Euro 2020: Group A

Friday, June 11 2021

 

INTRODUCTION

Heading into the Euros, a lot of extra data and context must be considered when looking at potential team performances. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of the numbers are outdated from the qualifiers. This year has helped some teams but hindered others. Some have changed managers while others have lost players to injury, and a few have actually had time to improve. This is opened out as much as possible in these team and player based discussions. The opening data for each team, including top goal scorer and top assister, applies to the team's Euro 2020 qualification, but the deeper analysis will dive into their more recent results.

Before we get into Group A analysis, I would like to remind you that there is an opportunity to win free tickets into the Fan Team Fantasy Euro competition through the Premier Injuries YouTube channel and a chance for a share of the £1,000,000 prize pool. There are three simple, easy steps:

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Italy

    FIFA Ranking: 7

    Qualification Position:  1st / Expected Position: 1st

    Wins: 10 / Draws: 0 / Losses: 0

    Last 5 Game Form (Euro Qualification): WWWWW

    Goals Scored: 37

    xGoals Scored: 31 xG (2.47 xG per 90)

    Goals Conceded: 4

    xGoals Conceded: 9.1 xGA (0.9 xGA per 90)

                                            Top Scorer: Andrea Belotti (4) / Assister: Chiesa & Bonucci (3)


Italy head into this tournament as an exciting prospect, especially for clean sheets. They were one of the only sides to have a 100% record in qualification. The team will be looking to regain reputation and form after an embarrassing few years. The nation was left in shock as they failed to qualify for a World Cup (2018) for the first time in 60 years and also saw their lowest-ever FIFA rank.

They go into the tournament on a 25-match, three-year unbeaten run and manager Roberto Mancini has also promised offensive football. In February 2020, he said that there will be "no more defensive Italy" and, in 2021, "that Italy must always attack". 


Team News:

Immobile (£9m FanTeam / £10m Euro Fantasy) is in good form and is sure to be a starter, but he has not replicated domestic form into international output. Analysing his numbers, there is mixed data. That does not immediately attract me to him, especially in a highly defensive group. His 0.72 goals per 90 is impressive, putting him in the top 9% in Europe's Top 5 leagues. But part of this data is inflated by the fact that he takes penalty kicks. He has scored seven goals from the spot this season in all competitions. Removing penalties from his data, his shooting stats are normalised, and he is less appealing for his price tag. He managed a non-penalty xG of 0.44 per 90, which is in the 78th percentile, and his non-penalty xG per shot was very low at 0.13 or in the 37th percentile across Europe. Furthermore, the appeal of Immobile is diminished as it is not certain he will be on penalties, with Jorginho the most likely Italian to be on these.

Across the front line, Berardi and Chiesa may be fighting it out for the right-wing; thus, their pick is a little risky. Insigne is more settled on the left-hand side. This season he has been a good performer for Napoli; he has matched his xG through the season and is consistent with getting into good opportunities with or without penalties. His non-penalty xG is in the 83rd percentile.

Jorginho, Veratti and Barella will make up the midfield of the side. We have seen a record number of penalties in the World Cup, across Europe and in the most recent Premier League season due to VAR. Jorginho did not take Italy's last four penalties, but he was not on the pitch for these. In FanTeam, his price of £7m is a little high for someone whose only output is expected to be spot-kicks, and this is what put people off in FPL this season. However, Euro Fantasy Football have him slightly better priced at £6m, although I still believe it is pretty high.

Bonucci, Chiellini and Florenzi are starters at the back, but they don't have much goal threat. The left-back position is not yet clear who will be the starter. But I feel that Leonardo Spinazzola (FanTeam £5.5m / Euro Fantasy £5.5m) may not be as risky as some imagine. He has had six goal involvements with Roma this season and is the starting full-back for his team. In contrast, Italy's other left-back, Emerson Palmieri, only managed sporadic appearances for Chelsea.

Spinazzola, when compared to similar defensive players in the Big 5 Leagues across Europe, has put up some impressive data this season. He sits in the 97th percentile amongst defenders for xA per 90, 92nd percentile for Shot creating action per 90. His play style of carrying the ball into more attacking areas is reflected in the fact that his progressive carries are in the 99th percentile with 9.42 per 90.

Donarumma has potential for clean sheets, but Italy's strong defence means that he is unlikely to pick up many save points. However, an interesting statistical foible of Donarumma is that across his career, he has saved 15 penalties, 33% of all those he has faced. This season alone in Serie A, he has saved two.


Team Tactics:

The side is typically deployed in a  4-3-3, with attack being the focus of a moveable front three. There is rotation with the attackers, but the style remains the same: a central attacker, assisted by wingers, all of whom have an eye for goal.

The defence is a strong back four, with the veteran defenders good at stopping their opponents while comfortable playing out from the back. The wing-backs are overlapping and will bomb forward.


Switzerland

  FIFA Ranking: 13

  Qualification Position:  1st / Expected Position: 2nd

  Wins: 5 / Draws: 2 / Losses: 1

  Last 5 Game Form: WLWWW

  Goals Scored: 19

                                                       xGoals Scored: 20.9 xG (2.48xG per 90)

                                                       Goals Conceded: 6

                                                       xGoals Conceded: 5.3xGA (0.78xGA per 90)

                                                       Scorer: Itten (3) / Assister: Embolo, Mehmedi & Benito (2)


Switzerland are an interesting prospect. They have recently made headlines after they reached the final four of the UEFA Nations League (2020), beating Europes top-ranked side Belgium. They came fourth place, losing only on penalties to England.

Their qualification data may look impressive, and some may think that this time around Switzerland have solved their perennial problem of lack of goals. But when analysing their matches, ten of their goals came against Gibraltar, a poor footballing side. So when drilling down into the other fixtures, Switzerland only managed a more paltry nine goals in 6 games when playing more challenging opponents.

In 2020 the side had a seven-game run without a win, but towards the end of the year, the side managed commendable draws with Germany and Spain, then going onto a five game-winning run.


Team News:

There may be some value in this side which prides itself in defensive stop-outs. Yann Sommer is the first choice goalkeeper plus Manuel Akanji is a progressive centre back who likes to get involved in build-up plays with lots of passes into opposition areas and the final third.

But I feel the pick of the defensive players has to be Ricardo Rodriguez (FanTeam £5m / Fantasy Euro £5.5m). He looks like an intriguing asset as he managed a highly impressive 57.9% shot accuracy in European Qualifiers and averaged 2.73 shots/90, which is fantastic for a defender. Also, the newly added rules for FanTeam of accruing points for shots will mean he has the potential to maybe pick up points even for sloppy, speculative attempts on goal. Analysing his club level attacking data, one can draw further conclusion. No goals or assists and his numbers are not encouraging. Again he shoots a lot at club level. So what we can surmise is he likes to take lots of shots, but these are not necessarily of the highest quality as he averaged 0.04 non-penalty xG per shot. But there is added appeal as for Switzerland; he is on penalties and some dead balls situations. This is a player with a relatively good clean sheet potential in the group stages of some matches, plus attacking output is always near with a goal from a dead ball situation or a penalty.

There is some interest in Xherdan Shaqiri, but most of the community have made the right call as he is minority-owned, with only 2% of players having him in their teams in Euro Fantasy. He has not been a starter for Liverpool and has had little form for a long time. He tends to pull out performances for his country, but three-goal involvements in his last nine games for Switzerland is not that appealing, and he is pretty highly-priced in both formats.

Haris Seferovic is a complete avoid for me.  Euro Fantasy has completely overpriced him at £8.5m, and FanTeam have a more respectable pricing of £6.5m, but he is unlikely to get many goals, as are the whole Swiss team. Seferovic himself is not a clinical striker. His strength comes from his ability to hold up play, battle defenders and create opportunities for his teammates. But four goals in his last 13 appearances for the national team and a career total of 20 goals in 70 appearances for Switzerland does not indicate someone who should garner interest.


Team Tactics:

The Swiss manager is also someone who should be respected. Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of the Swiss national team since 2014 and has overseen the side's best performances on the international stage ever.  This has culminated in consecutive round-of-16 appearances at the 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup, whilst also guiding them to the aforementioned fourth place in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The manager knows that he will be fighting for second place in the group, and thus his priorities will be to get into the knockout stage by playing to his side's strengths. This will be through a strong defence. During the qualifiers, the Swiss were particularly hardy in not allowing opponents high-quality chances. In fact, the Swiss team were in the Top 10 for best defence with just 0.78xG conceded per game. They let in 6 goals and proceeded to top their group. The formations reflect their defensive nature with a 3-4-2-1 and 5-4-1 lineup typically deployed. This allows the side to transition between attack or sitting compact and be an impassable defence.


Turkey

   FIFA Ranking: 29

   Qualification Position:  2nd / Expected Position: 2nd

   Wins: 7 / Draws: 2 / Losses: 1

   Last 5 Game Form: WLWWW

   Goals Scored: 18

   xGoals Scored: 18.5 xG (1.53xG per 90)

   Goals Conceded: 3

                                                            xGoals Conceded:  7.2 xG (0.93xG)

                                                            Scorer: Tosun (5) / Assister: Çalhanoglu, Toköz, Türüç


Turkey are another side that have turned many heads, but one can also argue that this is a team where Euro 2020 might have come 12 months too late. When the side qualified, they did so with the best defensive record in European Qualification with only three goals conceded and eight clean sheets. This was all the more impressive when you factor that they shared a group with World Champions France, whom they managed to draw and win. Some have said this has proven their ability, especially defensively, to compete against more illustrious nations.

I believe part of this resurgence of the side has been down to the return of the legendary manager Senol Gunes who took the team to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002. Occasionally, people live up to and embody the myth. Gunes is someone who is revered across the nation.

But, as stated, the journey since qualification has not been plain sailing. Recently they have been consistently inconsistent. The side was relegated to League C in the Nation Leagues, but they started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a big win over Holland and a 3-0 thrashing of Norway. Their defensive steeliness seems to have abandoned them, which is a worry for many of the team's most interesting assets. The side have scored 15 goals but conceded 11 in their last six competitive matches.


Team News:

Cakir is the preferred goalkeeper for the side, but the defensive line is far from settled.  Although Celik holds the right-back spot, the left-back position is much more up in the air. I think Celik (£4m FanTeam / £4.5m Euro Fantasy) is an intriguing prospect as he has the potential for clean sheets, but also he was the most creative player for Turkey during their Euro 2020 qualifiers topping the team for Chances and Big Chances created. For a defender, he has good underlying attacking data. This season he has managed 0.13 goals per 90 and has been reasonably regular with shots too, 0.7, of which 33% were on target. But the xG total per game and xG per shot is not fantastic. He has been a fairly good assister to teammates with 0.09 assists per 90, 63rd percentile in Europe's top 5 leagues, and has been good for progressive passing with 4.58 per 90, of which 3.82 were into the final third, which is in the 86th percentile. If you believe that Turkey are a good defence to invest in for their clean sheets, then you can get a defender in Celik who has the ability to get some attacking returns as well.

Calhanoglu, Yilmaz and Under are safe bets in the forward line, but top scorer Cenk Tosun's knee injury means he will miss the tournament, and he is a significant absence. Calhanoglu can score, assist and is on set-plays, so of the Turkish forwards, he is probably the one with the most potential to have goal involvements. Calhanoglu will have the dead-ball duties, share corners with Under, but penalties will go to Yilmaz. In Euro Fantasy, the Turkish assets are priced slightly too high to attract me; they are in an extremely tight group with two other strong defences. But FanTeam's values make the decision to leave them out a little more difficult; the fact that penalty taker Yilmaz is £4.5m and Calhanoglu is only £5.5m does entice serious consideration. However, for me, the value is in the backline. A cheap goalkeeper or defender is enough investment in Turkey for now. 


Team Tactics:

Senol Gunes is a tinkerer, and some have said that this is what has cost the team recently. Although there is no set formation, some argue that he has moved away from what was earning the side success. Looking at their Euro qualification, the side used a 4-3-3 on three occasions, a 4-1-4-1 against France, a 4-2-3-1 plus 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 were both deployed on one occasion. Although the 3-5-2 was used in the game against Andorra when their qualification was safely secured.

Their defence returns to full strength due to the delays to the tournament. Demiral, the Juventus centre back, arrives fully fit to complete Turkey's best centre-back partnership, playing alongside Soyuncu.


 

Wales

   FIFA Ranking: 17

   Qualification Position:  2nd / Expected Position: 2nd

   Wins: 4 / Draws: 2 / Losses: 2

   Last 5 Game Form: DWLLW

   Goals Scored: 10

   xGoals Scored: 10.9 xG (1.33 xG per 90)

   Goals Conceded: 6

                                                 xGoals Conceded: 8.8 xGA (0.98 xGA per 90)

                                                 Scorer: Moore, Bale, Ramsey (2) / Assister: James, Bale (2)


The Welsh side are not having their fragile hopes of reaching the knockouts helped as there is trouble in camp. Manager Ryan Giggs is currently suspended by the FAW pending a court case, so they go into the tournament with Assistant Manager Robert Page taking charge. To be fair,  Page has made a reasonable start to 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Qualification for the Euros itself was not easy. Their route into the tournament was only sealed in the very last game in their group, plus half their wins came against the poor outfit of Azerbaijan.

But since losing 3-0 to England in October, the side has been relatively good. Wales have won 5 of their last eight games, drawing two and only losing 1. They managed a commendable draw with Belgium in their World Cup qualifying group. So they do have a little bit of form, but Turkey, Switzerland and Italy seem to be much better sides.

Adding to these worries, the squad is not great. The side does not have a first-choice goalkeeper of any team as Danny Ward, and Wayne Hennessey are backup for their respective clubs. The team also have an inexperienced defence. Stalwart Ashley Williams has retired, and those stepping up into the squad are youngsters Joe Rodon and Neco Williams. In addition, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have been in and out of form and fitness domestically.

Aaron Ramsey has been utilised all over the pitch for Juventus, and thus, he has not been settled. He clocked just over 1400 mins for Juventus this season, adding to the narrative that his move to the Old Lady has been a bit of a failure. When he has played, his passing data has been impressive with a fair involvement in xA of 0.23 per 90, 2.08 key passes per 90 and is in the 97th percentile for passes into the Final Third. But the sporadic deployment has meant that his goal output has been lacking. This season he has just two goals and four assists in all competitions, but again when he has been on the pitch, his numbers have been fair. His 0.3 xG per 90 has been good, and the shots he does take are high quality as he managed 0.15 non-penalty xG per shot. But these are just a few highlights in what is otherwise a worrying data set.

Up top, Gareth Bale will be the most exciting asset, but the team's low goal output is hugely off-putting. Bale himself has only two goals and three assists in his last 11 games for Wales. Their 1.33 xG per 90 puts them below other Euro avoiders like Finland, Slovakia and Hungary. Plus, they will be playing some of the meanest defences at the tournament. Since they qualified for the Euros, the side has only scored more than twice in one of the ten games they have played.

The Wales side itself seems to be an avoid for this tournament. The two other teams in their group are well-coached, well-drilled and have some formidable tactics plus players to see them through. In contrast, Wales are in a phase where their two best talents are ageing, and their youngsters are probably too inexperienced to be relied upon to produce much.

At either end of the pitch, there is not much to like. During qualification, Wales managed to keep their best performances for when they played at home, whereas away they averaged at least a goal conceded in every match. This culminated in only three clean sheets in total.


Team Tactics:

Tactically the side usually deploys a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-1-2. A lot of the team selection will be down to whether individuals like Ramsey and Bale are fit. If the side is at full strength, many of the positions pick themselves. One can expect Mico Williams and Connor Roberts as Wing Backs, Ben Davies, Joe Rondon and Chris Mepham as Central Defenders protecting the goal of Ward. If he is fit and ready, Ramsey will be deployed alongside Ethan Amapdu, Gareth Bale and Dan James as wingers with Harry Wilson up top.


Ben Dinnery and Jason McKenna take a deep dive into Group A here.

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Euro 2020: Group F

Monday, June 7 2021

 

The Group of Death

France

 

    FIFA Ranking: 2nd

    Qualification Position:  1st / Expected Position: 1st

    Wins: 8  / Draws: 1 / Losses: 1

    Last 5 Game Form: WWLWW

    Goals Scored: 25  

    xGoals Scored: 27.8 xG (2.11 xG per 90)

    Goals Conceded: 6 /  xGC: 6.4 xGA ( 0.53 xGA per 90)

                                                             Top Scorer: Giroud (6) / Top Assister: Greizmann (7)


France are the current World Champions, and the side has a scary level of strength in depth. The country seems to have perfected youth development as the names of those he has left behind could make a team that would be a hot favourite to win the tournament as well. They have stability with the same manager that saw them win the World Cup and the team are consistent in their play.

They qualified in good form but did have a loss against Turkey. Also, one can argue that in the context of the opponents of which France played, the 2.5 goals per game average is not amazing. But they won their group with the best defence in terms of xGA 90 data of all teams in qualification.

The team has been in good form since qualification too. They topped a hard group in the UEFA Nations League, which contained Sweden, Croatia and Portugal. Most importantly, for their "group of death" appearance, the French side managed two 1-0 wins against Portugal in the Nations League. This may bode well for their Group F match against them. In their most recent six competitive matches, the side have five wins out of 6; a draw win the Ukraine is the only slight blemish. Eleven goals and 4 conceded shows that the team has strength at both ends of the pitch going into the tournament.

One other brilliant point about France is that the team pretty much selects itself, and so heartache from a big asset missing out is unlikely.


Team News:

The question is who to go for. Arguably in the first draft, no one. Germany is their first opponent, and it will be an incredibly tough game, so maybe hold out on the Mbappe's, Greizmann's and Pogba's for now. However, Germany are not the side they once were, and Hungary are up next; thus, their most challenging match is saved for Matchday 3. This may make you feel comfortable owning Les Bleus players from the start.

The side is most likely to line up as a 4-3-3  with Lloris in goal, Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe and Hernandez in defence. In the midfield, it will be Rabiot, Kante plus Pogba and upfront  Griezmann and Mbappe will flank the striker, either Giroud or Benzema. Of these players, Rabiot, Hernandez and Benzema or Giroud are the only players likely to face rotation. Lucas Digne may be deployed on the left, and Kingsley Coman may be used as a more attacking outlet in games France feel confident in dominating. Karim Benzema's notable absence from the France squad has finally been rescinded. But Olivier Giroud does an amazing job for his National Team. He is gunning to be their all-time top scorer, and his assist play is integral to Les Bleus’ style. Giroud makes those around him play better, and in qualification, he was the top goalscorer showing his importance to the squad.

Looking through the assets, I have to start with a bit of an interesting revelation. I love N'Golo Kante as much as the next person, but the fact that he is the second most selected midfielder on Euro Fantasy is beyond baffling. He is not a bargain player and has no real Fantasy appeal as goals or assists are unlikely. He is the defensive shield for the side, allowing the other players to work in attack.

Going forward, I feel the Matchday Two, against Hungary, is great and enticing, but again their final group encounter is going to be a hard as they play Portugal.

This initially makes me wary of loading up on their defensive assets.  Lloris could get clean sheets, but at his price, I feel there are more assured keepers with his output, plus the defenders of France are not particularly attacking, and thus I am reluctant to start with one in my team.

The main attraction will be the devastating front line that France possess. Griezmann manages to turn up big for tournaments with a Golden Boot in Euro 2016 and the 2nd most goals at the World Cup in Russia in 2018. He will be on free kicks. What is interesting to me is that there does not seem to be a set penalty taker as Giroud, Mbappe, Benzema, and Greizmann have all taken one recently. What could be the settler for many is price. In Euro Fantasy Mbappe is £12m and Griezmann is £11m. FanTeam differ with Mbappe at £13m and Griezmann at £10.5m - I think they are both great picks.


Team Tactics:

The France team play a quick build-up approach, not necessarily focused on possession. Instead, with the idea of getting the ball up to their striker, to force mistakes and pounce on weakness. They are pragmatic as they will play whatever type of football needed to win, and the lack of dependency on one out and out style is because they play so many types well. Some of their creativity will come through the wings, but Paul Pogba is deployed in his strongest position and played to his strengths. He finds the important through balls that go between the lines causing the most organised of defences chaos. Overall they can cross, they can play the ball long, or France can find the all-important pass to get shots in the box off.

Defensively the side are incredibly good. They counter-press well and cause their opponents to make mistakes winning the ball high up. But if this is not successful, then they are able to quickly regroup and recover the ball in their own half as well. They don't allow many shots against them, and those that get through have to beat the formidable Hugo Lloris. Though he is not the goalkeeper he once was, he is still a safe pair of hands and a great shot-stopper. There is hardly a weakness in the defence or in the attack of the side. The only problem, for me, is the set of fixtures and the fact that other teams and assets have higher ceilings


 

Portugal

    FIFA Ranking: 5th

    Qualification Position:  2nd / Expected Position: 1st

    Wins: 5  Draws: 2 Losses: 1

    Last 5 Game Form: DWWWW

    Goals Scored: 22

    xGoals Scored: 21.6 xG (2.79 xG per 90)

    Goals Conceded: 6

    xGoals Conceded: 6.4 xGA ( 0.53 xGA per 90)

    Top Scorer: Ronaldo (11)

    Top Assister: B. Silva (6)

 


The current holders go into this tournament with some positives and some negatives surrounding them. Their most recent competitive match form is mixed. They won the inaugural UEFA Nations League beating the Netherlands 1-0 at home. But then the qualifiers were a humbling experience, and I believe that the side will be disappointed at finishing second to Ukraine. What will add to annoyance is the fact that they had the 2nd best xG per 90 and the 4th best xG conceded per 90 of teams in the qualifiers.

They finished second in the most recent Nations League group to France, so this will add worries for them in this group stage; in addition, their World Cup qualifying has not been great. They made hard work of Azerbaijan, drew with Serbia, and comfortably won against Luxembourg. Thus in their last six competitive matches, the side has one loss, one draw and four wins.

The team go into this tournament with one of the strongest squads it has had in recent years, certainly a lot stronger than the team that lifted the trophy in 2016. But it will be hard to get out of the group they find themselves in, and their way to the Final will be much more difficult this time around.


Team News:

For Fantasy prospects; you have to be tactical with your choices as the team have a great opening fixture. However, after that, the games are difficult: versus Germany and France. Thus, I think that Portugal will want to get a big win against Hungary on the board, but fixating on that one match may come at a cost.

I think the goalkeeper is a big weakness. Patricio has a lot of mistakes in him, and since he arrived in the Premier League, he has not managed a positive xG prevented of goals showing that his shot-stopping abilities are weak.

Joao Cancelo (£6.5m Fan Team/ £6m Euro Fantasy) is a fantastic player and goes into the tournament after becoming the archetypal Guardiola wing-back with amazing ball-playing abilities. He will be nailed alongside Ruben Dias, who has gained so many plaudits for his first season in the Premier League. Pepe or Fonte will partner him centrally. The erraticism of Pepe adds worries, and Fonte is a great performer, but his age is a concern as well. Guerreiro will probably start on the other side of the pitch, but he may have his position under threat from breakthrough starlet Nuno Mendes.

If you are going to invest in the Portuguese defence, then I think that Cancelo is the go-to man. Looking at his data for the season, the man has had some monstrous performances for City and has three goals and four assists to his name. His xG per 90 is in the top 20% for full-backs, and his xA per 90 is in the top 12%. Although he is an amazing dribbler, being in the top 2% on the continent, as stated, his ball-playing abilities are as good as any midfielder, and his distribution quality is so good. He has 1.44 key passes per game, 6.49 progressive passes per match, and this means he is in the top 8% of defenders for shot-creating actions per 90 and in the top 13% for goal creating actions. He has huge potential to get a goal or an assist.

In the midfield, I feel that it is hard to call who will make it up. Even Diogo Jota's position may come under threat from Joao Felix; thus, the best three assets to look at in this side are Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, it may come as a shock that I would pick Silva (£8m FanTeam/ £8.5m Euro Fantasy) over Bruno Fernandes (£9m FanTeam / £10.5m Fantasy Euro) in this Portugal side. Although Fernandes has had a fantastic season with United, his output and role for Portugal is different and means that he is less likely to have goal involvements compared to Bernardo. Silva was second behind Ronaldo in qualifying for goals and also racked up six assists, whereas Fernandes had just one goal and one assist. Indeed in his last 14 competitive appearances for Portugal, Bruno has one goal and one assist, whereas Bernardo has four goals and eight assists in his last 15 competitive matches.

One of the biggest sealers is that Fernandes will only be on some of the set pieces and will not be on penalties due to Cristiano Ronaldo wanting them. I believe that Bernardo Silva is a great asset and very well priced in both FanTeam and Euro Fantasy.

Cristiano Ronaldo is much like the other elite strikers at this tournament. He does not need much selling as he will be leading the line for one of the fancied teams, and his qualities are well known.


 

Germany

    FIFA Ranking: 12th

    Qualification Position:  1st / Expected Position: 2nd

    Wins: 7  Draws: 0 Losses: 1

    Last 5 Game Form: WWWWW

    Goals Scored: 30

    xGoals Scored: 22.0 xG (2.71 xG per 90)

    Goals Conceded: 7

    xGoals Conceded: 10.8 xGA ( 0.92 xGA per 90)

    Top Scorer: Gnabry (8)

                                                             Assister: Reus, Kimmich, Ginter, Hector, Havertz (2)


In qualifying, the German side looked good in attack with the 3rd best xG per 90 and also the 3rd most goals per game record. But the defence was not as sturdy, with the team having a 0.92 xGA per 90. Overall they did well, though, to overperform defensively.

Since qualification, the side has been on the end of some humiliating defeats and performances that should worry potential owners of their assets. The team failed to keep a clean sheet in their Nations League appearances and suffered a humiliating 6-0 loss to Spain, their worst defeat since 1931. The 13 goals conceded means Germany have real concerns. The worries continued, though, after they lost their first World Cup qualifier in 20 years to North Macedonia.

At the end of Euro 2020, there will be a huge departure as Joachim Low will leave after managing the team for 15 years. Poor recent form left the German coach feeling that he had taken the side as far as he could, and someone else will be able to direct the path of the new younger generation.

One could assume that the players will want to send him off with a final hurrah, which I am sure they will. But he is departing for a reason, and it has been clear for a while. Their group stage exit (Russia, 2018) was the worst performance of a German side in the nation's history, and nothing really since has shown he has got a grip on the downfall.

He experimented without the old guard figures like Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels but recalled them after the Spanish exposed his team's weaknesses.


Team News:

Despite poor form, it is clear that Germany has a great squad going into this tournament.

Due to their patchy record in defence and the difficult group they find themselves in, I am reluctant to bring in any defensive assets. The fact that Joshua Kimmich is classed as a midfielder in both FanTeam and Euro Fantasy means I won’t consider buying him. The other defensive assets are just not attacking enough.

Tony Kroos ( £7.5m Fan Team / £7m Fantasy Euro) is an interesting option as he is on set pieces and penalties. He could be a cheaper way into the XI, but I feel that my attention should be focused purely on their attacking players. Leroy Sane, Havertz and Werner are tough picks to justify. They are not guaranteed and will probably be in and out of the side. The nailed starters up top for Germany seem to be Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry.

Serge Gnabry - £9m FanTeam / £9.5m Euro Fantasy - looks like a fantastic prospect. He has grown into one of the most important players for Bayern Munich and Germany over the last few seasons. At club level, his data is fantastic for a attack-minded winger. His 0.46 goals per 90 is in the top 8%, he is incredibly clinical with a 49.5% shot accuracy, and all this culminates into an amazing top 6% non-penalty xG per 90. This form has continued for the National Team too. During qualification, he was Germany's top goalscorer, and his output improves when playing for his country as he averages a goal every 109 mins compared to every 176 for Bayern. He also has 15 goals in 20 caps, as many as Timo Werner from 18 fewer games. At his price point, he is certainly one to watch and a fantastic asset to get in for the Hungary game.

Moving onto Thomas Muller - (FanTeam £8.5m / £9m Euro Fantasy) - he too has had a fine season. In 2020/21, he contributed 34 goal involvements (13G and 21A) from 41 Bundesliga and Champions League appearances for Bayern Munich. He has become an integral provider for his teammates as his top 1% Assists and xA per 90 data indicates. His passing is amongst the best and most attacking in world football combined win Top 1% (0.94) goal creating actions per 90.

The decision between these two amazing players is tough. On the one hand, on both FanTeam and Euro Fantasy, Muller is cheaper, and so you can spend your money elsewhere. But the fact that Gnabry has been in such good form for his country and is classed as a midfielder, meaning his goals count for more points, just tips the balance for me. If you want to invest in Germany, he seems the best option.


Team Tactics:

Germany usually set up in a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 structure. The side like to defend with a light press, winning the ball in their opponent's half. But I would argue that, so far, the recent results have shown this system to be unsuccessful. The side have allowed too many shots, and we have seen that they have struggled to keep clean sheets.

In attack, the side are slightly more successful. The quality of their midfield means Germany like to keep possession and work their way up the pitch in a controlled manner. They try to create overloads, but this can cost them. They take lots of shots per match and are fairly accurate too!


 

Hungary

   

    FIFA Ranking: 37th

    Qualification Position:-  4th / Expected Position: 3rd

    Wins: 4  Draws: 0 Losses: 4

    Last 5 Game Form:- LWWWL

    Goals Scored: 8

    xGoals Scored: 8.5 xG (1.06 xG per 90)

    Goals Conceded: 11

    xGoals Conceded: 11.4 xGA ( 1.8 xGA per 90)

    Top Scorer: Orban and Patkai (2)

    Top Assister: -

 

 


In their situation, it is reasonable to say that Hungarian assets are a total avoid. Unfortunately, the side will most likely finish bottom as Portugal, Germany, and France will try to score as many as possible against them to make sure they finish top of Group F.


Team Tactics:

In attack, the side will play in a 3-5-2 formation. The team are predicated on the long ball style. They play lots of long passes and cross the ball into the areas with little focus on keeping possession. This style works for them, though, as they manage to make a commendable xG per shot.

Interestingly, they switch to a 5-3-2 mid-block when defending, but they will press even with more bodies at the back. The PPDA (Passes Allowed per Defensive Action) of the side is low, but the success rate of their press is poor as they do not often win the ball back in their opponents half. Instead, they have to recover the ball in their own half.


Ben Dinnery and Jason McKenna take a deep dive into Group F here.

Please check out the Premier Injuries YouTube Channel: Like, comment and subscribe. 


 


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Dispelling Premier League Myths: End of Season Trends

Thursday, April 1 2021

 

As we enter the final straight, Premier Injuries has done some number crunching to fill the Premier League shaped holes in our lives. We wanted to identify any data trends that may affect teams heading into this period.  


We examined four major areas, and we have hypothesised based on myths and stereotypes that are often associated with the end of the season. So, we decided to investigate to see if there was any truth behind:

  1. Do teams drop off after reaching the "safe" 40-point mark? (if they ever do!)
  2. The "summer holiday" effect resulting in a downturn during the final eight games.
  3. Do teams with "Nothing to Play For" really see an effect on performances?
  4. Do teams heavily rotate at the end of the season?

This article will explore the first two phenomena that are often discussed when the season is heading towards its final fixtures. We want to see if these seasonal stereotypes hold up to data scrutiny.


Looking at the previous 3-4 seasons, we were able to come to some valuable conclusions concerning these sides' data. These conclusions include league-wide trends and focus on the "Main Team Grouping" that we identify within the Premier League:

  • The Title Hunters: Top Two teams fighting for the Premier League.
  • European Teams: Those sides in and around the European qualification places.
  • Midtable: Teams unlikely/unable to make it into a position that would grant them European football in the following season.
  • Relegation battlers: Those who are fighting to stay up.

These groups all have different needs and motivations for their playstyles, and thus it made sense to put them into these groupings. A relegation-threatened side, or one that is in the title hunt, may have players that are prepared to work harder and push through injuries.


MAGIC 40: Do we see a drop off after a team reaches the "safe" 40-point mark?


For our first investigation, we looked at the effect of reaching "Premier League safety". Our inspiration was the story of Watford Football Club. Perennially, the Hornets would start strongly, secure safety, and then enter holiday mode:

2015/16: Reached 37 points after 27 games, only earning an additional eight points more.

2016/17: Lost their last six games of the season after reaching 40 points.

2017/18: Got to safety (GW29) and then earned five from the remaining fixtures.

2018/19: Hit the "safe" 40-point mark early (GW27), then went on to earn 10 points from 11 games, including three consecutive defeats to end the season.

In Premier League vocabulary, there is the hallowed "40 points'' which is seen as the traditional safety net in terms of a team's ability to avoid the drop. However, in terms of this being the actual marker point, the BBC conducted a fantastic investigation into this phenomena. They looked into the likelihood of a team staying up from their point totals and concluded that the worshipful 40 points was, in fact, outdated, "having been the threshold for survival just once in the last 16 years."

Below, the table from the BBC shows that once you reach the 36-point mark, you are more than likely to stay up.

Thumbing through the annals of seasons gone. In 2002/03, West Ham set the record for the highest points total for a relegated side (42). In Premier League history, only two other teams have finished in the Bottom Three with 40 points. These were Sunderland in 1996/97 and Bolton Wanderers in 1997/98. So, historically speaking, 43 points should be considered the best lowest points tally. But, because the "Safety Net" idea is a psychological one based around the mythological 40-point mark, we thought we would follow suit.

Our investigation found that 71% of teams will continue to perform at the same level or above even after securing their top-flight status. In the "Title Hunters" category, Liverpool (2019/20) was an incredibly anomalous performance. In all the other seasons, the sides in First or Second position actually finished with the strongest PPG during the run-in.

Down the table, those with the most potential for a downturn in overall PPG are those sides placed in 7th-9th. These teams experienced a loss in PPG and averaged eight place drop (vs Rest of the League): Liverpool, Everton, and Arsenal. You have been warned!

There seems to be value, and potential for a significant upturn, for those teams positioned in 15th-18th. We saw an average increase of 7 places and a higher overall PPG vs Rest of the League, so Burnley, Brighton, Newcastle, and Fulham could all be potential risers.

Only once, in 2017/18, has the bottom side (West Bromwich Albion) taken their Points Per Game to above 1.0 and finished outside the Bottom Two. This basically writes off Sheffield United and this season's incarnation of West Brom, who will do well to exceed their current 0.62 PPG.


WE'RE ALL GOING ON A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Do teams suffer a downturn after the International Break?


In this investigation, we changed methodology by looking at a game week rather than a points total being the motivating factor in a change of output.

Another Premier League argument that is often discussed within the football community is the fact that many teams appear to lose focus as they approach the end of the season. Sheffield United in 2019/20 is a good example: having already achieved their goals, they took their foot off the gas… Smaller sides fight hard throughout, and following a long campaign, their focus may have already shifted onto planning for next season. However, as with all of these discussions, there could be several influencing factors.

Looking at Gameweeks 30-38 and comparing it to the first 29 rounds of the season, we found that, first and foremost, the data seemed relatively stable across the whole of the league. The PPG increased, teams do score more, but on the flip side, they also concede a greater number of goals during this period.

However, breaking it down into specific groups. The Title Hunters (Top Two) push on a fair bit. They earn more PPG towards the end of the season; they score a lot more and concede only slightly more than before. The push for a title seems to bring out the best in these teams as they move up from 2.43 PPG onto an impressive 2.51 PPG. What is also enticing is that these sides score a lot more, with 0.36 goals per game. The teams maintain a high-quality defence, although let in 0.04 more goals per game. But the Title Hunters keep focusing and find another level with the title within reach.

The data below shows that the teams vying for European positions are the ones with drop off in some data. Their PPG goes down, as does their goalscoring. But their goals conceded stays relatively stable.

This could be due to these teams focusing on defensive fortitude to cement their places as the season draws to a close. Some managers play more like Mourinho than they might care to admit. There could be many reasons, but the data shows that the European hopefuls are cagier when it gets to the "business end" of the campaign.

Mid Table teams remain relatively unaffected. They have a slightly higher Points Per Game from GW30 onwards with a marginally improved goals per game (0.1) ratio during this period. There is also some improvement from their defence with more steely performances.

There are no surprises, though, that the greatest drop off is witnessed within the relegation-threatened teams. Quite often, there are teams in 19th or 20th place who, on paper, have a mathematical ability to stay up, but the reality is that by GW30, they are "relegated already". This is very much reflected in the data: there is a downturn in PPG for these teams, but what is most pronounced is the defensive and offensive data drop-offs from these sides. In the remaining gameweeks, these sides score 0.14 fewer goals per game and concede 0.27 more goals per game.

You can watch the accompanying video on the Premier Injuries YouTube channel here

We hope you enjoyed the first part of our investigation into the end of season trends. Make sure to check out Part Two, where we discuss what happens when teams have "nothing to play for" and how much rotation affects team selection. 

 


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Ben Dinnery

Ben Dinnery

@BenDinnery

Ben is football’s leading injury specialist. The ‘go-to’ guru for big hitters like Sky Sports, ESPN and NBC Sports when they need data. Or the BBC, talkSPORT and the broadsheets when a quote is required. His unique insight has helped provide a better understanding of what is really happening in the treatment rooms.


Johnny Wilson

Johnny Wilson

@johnny_wilson5

Johnny is a respected physiotherapist and sports scientist, specialising in football injuries and rehab. Johnny has headed up the medical departments at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Notts County. Overseeing everything from player-specific training loads to pre-signing medicals. He has a proven record working with elite athletes in Private Practice and is regularly called upon throughout Europe to deliver presentations on the latest rehab innovations.


Matt Nesbitt

Matt Nesbitt On TipTV

@MattNesbitt16

Matt's short, unremarkable football career was ended by his own bad driving. His long, distinguished career as a football tipster was ended by his own good advice. Because bookmakers don’t like a winner. First, they closed his accounts. Then his members’ accounts. Then his tipping service. And now they employ him as a consultant. Funny old game.


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