Amazingly, we’re over a quarter of the way through the season already. Within that period, I haven’t had much time to reflect on what’s been a tough, but satisfying season. So here goes.
Having spent an injury-ridden season in the Championship with Newcastle back in 09-10, it was difficult to appreciate the size of the task ahead with QPR this season. Whilst I was part of the Newcastle’s promotion winning squad, I felt somewhat undeserved of the winners’ medal I received – this season gives me the opportunity to rectify that with QPR. And if we continue to further Loftus Road’s fortress-like status – having won five and drew one of the six home fixtures so far – automatic promotion could become a realistic achievement. Furthering this home form is pivotal to promotion – it was proven with Newcastle’s campaign.
Without becoming too hung up on our current league position – it’s only November after all – I was keen to understand just how the expert’s deemed our season so far. In particularly, how our performances compared to the rest of the league. I spoke with friends over at Prozone; they applied their performance model, enabling a comparison between performances.
Before you take a look at their findings. It makes sense to understand how it’s calculated.
Prozone told me:
Prozone use shooting data to understand the underlying performance levels of teams. By accounting for the type and location of shots taken and conceded, we can understand where a team ‘should’ be in the league table.
Ultimately, the low-scoring nature of football means most teams deviate above/below this position in the short run. A good example of this is Hull City in 2008-09; in the early part of the season they were third, but the underlying numbers suggested that this position was unsustainable.
Queens Park Rangers are currently third in the Championship. Given the way they’ve created and prevented opportunities, this cannot be described as a false position.
With this in mind, feast your eyes on the table below. Is your team punching hugely above their weight or can you count yourself unlucky? QPR fans – I’d like to hear your thoughts on our season so far.
Note: the standings suggest each teams current predicted position versus actual and not end of season predictions.
In truth there are 12 teams within three places of where Prozone would expect – they told me: ‘it’s difficult to have lots of teams spot-on because little things like goal difference can separate teams in the ranking.’
QPR’s position is hugely encouraging, especially at this stage of the season. It’s a testament to the club’s continuing transformation. Naturally, I’d like to see us sitting at the top of the table, but considering the number of players that have come in and out since the turn of the season, the team is still settling in. We’ve got plenty more to give, and in fact, could count ourselves as unlucky. Particularly, as Prozone suggests on a per game basis, we’re the best-performing team in the league.
Prozone continued with:
Offensively, QPR aren’t significantly above leave average.
They have 13.7 shots per game compared to a league average of 13.5
Given the location and type of shots taken, they would be expected to score 9.5% of these attempts, compared to a league average of 9.1%.
This means they create roughly average-quality chances.
Defence has proved to be QPR’s real strength this season.
The average open play shot QPR concedes only has a 6.1% chance of being scored.
The league average from open play is 8.5%.
Not only are they conceding low-quality attempts, they’re not conceding many of them either. QPR have allowed 9.8 open play shots per game compared to a league average of 12.8.
Along with the table and the points made above, we’re currently sitting in an extremely sustainable position. We’re consistently conceding lower open play shots per game compared to the league average. This tells me our defensive prowess is fundamental to our current league position, which is also echoed by Watford’s position. Whilst Prozone predict they should be top, having scored the most league goals this season, they’ve conceded many more than the top five teams – and almost three times as many as QPR; 6 versus 15.
A work in progress
Having established our current league position as true – in accordance with Prozone’s performance report – the build up to Christmas is essential as we continue to grow as a team, because as far as I’m concerned, we’re not even out of third gear yet. We’ve created a solid base, as proven in Prozone’s defensive analysis of our season so far, but we must now gel as a team and put last weekend’s defeat to Burnley behind us. This could be easier said that done though, because whilst the data suggests we may not be in a false position now, it’ll be challenge maintaining this over the coming weeks and months. Particularly, as Prozone discussed the difficultly of these games – as monitored in their performance analysis data.
I won’t lie. I’ll be bitterly disappointed if we aren’t fighting for automatic promotion come May. But the momentum we’ve built us so far should have us firing on all cylinders in no time, as the team helps the club return to its rightful home – the Premier League.