Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playground…
We’ve got a month or so before the first green shoots of 2022 appear with the camps opening on February 1 and the ’22 Challenge Cup group stage kicking off six weeks after that.
Until then pretty much all we have to think about is signings; of the six players tendered offers in December one has signed (Bixby) and one has been traded (Westphal), meaning we still don’t know if Celeste Boureille, Marissa Everett, Kelli Hubly, and Meghan Klingenberg have re-signed.
There’s also the dormant-but-not-absolutely-refuted possibility that Lindsey Horan might look abroad…but if not soon, then probably not at all.
The FAWSL transfer window, for example, opened New Year’s Day and closes the last day of the month. I can’t find a definitive window for the women’s leagues in France, Italy, or Germany, but it’s instructive to note that the men’s windows run along similar lines – early January to the end of the month – so my bet is that D1F, Serie A, and the Frauenbundesliga are similar.
So if we don’t hear any mutterings within a couple or three weeks? It’s unlikely she moves – at least for THIS season…
Another open question is the potential retirement of Angela Salem. Again…that’s something that if true I think we’d have heard before now. But it could also be her waiting until a coaching or other non-playing gig opens up to keep her options open.
There’s also – at least as of the time of this writing (early morning Monday 1/3) the Nasello Question with all the baggage that accompanies that.
With all this uncertainty and no actual acts or events to tie our conversations to, I thought I’d put this up as simply a place to come and opine, chat, and discuss. Consider this a standing invitation
One Last Thing
…appeared in a comment by FotB Trail33 over at Stumptown and I thought it was worth a look.
Before anything else, note that the original creator failed to account for Megan Rapinoe’s PKs as part of her xG. When you factor them in she’s still kind of an outlier but not THAT much of an outlier. So we need to treat this with care.
That said, couple of thoughts from me:
- The Thorns have several players in the shaded areas of this list – that is, players that in one or two ways distinguished themselves from the lumpen mass of squad players down in the lower left hand corner who had neither significant expected assists (xA) or expected goals (xG) per game.
- Those players are Crystal Dunn (in the “creators” cloud for about .27xA/.19xG per match), Meghan Klingenberg (“creator”; .21xA/.01xG), Sophia Smith (in the “poachers” cloud – which we’ll talk about in a moment – .09xA/.55xG), former Thorn Simone Charley (“poacher”, .08xA/.52xG), Christine Sinclair (in the “dual threat” cloud, .1xA, .35xG) and Morgan Weaver (“dual threat”, .18xA/.37xG)
- A seventh Thorn is in limbo between the “creator” and “dual threat” clouds – Lindsey Horan, with .18xA/.23xG)
This is an interesting little graph, but I think we need a couple more pieces of information – namely, how did these players do on the pitch compared to how their xA/xG’s predicted they’d do. We’ll get to that.
First, a couple more cautions; we don’t know how this person analyzed the data. We know, for example, that they missed the PKs as a factor in xG – we’ll see that applies to the Thorns as well.
Second, I think that they misnamed the “low xA/high xG” cloud, simply because it throws together players who are true “fox in the box” style poachers such as Balcer and Le Sommer with players who HAD to shoot because the way their club played last season didn’t give them good passing options. I think Smith and Charley are in the latter group. One of the Thorns’ issues last season was how seldom they got numbers up in the box. Often Charley or Smith got inside the 18 on lone runs and had a shot as their only real option. So let’s call this cloud “shooters” because that’s what they did
So. How does this little graph suggest that the Thorns did as far as turning these potential assists into assists and potential goals into goals?
A player who’s “better” than her xA/xG – that is, finds real assists or goals beyond what you might expect of them given how often they get into dangerous positions – is playing over her head, and her ratio of goals to xG and assists to xA – A/xA and G/xG -will be greater than 1.0.
Two players on this list of Thorns attackers managed that last season; Morgan Weaver and Lindsey Horan both created more assists than their xA predicted they would.
Note that nobody did that with goals…which tracks with the eye test, that the Thorns had scoring issues last season. Sinc comes closest, but remember Rapinoe; Sinc took 3 PKs last season and only scored once, but the PKs are a big skewing factor in xG, so I don’t think that Sinc was really that good a sniper.
Interestingly, the biggest G/xG surprises for me are Smith and Weaver. I was pretty hard on Smith for missing a lot of what looked like good opportunities last year, but her G/xG is 0.88, so damn close to making every gimme putt. Weaver? At 0.21 G/xG she was the worst of the Thorns attackers here, suggesting that Wilkinson needs to get her on the practice pitch shooting more often than Smith.
Crystal Dunn’s A/xA and G/xG numbers are a sad reminder of how badly she underperformed last season. She’s the worst of the Thorns attackers in turning potential assists into assists, and second-worst in scoring.
All in all? This suggests that the new head coach has some team-wide attacking issues to sort out starting in February.