This the second part of a last-minute preview of MD 31, you can read our thoughts on where the league is after 30 games and the Leverkusen – Schalke game (chalk one up for Abel!) here.
Since there are only four matchdays left in the Bundesliga and since I’ve found some time to write, here is a preview of MD 31, discussing the matches in order. We’ll be using some familiar XG charts and shot models (Challengerspod, Paul Riley and Alex Rathke) and a few new predictions from Goalimpact, 538’s match predictions and Euroclubindex as well.
Special thanks to Peter McKeever for adding his picks to the matches and the Dortmund-Cologne data.
In Part 2 we go to Leipzig, where RBL host Ingolstadt in the Hasenhüttl bowl and the former Ingolstadt coach has a chance to knock his old team right out of the Bundesliga with a win. But maybe not so fast! Die Schanzer have actually won all three of their matches (discounting that one friendly), two in the 2. Liga two seasons ago and of course the one in late December!
Based on form, Leipzig are clear favorites, having won four of the last five (with a draw), while FCI have lost two in a row, after that insane three wins in a week that might have saved their season. The one enormous absentee is Pascal Groß whose delivery from set pieces and crosses is absolutely crucial to Ingolstadt’s play. Thanks to Instat we know that he has delivered a league-leading 154 crosses into the penalty area while succeeding 94 times (also the best in the Bundesliga)! His suspension could not have come at a worst time.
Coach Maik Walpurgis will probably look to rely heavily on his wingbacks Florent Hadergjonaj and Markus Suttner (the hero of the Hinrunde win and also a brilliant crosser – see the table!) to whip in countless crosses. Thanks to Alex Rathke’s visualization we can see just what these look like (these are only the ones that became key passes, ie. led to a shot). https://public.tableau.com/shared/JFKTYMTRJ?:display_count=yes
The big problem with crosses – aside from generally not being the most effective way to score in modern football, (though not all crosses – Bayern for example crush the league in crosses and get numerous goals due to better delivery and less of a reliance on resulting headers) is that you need someone to finish them.
Unfortunately that’s where Ingolstadt have struggled all year: they are the worst in the Bundesliga with an appalling 8.6% conversion rate on shots inside the box (the league average is 14% and opponents are converting 16% against them!) Dario Lezcano – who wins just 28% of his aerial duels – finally scored last week against Bremen, but it was his second goal in six months! Looking at their XG (penalties removed) we can see that Lezcano is right around his expected output, but the
elephant koala in the room is Aussie Matthew Leckie who has undershot his numbers: zero goals in 1900 minutes, despite 5.3 XG. A quick look at where his shots end up tells you why:
Where is my NOT GREAT BOB, meme?
While it’s tempting to blame randomness – Ingolstadt rank in the bottom 2 in just about every conversion rate stat (thanks to @footyinthecloud for these), at some point some blame should fall on the players and management for not addressing the issue. Looking at you Thomas Linke! Not upgrading at striker and letting Benjamin Hübner go for 800k looks like a fatal mistake, considering that their resolute defense has fallen apart (54 goals shipped vs 42 all of last year and they passed the 42 XG mark in early April).
In contrast, Leipzig have righted the ship after a shaky start to the Rückrunde that in hindsight could probably be attributed to Emil Forsberg being suspended for three games after the red card in the Bayern match, the rash of injuries that crippled them vs Dortmund and then losing the tremendously important Yussuf Poulsen. Despite scoring just 3 goals, the Dane might be their most important attacking player, due to his great defensive work, pressing, counterpressing, ability to playmaker and as a target man for their extremely direct style. He and Marcel Sabitzer, another unsung hero, who by the way is the answer to the question “Who leads RBL in XG?” have scored just nine goals, but with their intelligent movement, passing and effort have probably contributed to others like Emil Forsberg, Timo Werner (combined 23 non penalty goals vs 11.5 XG!!) and Naby Keita (though running through Bundesliga defenders comes to him like headbutting and elbowing come to Marouane Fellaini ). In a stark contrast to Ingolstadt, Leipzig play a fast, modern and direct style that cuts through opposing defenses (often on counters) and leads to numerous chances like these.
Their defense has not been close to impregnable, like it was in the Hinrunde when they were just shutting teams out, and their XG numbers have climbed above 30 now.
In contrast, we know that as of December 6th – the 13 game mark – they allowed just 9.6 total XG and XG per shot was as low as 8.5% per the excellent Challengers Podcast. By the way, do support these guys on Patreon, for as little as 1$!
Some of that is probably down to the injuries and some poor play in the early part of the Rückrunde and advanced stats like XG per shot against have climbed above (11.7%) the league avg of 10.6%. Save percentage is always gonna be fairly low for a high-pressing team and Gulácsi is down to 64.
However,thanks to Willi Orban winning 71% of his tackles, Naby Keita leading the league in duels won on the ground and Diego Demme attempting more tackles than anyone in the Bundesliga, Leipzig are just fine thank you.
The predictive sites give RBL anywhere for 59 to 71% to win this game, and I see no reason why Ingolstadt should have a chance without Pascal G, so I will go ahead and pick a 2-0 win.
Back with the rest of the games in a bit!