Saturday, November 22, 2014

X-Raying Keshi's Tenure with Focus on Competitive Games….

As it is, Stephen Keshi, may be one of Nigeria's most controversial coaches of all time. After his team's inability to beat South Africa on Wednesday, it appears that the curtain may have closed on his coaching career with Nigeria's national team. Here is a guy who swam against the tide by insisting on inviting home based players for the Super Eagles,  inviting players from little-known leagues, throwing out star players that were previously considered untouchables, battled with his federation bosses, was disengaged and recalled, among others. Yet, he has not only improved the team but won the Cup of African Nations amidst the din. But that is a "century" ago! His final statistics in 31 competitive games appear in graph 8.

This piece is not to look at Keshi’s record as a winner or as a loser nor is it to catalog his eventful tenure on the edge of controversies. Instead, it is about looking at the team, under his tenure, in terms of statistics that are often glossed over. These include analyzing at what point in the game does the team score its goal, at what point does it concede, does the team convert set pieces and how many has it given up,  what percentage of its wins comes when the team scores first or leads at halftime.

It is important to note that the data reflects only competitive games under Keshi. In essence, none of the international friendlies are part of the data. In addition, data from the African Championships (CHAN) is not used as the focus is squarely on the Nigerian “A” team.

The first graph looks at when the team often scored its goals compared to the scoring of its opponent. The data shows that most of the team's goals came in the last 15 minutes of a game and the next highest totals came just after half time. In essence, the team struggled to score early in its competitive games. Fortunately, it was also difficult for its opponents to score early.

Graph 2 shows the team's record on set pieces that resulted in a goal. Set pieces here refer to free kicks or corner kicks. Contrary to widely-held opinion., the team actually converted more set pieces than its opponents, at least in competitive games. However, one must note that the conversion rate per match was 0.26 or 8 in 31 games. On penalty kicks, it also converted more than its opponents.

I have also looked at final results obtained from games when the team took the lead or when the team went behind in a game. Graph 3 shows that the team won most of its games when it scored first. In fact, it lost only one such game i.e. a home game in Calabar against Congo Republic. But it was an entirely different story when the opponent scored first (Graph 4). In such situations, the team struggled mightily, winning only one of such games 2-1 in Addis Ababa against Ethiopia. It lost 50% of such games.

A similar test was to assess the final result after half time. In games where the team led at half time, it almost always won (Graph 5), in games tied at half time, the team won less than 50% of such games  (Graph 6). When it was losing (Graph 7), it never came back to win the game.

Finally, we looked at goalscoring and assists. Almost half the team's goals (49%) were assisted. Mikel Obi led in this category providing assists in above 20% of the games he played. Emenike was second showing that he made contributions even though he may not have scored as much as the fans wanted. Emenike ranked second to Ahmed Musa in terms of goals scored by players under Keshi's tenure. However, he was ahead of Musa when scoring is calculated as proportion of number of games played. Surprisingly, Ike Uche who played in only 12 games under cOach Keshi led in ratio of goals scored per game and was third in scoring behind only Musa and Emenike.