Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Analytics galore: The Newcastle edition

Every once in a while I find myself immersed in the debate about whether the X's and O's (to borrow an expression from across the pond) really matter - or whether football isn't just a case of 22 people chasing and shooting a piece of pigskin around.

Still, while I will certainly never reach Jonathan Wilson's heights, I still believe there is some logic behind all the madness, some sort of pattern, if you will. My latest endeavour involved Newcastle and their diverging performances away from home and in their own turf. Therefore, I immediately got hold of one of the best data-mining apps as far as football is concerned and started drilling the data.

In this particular case, I have only analysed the matches of the Europa League knock-out stages and the differences in specific items between the away and home legs (please bear in mind that even though Newcastle played Metalist Kharkiv home first, the order was altered for consistency).

Instead of rambling on incessantly, I will do my best to keep text to a minimum and let the chalkboards do the talking. See if you can spot the patterns.

  • 1. Attempts on goal

  • 2. Passes in the attacking third

  • 3. Chances created

  • 4. Interceptions

  • 5. Player influence

There seems to be a clear pattern involving Newcastle - some sort of Dr Jekykll/Mr Hyde dichotomy. Usually a timid side away from home, Alan Pardew's men tend to improve somewhat dramatically when playing in England.

While it's indisputable that Benfica will start the second leg with a clear upper hand, it seems Newcastle are often a whole different team in their own ground, buoyed by their relentlessly supportive crowd, and as such should not be presumed dead just yet.

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