Who: Stoke (14th) vs Watford (10th) When: Sunday 2nd October - 12PM Where: Britannia Stadium Stoke (or Sky Sports) Welcome to my preview of Gameweek 11s fixture, Stoke vs Watford. As it's me doing the preview, expect lots of football nerd ****, with lots of pretty graphs and pictures. Let's begin then shall we! Formations Stoke have primarily used a 3-5-2 this season, although have also used a 4-3-3 on occasion. Looking at the pass maps above we can see when building up out of the back they mostly play the ball to their wing-backs rather than moving the ball through the middle. The left side of the pitch seems to be their main focal point with the left side of the pitch (LWB/LCM/LCF) taking up more advanced positions than the right hand side of the pitch. We've also typically played a 5 at the back, although against Sunderland and in the 2nd half against Blackburn we lined up in a 4 at the back system, although as you can see our LDM (Choudhury) dropped deeper to receive the ball. With Sarr missing and Cathcart at right-back it was no surprise that our right hand side was lacking threat with Davis gravitating towards the left-hand side of Kamara/Sema. In the 4 at the back system our striker looks a little bit isolated. With Sarr heading off for international duty it hopefully means he'll be fit for this game which may give us more of a threat down the right hand side and give us a bit more balance if we play with 4 at the back. Style Of Play Some more pretty graphics, this quantifies a teams playing style by using a multitude of stats - some of which are self explanatory (Long Balls, Crossing) and some less so which are defined below: Deep circulation: when a team starts a possession, how long do they circulate the ball around the back before moving the play forward? The longer they wait moving the play forward, the higher the score for Deep circulation. Wing play: if a team has the ball in the central buildup area, how often do they play the ball out to the wings, compared to playing it forward centrally, backwards or keeping it in the central zone? The more often they play out to the wing, the higher the score for Wing play. High retention: of all the passes that a team makes in a match, how many of those are in the final third? Which translates to the question: once the team is in the final third, how long do they spend there? The more passes they make in the final third, the higher the score for High retention. Low block: when the opponent has the ball in the buildup area, how often do they play the ball sideways or to the wings? The more the opponent plays sideways or to the wings, the better the defending team is at restricting spaces through the middle, the higher the score for Low block for the defending team. Counterpressing: when a team loses the ball in the middle and attacking third of the pitch, how much time do they take before trying to win the ball back? The quicker they try to win the ball back, the higher the score for Counterpressing. Transitions: when a team wins the ball back anywhere on the pitch, do they move the ball forward towards the opponent's goal as soon as possible? Or do they consolidate/recycle possession? The more the ball is moved forward towards the opponent's goal early on in a possession, the higher the score for Transitions. There's some similarities between our 2 main systems namely our Deep Circulation (meaning we mess around with it at the back for ages) and Transitions (meaning we move it forward quickly once we've won the ball). These two stats may seem to conflict each other but I read it as - when we have a period of possession, we don't really know what to do with it and aren't effective at it - but when we win the ball off the opponent, that's when we try to do our damage. It's noticeable as well that our crossing has increased significantly when using 4 at the back compared to 3 at the back, although this is probably more of a result of having Davis on the pitch rather than anything to do with the system. Stoke are pretty much an all rounder team, with a slight focus on long-balls + crossing, which isn't much of a surprise. Key Matchups As we can see in the graph above, most of our offensive stats are mid-table range although 3 stats are some of the worst in the league, set-piece xG, set-piece shots and open play shots. The first 2 are of no surprise, we've been awful at set-pieces for some time now - however the number of open play shots we take is a surprise, compared to our xG + Shot Distance stats - to me this says when we take shots, they're generally from dangerous locations and good locations - however we struggle to create the shot in the first place. Stokes defensive stats are pretty average although they're good at pressing in their final third which is a concern considering our lack of ball-playing ability in that area. When we flip that round and look at our defensive stats and Stokes offensive stats there's one key area that sticks out: Set-Pieces. Stoke rank 3rd in the league for set-piece shots taken and 6th in the league for xG created from set-pieces, whereas we conceded a bunch of set-piece shots and set-piece xG - other than that our defensive stats are pretty solid and definitely play-off quality. Looking at their corners that ended in a shot (below) we can see that they like to play a chipped ball towards the back of the 6-yard area which is an area that we don't have any zonal cover in which may play into Stokes hands. The fact we start games slow is no secret, and that shows up in the data as well - with a big spike of our xG conceded coming in the first 10 minutes of the game. Worryingly Stoke have a spike of their xG created in the exact same time period so let's hope we start the game strong. Another key open play match-up that is a concern is our right hand side - this is an area where Stoke create a lot of their chances from and is an area where Watford concede a lot of chances from. When we look at Stokes key passes from those 3 areas we see a slight pattern This can be cleared up further by filtering those passes to low or ground passes So it seems like Stoke really like low passes into the penalty area from either the half space or wide areas and are effective at creating shots from those locations. Hopefully we have a good defensive fullback in these areas as this is an area I think we'll be weak from otherwise. Predictions - Stoke to score from a set-piece - Stoke to score an early (<20 mins) - Score draw (1-1) Hope you enjoyed this nerd fest!