As I’m compiling stats throughout this season for use in the Anfield Index Analytics podcast, I figured it’d make sense to use them to write match previews too. With only three games played, it’d be wrong to read too much into the numbers, but equally I think they show that Aston Villa haven’t been playing that well, despite being unbeaten and currently sitting third in the fledgling 2014/15 Premier League.
There are many ways to slice and dice numbers from football, but I’m a firm believer in the power and importance of shots on target ratio (which is the percentage of the total shots on target in a team’s games that they have themselves).
Data from the last six seasons shows that a figure of around 65% will see a team challenge for the title, down to around 40% for relegation strugglers. Take a look at the figures from the season so far.
After a particularly tough start (indeed, @MC_of_A reckons the Reds have had the most difficult opening three games in 2014/15), it’s encouraging to see Liverpool so high up the table with easier matches to come. But check out Villa, who are the second bottom of the pile, despite having had the third most simple trio of fixtures so far (using the same method).
So how have the Villans done so well? With a ridiculously high PDO. This is a simple statistic that adds two figures together: the percentage of shots on target that a team has scored, and their save percentage at the other end. As this incorporates every shot on target across the league, the average figure would be 100%, so a team above that level is deemed to have been lucky, whereas a team below is probably due a change of fortune. Here are the figures for 2014/15, with the teams sorted by PDO.
Oh my. Notice how Aston Villa have the highest shot conversion and the highest save percentage; a perfect storm of efficiency at both ends of the field. This has been particularly noticeable up front for the West Midlanders, as their three league goals so far came from their first three shots on target of the season.
Did you spot that their second game, which was against Newcastle at home, is missing? Villa didn’t have a single shot on target against the Geordies at home, yet wriggled out of it with a 0-0 draw and a point. This is where Paul Lambert’s men have excelled so far this season though: defence.
Aston Villa are one of only two teams in the Premier League yet to concede a big chance to their opponents (with the other, surprisingly, being Manchester United) and one of only three (along with Southampton and West Ham) who are yet to commit an Opta-defined on-the-ball defensive error in 2014/15. As a partnership, and perhaps to the surprise of many, Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos have hit the ground running at centre back.
It should be noted that they’ve yet to face an attack as potent as Liverpool’s yet though, even if Daniel Sturridge is going to be missing. The three teams that Villa have faced so far only mustered 126 goals between them last season whilst the Reds racked up 101 on their own.
Not only that, but Alberto Moreno’s goal at White Hart Lane means that Liverpool have scored 104 goals in their previous 38 league games, which is a club record in the top flight. Not just the Premier League era, the whole history of the club; think on that for a second. No Kopite in history has cheered league goals as frequently as you have.
Logic dictates that the crazy statistics that Aston Villa have posted so far are likely to regress towards the mean before too long. That’s not to say that they will automatically do so on Saturday evening at Anfield of course, but equally the figures point towards the visitors not being quite as good as their start has suggested, so I’m confident that Liverpool will prevail.