.

0 - Finland finished the game without earning a corner. Spain had 19!

2 - Two of the Finland starting eleven (Teemu Tainio and Alexander Ring) are based in the Finnish league, while Ring has only just returned from a loan spell at Borussia Monchengladbach.

5 - Teemu Pukki's goal was his fifth international goal, but only his first in a competitive match.

Teemu Pukki's goal (Finnish commentary)

18 - Finland had 18% possession of the ball throughout the 90 minutes. In comparison, Inter Milan had 14% possession in their 2010 European Cup semi-final at Barcelona.

28 - It's been 28 years since Finland scored an international goal in Spain. Mika Lipponen scored in a 3-1 defeat to the Spanish in a friendly in Alicante.

29 - Spain had 29 shots on the Finland goal in ninety minutes, but only four of them were on target.

Things get heated towards the end of the match

100 - The Spanish goalscorer Sergio Ramos earned his 100th cap for this game, aged 26.

168 - Days until the return match in Helsinki. Tickets are already selling quickly...

500 - FIFA world ranking points that Spain will earn for the draw, the same as if they'd beaten the USA in a friendly.

Highlights of Spain 1-1 Finland

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How does the Finnish League compare with the rest of Europe?

Every so often, we like to throw some numbers and statistics your way, and it's that time again. The splendid Football Observatory have released their study of 31 leagues around Europe (including Finland), based on factors such as age, nationality and squad size. Some of the numbers may prove quite surprising in context, others will purely seek to build on what you already know.

The Football Observatory study, source of these facts and figures

The data relates to players active on October 1st 2012, so cast your minds back that far. The leagues concerned were grouped geographically (Finland placed in the Northern section), and by league strength, calculated by average UEFA rankings over five years (Finland in group 5 of 5).

Squad size

Finland has seen the biggest decrease in squad number against the previous year, with the average Veikkausliiga squad containing 22.4 players, down 1.7 since the previous year. This was also indicative of squad shrinkage across Northern Europe, the four Nordic leagues all appear in the six nations at the bottom of that graph. This could be explained simply by finances, and clubs not being willing/able to keep large squads of players during a season. 

KuPS coach Esa Pekonen bemoaned his small squad (and an increased fixture list) last summer when his side were playing Europa League qualifiers every midweek. In 2011, the league structure changed to increase league matches from 26 to 33, putting extra pressure on the smaller squads, allowing for less rotation to combat fatigue. That some clubs struggle to fill a bench for league games is a sign that perhaps this needs to be monitored.

 Big bench, not enough players (photo courtesy of Futisblogi Puoliaika)

Squad age

Of the 31 leagues surveyed, Finland's average squad age was was the 27th youngest, at 24.89 years old (as of October 1st), an increase since 2011. The survey points that goalkeepers and defenders are likely to be older anyway. The average age of Veikkausliiga players is 3 and a half years younger than those in the Cypriot league, and 18 months younger than the Swedish league.

It's also indicative when measured against the strengths of the other leagues, where the 1st group of leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) have the oldest average leagues. Experience over youth? HJK's apparent policy of signing experienced Finnish players (Forssell and Tainio) could yet skew the figures for next year.

HJK's average age plummeted when Litmanen left
Number of new signings

Another area where Finland are amongst the lowest - Finnish clubs made, on average, 7.3 new signings in 2012, down from 10.4 in 2011. Again the Nordic clubs in general have lower turnovers, with the four leagues featuring in the bottom nine, Danish clubs signing only 5.8 players. The Europe-wide breakdown shows that nearly half of the forwards included signed for their current club in 2012, and that 59% of transfers occurred between clubs from the same country. Finnish clubs sign exactly half the number of players of the nation with the most signings (Bulgaria, with 14.6 signings).

On average, Eastern European squads sign the most new players, almost twice as many as Northern European clubs. In a separate study by the Football Observatory, they show that amongst the top 5 leagues, the teams with the fewer signings general perform better - in Spain, France and England, the champions of each country had a low average of new signings in their starting XI per game. A premium on continuity?

 HJK's new signing for 2013 Mikael Forssell

Club trained players

The amount of club-trained players is higher in Northern Europe than the rest of the continent, almost double the amount in Southern and Eastern leagues. The percentage of Veikkausliiga players trained by their clubs is 33.8%, a figure beaten only by Slovakia and Croatia. Compare this to Italy, where the figure is 7.8%, this shows that Finnish clubs place a greater emphasis on developing their own players - again perhaps by necessity over choice (Barcelona have the highest figure by club, but then they can legitimately field a starting XI of club trained players). 

The figure does increase amongst the lower-ranked leagues, 30.3% against 17.2% in the top five - another indicator that the stronger leagues can use their (generally) greater financial pull to attract the best players from other clubs and countries.

 The TPS junior (age 11) side - the stars of tomorrow?
International players per league

Perhaps one to come back to in a couple of years, but a positive sign - in the Northern leagues, 11.2% of players are considered active internationals (they represented their country between January 1st and October 1st 2012). In Finland this number is 6.7%, but this has risen from 3.2% since 2011. A large number of representatives of these are of African descent (33.8% of Africans in Europe are internationals), but further analysis of any Finland squad from 2012 will see very few domestic-based players. 

The King's Cup squad was heavily Finnish based, so this number will probably increase this year too. The country with the largest number of internationals is England, with 42.5% of Premier League players current internationals (and that wouldn't include people like Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen or Paul Scholes).

Mika Ojala has left Finland to play in the Swedish league

Foreign players

As part of a (yet to be published) analysis of Veikkausliiga goalscorers, we discovered that 70.2% of goalscorers in the last three seasons were Finnish. This study correlates nicely, in that 23% of Veikkausliiga players in 2012 were expatriates (meaning 77% of Veikkausliiga players are from Finland). Contrast this to Cyprus, where 74.2% of players are from other countries… In Northern Europe as a whole, the number increased from 26.3% to 28.4%, with Norway and Denmark seeing the biggest increases. 

Across Europe, 44.3% of forward players are foreign, perhaps a sign of the elite non-Europeans plying their trade on the continent (Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao will all be expatriates). Brazil make up the greatest number across Europe (515), but some surprising countries are high on the list, with Serbia third (202) and Nigeria eighth (117). Across Nordic leagues, the highest concentration of expatriates are Western European (45%) and African (28%).

Brazilian striker Rafael scores for Lahti

The full study is available online for a bargainous €199, so I'll happily accept donations if anyone is interested in player heights or stability of squad... If you want to read the free excerpt on line, follow this link.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 Veikkausliiga in numbers - Lahti and the bottom three

My first season in numbers post seemed fairly popular, and the length of it was such that I couldn't possibly fit too much in. So I've decided to write a second, featuring newly promoted FC Lahti and the battle to avoid the drop. Enjoy.

Lahti - finishing strongly

FC Lahti's return to top flight in football in 2012 was potentially difficult - despite getting promoted at the first attempt, their previous campaign in 2010 ended with them finishing bottom. With the benefit of hindsight, they actually performed well, winning the games that mattered at the end of the series. They finished the season in fifth place, despite a goal difference of minus four.

Their season was moving along for the first two thirds, as the graph below shows. It would have been reasonable to assume that their final eleven games would have yielded 14 points, leaving them in a lower half position. But the final ten matches yielded seven wins, with defeats only to a fighting Jaro and the match that practically won the title for HJK.

 Lahti's season divided into three - their final 11 games yielded 22 points

No player scored more than seven league goals (Ariel Ngueukam and Drilon Shala), something which they will need to improve upon in 2013. The veteran striker Rafael scored five times in 27 matches - at 34 years old he won't have many more seasons left in him, although his status as a fan's favourite will allow him matches for as long as he wishes to stay (he featured in a Guardian article this autumn about Brazilian exiles in Northern Europe, and spoke of how he loves Lahti).

Lahti otherwise have some promising young players, and will face a battle to keep them at the club before kicking off in 2013. Joel Mero and Matti Klinga have had trials in Germany since the end of the season (at Mönchengladbach and Schalke respectively), while Nikolai Alho has returned to HJK. An extra home game will boost the coffers. But they will need to score more goals.

Over the season, they didn't take more than six points off any opponent - but won at least once against every team they faced. They won twice against TPS, Honka, VPS, KuPS and Haka. In fact they only drew twice in their 33 matches, at home to MYPA in May and away to Mariehamn in September.

Lahti's performance against their rivals in 2012

They conceded 49 goals, the most of the top eight teams. Conceding ten goals to Inter in their three games skews that slightly, but they only kept three clean sheets in the final fifteen matches.

The bottom three - Haka, Jaro and KuPS

As part of the season reviews, it would be wrong to ignore the battle to avoid relegation. The main three participants were Haka, Jaro and KuPS. Haka had been been in decline for a number of years (since their second placed finish in 2007, they had finished 8th, 6th, 8th and 10th). Jaro had finished 11th in 2011, but survived relegation by eight points, and had scored an impressive 49 goals. KuPS finished in the top half in 2011 and made it to the cup final and had a Europa League campaign to look forward to.

The graph below illustrates how close the bottom three were throughout the season, with KuPS only pulling away in the final ten matches, even bottom for a while in June.

The bottom three team (Haka, Jaro, KuPS) in 2012

Haka had lost Pekka Sihvola to MYPA, who went on to score 14 goals for his new club, and they finished with a league worst goal difference of -25, skewed by the 9-2 drubbing at TPS in August. They kept only five clean sheets in 33 games, two of those coming in the their final two matches (which they won both 1-0). Failing to score in nearly half of their matches (fifteen) explains why their top scorer was player of the year Shane Robinson (who has already announced his departure) with eight goals.

The infamous multi-ball incident was painful, but that match at home to HJK ended in a rare draw - they only achieved five in 2012, but Haka lost 19 of their 33 matches (7 out of 16 home games). For 2013, they've already changed their manager, but need to improve their home form to have a crack at returning to the top division at the first attempt.

Haka's match results (wins, draws, losses)

Jaro finished 11th for the second consecutive season, and this was a lot closer, only securing their Veikkausliiga place for 2013 by winning at TPS on the final day of the season. The statistic screaming out between 2011 and 2012 is the huge decrease in goals scored. 49 goals scored (a final goal difference of -15 is impressive for the second bottom side) became 28 goals, and a goal difference of -23. They too made a poor start, with just two wins in their first 11 matches, while they were bottom for a long period between weeks 21 and 27.

Some of this can be put down to individual form (Jussi Aalto didn't score in 20 games), while they had to rely on seven goals from Frank Jonke and three goals in seven games from HJK loanee Sherif Ashraf. They survived 2012 by the skin of their teeth, and will have a resurgent RoPS to contend with to avoid the bottom in 2013.

Frequency of goals scored by Jaro in 2012

KuPS were in the Europa League for the second consecutive season, but certainly weren't expecting to be in a relegation struggle after a good sixth place finish in 2011. But losing players like Dickson Nwakaeme and Fikru Tefera saw them lose sources of goals, and one win (against Haka) in their first eleven games looked ominous. Luckily they were still in touch with Jaro, and eventually caught up, but were only mathematically safe with two matches left. But during the summer, KuPS coach Esa Pekonen suggested there were too many matches, despite his side getting through to the third qualifying round of their European journey, and winning their first leg with Bursaspor 1-0. The run came to an end with a 6-0 defeat in the second leg in Turkey.

Their form after European games wasn't awful, their form in the five games after European ties (they had a week off after the 2nd leg v Llanelli) was DWLLW. They finished with a goal difference of -14, conceding 53 goals, including conceding 6 at home to Inter in July. It wasn't a classic season, and they have already lost Atte Hoivala to VPS while Jerry Voutilainen has recently had a trial with Queens Park Rangers. They will face a struggle to finish in the top half in 2013, but they still reached the Suomen Cup final so there is some optimism, despite the 1-0 defeat to Honka.

KuPS form during their Europa League run (league results in blue, Euro in red)

Friday, November 09, 2012

2012 Veikkausliiga in numbers - HJK and JJK

I don't claim to have any expertise in using graphs, spreadsheets and tables, but comparing this season's league to 2011, some factors were crying out for some graphs and illustrations. They're not particularly scientific, and the analysis around them is simple. But it should get you thinking. I was originally planning on doing one piece covering the whole league, but have only covered HJK and JJK so far due to getting a bit carried away.

HJK - the closing gap

In 2011, HJK won the title with a huge gap of 24 points. They won 16 out of 17 home games (the other was a goalless draw with third placed JJK), and won ten games in a row between May and July. 2012 was a different story. The winning margin of six points was as much down to runners-up Inter only winning 11 points in the final 12 games, while HJK's longest winning run was five matches. They didn't drop points at home, but drew five matches.

The top three teams (HJK, Inter, JJK) in 2011

The top three teams (HJK, Inter, TPS) in 2012

More informed people have gone into why the gap has closed, and the fact that HJK have changed coach for 2013 is a clear sign, despite the angle that they want to do better in Europe. The fact is that in the final few games, HJK's experience and deeper squad took them over the line, while the Turku sides will rue on a missed opportunity.

From a purely numbers angle, HJK scored 23 fewer goals in 2012, and conceded 10 more; with goal difference of a huge +63 in 2011 became +30 in 2012. The emergence of Joel Pohjanpalo provided a goal threat after the departures of Teemu Pukki and Jari Litmanen (although he only scored one league goal in 2011), but he looks set to move to Germany. Mikael Forssell has re-signed for 2013 on huge wages, so a lot will be expected of him.

It's also an interesting comparison to look at HJK's performances against individual teams. (To be consistent, I've not included 2011 results against RoPS or 2012 results against Lahti). 2012 HJK only improved against TPS and JJK, whereas in 2011, they did better in matches versus Inter, MYPA, Honka, VPS, Jaro and Haka.

HJK results against individual teams from 2011 and 2012

I'll come onto JJK shortly, which may give credence to the increase in points there. TPS's points total however improved in 2012, albeit by four points. HJK achieved maximum points (three wins) in 2011 against MYPA, VPS, KuPS and Haka. In 2012 it was only JJK and KuPS. The league structure plays a part, in that the third games are spread so that (in HJK's case having finished in the top half in 2010) HJK had six home games and five away for weeks 23-33. 

But looking closer, two of the MYPA and Haka matches in 2011 were away. In 2012, they played JJK away twice. In August 2012, Egan Richardson wrote in Nordic Football News about the current fixture system favouring HJK. They certainly benefitted that they played their rivals at home, while Inter v TPS could easily be seen as an away tie. So while it benefits HJK by weakening their rivals, they took less advantage than they did in 2011.

(* In 2011, HJK took 9 points against RoPS, and 6 points against Lahti)

JJK - falling back

2011 bronze medallists JJK haven't had as long or rich as history as some of their rivals. In their current form, they've only existed since 1992 (a merger between JYP-77 and JyPK), and have only played in the top division since 2009. After finishing 13th in their first two seasons (the league had 14 teams then, before the league was re-structured after Oulu and Tampere were removed), they finished an incredible third place, and qualified for Europe for the first time.

But fourteen points were dropped between 2011 and 2012. The biggest changes were between matches against MYPA (three points fewer in 2012), VPS (four points fewer) and relegated Haka (six points fewer). The only team they improved against was TPS (one point more than 2011). 

JJK results against individual teams from 2011 and 2012

(* In 2011, JJK took 7 points against RoPS, and 6 points against Lahti)

For a team finishing third one year, to only finishing eight points off the bottom the following year is disappointing. It could be argued that they have returned to their natural level, and that they over-achieved in 2011. Only Tamás Gruborovics (12 goals), Mikko Innanen and Babatunde Wusu reached double figures in league goals (10 each). Gruborovics has been on trial at Dutch side Willem II, so seems likely to be joining the exodus from the Veikkausliiga.

The defence also performed poorly, conceding 48 goals in 2011, and 65 in 2012 (slightly warped by conceding six on the final day to HJK), keeping just five clean sheets. They even conceded five goals to KuPS, not something to brag about. That they let in three goals on seven occasions is very concerning. The chart below shows the frequency of goals conceded. A median average of just under 2 goals a game is underlined here.

Their short spell in the Europa League (they were knocked out in the second qualifying round by Zeta of Montenegro) didn't directly impact on results, as they won 7 out of 12 points in games after European ties. It's easy to speculate that their minds were elsewhere, a charge that could also be thrown at KuPS. They didn't pull up any trees in the competition, but will be looking for more.


Part two will follow, looking at Lahti's impressive late season form, and the battle to avoid relegation (which will also touch upon JJK).