Thursday, 16 April 2009

Barcelona: System Analysis

Barcelona: System Analysis

By: Ramzi Tanani

All the Data included in this article exclude any game played after the international break.....The attachment in the bottom of the Article represent a more detailed demonstration in numbers about the relation between barcelona offense and defense, use Vertical scroll to move down and horizontal scroll to Browse the Charts.....

"Throughout the history of FC Barcelona, one part of Barcelona has trailed behind in terms of effectiveness and reliability, and that is defense. The 2008/2009 season has been no different, with the soft underbelly of arguably the best attacking club in the world once again exposed."

A look at Barcelona's defense

By: Nzuu Ranwaha

arcelona is in a big trouble! Not only Nzuu in his article hits on the reliability of Barcelona defense this season, but also dooms Barcelona to be defensively exposed for ever! There is nothing worse to throw on a team than saying: You are bad, that’s how you were, and that’s how you will always be! He started with the previous intro, and ending by the following conclusion:


"Barcelona's defensive problems cannot be resolved right now,
maybe not in the next two seasons, maybe not ever."

The doctor said it! You have a Xevolontonia, there is no treatment for that. But look to the bright side: you will badly suffer, but will live for ever!

Check no dictionary, I just made up that Xevolontonia word. Sweat while spelling, then Sue me!

Nzuu article was published on March 13, 2009, following a draw against Betis, a defeat against Espanyol, and another against Atletico. They say that timing is the most important factor for the success of an article. And there is no better timing than that to hit on Barcelona defense.

But who blame him? When the team concedes as many goals, no one can argue that the defense is having naps and gaps. Questioning the defenders' quality and Slamming their performance become inevitable. True, unless…

The way Barcelona Defend

In order to make a good diagnosis about how Barcelona can improve their defense, we need to understand the way Barcelona defends. Not only our offense structure is one of its kind, but also the way we defend is unique.

The most common way of defense, is to demand a direct transition and positioning from the defenders and midfielders the moment the team loses the ball, creating a Zonal shield in your team's own half. The details about players positioning and roles vary with teams.

Liverpool for example, employs Xabi Alonso to assist Mascherano in front of the four defenders guarding the box. Babble and Kuyt close the way on the flanks in front of the fullbacks but at the same time help Gerrard creating pressure on the opponents ball holders, while Torres do his runs to avoid letting the opponent defense comfortable enough to build up the game from deep.

Use one Defensive midfielder, when available. Napoli, till lately, was possibly the only team in Europe Applying the 3-5-2, with almost everyone bouncing back to their own half. And so on.

I can claim that most teams in the world, if not all of them, lean on their defenders to do the biggest slice of defensive jobs. The rest of the team offer help, cover and support.

So we just figured out that: Defenders defend? How smart this conclusion sounds! Not in Barcelona.

At Barcelona the defense is mainly the job of the players who attack the opponent territory. This season, it’s the work of three forwards, two midfielders and an Alves (you can make up a position name for him. May be: the wing back forward?). The role of the defensive midfielder (Call him Yaya) is to create cover, and the role of the three defenders left behind is to create depth.

It’s a kind of win-win deal between defense and offense. Defenders agree to take the risk of guarding a wide sector of the field without sufficient number of players, which save more players for the offense section of the pitch (we are barcelonists and we like it!). Offense in return pay for that by applying high pressure in the opponent's half, winning the ball as fast as possible, increasing possession time, and creating a Y2K problem on the scoring sheet that lacks a third digit to count the goals scored by the Catalan slaughters. All that contributes to keep the defense enjoying a sun bath, and keep Valdes in an Auto extended vacation.

The Dangerous Compromise Between Defense and Offense

When the Pressure on the ball drops by 15 %, it doesn’t demand 15% more effort from the defenders to cover that declination. It actually leads the whole system to collapse. Because the defenders role then switch from creating depth and Freezing the opponent’s last man standing upfront, to become a mission impossible of standing and facing a counter attacking tsunami, to mark, tackle, cover, with continuous re-positioning and pressure. And still falling under the obligation of building up the game from behind with accurate passes, Nonsense clearance is a crime in Barcelona. That’s too much for a defensive trio, right? This is not something we train our defenders to do. This is not something we like. And it's not something Defenders of any team can handle.

If we agree on that, then we know that the periods when the team face a drop in form, we need to evaluate the whole team defensive contribution (and specially those who are upfront), before looking for the scapegoat who made the last mistake before the goal. More pressure upfront means fewer counters, leading to less catastrophic mistakes. That’s the magic of probabilities.

Our offense and defense performance is interrelated. The systems we play say it, and the records approve.

In the Charts attachment I represented the Variation of Barcelona goals scored/Conceded this season, Not only by numbers but also by Value, as explained in more details in the attachment.

Offense efficiency vs defense Fragility

Extensive details about the charts in the attachment below.

Based on all that, the drop in form we witnessed after winter break was basically a result of slight drop in form when the team momentum got distracted by the Winter Vacation. Beside, there was a decline in the pressure intensity made by our players on the opponents.

Where do Barcelona struggle sometimes defensively?

We made lot of guesses, and it was different by game. But if we cruise through all the games played already, we will notice that goals conceded variation is independent of who plays, and where. Definitely we have better defense selections than others. My best so far is: Alves-Puyol-Pique-Abidal. But knowing the system dynamics and the Defenders share in defense, I think the names are a secondary factor compared to what's more crucial, the output of the collaborative defense.

Beside, the Chart support the football common sense that abandons the Myth that says:

"it's ok if defensively Barcelona suffers, as long as it can manage to always score more than we concede".

It clearly shows that Offense and defense improve together or collapse together. Every time our offense and midfield face a drop in form, it doesn’t only decrease the offense efficiency, but also increase the defense fragility as well.

I am not saying Defense does no mistakes. Yet, not only the last mistake, is the one we count. The last mistake is the one we count last.

Two factors contribute more than anything to weaken our defensive solidity:

1) Counter attacks threat: With the "Vacuum tunnel" I mentioned in Roads leading to Rome.

2) Fitness level: It is vital for the quality of pressure our offense put on the opponent, and it's also vital for the quality of defensive transition when the initial pressure fails to win back the ball.

The counter attacks threat is something we discussed previously, and will do an upgrade on that discussion in the following article.

Fatigue is a common concern for Barcelona fans. The games pressure was the main factor for the performance decline after the winter period. The reasons and solutions for the Fatigue curse is something to discuss. What's important first is to make sure we do the right diagnosis. So we know the fact and fake in the previous Nzuu Conclusion:

"Barcelona's defensive problems cannot be resolved right now, maybe not in the next two seasons, maybe not ever."

/ Slash/ Off record whisper, open Brackets [I couldn’t understand how did he come up with the "Not in the next two seasons…" timeline. Why not three seasons and two months for example? Is it a kind of "You are doomed for two years!" spell? A Nostradamus call from the dead? Or he expects Puyol to win the lottery and retire? Valdes will get a good price for his gloves so he switches to play as a forward sending Messi to bench? Or we will hire The Ghost of Helenio Herrera as a new coach to fix our defensive misery? I'm Just Curious to know, for real.

That’s how that conclusion sounds, out of any context. The only bright side about it is that the diagnosis was not accurate.] Close brackets, and stop yawing!

This was a needed intro for the article suggesting a system upgrade. We need it to create an extra shield for our attractive system and stunning performance and to guarantee continuity, and more efficiency. Things went better recently after the team left the "fatigue tunnel". But it's not a history that will never be repeated. We entered the intensive period of February/March with a reasonable fitness level, but still faced a nightmare that deducted our twelve points lead in the liga to four points, before earning back additional two. Now we will never be as fresh as we were in January, and what will be scarier than another intensive February-like period?

I remember raising my concerns while Barcelona was acting as a teams' smasher till January. It was obviously coming, and it did. We witnessed in February how much calories we burned since the beginning of the season. Something we were able to avoid without compromising the results. Now we bounced back fitness wise, to some extend. What will come is the tough part of the season, the vital games in the Liga and the champions' league. And we need to be as fresh as possible when we approach the Live-or-die games. It only happens by saving energy in the games where we can. If you think "Nah…the most difficult part is over" then:

Enter your room, close all your doors and windows, and stare in the following schedule:

18 April: Getafe vs Barca
22 April: Barca vs Sevilla
26 April: Valencia vs Barca
29 Apr Champions League Semi-finals

03 May Real Madrid - FC Barcelona

5 May Champions League Semi-finals

10 May FC Barcelona - Villarreal CF

13 May Copa Del Rey Final

17 May RCD Mallorca - FC Barcelona

24 May FC Barcelona - Osasuna

27 May Champions League finals

31 May Deportivo - FC Barcelona

Just don’t scream and wake the neighbors.

Barcelona fans always show more relief every week after a win in the liga. It’s a "one game less". But I think it doesn’t have a bad psychological impact on Real Madrid that we are keeping the margin of six points. They have a clear objective: "they MUST keep it 6 points till May", that’s when two important things will happen:

1)We will play against them in Madrid.

2)We will enter the intensive period the same time while we play the best teams in the Liga. And the most exhausting battles in the Champions' league.

Let's not argue if they will win in Madrid, if they will win all their games in May, or if they can keep it six points margin till then. That’s their only hope. How to avoid falling in that trap? And how to be the most attractive team, and yet the most fresh and fit in the last phase of the season?

Soon you will find a new post on the blog with a weird title, something like "Barcetalia", and we will continue this ramble there.

But till then, the stage is yours'.



Detailed Analysis about the relation between offense and defense
Use the scrolls to browse, or click the chart to open it full page.

Generating the Data:

1) Liga scoring/conceding rate per game per team:

I took the league table, the number of goals scored by all teams in 28 weeks is: 824 goal in 280 games. Deducting Barcelona Games, Goals scored, and Goals conceded, Means that in 252 Games the other Liga teams scored 716 goals against each other, Making the average goals scored/conceded by a team per game is:

Liga Average Rate (LAR) = 716 / (2x252) = 1.421 Goals/team/game.

2) Calculating Each Team conceding/scoring Average per game:

In the initialized table (without Barcelona goals) Dividing number of goals every team scored by the number of games played. For example:

Villarreal: Scored 44 goals in 27 games (deducting the goal scored against Barcelona in their 28th game). So their Goal scoring Average (GSA) = 44 / 27 = 1.63 Goals per game.

Villarreal Conceded 35 goals in 27 games (deducting the 2 goals conceded by Barcelona in their 28th game). So their Goal Conceded Average (GCA) = 35 / 27 = 1.296 Goals per game.
And the same goes for all the Liga teams to measure there average performance in order to benchmark it with their performance against Barcelona, and Barcelona performance against them.

3) Goals Value:

A goal Scored against Sevilla (GCA = 0.852) for example, must have a higher value than a goal scored against Almeria (GCA = 1.5) or any other team with weaker defense than Sevilla. The same for goals conceded. Its important to take in consideration the opponent Defense/offense strength before comparing Barcelona performance against two different opponents.

To demonstrate that, I will take two games as an example:

21 Feb 09 FC Barcelona 1 - 2 Espanyol
1 Mar 09 Atlético Madrid 4 - 3 FC Barcelona

Espanyol Scored two goals against Barcelona. Atletico scored four. But that doesn’t mean Barcelona Defense against Espanyol was better. Espanyol Scores 0.846 goals per game in the Liga. Atletico scores 1.889 goals per game. So to evaluate the Values of numbers of goals conceded in the two games, we need to evaluate the value of the two results if the two teams had the same offense strength. The only way I found to do so, is to calculate the goals value based on a fixed common factor, and that is the LIGA Average Rate (LAR).

The logic here is: If Espanyol (0.846 goals/game) Scored two goals against Barcelona defense in that game, Relatively, how many goals a team of 1.421 Goals/game (LAR) would have scored back then?

0.846 -------- > 2 goals scored
1.421-------- > Goals Relative value = (1.421 X 2) / 0.846 = 3.359 Goals.

While Atletico ( 1.889) scored four goals, so the Relative goals Value Based on (LAR) is

1.889 -------- > 4 goals scored
1.421-------- > Goals Relative value = (1.421 X 4) / 1.889 = 3.01 Goals.

And it shows that Even though Atletico scored two times more goals against Barcelona than Espanyol did, yet Barcelona Defense was more fragile against Espanyol.

So the general criteria to evaluate goals scored by any team against Barcelona, takes the number of Goals netted and the opponent Goal scoring average (GSA) is:

Opponent GSA ------ > Number of Goals Scored
LAR------ > Goals relative value (Calculated).




The same goes for goals scored by Barcelona taking in consideration the opponent conceding average per game (GCA). Espanyol (GCA = 1.607) , Atletico (GCA = 1.308).

Opponent GCA ------ > Number of Goals scored by barcelona
LAR ------ > Goals relative value (Calculated).

Based on that, the goal scored by Barcelona against espanyol has the value of ( 0.884 ) while their three goals against Atletico has the Value of ( 3.259 ).



Scoring Average Variation- Numbers Vs Values

4) Offense efficiency by game: is an indicator that compares Barcelona offense efficiency against a certain team to the efficiency of the other teams against that team.

Taking Valencia as an example, their GCA is 1.334 Goals per game. This means that the other teams in the liga had the offense efficiency to score an average of 1.334 Goals per game against Valencia. Barcelona scored 4 goals against Valencia with a scoring value of 4.261. That makes Barcelona offense efficiency in this game exceeds the average Liga efficiency against Valencia by: 4.261 – 1.334 = 2.927

While against Getafe (GCA=1.519), Barcelona scored one goal with a relative value of 0.935. That makes Barcelona offense efficiency in this game inclined under the Liga offense efficiency against Getafe: 0.935 – 1.519 = - 0.584

Offense efficiency Variation

5) Defense Fragility by game:

Governed by the same logic used to calculate Offense efficiency, the defense Fragility is an indicator that compares Barcelona defense performance to the over all defense performance of liga teams while playing against a specific team.

Taking Osasuna as an example, their Scoring average against La liga teams is (GSA = 0.963 goals per game), that’s the average number of goals Osasuna scores against La Liga teams. They scored two Goals against Barcelona with a relative value of 2.951.

That makes Barcelona defense fragility compared to la liga teams defense fragility average against Osasuna = 2.951 – 0.961 = 1.99.


Keeping in mind that, the Offense efficiency rate show the minimum efficiency value, taking in consideration the scoring opportunities missed and the fact that when Barcelona score a certain number of goals they automatically decrease their over all performance offensively.

In the other hand, the fragility rate indicates the minimum fragility level, taking in consideration the opponent offense failure to score clear opportunities, leading to less conceded goals for Barcelona, because of the Opponent mistakes, and not Barcelona Defense quality. (And again, when we say defense we are talking about the defense system, not the defenders). The only exceptions are the games where Barcelona ended with a clean sheet, that’s when the opposite is true. The defense was much better than needed to overcome opponent offense quality, so ended with clean sheet. It means that defensively we were better than the needs of the GSA of the opponent, but it's impossibly to know to what extend we were better.

Per Game- Goals Conceded Value Vs Goals Scored Value-Detailed

Finally, to make a more accurate indicator, we need to measure the GCA, GSA, and LAR during the period of the evaluated game (a segment of 5 games before and 5 games later) rather than the overall rate of 28 games. This way you take the periodic form in consideration, rather than the gross form. And there is also a need to take the away/home impact in consideration. I am not sure how far all that will change the results, but knowing that it will need a huge work to achieve that level, I had to accept the level I based my analysis on, as a more accurate method than taking the rough goals numbers and base the analysis upon.

And it was encouraging because the charts and numbers met the observation methodology to evaluate the team performance.

Yet, any other criteria will be more than welcomed to be discussed on the table.


* Note: We appreciate the effort done by any writer who spend time analyzing Barcelona performance. And so we extremely respect Nzuu Ranwaha For his article and appreciate his opinion. Nothing in this article was mentioned to underestimate his point of view.

Ramzi Tanani


maximi83 said...

you are crazy... Ramzi

respect for the good work!!!!!!!

need time to read an analyse what you wrote.

But my question to you is:

What`s your job?? You need a lot of time to do all that stuff.

barcacanada said...

it's certainly an intriguing analysis and obviously took a lot of effort. props to that.

although i may be alone on this, but i was never a fan of making sport into a science. of course we do scientific assessments on all sports all the time. i guess i have always approached sport as something as simple as:

train - play - win/lose

but here's to a better offense than defense(cheers). sure glad barca has at least one of the two, more often than not.

Ramzi said...

Maximi83 This kind of stuff Link two of my major interests Being Business Solutions System Analyst as a profession, plus an amateur Football coach (for now).

So its more a training. Beside you need to Analyze Accomplished methodologies to Create your own one.
Regarding time, there is a reason why I don't Do articles on regular bases (weekly for example). I reserve one to tow hours daily (or nightly to be specific) for this kind of stuff. And I publish the briefings for the ones that are readable. Because most of the stuff are too boring (technical oriented) to be read.

One thing for sure, is respecting the readers mind through making an attempt to publish quality. Then let the readers point out my mistakes. Its a win-win deal here. Thats why I don't get bothered with critics.

Btw, softwares do magic saving time. In this article, Excel did me lot of favors.

barcacanada:You remind me of a discussion I had recently with a smart guy I know. And strangely, I was pointing out the limitations of science in Football. Yet, Football has its scientific side. If you read about scouting systems you will be shocked of the amount of science there. So the perfect mix is needed between art and science to have a sold bases in football analysis, specially when it come to measuring performance.

Yet, in this Article I am making an attempt to engage observation method with scientific approach.

No guarantees it works, but its still a tempting approach for me;)

Anonymous said...

My fried using statistics I can prove 1+1=3 you realy need to get out more!

Knives Out said...

@Anon: why don't you prove that, then?
Props to Ramzi for such a detailed article. My only concern is whether Guardiola is reading this :p

I am yet to absorb the entire article, so am going to give it another read!

mofof said...

Ramzi, I am really glad that we have you to write on this blog. You analysis is amazing!

Naijabarca said...

Damn, that schedule is scary, among all four teams in UCL semis, our schedule is the craziest, guess the players needs Camp Nou to be filled more than ever, everyone praying to whatever they believe in + that thing called luck. its not gonna be easy, this is the toughest test you can put a team through, but if they do come out of all of it unscathed, then I personally think this squad should be given a special recognition as the best FCBarcelona squad of all time. YES WE CAN!!!!! IN GOD WE TRUST.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Ramzi, Wow !!. The elaboration on how you arrived at the results was very instructive although I am not sure I have still understood the whole thing. :)

Perhaps its worth noting that the graph is most consistent in the first phase of the Minileague Section (I hope I have got at least that part right). Could you possibly draw a correlation graph from the final Offense Efficiency Vs Defense Fragility one? I feel that would make the picture clearer.

And Hey, I thought Stigsby was our resident statician. Where is he anyway?

It might also be interesting if someone could do a similar exercise with the possession stats rather than the goals scored/conceded. Might we see a more direct relationship with that?

zealot said...

Hmm, maybe for the next season, this blog may have its own staffs in collecting datas, or to do graphs, to help Ramzi represents his ideas. It will be nice if we have the best Barca-related analysis in the net, right here in this blog. Maybe some people from FC Barcelona will start to pay attention to all Ramzi's works if they can see such efforts are being used in the article :)

sashi said...

OMG... dude... amazin man.. gr8 work... cheers! schedule looks scary as shit... hope we sail through everythin safely... Goooo Barca!

Helge said...

Wow, that's a lot of data :)

Great work, it took me about 25min just to read it.

First of all, the schedule is terryfying, BUT if you consider the last diagram you can see that we have been in our very best shape starting with the games against Sevilla (almost lasting for 8 matches, if you exclude the match against Deportivo). The difference between Goals Scored Value und Goals Conceded Value has never been bigger (not to forget that Iniesta was injured for most of these matches)!
Plus it seems like the gap between the blue und the pink line is growing again, which is another good sign. We might be a little exhausted, but the upcoming tasks can also set free new, hidden energy. Who did seriously expect such a flawless run against the heavyweights of La Liga without Iniesta? Time to surprise us again :)

barcacanada said...

kamikaze: i too would be interested in seeing the trending of data for possession vs goals scored vs win/lose.

if it were last season, i think we could have hypothesized that the correlation was negative, in that regardless of high our possession was, goals may have not been produced, which in turn may have not lead to wins.

this year, on the other hand, may look a little more optimistic.

nonetheless, this is a great topic. gets us thinking on some neat matters! props again to ramzi, and everyone else's thoughts.

Citizen said...

An interesting, albeit flawed, analysis. Correlation does not imply causation (re: offense & defense).

KEMPE cy said...

@ Knives Out
it is not that deficult to prove that 1+1 is not always 2 but i do not thing that is this the point here!! + in math you may find a lot of strange thing that you did not heared in high school.. eg. you use +0 to make an exercise correct!!
btw i am not english and i do not care about spelling!! :)
and i am not the above anony..

Anonymous said...

bravo ramzi

FC BARCA said...

Ramzi, thanks for posting these great articles and keep up the good work.

Riis said...

BOUT TIME.....Ramzi!

i was beginning to worry that we haven't heard any rambles from you in awhile....then I saw you post comment with Anonymous name..I thought you left for good. Thought some comments and new followers had scared you off... been waiting for to have good read...

still have not read...waiting for train ride ...

This is suppose to be a fun read with tactical opinion by one person, who actually does a dam good job - personally I think most of you are way to critical on Ramzi and all his hard matter how long or run on the post are

just another reason why this blog is the best for Barcelona fan...

Once again...
Ch33rs Ramzi!!

Citizen said...

You can't use correct statistics to prove 1+1=3.

However, you can use "statistics" "to prove" 1+1=3 if by "statistics" you mean a misunderstanding or misapplication – whether intentional or not – of statistical principles and by "to prove" you mean to deceive – whether intentionally or not – the perceptive reader.

By the way, Ramzi, I wasn't disparaging your analysis in my comment above – I actually found it quite interesting and informative –, but just pointing out that some points need to be fleshed out.

El Capità said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Well done Ramzi, this was a good read. I just have a few feedback comments if youre interested:

-Its interesting how youve showed that offense and defence suffer together, however isnt this just a symptom of having a good game and then a bad game on any given day.

-If youre concluding that fitness levels are a significant cause of this, how have you come to this conclusion. There are numerous other explanations such as- quality and mentality of other team, luck and linked with luck mometum. etc. If just seems to me that if fitness levels were really the problem, Pep would rotate and rest players more then he has done recently. I think form is more than just keeping fresh.

I generally enjoy the technicallity of your articles adn think you are really insightful. However I dont think comparing offense and defensive performance is all that useful, or interesting. 90minutes of football isnt like a one-off roll of the dice. Events in defense(conceding a random goal) will obviously in turn influence offence(i.e raised morale of opposing team). It seems silly that anyone believe offense and defense( in terms of goals conceded and scored) not interrealted. Like I said, the team has a good day, so they score more than opponent. Bad day and vice versa.

Look foward to your next article

kamikaze kontiki said...


You are right correlation does not imply causation but in sport and probably in any matter of human endeavour it is virtually impossible to establish causation. That would involve isolating certain influencing factors and creating a system in which only those act. It is difficult to see how factors such as team synergy, crowd atmosphere, individual player's personal circumstances and psychology on any given occassion, etc can be removed to create an objective analysis.

Hence, correlation being the best we can do, the results of the same should not be summarily dismissed or held irrelevant.

noubarca said...

This feels like school/class. I hated both. lol..

Lets get back to football pleaseeeee

Ramzi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ramzi said...

Well done everyone. Yet:

I am glad I added that attachment to the article. It simply shows the impact and influence of numbers. To those who are with and those who are against. The attachment became the point of focus rather than the article (and I don’t mind). I enjoy the constructive opinions.

Regarding the points mentioned:

It's flattering in a way, to consider this attachment as a stat. I made it more as "logical indicators" for what I explained in the article, Football wise (without numbers).

Kamikaze I didn’t understand the "correlation graph from the final Offense Efficiency Vs Defense Fragility one". And Regarding possession, I based my analysis in the attachment on evaluating Barcelona performance against team (A) comparing it to La liga average performance against that team. To apply it on possession you need to calculate the possession averages for other teams and for the Liga games (without Barcelona involved) then work on the benchmarking. I don’t have that data. And I am not a Stat Expert :) I get my stat at work by recommending specific things and there are those who are smarter who do it for me;)

Citizen: NO worries, again I made this article to interact, not to instruct. So I don’t mind critic, Its for the article ideas not for me. But I am more interested to know exactly where the analysis was "albeit flawed". I am mostly interested to know any defects in the way the Goals values are calculated. Again as indicators.

Regarding: "Correlation does not imply causation (re: offense & defense)." That’s very true, but there are things to take in consideration:

As I mentioned in the article, Defense and offense in Barcelona can not be split. Its not that we have two separate troops on the field, one for offense and one for defense. The work of the two functions are based mostly on the shoulders of the 6 people upfront. Better defense AND better offense for Barcelona require the same things at the same time: Pressure, Successful passing, winning back the ball fast, create continuous threat on the opponent to squeeze it in its own area all the time, scoring to kill the opponent momentum and when all that fail then fast transition is a must. So when the players upfront are not in the best form, as explained, they put the defense in a big mess. The point is to show that most of the time when the defense struggled it was also because the offense was not in form. We can evaluate offense form by game through how often they win back the ball, or possession or anything. But when the thing our offense do best suffer, then that’s a better indicator.

So regardless of numbers, Offense and defense are completely interrelated and offense drop in form "Cause" more defense fragility.

Anonymous, Beside what mentioned above:

- "isnt this just a symptom of having a good game and then a bad game on any given day?" Good question. But what is a bad/good game? Bad game or good game is closely related to how good/bad your team was offensively or defensively. So we are still in square one.

-about: "If youre concluding that fitness levels are a significant cause of this, how have you come to this conclusion. There are numerous other explanations such as- quality and mentality of other team, luck and linked with luck mometum. etc. If just seems to me that if fitness levels were really the problem, Pep would rotate and rest players more then he has done recently. I think form is more than just keeping fresh."

One chart I missed to put, but I thought its well known data so wasn’t needed. And that’s the intensity of games played before each game evaluated. You will notice that more intensity = Less efficiency in all departments. And if you can have another look on the chart, you will notice that we achieved the best results against the teams with the best quality. And if I look to the sequence of events, and I see an event (efficiency decline) happening every time another event happens (Fatigue), I can just through it on luck, or try to question the relation between the two events. No one say only fitness level is the decider, but it’s the major factor for me, based on everything I mentioned about the players roles. And in the following article I will talk about why we suffer more fitness wise.

The article is not based on the numbers mentioned in the Attachment. The attachment try to express some the observations though numerical indicators. Besides asking the hard question: How to evaluate the team performance variation taking in consideration the difference between the teams we play against.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Correlation Graph : I am not sure i used the right technical term.

Here is what I meant : Plot Offense Efficiency on one axis Vs Defensive Fragility on the other. So each point on the graph refers to a particular game having coordinates (offensive efficiency, defensive fragility) .

Then draw a continuous smooth curve through the maximum number of points possible.

Then, we can see how many points lie on or close to the curve. More points would mean the correlation holds true in more cases. The Atletico 4-3 result for example should lie the furthest away.

The present graph is slightly difficult to evaluate, the graph suggested might help make the picture clearer.

noubarca said...

can u guys hear me. This is not a school.. aaarrrhhggg. lets discuss football... lol... Good to see so many smart Barca fans. Not sure Madrid can boast of this. lol

Audi fan said...

Interesting read. Deeply appreciate the effort put into calculating these numbers and producing these figures.I can't wait for your next mind cruncher article Ramzi.

In response to who says these numbers and statistics in general don't represent what/why/how things happen on the pitch, ofcourse they don't. But these figures give a damn well view of how the season went so far and how our offensive and defensive performances are related. But ofcourse there are many other factors that you can't calculate, like luck and circumstances (Ex. the red card+ref allowing play to be stopped continuously in the Espanyol game which ruined everything).

As for the main point of the article, it's hard to compare our defender's strength to other clubs because the style we play is different. Even if we had the best defenders in the world our defense will still be our weak spot.

Citizen said...

@Ramzi & kamikaze: A good start to the offense & defense analysis would be to control for the quality of the opposition. What I mean is that perhaps the main reason you are seeing offense & defense being good together at the same time is perhaps that the they are both better against bad teams & worse against good teams :)

Now if you had more time, then you should probably control for opposition's offensive quality AND opposition's defensive quality, as well as home/away, and other things. This could be interesting, but could take a lot of statistical work.

Citizen said...

Ramzi, sorry I didn't see the thing at the bottom where you explained how you took opponent's quality into account. That makes this a lot more robust than I thought. So things you could focus on are home/away (that makes a very large difference for some teams' GCA & GSA), the team's form at the time, days after last match, and perhaps considering using the 5- or 10-game average for the team at the time that we play them instead of a whole season. Also, the average goals & conceded is bound to be skewed anyway because of the idiotic schedule that the Federation came up with, putting the 5 top teams in a row (so a lot of teams have only faced Barça/RM/Sevilla/Villarreal/Valencia only once, while a lot of them would have had to face them all).

The whole idea is to control for any other possible factor that could also influence the offensive & defensive efficiency statistic as you calculate it other than the player's intensity level.

Ramzi said...

True Citizen, I understand your point since the start and agree with it.

Taking the Home/away status in account and Games segment where the evaluated match is in the middle make things even more accurate. I felt necessary to mention that at the last paragraph of the attachment to point that all what I tried to do here is to move one step forward, improving the performance evaluation from Gross numbers (counting on number of goals), to indicators through translating goals to values that goes closer to reality, but it doesn't contain the reality. because in football, numbers never contains the game uncertainties.

I wasn't able to do the away/home plus games segments techniques because that need astronomic effort, resources (Data and staff) and time. Beside stat experts.
So I just mentioned that: here is how far I was able to go.

Ramzi said...

oh, the fact that some teams played twice against the top five while other teams played one is spot on. But i dont think it will change the values a lot.

First because Barcelona games and goals(scored and conceded) are deducted so it has no impact on the other teams rates. And barcelona game came at the beginning of that string of difficult games.

So we are talking more about big four.

Secondly because this data is based on 28 games played, so only 3 teams played already against all the big four, and it has an impact only on their rates, not on the other teams rates. the rates go to their favor offensively (if they score) and against them defensively if they conceded many goals. Noting that Seville, Valencia and Villarreal drop in form make things closer to neglecting the impact.

And then the Bog four have the best Balanced teams may be, but they don't necessarily have the best scoring average (sevilla is not better offensively than Malaga and valadolid). Racing and Ousasuna are interestingly good defensively. So the deferential value of results spread on the overall number of games will make the changes on the GCA and GCA negligible.

Citizen said...

And another seemingly obvious but very important thing that we might have all overlooked. If the opponent happens to have a good day (like Espanyol had against us), then obviously we will score less & give up more. So it's not just our performance, but also theirs as well...

But I agree, to go any deeper would take a ridiculous amount of time, and probably isn't worth it.

OLALEKAN said...

RAMZI TOOOOOOOOO MUCH.u really scared me when we did not hear anything from u since.but i know u're coming with a good one.i really read all what u wrote and i understood it a little,but what i think is the problem of our defence is the system we play and preciselly the system we use in defencing (zone making)it gives us a lot of problem especially when we play sylvinho on the left.and we can see that against real betis. we often open the flank,both right and left,when alves is forward attacking,we also have sylvinho also attacking and i think the recovery of sylvinho is somehow poor,but thanx to abidal sometimes he plays.and what often makes us concede so much is the inability to defence set picies, i think it would be good if we can change to start using may be two defensive mildfielders,like liverpool,(alonso and macherano).

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