League 2 previews, 22 Nov 2016

Below are the individual preview graphics for each game in the forthcoming round of fixtures. 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 based on the ratings;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.

Before we launch into them, here’s each match is listed in descending order of how likely a home win is. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but this is NOT betting advice – there’s loads of relevant stuff that the model doesn’t factor in (e.g. injuries and suspensions) that will surely have an impact.

l2-probabilities-2016-11-22

We’re a match short due to Stevenage v Doncaster being rescheduled.

While it’s no surprise to see Plymouth among the most heavily-favoured to register a home win, it’s rarer to find Crewe and Yeovil up there. Both have very winnable home games against low-rated opposition.

Luton v Portsmouth looks finely balanced and should be fascinating, with both clubs seemingly capable of winning promotion and surely looking to take advantage of recent slips nearer the summit.

Individual matches

2016-11-22-cheltenham-colchester

These two clubs have both been underachieving based on some pretty solid performances, although Colchester seem to have added wasteful finishing to their long-standing leakiness issues in defence lately. It’s reached the point where I suspect that something else is going on, and it makes Cheltenham’s own inefficiencies look relatively minor.
2016-11-22-crewe-morecambe

I’m interested to find out what happens here when one of the division’s quietest attacks lines up against the defence to have allowed by far the most shots. Crewe haven’t looked all that convincing so far but Morecambe’s ongoing struggles make this one of the easier home games they’ll play this season.

2016-11-22-grimsby-carlisle

These two sides have been performing at a similar level this season, with Carlisle’s sharper finishing and more resilient defence accounting for the difference in their league positions. With both clubs looking more capable going forward than at the back, there could be plenty of goals in this one.

2016-11-22-hartlepool-accrington

Accrington look to be underachieving significantly this season, having put in some impressive performances this season, but against an even leakier defence than their own they have an opportunity to catapult themselves up the table. Hartlepool’s improvements up front have been offset by a deterioration at the back and only some clinical finishing has kept them out of the relegation battle so far.
2016-11-22-leyton-o-exeter

While both of these clubs have seen their performances deteriorate since last season, neither look poor enough to be locked in a relegation battle. Some wasteful finishing from Orient and a leaky Exeter defence have been the chief culprits so far, with this match a useful opportunity to assess how likely each are to claw their way back up the table.
2016-11-22-luton-portsmouth

This has to be the most fascinating fixture of the round, pitting two of the division’s promotion challengers against each other. The ratings model shows both sides as having made significant improvements this season, with Portsmouth the division’s most dominant team by far but Luton far more ruthless; particularly in defence.
2016-11-22-mansfield-blackpool

The visit of the division’s most shot-happy side will be a tough test of Mansfield’s defence, whose own forwards have been among the most wasteful this season. Blackpool’s back line is pretty impressive itself and the away side’s recent ratings jump suggests that they’re found another gear recently.

2016-11-22-newport-wycombe

These two clubs have seen their ratings follow a similar trajectory this season, with an initial decline during a poor start being gradually reversed. Newport look rejuvenated under Graham Westley but it’s still too early to accurately measure how much they’ve improved, although a meeting with another in-form side scoring unusually freely will provide a useful barometer.

2016-11-22-notts-co-cambridge

It’s a bit too early to call Notts County’s poor recent run a collapse, but the ratings have long suggested that they were fortunate to be sitting in the play-off places. By the same token Cambridge have been performing too well for a relegation battler, so this match could see a further course correction for both. The visitors’ attack has disappointed this season but they won’t come up against many more vulnerable defences than the Magpies’.

2016-11-22-plymouth-barnet

This looks a more winnable home game for Plymouth as they look to recover from their defeat to Grimsby at the weekend. While the ratings model assesses Barnet as a less formidable opponent than the Mariners they are far from a poor side and have improved since last season, although the number of shots they allow – the division’s second most – could present opportunities for the Pilgrims’ sharp attack.
2016-11-22-yeovil-crawley

A meeting of the division’s two lowest-rated attacks doesn’t raise much hope of goals, although with Crawley’s defence also struggling there’s an opportunity for Yeovil to press their advantage here. While the Glovers’ current eighth position looks like it will be difficult to maintain, their ratings are drifting upwards and they look more capable than their visitors overall.