B.U.R.L.E.Y. Projects the SPFL Table for the Rest of the Season

Yer Da was not the only one upset about the delay in releasing the SPFL post-split fixtures. In his digital man cave, B.U.R.L.E.Y. impatiently tapped his fingers loudly on his metaphorical desk, waiting to spit mathematical hot fire about how he thinks your club stinks. Yet, B.U.R.L.E.Y. had to wait to see who was playing who and where to do this. So with Wednesday’s announcement, he could finally doom your team to their fate.

But before we see how B.U.R.L.E.Y. sees the rest of the SPFL Premiership campaign shaking out, I wanted to take a look at how B.U.R.L.E.Y.’s preseason projections ended up.

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B.U.R.L.E.Y.’s Predictions for the Table in August

I am going to go ahead and award B.U.R.L.E.Y. a “Not Too Shabby” grade with these picks back in August. B.U.R.L.E.Y. successfully picked both 5 of the 6 teams correctly in the top and bottom six at the split, with only Kilmarnock performing well above B.U.R.L.E.Y.’s expectations. The robot Craig also got the order of 1-4 correct thus far, though he struggled a bit more on the bottom half of the table, having County and Thistle 8th and 9th instead of 11th and 12th as they currently sit. All in all, not bad for B.U.R.L.E.Y. heading into the split.

We can take each clubs updated metrics at this point of the SPFL Premiership season and see where B.U.R.L.E.Y. puts every club in the end of season table. To do this, we follow the same methodology we discuss here and simulate each club’s remaining schedule 1,000 times. We can then take the average points earned for each club in those simulations and project where they will finish come May.

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B.U.R.L.E.Y. Projected Table for the rest of the Season

Looking at the top half of B.U.R.L.E.Y.’s projected table, we do not see any movement from where teams sit currently. The most noteworthy thing from the top half would be that B.U.R.L.E.Y. sees Rangers pulling ahead of the pack for 2nd place, as he puts them on average earning 2 more points than Aberdeen come season’s end with the clubs currently sitting even on points.

The bottom of the table sees a bit more movement though according to B.U.R.L.E.Y. Currently, 5 point separate 9th and 12th, so the fight for automatic relegation and the relegation playoff spot are very much still up for grabs. I have recently discussed the metrics behind Partick Thistle finding themselves at the bottom of the table, and B.U.R.L.E.Y. must have read that article intensely, predicting that Thistle will not be able to pull themselves from the bottom.

The robot also sees County stuck to the relegation playoff spot, while Dundee will jump over Hamilton and finish 9th. He also sees St. Johnstone getting ahead of Motherwell and finishing the year 7th. Clearly with how close B.U.R.L.E.Y.’s projected points from the remaining matches are in the bottom of the table, only the Saints and Steelmen can feel relatively safe about not being relegated come season’s end.

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Finally, I just wanted to quickly mention how B.U.R.L.E.Y.’s match up with you all and Nate Silver in picking SPFL matches each week was going. In the graph above, you can see that B.U.R.L.E.Y. has a slight 2 match lead this season over you all and 538. I really wanted to commend you all for matching Silver and Co.’s SPFL predictions. Is the increased awareness of football analytics leading to more informed fans? I certainly hope so! Is my twitter account just an echo chamber? Could be, but I still doff my metaphorical cap to you all matching 538’s model in picking SPFL matches this season so far. Let’s beat that nerd Nate Silver!

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.

Daniel Candeias Has Quietly Put Together a Great Season

It seems to be the standard now for Rangers to find themselves in the headlines ofCandeias side.jpg Scottish football, both for matters on and off the pitch, on a seemingly weekly basis. From memory, we have had Pedro Caixinha sacking, Carlos Pena being sent back to Mexico and his choice of handkerchief, and Josh Windass’ various hand gestures to fans as examples of off field shenanigans surrounding Rangers this season. However, among the headline grabbing antics at Ibrox, Daniel Candeias has quietly put together one of the better campaigns in the SPFL this season.

I discussed the idea of expected assists last season, but thought this would be a good time to have a refresher on this metric. Expected assists applies the idea of expected goals to those creating the chances. Using the same model we use for xG, xA applies that same number to the player who created the chance via pass. So if Daniel Candeias passes to Alfredo Morelos and Morelos takes a shot worth 0.2 xG off of it, Candeias gets an xA of 0.2. This is an attempt to quantify the type of chances a player creates, rather than something like passes completed percentage.

Candeias Assists xA
Candeias’ xA and Assist output has stayed consistent this season.

If we look at the expected assist leaders for the SPFL Premiership this season, we see Candeias is by far and away the league leader. Through February 11th, Daniel Candeias has a total xA of 9.06. The next highest player in the SPFL is at 6.08, quite a ways away. He has an xA per 90 minutes of 0.41, the highest of any player who has played at least 700 minutes this season. He has the highest expected assist numbers from free-kicks, open play, and is 4th in xA in set-pieces. Last season, Niall McGinn had the highest xA in the league and he had an xA per 90 of 0.35, so Candeias is averaging a higher expected assists for every 90 minutes than league leader McGinn did last year. All of this is to say Candeias has been one of the best creators on attack in the SPFL Premiership this season.

Candeias Pass Map

Looking at Candeias’ pass map from open play this season above, it is no surprise to see most of his contributions have come from that right wing. From that wing, Candeias has found James Tavernier for 10 key passes, Alfredo Morelos 9 key passes, and Josh Windass for 9 key passes. Most would agree those three are Rangers most dangerous attacking threats, so the Portuguese winger finding them so often has certainly helped lead to his success this year. Furthermore, looking at where the average location for those players were when Candieas set them up for a shot, we see all of three of them located in the “Danger Zone”. This is the area in the 18 yard box in between the 6 yard box and these shots have been found to be the most likely to be scored. When Daniel Candieas is setting up the likes of Morelos and Windass, he is finding them in the most dangerous locations on the pitch where they can score goals.

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We see this perfectly in the clip above. Against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on December 3, Daniel Candeias sets up the winning goal. He times his run well on the right and puts a first touch low cross perfectly onto the foot of Josh Windass, who is square in the “danger zone” of the box and able to finish, leading to a man hug for Candeias from Graeme Murty. Run on the right, cross into a dangerous position where his teammate is waiting and can easily finish a high xG chance for a goal.

Candeias Celtic

Despite the score finishing 0-0, Candeias had a very good match against Celtic in December. We see another example of what he has done so well this season above. He again is able to put a first touch cross into a dangerous position. His cross finds an open James Tavernier in the heart of the danger zone, where Tavernier’s shot is only kept out by a good save by Craig Gordon. Another cross on the right to a teammate in the danger zone, who forces a good save from the keeper from a high xG chance.

This season, most of the more ardent Twitter debates in Scottish football have been discussing if certain Rangers players are actually good. Never-ending feuds about whether the likes of Josh Windass and Carlos Pena are good players or not are found at various corners of the great time waster known as Twitter. Daniel Candeias thankfully does not draw such hard line opinions. Most seem to know he is valuable to Rangers success this season. However, it is a bit surprising his praises have not been sung at such a level as they have with someone like Alfredo Morelos by Rangers supporters. Both have been key cogs to Rangers attack this season and Rangers will need them to continue their form if they are looking to finish second.

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.

Alfredo Morelos: Some Quick Praise from a Small Sample

I can assure you there will no tired/borderline racist cliches in this article about Alfredo Morelos. Last season, Rangers had the second highest expected goal total in the SPFL, yet finished third in the table. Whether that is due to bad luck or poor finishing can be debated, but as a result Pedro Caixinha and Rangers decided that they needed to upgrade at striker. Out went Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner and in came Alfredo Morelos from HJK Helsinki. Last season, Morelos scored 20 goals in all competitions for the Finnish club, but could he continue to score goals in the step up to the SPFL?

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Through six games, Morelos has certainly answered that question with a resounding “yes”. Going into the match-up with Celtic, the Colombian is currently top the goal scoring table in the SPFL Premiership with 6 goals. In addition to having the most goals in the league, Morelos has the highest xG in our model at 3.61, which is 0.77 per 90 minutes and 0.23 per attempt.

Looking at these numbers and his shot map above, it is easy to see why Morelos has had early success with Rangers. the Colombian striker has been able to get into great positions and get off shots with a higher than average scoring probability. 63% of Morelos’ shots this season have come from the Danger Zone, or the area in the box between the ends of the 6-yard box. All but one of his shots have been inside the box thus far. Morelos clearly thrives inside the box, getting shots where they can do the most damage.

SPFL xG leaders

If we compare Morelos’ per 90 numbers for xG to Moussa Dembele’s from last season (0.69 xG per 90), they are similar. Of course, it is way too early to declare Morelos on the same level as Dembele, but if the Colombian striker can continue his output at this pace it would not be unreasonable to compare the two. However, even if Morelos can reach the same rarefied air that Dembele did last season, Rangers still may need someone else to help ease the burden on “El Bufalo”.

Besides Morelos, Josh Windass and Kenny Miller are both among the top 20 xG leaders in the SPFL that are on Rangers. Yet, between Miller and Windass, they haveMorelos 3 1 league goal between them. Morelos may have the talent to carry Rangers for a period of time, but like all players, he could find himself out of favor with the finishing fairy and not find the net for a few matches. If Celtic are without Moussa Dembele, as they have been up until recently, they have the likes of Scott Sinclair and Leigh Griffiths that can help knock in goals. Can Morelos’ Rangers teammates provide the same support? It has yet to be seen.

While six games is a small sample in which we do not want to jump to conclusions, it certainly seems Rangers have upgraded significantly in the striker position from last year with Morelos. With such fine play, the Colombian striker is already subject to transfer rumors. However, if Rangers can hold onto him all season, they can expect to see greatly improved fortunes in front of the goal from last season.

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.