Common football visualizations and statistics: Passing Networks
More detailed and readily available data and a thriving analytics community on Twitter have produced a series of new statistics and visualizations for football fans. In this series I will try to give a brief definition of various metrics, background on charts and sources for where to find them going forward.
Passing Networks contain two main types of information: average positioning of each player and most frequent passing links between players of each team. Each node typically represents the average location of a player over the course of a game. This provides additional information on the game plan and tactical approach of a team on top of the lineup sheets and graphics we usually see before a game. In these pregame charts lineups tend to be symmetrical and pressed into preassumed tactical formations which do not necessarily represent what is happening on the pitch.Each edge or link between nodes highlights a frequent passing path between two players. More important passing links can be drawn thicker or highlighted by a different color.
Example of Chelsea vs Huddersfield
Below I have included a passing network from BetweenThePosts.net and 11Tegen11 which publish these charts for many games of the big five leagues. The network covers Chelsea’s home game vs Huddersfield Town last Saturday (2Feb19) which Chelsea won 5-0.
There are quite a few observations we can immediately make: Chelsea seem to have followed a 4-3-3 system. The two full-backs Alonso and Azpilicueta had plenty of opportunities to move forward and their average passing position is almost on level to midfielders. Given that Chelsea saw 65% of possession and was ahead after the 16th minute that does not surprise. Jorginho in midfield had the most touches, while Kepa had the least. This makes sense as Huddersfield is not known as an offensive power house and only had three shots. However it should also gives us some sense of Huddersfield’s pressing: Chelsea’s defenders were hardly ever forced to play back to their keeper. Only Luiz passed back to Kepa more than fives times.
More than just the static lineup
As you can see there is quite a lot of information packed into this one single visualization. While it hardly takes up more space than a generic formation graphic it conveys so much more of a game’s story: average positioning, most used passing links and number of touches for each player.