Long live Potterball: The theory behind Brighton's philosophy and Maupay's goal against Leeds United

Maupay repaid his manager today by converting a typical Potterball goalMaupay repaid his manager today by converting a typical Potterball goal
Maupay repaid his manager today by converting a typical Potterball goal
"If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there" - Brian Clough

What a goal that was from Brighton and finished off by Neal Maupay.

The Albion absolutely sliced through Leeds from back to front with a total of seven passes before the Frenchman side-footed into an open goal from two yards out.

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That was Potterball in full force. That is how the manager sees the game and wants to play it: total football.

So here's a look at some research as to why the better teams play a more possession-based game - which is also a good argument for the Potter-in brigade to use in defence of 'the best English manager right now', as Pep Guardiola described the Brighton boss.

The following research has been taken from the highly-respected book The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally.

Anderson and Sally write: "In the Premier League, since 2009, some 65 per cent of goals have come from open play, while just eight per cent have come from penalties. Open-play goals, in other words, are more than eight times as frequent as those from the spot.

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"But then the odds of scoring from a shot in open play are 12 per cent, whereas from penalties, the chance is 77 per cent.

"For a manager, then, what is the most effective strategy: building a team to score from open play, because that is how most goals are scored, or building a team to win penalties, because that is the most likely way of scoring? Do you go for frequency or do you opt for favourable odds?"

The authors say that penalties might be rarer, but they are also more profitable. Open-play goals are common, but less of a sure thing. It is this distinction, the authors say, that goes a long way to explaining the failings of the long-ball game and the rise of an 'obsession with possession'.

The data analysts referred to research carried out by Mike Hughes and Ian Franks, two university professors who looked at data from the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

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Anderson and Sally write: "They [Hughes and Franks] found that the length of passing movements and the odds of scoring were connected. The longer the passing sequence, the better the odds of it being capped with a goal.

"Hughes and Franks concluded that teams with 'the skill to sustain long passing sequences have a better chance of scoring'. In fact, as the number of passes in a sequence goes up - as far as six passes - the odds of scoring go up, too."

Anderson and Sally say that the key factor is shots - their frequency and the rates at which they produce goals. The authors explain that with a shorter move, a goal is scored one in every nine attempts; for longer sequences, that rises to one goal for every 15 shots a team takes.

"In isolation, this finding would lead us to conclude that longer passing sequences gave defenders a chance to set up, minimizing the element of surprise and dislocation of the defence by the attack. But that greater efficiency of converting shots from shorter passes doesn't equal more goals. Why?

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"What Hughes and Frank discovered was that longer passing sequences also produced significantly more shots on goal, thus increasing the total number of goals teams score.

"There is a trade-off between opportunities and efficiency: longer passing sequences mean more shots for the attacking team, but they also mean lower rates of conversion of shots into goals.

"Possession skill, Hughes and Frank discovered, is often the key difference between successful and unsuccessful teams: conversion rates between those sides that succeed and those that do not are about the same, but the successful teams produce a third more shots than the unsuccessful ones.

"You will score more goals the more shots you have, and you will produce more shots when you don't give the ball away, either because you have the skill or because you have the strategy to play the possession game," Anderson and Sally write.

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The authors conducted their own research on Premier League teams in the 2010/2011 season. They found that teams who passed the ball more and played a shorter passing game created 'substantially' more shots on goal.

The authors conclude by saying the bigger teams, such as Arsenal and Man United at that time, had 50 per cent more shots every game than the lesser teams.

"The effect of this is clear: long-ball clubs have fewer chances to score and therefore score fewer goals, and they end their seasons battling relegation. Sides that treasured possession tend to be at the other end of the table," they conclude.

Now a quick look at some stats from the current season to put things into perspective.

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Manchester City, the ultimate passing side, have played 661 pass per match, had 15.37 shots per game and 5.31 shots on target per 90. They have 25 goals in the league.

Brighton, a lite version of Man City, have played 473 passes per match, had 11.78 shots per 90 and three shots on target per game. They have 22 goals in the league.

Newcastle, the ultimate long-ball team, have played 346 passes per match, had on average 8.47 shots per game and 2.88 shots on target per 90. They have 18 goals in the league.

The more passes, the more shots, the more goals.

Brighton may well be in 16th now but it won't be long until their league position reflects their performances this season.

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And finally, I'll end it with Pep Guardiola praising Potter and Brighton after the game in midweek, where Brighton lost 1-0 but produced an impressive display.

The Man City manager said: "We were in front of the best English manager right now. You have to be a top side to play that way.

"The quality they have, they show it. They have good players, good build-up.

"The two central defenders, [Lewis] Dunk and [Adam] Webster, are fantastic.

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"Every pass makes sense. Their movement between the lines up front makes sense. Every player is in his position to get the ball and be free.

"The people up front are so fast, with [Percy] Tau, [Neal] Maupay, until the last minute.

"As a spectator, I like to watch these teams. I like watching Brighton play. I recognise it.

"When I was a football player, I would love to play in this team."

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