I’ve mentioned in other posts that you can download basic football stats from here. However, this data focuses on the odds, and doesn’t include much detail in terms of match analysis. In other words, it doesn’t tell you about performance.
So where do you go if you want to check head-to-head data items such as ‘shot accuracy’, ‘total forward passes’ or ‘errors leading to a goal’?
Squawka — Powered By Opta
You might have heard of it already, but I recently stumbled across the free Squawka football stats site. The level of detail and simplicity they bring to football data analysis is outstanding.
You can literally compare any team (or player) alongside their competitors, using a range of specific data items. It’s almost a bit addictive. Within the first few minutes of using it I was able to find the answers to several questions about the 2016/17 Premier League season such as:
- Was the final top 4 really the 4 best rated teams? (No)
- Who was the best performing Goalkeeper for the season? (Hugo Lloris)
- Who was the highest ranked Premier League player? (Eden Hazard)
And my personal favourite question and answer:
- Who was better out of Christian Eriksen and Mesut Ozil?
Who wins the head-to-head?
It’s Eriksen, obviously.
They both scored 8 goals. But interestingly, Eriksen took 3.33 times as many shots as Ozil, making him a much bigger goal scoring threat. He also claimed 1.66 times more assists for the season — ironically what Ozil is famed for doing. Where Ozil excelled was his superior possession score of 3.58 times higher than Eriksen’s.
Although Eriksen is rated higher overall, it’s probably not an entirely like-for-like player comparison. The stats suggest that the two players serve different roles in their teams.
How Can Squawka Be Used For Football Betting?
Squawka puts to bed what you think and gives you the facts.
We all have an opinion, such as “City are better than United”. But being a biased football fan doesn’t help you much in betting. You need to back up your ideas and try to search for an edge. If the odds don’t correlate to the football stats, then there could be an opportunity to profit.
Squawka wasn’t specifically made for betting. In fact it has several uses — such as Fantasy Football, stats-based punditry, blogging, general fan interest, or even FIFA. What Squawka does is enables you to learn more about the game, to audit your betting selections — and perhaps even provides you with a sanity check every once in a while!
What the site doesn’t do is put the data into a spreadsheet format that will enable you to find an edge in your bets. That’s entirely down to you. But what I will say is this: I haven’t seen this level of detail from various paid football analysis tools. And they were created specifically for sports betting.
At the very least Squawka is a great place to find ideas for a betting model, and to identify bias in the markets. I mean, if you ask the average (non Spurs supporting) football fan who the best Goalkeeper in the Premier League is they’d probably say De Gea. But that’s not what i’ve seen today from the football stats. We get it wrong sometimes.
What Can We Learn About The 2016/17 Premier League Season?
It’s worth looking at last season. It may have a baring on how the 2017/18 season plays out. Let’s focus on the top end of the table.
Squawka’s performance rankings of the top 7 teams.
Does anything surprise you there?
It should do — because this table suggests that United were good enough to make the top 4 of the Premier League. It even ranks them 3rd, above rivals City who (pretty) comfortably earned a Champions League spot.
Chelsea, Spurs and Everton don’t overly interest me, because their ranking positions are precisely where I expected them to be. I am more intrigued as to what could’ve determined the ordering of the other rankings — for Arsenal, City, United and Liverpool.
Intuitively, I’d have thought the stats would’ve supported the notion that Liverpool and Arsenal are a stronger outfit than Man United. But that’s not what I found. Why?
Let’s take a closer look at these 4 teams and find out…
Team Comparison Between Arsenal, Man City, Man United & Liverpool
The squawka comparison matrix for four selected teams
I also selected some of the relevant football stats. Very quickly you can deduce that City and Liverpool aren’t as well balanced as Arsenal, who are good ‘all-rounders’. It seems that Arsenal fell flat in the League because they failed to excel in any department. Even in attack — their main strength — they didn’t quite match Liverpool or City.
With regards to Man United there’s something that’s made very apparent:
- They were superior defensively to both Liverpool and Man City, and were rated significantly higher than Arsenal for this stat, too.
- They were inferior to all three of their rivals in attack. Arsenal, Liverpool and City all shared a similar, superior attacking strength stat.
I wrote at the start of last season that having a good attack/weak defence combination is preferable to having a weak attack/strong defence. I also stated that teams with either of these combinations won’t win the league. Hence why Chelsea and Spurs finished at the top — they were the only 2 teams with both attacking & defensive strength. Man United’s league finish backs up my views, because they’ve lost out to both City and Liverpool despite having a much better defensive record.
Learn more on this here: Best Tips For Premier League Football Betting
Delving a little deeper into the football stats revealed more about Man United’s attacking performance:
- Their total shots stat suggests that they created a lot of chances.
- Their shot accuracy stat confirms they were just as accurate with their chances as their 3 rivals. But…
- They scored less goals from penalties than their rivals, and significantly less goals from set pieces (percentage wise, that is).
So in summary, United appear to have played well in general. They were defensively solid, but failed to convert their high number of shots (24 more than Arsenal, in fact) into goals. Hence why their goal tally was much lower. In particular, converting from set pieces seems to have been a notable weak point compared to their rivals.
Arguably, United may still need to create slightly more chances inside the area. The stats allude to the fact they had less close-range (dangerous) goal scoring opportunities than their 3 rivals. Expected Goal stats provide more insight into the likelihood of converting those chances.
So What Do I Predict for the Top Teams In 2017/18?
After looking at the data, I’m going into the new season expecting to see an improvement in Man United. But I don’t think they’re anywhere near winning the league. Here’s what else I predict:
Man City and Liverpool will have to sort their defences out if they want to seriously compete for the title.
They will struggle to beat Chelsea or Spurs over the course of a season if they don’t. Both City and Liverpool could benefit from buying steadier Goalkeepers; for evidence use Squawka to compare their GK’s to the first team choice at Spurs, United, and Arsenal. Of the two teams, i’d fancy City to step it up a notch — partly due to their inevitable big money signings this summer.
I predict Spurs will adjust to playing at Wembley. It’ll be challenging, but I don’t see them missing top 4 because of some “hoodoo”.
In fact, everything points towards the fact they’ll compete for the title again. Could they win it? It’s possible, but it largely depends on Chelsea’s consistency and Man City’s level of improvement.
Arsenal might struggle.
Granted they shouldn’t be written off for top 4 as they only need to slightly raise their overall stats across the board. After all, there’s no standout weaknesses in their game. But their problem is that their success is partly hinged on whether Sanchez stays at the club. He’s Squawka’s #2 rated Premier League player for the 2016/17 season. If he leaves, they’ll struggle in attack.
I don’t see Everton breaking into the top 4 this season.
There’ll be hype about their new signings, but losing Lukaku will come as a blow.
Chelsea are likely to retain the title; there’s no doubt about that.
This puts Chelsea, Spurs, United and City as my predicted Top 4 (in no given order).
It’s interesting to play around with football stats. Just remember that they’re only a guideline for what to expect in the future. To analyse football in more depth, i recommend reading my post on Expected Goals (xG) statistics. It enables punters to better judge teams and players, reduces bias, and helps to more accurately predict future results.