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“The Invincibles” Arsenal 2003-04 Analysis (3) – Henry-Bergkamp Partnership

What is the traditional 4-4-2 forward pair partnership? Marziali and Mora (1997) had an argument about that in the book “Coaching the 4-4-2”. They argued that one player play as “target man” who is physically strong and good at heading. Also, he is able to play with the opposing goal at his back. The other player is rapid, quick with good individual skill, who likes starting from a distance and moving all over the attacking front. As the forward pair in the invincible team, I argued Henry-Bergkamp partnership was one of the best in Premier League history but it was not a traditional 4-4-2 forward pair partnership because of their 3 features:

Feature 1: Separation of Duties

Henry was the focal point of attack and Bergkamp had supporting role. This is supported by two evidences. Firstly, Henry scored 70% of forward players’ goal (exclude penalty) as shown in the following chart. However, it must be clarified that Arsenal was not a one-man team.

Forward players' goals distribution

Secondly, in terms of building up goals, Bergkamp was a more efficient player than Henry which I explained last week. On the other hand, they both contributed well in terms of assist.

Assist maker

They were in the top 3 players in making assist. This forward partnership was so important in the team because they made 41% of team assists. If we consider the efficiency of making assist, their contribution is more obvious.

Assist per appearance

They were the top 2 most efficient assist makers in the team and Pires dropped to third. In short, Henry focused on scoring goals and making assists. Bergkamp focused on involvement of build-up of goals and making assists.

Feature 2: Different playing areas on the field

Henry played mostly at left flank and moved to central area to score goals. This argument was supported by two evidences by analysing where he scored goals and where he made assists. By considering open play goals, Henry scored 75% in central area (most inside penalty box) and 25% at left flank as shown in the following diagram.

Where Henry scored open play goals

This evidence is not strong enough so we have to analyse where he made assists as well to see where he played mostly.

Where Henry made assists

Two results can be taken from this diagram. Firstly, Henry played mostly at left flank as he made 55.6% of assists on the left side comparing with 38.9% on the central area and 5.6% on the right side. Secondly, if we focus on the left side, you will realise most of his assists were made in the final 18-yard of left side (44.4% of total) while he only made 11.2% assists outside the penalty area on left side. The reason of it will be explained later in this post. Therefore, we can conclude that Henry played mostly at left flank and then drifted to centre of penalty area to score goals.

On the other hand, Bergkamp played more centrally than Henry and mostly spent his time outside the penalty area to provide support to teammates. As shown in the following diagram, Bergkamp made 70% of his assists outside the penalty area. His percentage of assists in central area and right side was more than that of Henry.

Where Bergkamp made assists

A comparative analysis could be made by making a table about where they made assists which shows their different playing areas.

Henry Bergkamp
Final 18-yard area 66.7% 30%
Outside 18-yard area 33.3% 70%

It supports my arguments above that Henry focused on playing left and scored in central penalty area while Bergkamp played more centrally and stayed outside penalty area in most of the time to provide support.

This is a video example showing their position. Even they both started on the left side, when the ball was moved to right side, Bergkamp tended to move to centre and Henry stayed at left flank until he moved to centre to score the goal in the penalty area.

Feature 3: Playing styles fit in each other

Henry was strong at attacking space behind the defence. This could be analysed by looking at the assists styles of Henry’s goals. Note that the goals from penalty and direct free kick were excluded.

Assist styles of Henry's goals (exclude penalty and direct free kick)

Three characteristics of Henry could be seen in this chart. Firstly, Henry was a striker who didn’t rely on crossing assist (15%). In a traditional 4-4-2 system, the strikers rely on the crossing from two wingers/wide midfielders but it was not the case in the invincible team. Secondly, he was good at exploiting space behind the defence because the largest proportion of his goals (30%) was come from through ball. It fits his styles as he was a fast runner. Thirdly, technically he was good because he could score goals by dribbling past his opponent (15%) and by receiving passes to his feet (20%).

Even both players contributed well in terms of number and efficiency of making assist, their assist styles were different. This is supported by two evidences. Firstly, Henry was strong at crossing.

Henry's Assist Styles

33% of his assists were made by crossing. It can explain why 44.4% of his total assists were made in the final 18-yard area on the left side which is mentioned above. If you consider two evidences, 66.7% of his assists were made in final 18-yard area and 55.6% of his assists were on the left side, the final 18-yard area on the left side is the overlapped area which was Henry’s key playing area.

Bergkamp was strong at providing through ball (penetrative pass to the back of defence).

Bergkamp's Assist Styles

The result of Bergkamp’s assist styles is more obvious than that of Henry. 40% of his assists by made by through ball. It fits the previous finding that Bergkamp tended to play outside the penalty area providing support.

The different playing styles of these two players brought out two main benefits. Firstly, they provided variety of assist styles to benefit the team based on their strengths. Secondly, Bergkamp’s assists style (through ball) fits Henry’s goal scoring style (attacking space behind the defence) perfectly. This is shown in the following video example:

In conclusion, I would like to use a table to summarise my analysis.

Henry

Bergkamp

Separation of duties Goal scoring + making assist Build-up of goals + making assist
Playing areas Left flank + final 18-yard area More central + Outside penalty box
Playing styles Attacking space behind defence + crossing Playing through ball

Their partnership was not a traditional 4-4-2 forward pair partnership. I argued that it was still an excellent partnership in Premier League’s history because they fitted in each other based on their strengths.

Reference:

MARZIALI, F. and V. MORA, 1997. Coaching the 4-4-2. Spring City: Reedswain

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Analysis of top 4 strikers in League 2 (2)

The analysis is continued following the first part last week (here). In the shot analysis, when treating unequal frequencies of starting appearances, the data are “normalised” by dividing the data by the frequency of starting appearances.

shot analysis

Although the other three strikers have at least 2.5 shots per appearance, T Pope had only 1.83 shots per appearance which is significantly lower than others. In terms of getting shot chances, T Pope is weaker than the other three strikers. On the other hand, A Akinfenwa showed his weakness as he only got 1.12 shots on target per appearance. N Wells and J Cureton are similar, both getting high number in shots and shots on target. Even T Pope got less chance to shoot; he still managed to get 1.48 shots on target which means he utilise the chances well. If you look at this chart only, you may wonder why T Pope is the leading goal scorer in League 2. It is all because he is particularly strong at catching the chances even the chances he get are less than others. This brings us to the next analysis chart: Accuracy rate vs Conversion rate.

Accuracy rate = no. of shots on target / no. of shots total

Conversion rate = no. of goals / no. of shots total

accuracy rate vs conversion rate

T Pope is outperforming others in this chart in both rates. In previous chart, N Wells and J Cureton showed they got more chances to shoot and they did well in number of shots on target. It is reflected in their decent accuracy rate (66% and 71%). However, conversion rate is their weakness (26%) and it explains why they can’t be the leading goal scorer even they got more chances. T Pope’s conversion rate (48%) is 22% more than them. A Akinfenwa did well in conversion rate (31%) but he is weak at accuracy rate (45%). From the above two charts, you may realise N Wells and J Cureton are so similar. They both good at getting shooting chance, have a decent accuracy rate but weak at converting chances into goals. T Pope is another type of striker who is highly efficient. A Akinfenwa strike a balance between both types.

where strikers scored

In analysing where the strikers scored, we can find out other characteristics of the strikers. A Akinfenwa is weak at long shot because only 8% of his goals were scored outside 12 yards from the goal line. It is reasonable if we combine the finding last week suggesting that he is strong at scoring by headers and in set play. N Wells is strong at scoring in 6-yard box (67%). Last week, we found out that he hasn’t scored any goal by header. If we combine both together, I guess that his goal scoring style is like “poacher” to catch the chances in 6-yard box by using his agility rather than strength. T Pope and J Cureton had a good balance in goal scoring area with T Pope stronger at 6-yard box and J Cureton stronger at 12-18 yard area.

Number of touch

This chart fits our finding beforehand. A Akinfenwa is strong at heading and he scored 92% of his goals within 12-yard area from goal. It is reasonable to see that he scored all goals by using 2 touches or less. N Wells fits his “poacher” style by scoring all his goals using 2 touches or less. In terms of using 3 touches or more, T Pope had the highest percentage (20%). If we combine our finding of his high conversion and accuracy rate, it can somehow show his composure in front of the goal by getting the best chance to score.

Time analysis of goals

We can find out the strikers’ particular goal scoring pattern by using time analysis. Firstly, A Akinfenwa is much stronger in second half, only 31% of his goals were scored in the first half. Note that 46% of his goals were scored in the last 30 minutes of the game. This may be explained by his strength and strong header to attack at the end of the game. N Wells haven’t scored any goal in the last 15 minutes of the game. It is reasonable if we sum up the previous findings. Usually there will be direct style and long ball in the last 10-15 minutes if a team is losing, but N Wells is not the same type of striker like A Akinfenwa. N Wells is strong at feet and agility rather than header and strength. T Pope’s goal scoring pattern is interesting. 70% of his goals were scored in the mid 15 minutes of the halves. Only 5% of goals were scored in the first 15 minutes of the halves. He may need time to “warm up” in the game before showing his goal scoring power. Then we move on to the assist analysis to see how the strikers’ goals were assisted.

assist style

J Cureton is stronger than others in dribbling which can create the scoring chance himself. A Akinfenwa and N Wells have no dribbling goals, that means they heavily rely on the support from teammates because they can’t create chances themselves. It is reasonable if we refer back to the characteristics of these two strikers. N Wells is strong at scoring in rebounds because 25% of his goals were assisted by teammates’ shots. It fits his “poacher” style mentioned above. Moreover, none of his goals were come from crossing. Surprisingly, only 20% of T Pope’s goals were assisted by passing. He relied on crossing (40%) more than other strikers. Then we analysed where the assists were. Please note that only open play goals assists were shown in the following diagrams.

A Akinfenwa: 

A Akinfenwa assist zones

As I mentioned last week, A Akinfenwa is strong at headers and set play. This diagram shows that his headers goals were heavily linked to set play. Therefore, only 40% of open play goals assists were from the flanks.

J Cureton: 

J Cureton assist zones

J Cureton’s goals were mainly assisted from the right flank and centre. If any team play against Exeter, they should pay more attention to defending at their left flank (particularly from 12 yard to outside the penalty area) because 35.7% of J Cureton’s goals were assisted from these two zones.

N Wells: 

N Wells assist zones

This diagram further supports my previous arguments about the characteristics of N Wells. He is strong at agility and feet, weak at headers and strength. He plays like a “poacher” but none of his goals were come from crossing. Therefore, this diagram is under expectation that 83.3% of assists came from centre. By using this diagram, we know more about how he scored. 33.3% of assisted were from 12-18 yard area. If we combine this with the previous findings:

  1. 67% of his goals were scored in 6-yard box
  2. 50% of assists were passing, 25% of assists were shots
  3. 89% of goals were scored by feet
  4. 100% of goals were scored by 2 touches or less

We can figure out a full picture how he scored open play goals: his teammates attack through middle of the pitch, making a pass or take a shot (particularly 12-18 yard area). If it is a pass, he would at most take one touch before the shot. If it is a shot, he would take the rebounding chance in the 6-yard box.

T Pope: 

T Pope assist zones

From last week’s finding, T Pope is an all-round striker. He is good at scoring by right foot, left foot and header as well. Even in this assist diagram, the assists covered a wide range of areas. These make defending the leading goal scorer a difficult task. However, it is still a useful tip to find out that 41.3% of assists came from centre.

I think the whole analysis process covers enough details to find out the characteristics of the strikers. This is the end of the striker analysis. I may make a review about striker analysis at the end of the season.

Analysis of top 4 strikers in League 2 (1)

Different strikers have their own characteristics in scoring goals. They can somehow reflect their teams’ goal scoring characteristics as well. We will focus on the top 4 goal scorers in League 2. The analysis is quite long so I divide it into two posts. The second part will be continued next week. The following table shows who they are, their team and the position in league table. Please note that all the data is updated to 28/12/2012.

Name

No. of goals

Team

Team league position

T Pope

20

Port Vale

2nd

J Cureton

16

Exeter

10th

A Akinfenwa

13

Northampton

11th

N Wells

12

Bradford

5th

 It seems that being a top team does not necessarily need a top goal scorer as only 2 of the top 4 strikers are playing for a team in the top 7 of the table which is the promotion playoff line. The other 2 strikers are playing for the teams in the mid-table position. However, I agree that a high quality striker can bring an average team into a top team.

no. of goals and percentage of team goals

Although T Pope is the top goal scorer, he doesn’t have the highest percentage of team goals. J Cureton is the striker whom the team relies on the most because he scored 47% of the team goals. It is worthy to note that all 4 strikers scored more than one-third of the team goals.

Apart from looking at the number of goals, we should analyse by looking at the starting appearance as well in order to understand the efficiency of the strikers.

goals per starting appearance

As the top league goal scorer, T Pope is the most efficient striker as well. He scored 0.87 goals per starting appearance. Note that J Cureton scored more goals than A Akinfenwa but A Akinfenwa is more efficient because he scored slight more goals than J Cureton in terms of goals per starting appearance.

We discussed how important the first goal before (here) so it is worthy to analyse the strikers’ ability to scored the first goal in the match.

first goal percentage

A Akinfenwa performed much better than other strikers in terms of first goal. 46% of his goals were first goal, which is obviously higher than that of T Pope (30%) and J Cureton (31%). His percentage of first goal is almost double the percentage of N Wells (25%). This is A Akinfenwa’s strength and people may ignore it if we don’t analyse the strikers from this perspective.

Then we move on to analyse the relationship between open play and set play goals. 

open play vs set play

T Pope (85%) and J Cureton (88%) scored most of their goals in open play, obviously higher than the percentage of other two strikers. N Wells struck a balance by scoring 50% open play goals. However, 25% of his goals were come from penalties. A Akinfenwa is particularly strong at scoring set play goals as 62% of his goals were from set play. Note than 31% of his goals were from throw-in which is much higher than other strikers. Moreover, he scored the highest percentage of goals in corner (15%) as well. He is a good example showing that the team top goal scorer can reflect the goal scoring characteristic of the team. Northampton scored more goals in set play (53%) than open play (47%). In all 18 set play goals, 50% of them were came from throw-in. The goal scoring pattern of Northampton and A Akinfenwa is almost the same even he scored only 35% of team goals.

Then we will analyse how the strikers scored the goals. 

goal type

Note that I have excluded the goals from penalty in this chart. T Pope shows he is an all-round striker and this may explain why he is leading goal scoring table. The goals he scored by using his right foot (35%), left foot (30%) and head (35%) were almost evenly distributed. J Cureton is particularly strong at scoring goals by right foot (80%). However, it can be treated as a weakness as well because it is easier for the defender to mark him. N Wells is weak at header as he hasn’t scored any goal by header. However, he is strong at scoring goals by using both feet. A Akinfenwa is strong in air as he scored 58% of his goals by head. It fits what we find that he scored the highest percentage of goals from set play (62%) among 4 strikers, particularly in throw-in (31%) and corner (15%). In short, scoring goals by header in set play is the strongest weapon of A Akinfenwa.

The analysis will be continued next week by analysing these 4 strikers from different perspectives including where they scored, when they scored, where assist came from, assist types, shots total and shots on target.