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Bundesliga number crunch: what story do the statistics tell?

The second half of the Bundesliga season, or "Rückrunde" as it's known in German, begins this weekend. The table paints an accurate picture of how each team has fared so far, but do the stats tell a different story?

With the Bundesliga set to resume on Friday, we've been crunching the numbers from the first half of the season in order to find out what makes a team a relegation candidate as opposed to a European contender. Which team has run the furthest? Who keeps the ball best and who is quickest to win it back? Who takes the most shots and who is the most wasteful? It's time to dive into the statistical swamp and find out a little more before the season resumes.

Chances wasted

As the old saying goes, if you don't shoot, you can't score. If you don't score, you can't win. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the teams to have taken the fewest shots - Hannover (201), Stuttgart (187) and Nuremberg (169) - are the three bottom teams at the halfway stage. 

Bundesliga - VfB Stuttgart vs Schalke 04 (Getty Images/Bongarts/C. Kaspar-Bartke)

Stuttgart's Marion Gomez after another chance goes begging in the Bundesliga

Furthermore, if you don't happen to take many shots, you'd better hope the ones you do take go in. For a team which rarely finds itself in scoring positions, Stuttgart also tend to make a hash of things when they do. They have the league's worst shot conversion ratio, with just one in 14 attempts finding the back of the net. The second worst ratio belongs to Mainz, with one in 13 stikes finding the back of the net.

Sandro Schwarz's side have been spared from the relegation dogfight, it appears, thanks to the sheer number of shots they manage. They're seventh in the league for total shots. If they had a clinical finisher in the ranks, we can assume they'd be a lot higher up the table than 12th. 

Most wasteful:
Stuttgart - 169 shots, 12 goals (one every 14.0)
Mainz - 233 shots, 17 goals (one every 13.1)
Schalke - 223 shots, 20 goals (one every 11.1)

 

Clinical finishing

Borussia Dortmund prove that being clinical in scoring positions is even more important than merely shooting a lot. They've managed to hit the back of the net more than any other side (44) despite not even ranking in the top 10 for shots taken. On average, they score every 4.8 shots, the best in the division. The next best teams are Eintracht Frankfurt (every 6), Gladbach (6.4) and Bayern (8.1). It's no surprise all of these teams occupy the top six.

Fußball Bundesliga 10. Spieltag | Borussia Dortmund v Bayern München | Tor zum 3:2 (Getty Images/AFP/P. Stollarz)

Borussia Dortmund's Paco Alcacer scores against Bayern Munich in November

Dortmund's Paco Alcacer is the definition of a clinical finisher. One of the breakout stars of the season, the Catalan has scored 12 goals from just 24 shots. Every other time he's shot, he's hit the back of the net. If Mainz had a player like that, to go with the fifth best defense in the league, they might be battling it out for Champions League qualification. 

Most clinical:
Borussia Dortmund - 215 shots, 44 goals (one every 4.8)
Eintracht Frankfurt - 205 shots, 34 goals (one every 6.0)
Borussia Mönchengladbach - 233 shots, 36 (6.4)

 

Possession

There are two ways to succeed in the Bundesliga, according to the stats. Keep the ball, or be damn good at winning it back. The top two teams in the Bundesliga are also top of the average posession table, albeit in the wrong order. Bayern Munich are first (63 percent), followed by Dortmund (56 percent). The top seven in terms of average posession contains all of the Bundesliga's top six sides. Only Eintracht Frankfurt are missing, with 10th placed Werder Bremen stealing their place. 

FC Bayern München - VfB Stuttgart: Mats Hummel (picture-alliance/G. C. v. d. Laage)

Defender Mats Hummels is key to Bayern building up play from the back

Highest average posession:
Bayern Munich - 63 percent
Borussia Dortmund - 56.4 percent
Wolfsburg - 53.2 percent
Borussia Mönchengladbach - 52.5 percent
Hoffenheim - 52.1 percent
Werder Bremen - 51.2 percent

 

Pressing

Frankfurt may be a lowly ninth in terms of average posession, but lead the league in sprints (4,212), aerial duels won (462) and rank third, behind Leipzig and Augsburg, in terms of tackles.

Freiburg, meanwhile, sit bottom of the league for posession (42 percent) but sit a comfortable 11th in the table thanks to their workrate. They're third in the league for distance covered and seventh for aerial duels won. If you can't be tidy on the ball, be robust and work hard. 

Some teams - like seventh placed Hoffenheim and fifth placed Wolfsburg - score high in both areas. Wolfsburg have the third highest average possesion (53 percent), but have also made the third most sprints and fourth most tackles. Hoffenheim have the fifth highest average possession in the Bundesliga (52 percent) and have also covered the most distance (2,049 kilometers, 1,273 miles). 

Fußball 1. Bundesliga | Eintracht Frankfurt vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Imago/Jan Huebner)

Eintracht Frankfurt aren't afraid to get stuck in

Some, inevitably, score poorly in both. Stuttgart have the league's fourth lowest average possesion (46 percent), cover the second least distance (1,941 kilometers) and rank in the bottom five for sprints and tackles. It's no wonder they're mired in a relegation scrap. 

Stuttgart coach Markus Weinzierl can't summon ball-players out of thin air. The Axel Witsels and Thiago Alcantaras of this world aren't easy to come by. But he can get his players running more, working harder and winning more duels with the right motivation. 

Conclusion

The stats are far from ground-breaking when drawing conclusions regarding the correlation between conversion rates, possession or work rate and the success of a side, but we can still come to some fun conclusions. 

Mainz are a clinical striker away from world domination. Bruno Labbadia's Wolfsburg are the Bundesliga's biggest overachievers, right across the board. Hoffenheim may struggle immensely without Julian Nagelsmann, and his insistance on high workrate, next season. Lastly, if Paco Alcacer shot more, he'd be better than Messi. 

Here's to the second half of a thrilling Bundesliga campaign. 

Stats courtesy of bundesliga.com and whoscored.com

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