It’s the first international break of the 2015-16 season, which means the Ligue 1 season is 10.5% completed. From the numbers we have, this is what we have learned so far.
PSG will win Ligue 1, easily
In the last three seasons, two of them were dominated by PSG and there wasn’t any semblance of a title race. What made last season so much fan for the neutral in France was that PSG weren’t running away in Ligue 1 and through 35 weeks last season, PSG were in a dogfight to win Ligue 1. It was the best title race in Europe. It was just as much ‘Lyon and Marseille have improved considerably’ as ‘PSG weren’t trying, even by their lackadaisical standards’.
So far this season, it looks like PSG are giving about the same amount of effort they gave last year. For all the talent PSG have, they lack the drive to stomp on opponent’s to the degree that Bayern Munich or Barcelona do. The difference is the pack behind them: Lyon, Marseille and Monaco haven’t looked convincing at all in terms of their performance.
To illustrate the already massive chasm in Ligue 1 between PSG and the rest, I ran linear regression between points and a couple of underlying metrics (Team Rating and Shot on target Ratio) to come up with an expected points tally through the first 4 games. These are the results I found:
To even go further, I did the same thing but did an end of season points tally just to see how utterly ridiculous PSG’s expected final points would be. It ended up that PSG would have an expected points tally of 110.5 points! Now obviously this won’t happen. No matter how much better PSG are than the rest of the pack, they won’t end up with 110.5 points.
However no one should be shocked that this is an occurrence this season. In my season preview for EDIZD, I was quite high on what this PSG squad could do this season:
PSG even in a down year last season were the best club in France. They had the highest team rating (my version of the metric is a mixture of shots on target ratio and PDO but it’s heavily based on SoTR), the highest expected goal ratio and the highest shots on target ratio. Adding a world class player in Angel Di Maria will just illustrate that fact even further. The defense should be set with a great center-back core in Thiago Silva/Marquinhos/David Luiz, and Serge Aurier could have a monster season at right-back.
There’s still nagging issues with the club: one being that Edinson Cavani wasn’t good until late in the season and could be on the decline as well, Salvatore Sirigu could be best described as an average goalie and the winger situation is still pretty dreary outside Lucas (although PSG could try Di Maria as a RW and Lucas shifts to the left). But this could be the best PSG side since Qatari ownership came into play and the one that finally breaks through into the semi-finals in the Champions League, something that the club has tried very desperately to achieve.
Assuming that PSG don’t self combust into flames like they nearly did last season, the ingredients are there for a dominating season from the Parisian club.
Marseille will be fine, sort of
Three points from the first four games, eight regulars from last seasons’ squad have left this summer, Marcelo Bielsa quit immediately after the opening day loss. You can forgive Marseille fans for being a little freaked out by the club’s poor start. Sure this was more or less the same start Marseille had last season (minus the manager quitting) and they rebounded greatly afterwards, but considering the mass exodus of players in the summer and the amount of upheaval at the club; Marseille fans right now are running low on patience.
Here’s the thing – Marseille haven’t been bad this season. Actually, they’ve not been bad at all. In a way you can compare them to Tottenham this season. What they’re doing over the long run will likely end up in a solid enough season once they regress back to the mean. Consider the rankings Marseille have achieved so far this season:
- Shot on Target Ratio: 3rd
- Danger Zone Shot Ratio: 2nd
- Big Chance Ratio: 6th
- Expected Goal Differential: 1st
- Team Rating: 4th
- Expected Points: 6th
There are genuine problems with the squad still, but if Marseille continue this type of statistical production, they should be fine and perhaps even have a slight shot at finishing in the top three this season.
Monaco are the complete opposite of what they were for major parts last season. Formerly a defensively astute side who slowly became more comfortable on the counter attack, this season it’s been a wide open squad who still are very good offensively but have no semblance of being able to play a defensive game.
Monaco rank 3rd in expected goals for, third in danger shots for and first in big chances created. These are good things, symbolizing both the progress under Jardim in that area of the pitch and the large amount of young, talented players Monaco have in abundance this season. However with the sale of Anthony Martial to Manchester United, you have to wonder if Monaco could keep up that offensive production.
If the attack indeed declines, perhaps even at a rate greater than expected, Monaco will be in major trouble if they don’t shore up their defence. They are dead last in both expected goals conceded and danger zone shots conceded. They rank tied for 17th in big chances conceded as well. Losing Aymen Abdennour to Valencia was a huge loss for Monaco because it really is starting to look like he plugged a lot of holes for that club. This one goal in particular by Ezequiel Lavezzi on Sunday was a great encapsulation on how slow Monaco’s CBs are now with Ricardo Carvalho and Andrea Raggi, who are a combined 68-years-old.
Things should improve on that end for Monaco this season but by how much? Who knows. Monaco have those as their CB core alongside a 20-year-old named Wallace. The midfield three in front of them has not provided protection whatsoever and Tiemoue Bakayoko needs to play and play at a high level to help massage this issue.
It’s early days but there’s major problems for the Principality.
Other Statistical Tidbits:
- Montpellier and GFC Ajaccio are the only two teams to have not scored so far this season, rocking a mighty impressive 0% conversion rate. Lille are next at a paltry one goal scored with a 7.14 conversion rate despite having an impressive 5.23 expected goals for. You would like to say that they should regress back to the mean, but considering their roster and how much they rely on Sofiane Boufal, Lille might be a team who create a lot and convert very little this season.
- Angers are shockingly one of the best defensive teams this season despite being one of the three clubs to have been promoted this year. One goal conceded, 2.87 expected goals against (2nd best in Ligue 1). Only four games in but super impressive in what they’ve done.
- Lorient were bad defensively last year, they’re atrocious this season. They rival Monaco in terms of defensive ineptitude statistically and this has been a problem even dating back to their 2013-14 season when they finished 8th but conceded 53 goals. It’s commendable that a club of Lorient’s size is committed to playing solid attacking football, but it nearly got them relegated(albeit they also were also pretty unlucky for majors parts of last year in terms of expected goals for versus goals scored.