This weekend should have been the first weekend of the season, but we’re still recovering from last season and the big kick-off still a month away. Who knows whether we’re back in pre-season training or likely to play any friendlies? With the echoes of last season still with us, just about, here’s a quick statistical wrap up.
Our last regular game of the season at Shrewsbury in March saw us hit maximum short term (five game) form for the first time since Karl Robinson joined us.
Though this only shows short term form, it’s no freak, looking at more long term – a rolling 46 game points total – the Shrewsbury game saw us peak at 81 points. It’s worth noting that although we were on the way up, 81 points would typically be good enough for a play-off place so the idea that we were genuinely deserving of an automatic place is not a strong one.
At a match-by-match level, the season’s success was built on possession. Our average possession was 57%, going as high as 80%, ironically against Wycombe, in December. We also moved the ball around; completing, on average, 144 more passes per game than our opponents. Against Rochdale we completed 627 passes, the highest of the season, against Wycombe we completed 425 passes more, which is particularly remarkable given that they were league leaders. Passing accuracy was also high – 77% on average versus our opponents who averaged 64%. Against Rochdale and Wycombe our passing was 90% accurate.
Of course all that passing doesn’t mean anything if you’re not ready to shoot. If you don’t shoot you don’t score, as they say. The giddy period around September and October was the obvious peak of our powers; not only were we creating chances, we were getting them on target. On average 36% of shots were on target, peaking at 67% against Tranmere. Against MK Dons in December, we managed 13 shots, with only one on target; accuracy of 8%.
The dirtiest team in the division were Southend at home who committed 20 fouls, though with only 1 yellow card. Against MK Dons we committed 26 fouls twice our season average of 13. Those with a good memory will recall the man in black was one Trevor Kettle. We were generally good boys with no red cards, maxing out at four bookings on five separate occasions. MK Dons and Accrington both had five bookings. There were five red cards for our opponents all season.
For trends, we tend to look at the league because the cups throw up lots of anomalies. We only had 36% of possession and 226 fewer passes against West Ham in the League Cup, and, even our passing accuracy was lower. But, we created more chances – 17 – with nine on target, and four goals. Against Hayes and Yeading we completed 609 passes – which was more than two passes for each of theirs. We also created 31 shooting chances.
Against Manchester City we completed 334 passes to their 672, they maintained an accuracy of 88%, but we matched them in both shots (18) and shots on target (4). The dynamics of cup games are completely different so it’s difficult to draw any proper conclusions.
For completeness, the play-offs threw up some curious stats. Against Portsmouth in the first leg we had 45% of the possession – low for us – completing 336 passes – nearly 100 passes fewer than average and lower than our league game in November. Things improved in the second leg with 502 passes and 66% accuracy.
In the final, we had 77% possession and 531 passes with 82% accuracy, statistically, this was the fourth best performance of the season. We were a bit below par in terms of shots, and shots on target, but critically Wycombe had five chances, four on target and scored two goals. They play like a relegation team with results like a promotion team; a true freak of nature.
Josh Ruffels was our only ever present in the league with Rob Dickie one behind. Fifteen players scored in the league. Simon Eastwood kept 12 clean sheets, three more than the previous season.
What does it all mean? Hard to tell, there’s no obvious correlation between statistics and results, but it’s only one data set. Perhaps comparing one season to another will give some clues about form.