Welcome to a stats special of One Team In Devon. A week is a long time in football, and after being out of the country all week with work, Ian Foster has already made his mark with two signings.

My first impressions of Foster have been excellent. He’s a coach who is extremely detail-oriented, and with a process-driven approach that could be just the ticket for this Argyle team.

You don’t need to be a stats guru to see that while Schumacher Vibes Argyle is a potent threat in attack, sloppy defending is holding this team back from achieving its full potential.

On the eve of Fozzy’s first game in charge, we have Argyle fan and Eurosport Italy analyst Alberto Lauciello round up the Schumacher era – and lay bare the challenge ahead for this new Argyle.

I’m so delighted that Alberto Lauciello returned for a second stats-based newsletter with his expert analysis. It takes a lot of time to put these visualisations together, so if you’d like to buy Alberto a coffee to say thanks (link below) – he might do these more often.

>>> Buy Alberto a coffee <<<

Schumacher’s legacy at Argyle

Schumacher’s brand of attacking football has led to some of the most exciting football Home Park has seen. But can it keep us up? On the face of this (limited) data, it seems a risky – and some may say reckless – approach.

With Argyle’s defence so bad, Argyle would be an outlier should they beat the drop.

Foster’s challenge is to tighten up the back, without losing what we have in attack.

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Attacking performance

  • NPxG: Non Penalty Expected Goals

It’s no secret that Argyle are an excellent attacking team. They currently sit 7th for open play NPxG (25.71) and 3rd in the league for open play goals.

Argyle shoot a lot from distance, and are 3rd team for shots from outside the penalty box (44% of all shots), with an average distance of 18.2 yards (5th furthest in the league). Despite this, Argyle players sharpshooters. They have the 2nd best percentage of shots on target in the league (38.1%).

On the other hand the greens are terrible at taking chances out of set pieces. They are 22nd in the league for set pieces NPxG (4.67).

And the following stat may explain Foster’s early signings: Argyle are 23rd for percentage of aerial duels won (45.7%).

This also reveals a lack of Plan B. Argyle are 24th for crosses attempted and 23rd for the percentage accurate crosses (just 18%).


  • NPxGA : Non penalty expected goals against

Argyle’s defensive performance is problematic, to say the least. The Pilgrims have conceded the 3rd most shots in the league (270) and the 2nd most open play NPxGA (31.43).

On average they concede the 3rd most dangerous chances in the league (0.11 NPxGA /shot) from the closest range (just 16.4 yd).

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  • GPI: Gegenpress Intensity Index

Dispelling another myth about Argyle – they are not potent or effective pressers.

Their GPI (Gegenpress Intensity Index) is the lowest of the league while their gegenpressing efficiency is the second lowest. While we think of Argyle as great at exploiting transitions, they have the lowest number of high turnovers in the Championship.

While there’s nothing bad in defending deep, the problems arise when the opponents can cut through the defense like a hot knife through butter. We can easily see how permeable is Argyle defence in the chart below, where it stands out as the second worst efficient low block and the team that allows more through balls.

The Pilgrims allow the highest percentage of progressive passes, the second most crosses and passes in their own penalty box, and the 3rd most passes into final third and passes leading to a shot.

Another remarkable defensive deficiency is the low number of tackles won per opponent touches (the 19th lowest in the league).

A final good note concern blocking, with Argyle being the second best team in the Championship for shots blocked (34% second only to Leeds United).

Missing Azaz

If losing Schumacher was a problem for Argyle, losing Azaz (and to a lesser extent Cundle) is worse. The problem is that Azaz was such an effective all-rounder, above average in every metric for his role (above).

Here’s a comparison with Cundle, who was also performing above average for the league. Cundle could have potentially even outperformed Azaz given his shooting accuracy prowess – so to lose both is a massive problem for Argyle’s output.

Azaz had the 3rd best npxG, only behind the two forwards. Despite relatively low xG per shot, it’s chance creation where he really stands out.

Azaz has assisted 1/4 of the entire team’s NPxG, so his vision and IQ is a huge loss for Argyle and his absence will dent the team’s attacking output.

  • xOVA: Expected Offensive Value Assist

Expected offensive value (xOVA) is a measure of NPxG + xA created – xA received.

So it’s a measure of exactly what he added to the team offensively. Despite being second after Whittaker (and only just), it shows how important Azaz and his impact on the offensive phase.

And it was Azaz’s ability to move the ball forward quickly that made him such a vital cog in the Argyle attacking machine.

He leads passes in the most dangerous areas, and a huge outlier with numbers of through balls, as you can see below.

Not only does this underline his vision and football IQ, it also underlines his value to players such as Ryan Hardie, who thrive when running into the ball.

Azaz has been fundamental at opening up defences with the third most successful dribbles in the team.

There’s a lot of pressure on the Argyle recruitment team to replace Azaz’s contribution. And this signing in particular could define the second half of Argyle’s season