This is a follow-on from my previous post on the top dribbling teams and players this season in the Premier League. Since I took the time to prepare the data to review the best dribblers with the ball at their feet I thought why not flip the information to review the opposition as well?
This is not a completely straightforward exercise because the information I have available does not identify the opposing player(s) involved when a dribble is attempted – and even if a defender does not actively tackle his opponent, his position may force the attacker into losing the ball (eg. by running out of play or into another defender). I can’t provide much insight on these ‘micro’ events on the field.
But, we can do a similar team analysis as produced in the last post to consider which teams seem to invite dribbling against them, and also which teams are particularly adept at making opposition dribblers lose the ball.
The above data is ordered by total dribbles against. We can immediately see that teams tend to dribble more often against Sunderland and Norwich (382 and 380 attempted dribbles against respectively) and least frequently against Everton (267 dribbles against). With all teams having played 23 games at the time of writing, this difference of about 5 dribbles per game against perhaps isn’t terribly telling but may give an indication of team tactics without the ball. QPR and Reading, both in the relegation zone, sit at opposite ends of this table. Alternatively, Everton and Spurs are on the low end, allowing the fewest number of dribbles against, whilst Arsenal are 4th highest despite their league positions of 5th, 4th and 6th respectively. I’m intrigued by this, and admittedly I haven’t given it a lot of thought before just typing away now, but at a guess team pressing plays a part here – Moyes’ Everton in particular have a reputation for pressing across the pitch whilst AVB’s Spurs are beginning to develop a reputation for pressing high up the field. Maybe that has a bearing?
Of course, there is more to defending than pressing or allowing attackers space to dribble. Indeed, even with tight marking some players will seek to dribble to gain a yard against his opponent on the turn.
Here’s a bar graph comparing total dribbles against (as above) but now vs total shots allowed:
I’m not particularly fond of information for the sake of it and I’ll admit that the above graph is a bit of a jumble, but we do get a clearer picture of Arsenal and Reading in particular who allow disproportionately fewer (and more, respectively) shots against when compared to their dribbling against stats – perhaps adding some depth to our understanding of how effective their defensive style has been.
What about the success rates of opponents dribbling against?
The above graph tells us how successful the opposition has been at dribbling against the team in question. So, although Everton allow the fewest number of total dribbles against, they have the second highest success rate against – i.e. 53% of dribbles against them are successful. Wigan seem to put up the least fight when it comes to dribbling against with opponents having 54% success on average. But most teams are spread a few points either side of 50%, with a few outliers: Manchester City, Spurs and Southampton – all of whom are no pushovers when it comes to dribbling against. City in particular have an exceptional 37% (now I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t turn the success rate on its head for intuitive purposes!). To translate that, around 1 in 3 attempted dribbles against City are successful, which is the lowest rate in the league this year and highlights their strength across the whole pitch.
This last chart is ordered by the number of successful dribbles against per game, so Everton move up a few places and Manchester City take up the position on the far right – allowing on average just under 5 successful dribbles against per game. Manchester City incidentally have conceded the fewest goals so far this year.
What can we learn from this? Obviously there is more to a game of football than how often you allow the opposition to dribble successfully against you but this is still an interesting objective view of the differing defensive styles/abilities of teams in the Premier League and can no doubt be used in tandem with analysis of other defensive measures to improve our understanding of what tactics have been most effective.