The curious case of Pescara
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Alternative rankings table, based on expected points, showed a very interesting story from last year's Serie A in Italy. Pescara, who were relegated after collecting only 15 points, could have finished on 16th spot with 41. That’s a difference of 26 points! Such an extreme case surely calls for an analysis, to which we now turn to at Row-Z Report! Let’s go.
Let us start with match odds. Below I have listed matches where Pescara’s winning odds were above 33%, based on chances created and conceded (15 matches in total). They won only two.
On top of the list, we spot a match where Pescara’s win probability was 76%. This match was against a direct competitor, Palermo, and the final score was 1-1. Moving along the table, we observe Pescara lost a match (against Sassuolo) where they were after-the-fact favorites with odds of 62%. That match ended in a 1-2 loss. Overall, in these 15 matches, Pescara only collected 12 points, where ‘fair’ points could have been in the proximity of 25.
Looking at the attacking sides of things, Pescara were certainly not good, but they weren’t awful either. They created a total of 357 chances over the course of all season, which puts them in the Bottom 5. Average xG for those chances were 0.110 - around the league average (all exclude penalties).
Pescara had a total xG value of 39.4, of which they were only able to find the net 33 times. That makes a Goal-xGoal (G-xG) difference of around 6.5.
All in all, it is safe to say that Pescara's offense contributed only marginally to the abysmal end result of 15 points in over the course of whole season.
On a side note, we see an offensive juggernaut in Napoli. They not only managed to accumulate 71 NPxGs (second behind Roma’s 71.5), they actually scored 89 goals – an incredible +18 goals than expected.
Torino is worth a mention as well: 66 goals from 50 NPxG –impressive.
Oh, man. Although in basic stats Pescara were only sub-optimal (484 non-penalty chances conceded with an avg xG of 0.123), defensive efficiency was something else.
Total tally for xG conceded was 60, but Pescara somehow managed to concede 77 goals. Underperforming by 17 goals, Pescara were by far the worst team in defensive efficiency. Their not-so-terrible offense was trumped by their oh-so-terrible defense.
Imagine an alternate world where they underperform by 7 (but not 17) and we’d probably be looking at a whole different story. (Better yet, let me simulate that season!)
One of Pescara’s rivals in relegation battle, Palermo, for example, fared only -9 goals in this metric.
Crotone and Empoli were actually better than expected.
Chance Quality in Defense
Using the excellent Strata data, it is also possible to break chances down to 'quality'. As before I have grouped chances into a reduced form of three: low-medium-high:
14% of shots against Pescara were ‘High’ quality. Combined with the volume of 69 in total -2nd worst - bad signs are right there.
Moreover, 42 of these 69 (60%) resulted in a goal for Pescara, by far the worst in league.
For comparison, out of 79 such chances, Palermo managed to concede only 36 (45%).
On the top end, it is straightforward to see how Juve claimed the title. They not only conceded the least number of shots, but also only 6% were ‘High’ chances – easily the best in league (actually across three leagues that I have data for).
To be fair, it is somewhat tricky to interpret these G-xG (i.e chance quality) figures. Does this mean that Pescara’s goalkeeper performed badly? How much of it was (lack of) luck? What about our models – maybe they fail to take some factors into account.
Pescara had such an extreme season that even their penalties require a paragraph on its own. Below are the penalty stats by team, including three leagues I have the data for. Don’t go too far, it’s right there at the top.
The table is sorted by conversion rates, in ascending order. During the 16-17 season, Pescara took 7 penalties and missed 5.
Keeping in mind the small sample size, a conversion rate of 29% (2/7) is still hard to believe.
To put things into context, penalty conversion rate across all leagues and all times is around 3 in 4.
How much would it have mattered? Not much apparently. Below table depicts what would have happened had Pescara scored all penalties.
Table shows actual and simulated outcomes in seven matches. Even if Pescara scored all, they would have only gained an additional three points in total.
This simulation draws a picture where everything else during a match occurs in the exact same way it happened, which is of course a little far-fetched. But still a nice exercise!
That’d be all in my take to analyze Pescara's 16-17 campaign, from a couple of (hopefully interesting) angles. They had quite a season, where a combination of luck, bad defending (and penalty taking!) played a role on their way to relegation. My best wishes go to them for their campaign in Serie B this year.
Until next time!
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.
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