Tactical Snapshot: Bamford’s Movement, Ødegaard’s Workrate and Pogba’s Creativity
Our data analysts dive into Stats Perform’s advanced metrics to pull out the key tactical snapshots from the latest Premier League action. Data visualizations, AI models and the occasional Arsenal bias can all be guaranteed, as Jonny Whitmore and the team dive into the numbers each week.
Run Patrick, Run!
Few players typify Leeds United’s high-intensity pressing style more than Patrick Bamford. Leading from the front against Liverpool this weekend, only three players covered more ground than Bamford’s 10.7km in the match and only Raphinha (35) and Andrew Robertson (25) made more sprints than him (20).
His movement is not only energetic but also strategic. Against Liverpool, he made 18 pressures in the final third, the fifth-highest total at the weekend. A nice demonstration of this work rate could be seen in the 83rd minute when he stole the ball back off Thiago and nearly lobbed Alisson from the centre circle.
Bamford’s selfless performances continue to demonstrate why he earned his recent England debut. His touch map against Liverpool looks more like that of a central midfielder than a striker.
It’s sometimes easier to focus on the defensive side of his movement but his runs to open up space for teammates are also key to his role at Leeds.
Gary Neville, co-commentating on the game on Sunday, brought this to the attention of the Sky Sports viewers in the 53rd minute. “It’s not obvious to everyone at home watching because he’s had very little of the ball, but his positions have been good, and his runs and movements could cause problems”.
We can see exactly what these runs looked like using the Premier League Insight feed. The graphic above shows Bamford’s off-ball runs where he was targeted by a teammate. An off-ball run is defined as a sustained off-ball movement, made with intensity, in order to receive a pass or create space.
In a very open game, you can see how direct and central these runs were in an attempt to stretch and get in behind Liverpool’s notoriously high defensive line. Only Stuart Dallas (33) had fewer touches than Bamford (36) in the game, but he still made his mark.
Moves like Martin Ødegaard
Another player who worked tirelessly this weekend was Martin Ødegaard, who covered more distance this weekend than any other Arsenal player has done this season (11.2km).
Helped by his team’s dominant performance, much of his running was done off the ball during Arsenal’s press. Ødegaard completed a league-high number of pressures in the final third over the weekend (31).
A lot is inevitably said about his creativity at Arsenal but his ability to find pockets of space and decision making of when to press is an underestimated part of his game. This will be particularly important if Mikel Arteta chooses to play both Emile Smith-Rowe and the young Norwegian in his preferred starting XI, something we saw a glimpse of in a new look 4-3-3 formation during the last 30 minutes against Norwich.
Arteta has been crying out for high energy and work rate from his players and he’ll be delighted that he managed to secure his preferred signing in attacking midfield this summer.
Arsenal completed seven high turnovers against Norwich. They only managed more than this in four Premier League games last season. It’s taken four games for Arsenal to get their first win but with a near fully-fit squad and a favourable run of fixtures, Arteta will be hoping his system is finally starting to click.
Pogba: Assisted or Assister?
After a brilliant start to the season and with seven assists already to his name, the latest rumours are that Paul Pogba’s now considering signing a new contract with Manchester United. We’ve already looked into his expected assist numbers here but it doesn’t end there.
As pointed out by Opta Joe, his assist total (seven) is the most any player has registered in the first four matches of a Premier League season. Pogba already has four more assists than he did last season, despite playing five times as many minutes in 2020-21 than he has this year.
If he continues at this rate for the rest of the season, he will assist more than 66 goals. Kevin De Bruyne and Thierry Henry’s record of 20 assists in a Premier League season? No problem. But, as Graeme Souness will be sure to let us know, he can’t be doing this every game.
If we look at Pogba’s chances created this season, we can see how he has benefitted from the efficiency of his teammates. He has only created ten chances but seven of those have been scored.
Looking at this same conversion rate for players who created at least ten chances in the Premier League last season, the most efficient was only 32.1%. While Jamie Vardy’s teammates were very helpful in converting nine of his 28 chances created, Paul Pogba needs more than Cristiano Ronaldo to maintain a rate of 70% over the rest of the season.
In fact, we can see below in Manchester United’s expected goals plot that they have actually scored nearly five more goals than they were expected to score from the quality of the chances they had.
There’s no doubt Pogba is on target for an excellent season but assisting nearly two goals a game is clearly not sustainable. Assists are a metric that are very dependent on the players on the end of the pass.
If only Manchester United had the best player in the world starting up front for them… Whatever your allegiance, it must be nice playing in midfield in Paris or Manchester this season.
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