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Chelsea-Norwich Passing Analysis (And Introducing Radial Graphs)

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As you may or may not have noticed, We Ain't Got No History has been a little quieter than usual over the last couple of days. No, it's not because the transfer window killed me or anything (although it came close) - I've actually been playing around with a better mechanism for showing passing in specific games than either a flat chalkboard or my initial attempts at a radial passing map. Since it's taken a lot of effort to build this thing, I might as well put it to some use - let's dig into that fun Chelsea vs. Norwich City match from last weekend once more...

Figure 1: Chelsea radial passing maps vs. Norwich City, 8/27/11. Powered by Tableau.

Why yes, that is pretty cool. Go ahead and hover over the question bar for help, because that should explain pretty much all there is to the graph. With this, we can see who everyone was passing to, where they were receiving the ball from, and all sort of interesting goodies. How useful this actually is is anyone's guess - since they take so long to build we don't really have anything else to last Saturday's to, and thus we have no baseline for anything analytical - but there's value in description for description's sake anyway. Plus, really really cool.

Anyway, a few things stand out to me here, those caveats aside...

  • Frank Lampard was actually a key playmaker for Chelsea. He was the guy responsible for switching play to the fullbacks, especially keen on spraying the ball out to Jose Bosingwa on the right flank. If Chelsea were to play Lampard a little deeper, he might have some luck launching fast breaks down the wings, especially with Daniel Sturridge's speed on the right.
  • Speaking of Jose Bosingwa, he was a key outlet for the midfield. The trio of Lampard, Ramires and John Obi Mikel passed to him 37 times, while the equivalent Florent Malouda-Lampard-Mikel troika managed only 22 passes to Ashley Cole. Bosingwa's re-emergence as an attacking threat who can do his job at the other end of the pitch as well is highly welcoming.
  • Mikel passed the ball forwards (i.e. in the forward quandrant) 22 of 56 times. Just saying.
  • Despite the difference in who was distributing them the ball, both Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres received it in roughly the same part of the pitch - on average. Drilling down further into the data we see that that was (surprise!) an artifact of the fullbacks supplying Torres high up each wing and the midfielders giving Drogba the ball in the centre. Neither striker did much with their service, though.
  • All hail Juan Mata!

Anyway, there's a lot to work with in there and I don't think I've scratched the surface of what we can find in this sort of data. Why don't you give it a play and see what you think? I'm sure there're lots of interesting things to discover. Don't forget to use the filters to find the information you want!