League 1 previews, 24 Sep 2016

This weekend I’m restarting my regular preview graphics for each EFL match, which were a regular feature last season.

These smash together minimalist versions of two visualisations: each club’s E Ratings and their relative positions on the attack and defence scatter graphics. I’ve explained them fully here, but in summary they’re intended as a simple pre-match comparison of two teams using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:

  1. The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
  2. A probability forecast for the match;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.


Bradford are the highest-rated team in League 1 at the moment thanks mainly to their strong back line, so this will be a good test of Bolton’s promotion credentials. Both defences have allowed opponents few chances, so this could be a tight game.2016-09-24-bristol-r-v-port-vale

Port Vale appear to have focused heavily on quality over quantity with their shooting so far: only Southend have shot less but only Wimbledon have gotten a higher percentage away from insider the box. They may experience an unfamiliar level of freedom here though as Rovers’ defence is struggling, with Rochdale the only League 1 side allowing a greater share of their opponents’ efforts from inside their penalty area.

Shot-happy Bury have been almost irrepressible so far this season and visitors Chesterfield are the closest to matching their attacking output, although there’s a gulf of almost two shots per game between them. Both sides have improved since the start of their respective campaigns but the hosts appear to have the edge.

MK Dons aren’t exactly setting the division alight so far, but their performances have been better than their current league position suggests. They’ve been wasteful up front and leaky at the back, while hosts Fleetwood have been the opposite. This has masked some occasionally below par attacking from the home side, who look to be overachieving slightly.2016-09-24-gillingham-v-coventry

Neither of these two sides are having the best of starts and both have seen performances decline from last season, so it’s tough to predict who will have the better of things here. Coventry have been graphic-stretchingly wasteful up front and only some heroic defending has prevented a similar crisis at the back, while Gillingham’s leaky defence has yet to keep a clean sheet.

Both of these teams look to have suffered from some bad luck defensively, having allowed few chances but conceding from them at a high rate. Rochdale don’t look to be performing noticeably worse than last season so it’s tempting to conclude that their poor start can be overcome, although their recovery may have to wait for the arrival of a weaker opponent than Millwall.

Northampton are going from strength to strength since their promotion, with their overall rating continuing to rise, with Southend’s worrying performances last season look to have caught up with them. The Cobblers looked unfortunate to lose their unbeaten run last weekend and won’t have a better chance to get back to winning ways than this.

Oldham are in dire need of some improvements up front – they have had the division’s lowest attacking rating for some time and have struggled to convert their chances so far. Some resilient defending has helped their cause so far and Swindon’s own leaky back line should give the Latics hope here.

These two are performing at a similar level so far: both look capable of a play-off push and have taken something of a “scatter gun” approach to shooting, although defensively they are moving in different directions. Charlton’s back line is tightening up and allows few chances while Oxford’s is having to soak up quite a lot of shots, which may yet be their undoing if not kept under control.

Peterborough are great entertainment for the neutral: the best-rated attack in the division paired with one of the worst-rated (and still falling) defences should bring plenty of goals all round. Visitors Walsall look ill-equipped to take advantage of the latter however, having seen performances drop off a cliff since their squad was heavily raided over the summer.

For all the goals they’ve scored so far, Scunthorpe’s defence has seen far more improvement than their attack recently, which came as a surprise. The clinical finishing that elevated them to their current perch looks to have cooled off lately so it will be interesting to see whether any leakiness remains in the defence of a resurgent Sheffield United.

Apart from some misfortune at the back, Wimbledon look to have adapted relatively well to the third tier. Shrewsbury are unfortunately still in decline – particularly in defence, where they are the division’s worst-rated side – making them outsiders here.