Analysis: A review of Blackpool’s style of play over the season so far

It has been a mediocre season on the whole for the Seasiders and really that should have been our expectation from the start. Practically an entire new squad was bought in this summer and it was Neil Critchley’s first chance to try and imprint his own mark on the club since his arrival. As we all know, the season started off poorly with results not forthcoming, until a solid run to the top of the form table brought in closer to our play off aspirations. However, in recent games things have begun to falter again as inconsistencies are littered throughout our performances. In this piece, I consider the general underlying numbers behind our season so far.

Chance creation

This is the main focus whenever you want to look at a team’s underlying performances. It sits as a good indicator as to whether results have corresponded with actual performances. Typically as a trend, the higher your xG (expected goals), the higher you are up the table, As far as Blackpool are concerned, we have aligned with our performances when it comes to results. We sit 13th in the current League One standings and our expected goals data has us 13th in the standings as well.

In terms of the differences in real terms, our chance creation and chance succession stats in the above table have us scoring 21.1 and conceding 18.7. What this means is that, from the chances we have created in our games this season and the chances we have conceded, taking into account the probability of those chances turning into goals, we should have scored 21 goals and conceded 19 if rounded up. In actual terms this season we have scored 20 goals and conceded 23.

Have we been unlucky?

These differentials are important because, while our goals scored is about right, it suggests that we have been quite unlucky in terms of the goals we have conceded. Based on probability, there were four goals conceded this season (on average) that were quite unlikely to go in. For example, a chance with a striker through on goal, nine yards from goal will have a 0.7xG rating, so if you gave a striker that opportunity ten times, they would score on seven occasions. Therefore, on four occasions across the season as an average, we have conceded a goal with a low xG likelihood of scoring, so a shot 20 yards out with a defender in the way for example. If we continue to play the same way, it’s likely that that will even itself out across the season – in theory at least.

What we can take from this is that Blackpool have had big highs and big lows this season that have balanced out into mid table mediocrity. However, the strange thing that I have observed this season is that our high part of the season in terms of creating chances and outperforming the opposition came at the start, when we were struggling for results. Whereas, in recent times when our results have been impressive, our underlying performance data has declined, but our clinical edge has improved. It is a rare thing to see and it is quite concerning as it points towards our upturn in results being the outlier rather than the poor run at the start when it comes to finishing our chances. Has Neil Critchley altered our style, or has the side become complacent in terms of our chance creation?

Above is an expected goals table from 1st November 2020. The club actually published similar data through The Gazette to highlight to fans who, including myself at the time, were questioning Neil Critchley’s position at the club. At this point in time we had just beaten Burton 2-1 away from home in our first away league win of the season. We had 10 points in the league table with three wins, one draw and six defeats. We sat in 16th place in the League One table.

As you can see we should actually, in terms of underlying performance data, have been sat 7th in the table at that point. We should have scored 11 goals and conceded 10 when you look at our created chances, it shows that our creativity and build up play was positive and a real asset. Defensively we were a lot more reasonable than we actually thought, with questions over our inconsistent backline actually a lot more of a sense of a lack of luck on our part in the early season.

So looking at the real league table at that point we had scored ten goals and conceded 14. Evidently, we had been unlucky in the types of goals we had conceded, there were a lot of unlikely efforts going against us that resulted in our poor start to the season. Looking back at the stats, our start to the season was actually fairly impressive. Critchley had us set up as a good attacking outlet early on and defensively we were quite unfortunate. Given we had an entirely new squad and a new style of play it was a good outlay in terms of performances.

And I think this is why data is important, I have become much more invested in data since Blackpool put out their own analysis of the season. It gives you a real idea of underlying performances so you can see whether we have been unlucky or whether results have been aligned with poor performance.

On the other hand

After looking at the positives, particularly at the start of the season in terms of underlying data, the last two defeats have actually been coming when looking at the data. I have made reference to the fact our creative data has regressed, despite results performing and that it was quite unsustainable to continue winning games with such a low xG value. And as you can see below, recently our performance data has regressed significantly in comparison to the start of the season.

We sit 16th in the expected form guide (the above table was before Bristol Rovers), despite our actual form seeing us win three games, draw two and lose one. We were expected to score seven goals and concede six, whereas in real terms we scored five goals and conceded three. This means that our performances defensively have lapsed quite significantly and in those games we conceded enough chances to concede double what we actually did. With that in mind, alongside our drop in clinical edge, scoring five in real terms when seven were expected, means that our underlying data is plummeting.

This has been a recurring theme since the start of our upturn in form and something that Critchley will be will aware of. In fact he referenced in a recent press conference that it is all well and good performing in the initial build up when there is no cutting edge in the final third and the underlying statistics back that up.

Looking at the upcoming games, it’s imperative that we improve in both boxes – we need to create more clear cut chances, but also shut up shop at the back as we are starting to concede more opportunities to the opposition in comparison to the early part of the season, despite our upturn in form.

This blog is the initial overview of a series of analysis pieces coming over the next few days, looking at the underlying data of the season so far. Coming up, I will look in-depth at individual matches and see where and why we have performed how we have so far. I will also be taking a look at individual players and their data this season, before a final piece on what we need to see going forward to see an upturn in form and real terms data to secure a playoff place in line with the club’s aims.

Keep an eye out on our social media for the next edition of our analysis articles.

Image: Football League world

Stats provided by: xG_Data

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One thought on “Analysis: A review of Blackpool’s style of play over the season so far

  1. You do not have to rely on graphs and diagrams to see what the problem is with the team.Surely the revolving door policy of team selection and mass use of substittutes does not inspire confidence in the players. Apart from the first match of the season and wins agaiinst HULL and PORTSMOUTH our performances have been pretty poor especially against ACCRINGTON andSHREWSBURY which were dyer. Tactics very predictable 40 plus kick offs resulting in 40 passes back to midfield followed by 40 hopeful punts foreward teams know whats coming. Setpiece are a disaster take last Saturday for example at least 12 corners not one caused any panic 20 plus shots ( I donot know where that stat came from ) one converted 3 saved but these would have been expected to have been saved 1balloned over 2 went for throw ins .Quite clearly a lack of ideas creativity poor passing and ball control. Except when we counter attack our passing is slow and predictable with the players either static or facing their own goal resulting in the ball being played back before punted foreward for someone to chase. You state our defence has begun to look fragile not something I agree with .As on Saturday a team that goes 1 down is going to push foreward for an equaliser and create more chances (its not rocket science)..Whats the solution? We need to offload one or two prima donnas who only produce every now and again return those loanes who are under performing to their parent clubs and bring in a couple of creative midfielders and someone who knows where the goal is/

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