Early Doors

Tactics Bored: Chelsea’s striking woes solved

As others have written today, and plenty of times before, statistics and tactics are where the game is up. No, where the game it at. There have been a number of interesting developments in the analysis subculture in the past week, and they can be exclusively revealed to you. Numbers have been crushed, and false conclusions have been drawn to allow true conclusions space to exploit.

Chelsea are in need of some serious D, Dimitar Berbatov’s nicotine-assisted heatmap is a thing of real insight, and the correlation between Christmas cheer and league position is still in beta, but throws up an interesting anomaly. This is the week in Tactics.


Jose Mourinho and Chelsea are struggling to get their strikers firing. So far, Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have struggled for goals, scoring just four in the league between them. Having done some statistical research, there are three key areas which Mourinho, his coaching staff and his strikers need to focus on. To aid understanding, please see the diagram and its key.

A represents the skill of kicking the ball close to the goal. The closer to the goal the kick comes from, research has shown, the more chance it has of going into the goal. That is because there is less chance for variables to take the ball off course, the target is larger, and the defenders and goalkeepers have less time to react.

C represents the skill of kicking the ball accurately. If the ball is kicked close to the goalkeeper, the chance is greater of the goalkeeper getting the ball. If the ball is kicked far away from the goalkeeper, then it is harder for the goalkeeper to get the ball. It is important to kick the ball both at the goal, and also far from the goalkeeper. This is a tricky double-edged sword to master.

G represents having the ball a lot. If you do not have the ball, then you cannot shoot as often. If you have the ball more often, then you can shoot more often. Chelsea need to take more shots.

However, this is where is gets complicated. If you struggle to understand it, do not feel bad. It’s nuanced stuff. Ideally, the strikers need to be shooting more often, more accurately, and as close to the goal as they can get. If they decide to start doing that, they should score more goals and, thus, win more matches. D is this apex. Chelsea need more D.


Which players have been involved in the best two goals of the season? Jack Wilshere’s pinball effort was certainly one of them, but the pass from Dimitar Berbatov for Alexander Kacaniklic at the weekend was arguably the other greatest piece of skill leading to a goal during this campaign. Wilshere is criticised for enjoying the odd tab, whereas Berbatov is venerated for it. In the diagram below, you can see the heat map of Berbatov at the weekend, and how smoking has aided his performance in a way it hasn’t Wilshere.



Going into the final week of the Champions League group stages, it’s important to have a look at the effect of Christmas cheer upon various teams. Bayern Munich have already bought their tree, whereas the Glazers are refusing to cough up for one at Manchester United. Bayern Munich are top of the league and their European table. And they have a Christmas tree. The coincidence cannot have escaped anyone. Have a look at the scatter chart below to match Christmas cheer with league position in the Premier League.

Liverpool are indeed an anomaly between Christmas cheer and league position with their cheer off the scale, but that is because to them, it’s always going to be their year.


Much was made of the pre-season training for Manchester United. David Moyes said he would be ‘overtraining’ the players. This has had a number of effects on the team. One, Michael Carrick doesn’t like the training and is injured. Two, Robin van Persie doesn’t like the training, is injured, and possibly doesn’t like David Moyes either.

It’s exacting stuff, but it’s had another tactically interesting effect on Shinji Kagawa. He had been coming into something approaching form which wasn’t massively disappointing, but in response to overtraining, it appears he had been overeating. Things got so bad that he had to have his stomach pumped.

Alexander Netherton - @lxndrnthrtn