League 1 previews, 1 Oct 2016

Below are preview graphics for each of the weekend’s games. 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.


These two clubs both look capable of sustaining a promotion challenge so this should be an interesting match-up. Oxford’s all-action attack has been wasteful in front of goal and will need to sharpen up against one of the division’s most well-drilled defences. Bolton allow few chances but like their visitors have found converting their own to be a tricky business at times, increasing the likelihood of this being a close game.

Two upwardly mobile sides meet here with both excelling in one component of attack. Nobody has taken more shots than Bury, whose attack looks streets ahead of its former self, while Scunthorpe’s finishing has been the division’s most clinical. Defence is where the two differ: it’s where most of the Iron’s underlying improvements look to have been but where their hosts appear potentially vulnerable.

Three back-to-back wins have lifted Rochdale out of the relegation zone and towards where the E Ratings suggest they should be sitting, while five draws and a defeat in six have seen Charlton slip down to meet them. Both clubs look like top half finishers whose attack is marginally more convincing than their defence, although it’s too early to say whether Dale have plugged all of the holes in their back line.

Chesterfield look to be overachieving slightly at the moment – at least their ratings are lagging their league position – so aren’t considered favourites here despite being at home. Their attack has been impressively busy but is up against the division’s most formidable defence here, although Bradford’s misfiring attack hasn’t been all that reliable and could cost them more points if not sufficiently sharpened.

This will be a challenging game for Fleetwood, who look capable of matching the Blades defensively but not in attack, although their visitors don’t yet appear to be fully recovered from their poor start. The home side’s front line has been able to rely on some above-average finishing so far, having netted in every league game, but there’s a good chance of that run ending here.

Both of these clubs have adapted quickly to League 1 football and look capable of a top half finish, with their contrasting fortunes promising an interesting contest. Northampton have been quiet but ruthless up front while defending heroically at the back, while Bristol Rovers’ energetic forwards have compensated for a vulnerable-looking defence.

Oldham’s struggles up front should be a source of encouragement to MK Dons, whose defence has – despite some frustrating leakiness – been their stronger suit. The visitors are no shrinking violets in attack either and should get plenty of chances, but if there are further heroics from their hosts’ back line then they may struggle to make much headway.

These two have been chalk and cheese in attack so far, with Port Vale’s extreme “quality over quantity” mantra contrasting sharply with Coventry’s inefficient scatter-gunning. Vale may get more opportunities than they’re used to here, given how many chances their visitors have allowed opponents, although they may require a less cautious approach to take full advantage.

Shrewsbury’s defence continues to worry me, although against Swindon much depends on whether the visitors’ industriousness or their profligacy is the overriding factor. The Robins have created plenty of chances this season but often haven’t been able to make them count, while a leaky defence has added to their problems.

Despite their impressively-rated attack, Peterborough’s defence continues to look vulnerable and they have drawn their last two matches against seemingly weaker opponents. Southend’s lowly ratings make this another game that the Posh should be targeting a win from: only Millwall have conceded more goals and only Port Vale have created fewer chances.

Walsall’s steep decline hasn’t started to level off yet – the model takes trends into account when calculating probabilities so this should be reflected. Millwall’s leaky defence looks to be the main reason for them sitting so low in the table – everything else about their performances says “promotion challenge” – and this fixture is a great chance to stop the rot.

Two of the division’s leakier defences meet here, although the number of goals overall may be limited by each side’s abilities in attack. While Gillingham have been clinical so far this season the quality of chances they create looks to be decreasing, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to sustain their current scoring rate.