Tag Archives: VVV

The ‘Lokhoff’ effect & The ‘McClaren’ non-effect

The previous post introduced the concept of PDO, a statistic that was originally introduced in the NHL a few years back, to determine which share of a team’s performance can be attributed to non-sustainable performances (‘luck’) and which share to sustainable performances (‘skill’). Since it’s an important concept in order to understand the following graphs, let me provide a short summary of PDO. A more detailed explanation can be found in the previous post, where lots of links are provided to suggest further reading on the topic.

In short, PDO combines a team’s shooting percentage (Sh% = the fraction of goal scoring attempts created that is scored)  and a their saves percentage (Sv% =  the fraction of goal scoring attempts conceded that is scored). It’s as simple as that.

PDO = 1000 * (Sh% + Sv%)

Does a high shooting or saves percentage gives your team a good chance of winning the match at hand? Certainly! But does it provide a solid base to build your future on? No, definitely not.

The single thing  to get your head around in order to get to grips with the concept is that what constitutes Sh% and Sv% in future matches is for almost 90% random and only just over 10% correlated to the previous performance. Again, see previous post

Now, what can we rely on then? Of all representatives of a good performance, parameters like points won, goals scored, shots taken , etc., the best correlation is found for the total shots ratio, or the fraction of shots in a particular match that is taken by your team. Future performances show over 60% correlation with historical data, making this the best predictor for future performance…

 

The ‘Lokhoff’ effect

Now, with the theoretic part out of the way, let’s get to the fun part. The graph below is a simple illustration of VVV’s points per game (PPG) over the course of the 2011/12 Eredivisie season.The graph shows the cumulative average points per game, restarting when the new manager was appointed.

Managed by Belgian Glen de Boeck, VVV found themselves struggling to avoid relegation and finished the first half of the season on the 17th place in the table, five points behind the safety of the 15th spot. De Boeck was fired, and experienced manager Ton Lokhoff was installed around Christmas time. With the season now over, VVV finished in 16th place and came one point short to avoid the relegation play-offs…

Points per game (PPG) under De Boeck (first half of season) and Lokhoff (second half of season)

In terms of PPG, the installment of Lokhoff certainly coincided with an improvement. During the first half of the season, managed by De Boeck, VVV obtained 0.59 PPG, never topping the 0.65 mark after more than a few games had been played. Under Lokhoff, however, VVV lived the dream and started out brilliantly, before settling down to finish at 1.24 PPG. With that rate, they would have finished a full season at 42 points, enough for a comfortable 12th place. Note that the graph, as well as the next ones, use a cumulative average over the course of the season, and that this cumulative average is reset upon the installment of the new manager. In other words, the number shown at match day five is the average PPG over the first five matches and the average shown at match day fifteen is the average over the first fifteen matches.

 

Luck or skill?

The key question now is, was De Boeck unlucky when managing VVV, or did Lokhoff really improve the performance. In order to answer that question, we can look at the PDO and the Total Shots Rate (TSR) for both parts of the season.

VVV's luck (PDO) and skill (TSR) in the first and second half of the season

In this graph it is well illustrated that the season started out with the PDO developing pretty close to the 1000 mark, which indicates a neutral amount of luck came VVV’s way. Later on VVV rode an unlucky series, with the PDO slowly tailing off, even as far as to finish the first half of the season at a dramatically low 970. The TSR, meanwhile, reflecting the sustainable level of performance, was ever increasing throughout the season and finished at 0.333, not high in absolute terms, but steadily rising as a sign that De Boeck got his team improving as he went along. The combination of an improving performance and the dropping PDO resulted in the rather flat PPG.

Under Lokhoff, VVV started brilliantly in terms of their TSR, but as more matches were played this extreme level of performance proved unsustainable, but they still showed an improvement over De Boeck’s 0.333 and finished at 0.400. However, following the trend in TSR under De Boeck, VVV might well have finished the season around the 0.400 level too!

A short bump in PDO helped VVV to their excellent start under Lokhoff. All in all, they finished the second part of the season with a PDO of 1010, mostly due to a rise in the final three matches, thereby compensating for the decreasing TSR, overall resulting in an upkick in PPG in the final three matches.

 

The ‘McClaren’ non-effect

VVV showed an remarkably different pattern of performance under both managers, as indicated by the rising TSR under De Boeck and the falling, though higher, TSR under Lokhoff. Twente’s story is quite a different one. Their season started out brilliantly, with the team winning their first four matches and eventually settling around the 2.0 PPG mark. During the winter break, manager Co Adriaanse was fired, not so much because of a lack of result, but because of communication issues with the players as the story ran. The return of manager Steve McClaren brought an excellent start, but soon the team’s performance faded and the season ended dramatically as McClaren finished way below expectations at 1.59 PPG.

Twente's points per game (PPG) curve under Adriaanse (left) and McClaren (right)

Let’s study Twente’s PDO and TSR to look for an explanation as to why McClaren started well, but faded so dramatically.

Under Adriaanse, Twente’s TSR was relatively stable, as was their PDO. However, their extremely high level of a PDO of 1068 over the first half of the season always seemed unsustainable. Twente’s high level of PDO held on almost during the entire season, even increased during McClaren’s first 8 games, but finally came down. Some awfully back luck saw McClaren’s team return to average in order to finish the second half of the season with an average PDO of 992.

Twente's luck (PDO) and skill (TSR) in the first and the second half of the season

 

In the end

Simple curves, yet interesting observations. VVV manager Glen de Boeck was fired after running into some bad luck, with the team’s PDO falling dramatically. Despite his steadily increasing TSR, which indicates an improving performance, this drop in PDO prevented his team from getting the points that their improving performance deserved. De Boeck’s successor Lokhoff did improve the team initially, but his TSR is dropping ever more, indicating that that initial bump in improvement will not hold for the long run. Assisted by a run of better luck he got off to a flying start.

At Twente, Adriaanse got the team performing at a rather constant level, around a TSR of 0.6. However, Twente’s PDO level over 1060 was never going to hold in the long run. Under McClaren, Twente’s performance initially dipped, but improved near the end to finish the season at the same level as under Adriaanse. However, a return to average PDO levels made the performance drop dramatically, a development that was just waiting to happen.

Roda 3 – 1 VVV: Home side more efficient, but VVV show their potential

Coming off four straight wins, VVV went into this derby clash with some expectations. New manager Ton Lokhoff took over at the end of 2011, to see his team take five wins from the first seven matches in charge, only losing away at relegation rivals Excelsior and newly promoted RKC. Away at Roda, who came of three straight losses themselves, things looked a bit different though. VVV were actually closer than the final score line suggests, but failed to capitalize on the opportunities they created in their excellent first half. After the break, Roda manager Van Veldhoven fixed his team in order to run out clear winners come the end of the match.

 

Roda’s 4-4-2 diamond

The starting line-ups. Note Timisela's advanced position, adding weight to VVV's potential understrength in midfield.

As usual, Roda lined up in their 4-4-2 diamond formation. Always posing interesting questions with this formation, Roda’s two strikers are an exception in the 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-2-3-1 dominated Eredivisie. Ajax countered them with a three men defense in their three clashes this season, much like N.E.C. did quite successfully the year before. Other teams just expect to deal with the expected 4v3 midfield situation by exploiting the flanks, a notable potential weakness of any diamond midfield.

In personal terms, three important members of Roda’s presumed starting eleven returned to the pitch for this match. Back form suspensions were goal keeper Kieszek and deep-lying playmaker Vormer. In defense, left-back Jimmy Hempte returned after missing the better part of three matches due to injury, three matches that Roda indeed lost. Upfront, red hot top scorer Sanharib Malki, who just saw his contract extended at the club, former the usual partnership with Mads Junker.

 

VVV’s 4-3-3

Manager Ton Lokhoff did turn things around in his spell in charge so far. Result-wise this has been shown in the fact that VVV picked up 15 points in his 8 matches in charge, compared to just 10 points in their prior 17 matches. In terms of playing style, he introduced a fairly direct inverted winger 4-3-3 formation, aiming to exploit the pace of winger Wildschut and striker Nwofor. To be fair, he did have the luxury of some important players added on loan during the winter window, with Danny Holla providing a stable passing base for the midfield three, and young winger Steven Berghuis adding to the trickery of the offense three. In defense, Ismo Vorstermans, on load from Utrecht, helped his team, with VVV winning every Lokhoff managed match where they conceded one goal or less.

 

The first half

Roda started quite aggressively, in the positive sense of the word. Their urgency in the first ten minutes allowed them to dominate possession, and like they prefer to do, to circulate possession through Ruud Vormer, for the blonde midfielder to open up the opponent with his excellent long and short passing skills. However, after about ten minutes, VVV fixed this issue, as tenacious midfielder Marcel Meeuwis started to man-mark Vormer out of the equation fir the remainder of the first half.

Roda’s passing became increasingly hurried, with both central defenders often bypassing the midfield, and ending up losing possession due to incomplete long passes. An important aspect of VVV’s successful first half was the role played by right-back Timisela. He advanced into midfield, thereby pressing Roda midfielder Ramzi and fixing the potential 4v3 issue that VVV could have had in this diamond vs 4-3-3 situation.

With Roda struggling to make the best of the majority share of possession, it was VVV who created the best quality chances. Striker Nwofor hit the post with a nice bicycle kick and saw another attempt just pass the wrong side of the post after an intelligent Berghuis through-ball played him in behind Roda’s defensive line. Finally, it was central defender and Japanese international Maya Yoshida who put VVV in front by responding first to a rebound after Danny Holla hit the bar with a long range direct free kick.

 

The second half

One might have expected VVV to continue their excellent first half performance, but the second half showed quite a different story. VVV had problems covering the space in front of their defensive line, as their back four seemed to drop just a bit deeper, with their front three still playing quite high up the pitch. As a result, Roda’s four men midfield got more space to work, resulting in Vormer being able to see much more of the ball in the second half.

VVV’s lack of grip on their opponents was well illustrated in an early second half series of Roda chances, and who else but Roda top scorer Malki managed to put his team level with VVV after Roda exploited one of VVV’s many early own half turnovers of possession. Shortly hereafter, another early turnover provided De Beule with a shooting opportunity to make it 2-1 for Roda.

VVV manager Lokhoff took off midfielder Kruysen and winger Berghuis to bring like-for-like substitutions in the form of Linssen and Cullen. It proved difficult for VVV to regain control of the midfield area, the terrain where they clearly lost out early in the second half. Roda started circulating the ball with more confidence, and sitting on a 2-1 lead now, could apply more patience in possession.

With a red card for VVV defender Yoshida, after a foolish elbow on Mitchell Donald, the match seemed over. VVV did chase the lead, squandering one big opportunity as Wildschut failed to crown an excellent solo run when Vukovic cleared his attempt off the line, but it was Roda who put the game beyond doubt when Malki scored his second of the game from the penalty spot.

 

In the end

A match between two teams with different playing styles and formations always makes for entertaining stuff. And this edition of Roda – VVV was no exception. VVV managed to exploit Roda’s weakness in possession by creating a lot of first half opportunities with their pacy inverted wingers and the positional awareness of striker Nwofor, but they had themselves to blame for leading by just one goal at half time.

In the second half, Roda took control of the midfield, as VVV granted too much space between the lines of their 4-3-3 formation. Ruud Vormer took control of Roda’s passing game, much as their manager Van Veldhoven likes to see, and his 87 ball contacts outshone not just VVV’s players, but his team mates as well. On top of that, he managed to win 12 duels, initiating some of those important early turnovers that Roda exploited for their first and second goal of the game.

In the end, VVV did show their newly installed qualities in this match, but just fell short in terms of efficiency using their first half goal scoring opportunities. Roda deserves credit for jumping on their opportunities early in the second half, with top scorer Malki putting them on the right track.

Heracles 2 – 2 VVV: Bad pitch, bad weather, bad footb….

It may not have been the best of matches to watch, but VVV will definitely be happy coming away with a point after being 2-0 down at half time. Heracles easily dealt with VVV’s split 4-4-2 team in the first half, as they simply regained possession every time the ball was played up to VVV’s strikers who missed any connecting midfielders. In the second half VVV did connect to their forwards and imposed a physical direct game that proved too much for Heracles to deal with in the end.

 

Heracles’ 4-3-3

It may not be entirely due to coincidence that Heracles has not featured on 11tegen11 before in this season. In spite of the black-and-white contrasting on their striped shirts, their performances have been quite grey so far. Manager Peter Bosz has had a hard time facing the difficult task of succeeding Gertjan Verbeek after last year’s most successful season in the club’s history led them to a sixth place.

On top of that, Bosz has to do that without last year’s top scorer Bas Dost who was sold to Heerenveen in the past summer transfer window. Samuel Armenteros regularly features in the striker role now. He possesses the rare combination of a Swedish and a Cuban passport and was picked up, ironically,  from Heerenveen on a free transfer in the summer of 2009.

The starting line-ups

Bosz plays a 4-3-3 system with Heracles with split wingers upfront. On the right, Darl Douglas plays a classic outside winger role, aiming to run at his marker and provide crosses into the box. On the left side Brazilian striker Everton plays more of an inside forward role, aiming to connect with and provide support to the lone striker where possible. This regularly opens up space for Heracles’ left-back Mark Looms to run from deep and double up on the wing.

 

VVV’s direct 4-4-2

VVV manager Jan van Dijk traded the 4-2-3-1 of the beginning of the season for a two striker formation. Where the 4-2-3-1 seemed more fit to suit the trio  of Portuguese talents loaned from Porto (Josué, Chula and Viana), the 4-4-2 and the direct playing style that VVV lent to it, seems to suit the another trio better. Nigerian youngsters Nkume, Uchebo and Musa all featured nearing the end of the Heracles game, offering a physical advantage rather than a technical which would have been the case with the Portugese players.

 

The first half

The match was clearly influenced by the dire state of the artificial pitch in Almelo. Players experienced all sorts of trouble to stay upright during any turns and running at speed was an awkward situation indeed. Heracles, the home team, dealt best with these circumstances at first. VVV took a rather deep stance, keeping their midfield four very close to the back line. This led to the problem of a ‘broken team’ as there was an immense distance to the two strikers, which hampered their plan of launching high balls forward in search of the aerial presence of Ruud Boymans of the speed of Nigerian youngster Ahmed Musa.

Heracles simple regained possession almost as soon as they’d lost it and the sheer quantity of possession in their opponents half was going to create chances anyway. To enhance this process Bosz regularly had his full-backs involved as VVV’s wide midfielders were tucked in anyway. Shortly after VVV’s Musa missed a one-on-one opportunity in a rare successful break, Heracles took the lead. Left-back Looms illustrated his offensive presence with a cross that found the head of Everton who expressed his striker qualities with a good header to put his team in front.

Fleuren (left) and Douglas battling it out in rainy circumstances

Heracles were quick to add to their tally as striker Armenteros scored a blasting volley after controlling the ball on his chest himself. VVV were definitely in need of some tactical refreshment as their unsupported striker pair was never able to hold onto the ball and Heracles’ dominance of possession in VVV’s half of the pitch rightfully saw the home team 2-0 up at half time.

 

Second half chances for VVV

And chances there were. Not only did VVV push up quite a bit higher in search of a connecting goal and a chance to get anything out of this match, they also advanced the stance of the wide midfielders and gave central midfielder Van Kouwen more of a license to go forward with Balasz Toth keeping an extra eye on defense. As a result, Boymans was all of a sudden able to connect his headed lay-offs to his teammates rather than ending up giving the ball away time and again.

It was no surprise that if VVV would score that it would be through one of those headed Boymans lay-offs. The strong VVV striker used all of his physical abilities, even so that his marker Van der Linden came away from the challenge with a broken nose, and completed the move himself. With Heracles’ captain Van der Linden now out, Boymans became even more of a physical threat and VVV aimed to captitalise on this by adding tall Nigerian striker Uchebo, 1.94m / 6’4”, to the strike force.

In the dying seconds of the match it was exactly that man, Uchebo, who came up with the equalizer to give VVV a point in the end. Manager Van Dijk saw his tactical choice for physical presence and a very direct game on this terrible pitch rewarded with VVV’s first draw of the season.

Michael Uchebo celebrating his dramatic equalizer

In the end

At half time Heracles never looked like losing. In full control of the game they looked ready to work on the goal difference instead. But it was quite frankly the chance in VVV’s approach that seemed to take them by surprise. VVV battled their way through, sometimes literally, as Van der Linden could tell, but were able to come away with a draw in the end.

Feyenoord 3 – 0 VVV: Midfield problems frustrating Feyenoord…

Feyenoord managed to recover from their historical 10-0 defeat at the hands of PSV last weekend. At least in the sense that they managed to get the three points playing VVV at home. Despite this positive result, their performance did not provide the sparks of light that may have been hoped for.

Feyenoord

Feyenoord’s formation has been described merely as a 4-3-3 before and despite all that’s been happening at the club recently, Mario Been is not one to change his tactical plan. His Feyenoord play a rather flat back four with only left-back De Cler getting involved on the flank at times. The midfield triangle against was composed of Mokotjo, El Ahmadi and Bruins, in decreasing order of defensive responsibilities. All three midfield players tend to change positions quite frequently, which could have worked well in a settled team, but to the current Feyenoord team it seems to add to the instability that characterizes the team.

The starting line-ups

VVV

VVV’s season has not been covered in glory either. Managing just two wins and losing all other eight matches going into this match, Jan van Dijk’s side are ranked 17th and the fear of relegation starts to appear. They operate a 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 system in their home matches, but tend to go for a more stable 4-2-3-1 in away matches, as they did today too.

Hesitating

The opening phase was definitely proof of the fear that had settled in both teams. VVV refrained from pressing Feyenoord, except from deep in their own half and Feyenoord did not succeed in stringing a few passes together in their opponent’s half. Despite a very low speed of ball circulation, Feyenoord’s midfield passing accuracy was dreadful, making it fairly impossible for the team to feed the ball from defense to attack. One of the things that contributed to their midfield problems is that all three central midfield players rotated too frequently, making it difficult to play repeat patterns both for themselves are for their teammates.

The first half effectively blew over without much incidents or tactical issues worth mentioning. VVV seemed happy enough to settle for a draw and Feyenoord, as could be expected, still suffered a lot from their recent 10-0 blow.

Goal-line technology?

Yes, indeed… More fuel for the goal-line technology discussion arose when Josué cleared the ball from behind the goal-line after a Wijnaldum header. Although Feyenoord did not express the advantage on the scoreboard at that moment, it served to inspire the team.

VVV manager Jan van Dijk must have picked the hour mark to try and put his stamp on the game. He brought strong Nigerian striker Uchebo instead of attacking midfielder Josué, which implied that VVV played a regular 4-4-2 from that moment on. With both Boymans and Uchebo proving an aerial force, VVV turned to a rather direct play. A further sign of their attacking intentions was the increasingly advanced defensive line, playing an offside trap.

 

Backfire

Although an attacking change to their tactics might have won VVV some support, on the pitch it definitely backfired on them. The combination of VVV’s midfield being reduced from five to four players and the space they gave away behind their defensive line was exactly what was needed to unleash the powers of Feyenoord’s offensive thinking midfield trio. After having had a lot of trouble connecting their passes in the first hour or the game, El Ahmadi and Bruins succeeded in increasing their pass completion rate and Feyenoord started dominating the game in midfield.

It was only a few minutes after VVV switched to a 4-4-2 that Feyenoord scored the opening goal. Wijnaldum made a very well timed run from deep and was played onside with a through-ball by El Ahmadi. The youngster finished with a technically well executed lob to put Feyenoord in the lead. The sighs of relief coming from ‘De Kuip’ must have been heard around the entire city!

Georginio Wijnaldum celebrating the opening goal

Extending the lead

VVV pushed for an equalizer by playing a direct 4-4-2 game, aimed at getting the ball to one of their strong strikers and hoping for the best. Although a few small chances arose from these long balls, it was mainly Feyenoord finally stringing some combinations together in the opposing half.

In the closing minutes Feyenoord managed to score two more goal, one from a corner through a Bahia header and the other was scored by Wijnaldum again. Although it helped putting some smiles on Rotterdam faces for a changes, a 1-0 victory would have represented the balance on the pitch a lot better.

In the end

Relegation football it was and that about sums it up. Feyenoord at home against VVV should not be that type of game, but given the fact that it was only a few days after their historical defeat against PSV, this was perhaps the best that could be expected from a wounded Feyenoord side. Besides their severe midfield passing issues, perhaps not too much weight should be given to the tactical considerations in this match.

VVV did not get what they hoped for with their offensive choice to go 4-4-2 with half an hour to go, but it had itself to blame. Their poor execution of a high pressing defensive line and the subsequent offside trap were at fault for the opening goal.