The 2023/24 season seems to be in full swing now, as we were treated to a lot of great action all over the world this weekend. As we do every week, we have picked out three of the most interesting and exciting matches using data and insights from our analytics platform, xvalue.ai.
🏴 Premier League: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-3 West Ham United
Ever since Roberto De Zerbi has taken charge of Brighton and implemented his press-baiting tactics, there have been lots of discussions about how to stop Brighton and how to set up a successful press against them.
Many teams have tried to do the second part but most have failed against the Seagulls’ intricate and well-drilled passing patterns. As it turns out, the best way to stop Brighton is much simpler than that: simply don’t take the bait.
West Ham showed everyone how it’s done this weekend, as they defended in a low block and offered no reaction whatsoever to Brighton’s sideways passes across the back line. Ultimately, the home side were forced to step forward and try to break them down, but the Hammers did a great job of preventing them from finding their attackers in the final third.
That was only half the job, though, as West Ham had to find a way to score themselves too. Thankfully, they had a certain Michail Antonio up top who did a fantastic job as a target striker and transition outlet, enabling them to create a number of brilliant chances on the counterattack which they gladly took. As a result, the visitors extended their lead to three goals just after the hour-mark having kept just 18% of possession at the time.
- Field Tilt: 83.0% – 17.0%
- Shots: 25 – 12
- xG: 1.53 – 3.41
- Long pass %: 5.1 – 22.1
Takeaway: West Ham’s low block frustrated Brighton, while they managed to create a lot of great chances through their direct counterattacking approach.
🇪🇸 La Liga: Villarreal 3-4 Barcelona
La Liga champions Barcelona have started the season with a draw and two wins, but they seem significantly weaker than they were last season.
Their most glaring weakness this season appears to be their defending in transition. As a result, their matches this season could often turn out to be thrilling end-to-end affairs which will not be so great for the heart rates of fans but should thoroughly entertain neutrals. Both Getafe and Cádiz gave a taste of what was to come in their first two matches, but the full picture came this weekend against Villarreal.
This was a match where both teams had some very exciting forwards and well-functioning attacks but rather poor defences, so it was an early contender for the most entertaining match of the season. Barcelona took a two-goal lead early on, yet they failed to establish any sort of control on proceedings and allowed Villarreal to equalise before half-time in an incredibly frenetic half.
The Yellow Submarine went on to take the lead early on in the second half, and it was only thereafter that Barça really started to impose themselves on the match. After being frustrated for a bit, they turned the match on its head thanks to goals from Ferran Torres and Robert Lewandowski and some great attacking impetus from 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal.
- xT: 0.7 – 1.5
- Shots: 13 – 21
- xG per shot: 0.13 – 0.15
- xGOT: 2.6 – 3.8
Takeaway: Both teams conceded a lot of high-quality chances in an end-to-end match and were very clinical in taking them.
🇫🇷 Ligue 1: Lorient 4-1 Lille
Ahead of a season where most of Ligue 1’s European contenders look set to drop off to some extent, Lille seemed quite well-placed to capitalise by potentially returning to the Champions League spots for the first time since that famous title win in 2020/21. They had a lot of stability through the summer as they kept hold of most of their key players as well as head coach Paulo Fonseca.
However, the season has not gotten off to the best of starts for them. They did beat Nantes after a draw with Nice on the opening day but suffered a heavy defeat to a much weaker Lorient side this weekend.
Les Dogues really were the masters of their own downfall, as they gifted two early goals to their opponents thanks to some very sloppy play around the back. After chasing the game and pulling one back early in the second half, yet more questionable defending allowed Lorient to build up their lead even further, putting an end to the contest for good.
Lille seem to have all the pieces in place to enjoy a pretty successful campaign in 2023/24, but their execution needs to get much better.
- xT: 0.5 – 0.6
- xG per shot: 0.19 – 0.08
- Shots: 9 – 18
- Field Tilt: 25.9% – 74.1%
Takeaway: Lille’s sloppy mistakes allowed Lorient to build up a lead by taking very high-quality chances, after which they could comfortably defend deep and hold on for the win.
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About the Author: Neel Shelat
Neel Shelat is a self-styled missionary of the religion of football. With an unwavering passion for the game, he spreads the word about football from all corners of the world through in-depth features, profiles, analyses, and podcasts. Over the span of three years, Neel has established himself as a prominent freelance journalist and analyst. His insightful contributions have graced platforms like Al Jazeera, Forbes Sports, among many others. If you wish to stay updated with his latest insights and thoughts, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShelatNeel.
This series of articles is a collaborative effort between Neel Shelat, Soccerment Research, and the xvalue Team.