Strengths, weaknesses and Achilles’ heels of the EHF FINAL4 participants
Throughout the course of the EHF Champions League Women and the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, data analyst Julian Rux provides the handball community with deep insights into the numbers behind the game, analysing what the data says about teams’ and players’ performances.
The EHF FINAL4 of the EHF Champions League Women is taking place this weekend. Hence, we are taking a closer look at the numbers that stand out among the four participants.
Esbjerg: Offensive power
Since the beginning of the season, Team Esbjerg have positioned themselves as the offensive powerhouse of the EHF Champions League. They are the best team in attack, scoring 29.2 goals per 50 possessions. Adjusting goals to the same number of possessions makes teams genuinely comparable, since the raw number of goals is not only influenced by efficiency, but also by the number possessions (whether a team and their opponents plays rather fast or slow).
Their overall strong offensive number is mainly based on their outstanding shooting. With 67.9% they lead the competition here. From the field they score just marginally worse with 67.8%, which is also the best in the EHF Champions League. They only have problems at penalty throws even though they are the team that gets the third most attempts per game from the 7m line (3.9). With a success rate of 70.4%, just two teams score worse on penalties.
The engine of the strong attack is Henny Reistad, who not only scored the second most goals per game after Cristina Neagu (7.2), but even ranks first in field goals (6.3). In addition, she is highly efficient from the field. Among all back players with at least four throws per game, the Norwegian national player has the highest efficiency with 68.7%.
Even if they are not as good defensively as they are offensively, their biggest weak point is something else: crunch time. Crunch time in handball is defined as the last six minutes of all matches if the gap between the two teams is two goals or fewer at least once. With a goal difference of -11.1 calculated over 50 possessions, they are the third weakest team in the competition if it goes into crunch time. Their defence is even more of a weak point here, as 38.9 goals conceded per 50 possessions is more than any other team.
FTC: The outsiders
While the other three EHF Final4 participants definitely belong among the top four EHF Champions League teams from a statistical standpoint, this cannot be said unreservedly about FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria. Defensively they rank fourth with 23.5 goals conceded per 50 possessions but in attack they are only ninth with 25.6 goals per 50 possessions. On both sides of the field they do not belong to the top teams, statistically speaking.
However, there are three statistical categories where they are really at the top. For one, FTC allow the fewest second chances after their opponents miss a shot as they get possession after 88.5% of their opponents missed attempts. For another, they force their opponents to the second most turnovers.
The third one is much more remarkable. They are the third best team in crunch time with an adjusted goal difference of +8.6 per 50 possessions. Especially in defence they are able to shut their goal when the game is on the line conceding just 18.4 goals per 50 possessions. With Esbjerg having problems here that could become a decisive thing if FTC can keep the game open for that long.
Györ: Defence wins championships?
FTC's compatriots Györi Audi ETO KC are quite different. They rank on the very top on both sides of the field with the second-best offence (28.3 goals per 50 possessions) and the best defence (22.5 goals conceded per 50 possessions) in the EHF Champions League.
Their great defence is based on the fact that they both force the most turnovers with 12.2 per 50 possessions, and allow the lowest shooting percentage; just 55.0% by their opponents. Dividing the latter into field goal percentage and penalty throw percentage, they are in third place twice with 53.7% and 66.7%, respectively.
Accordingly, they are also ahead in the goalkeeping statistics. Györ’s goalkeepers have the best overall save percentage with 34.5%, as well as the second-best field save percentage (36.4%) and the second-best penalty throw save percentage (25.2%).
In great part these numbers come from Silje Solberg who has played an outstanding season saving 40.1% of the attempts on her goal which is of course the best of the competition. Since she has been out their numbers have decreased. In the quarter-final, Sandra Toft and Amadine Leynaud were only able to save 24.6%. So, for Györ it will also depend on whether the two can improve in Budapest.
Vipers: The speed queens
Watching Vipers Kristiansand, one thing stands out: their fast pace. With just 28.1 seconds they have the shortest possessions on average in the competition. With 58.1 possessions per game their games are the second fastest of the whole EHF Champions League and clearly the fastest amongst all team that made it past the group stage.
Similar to their semi-final opponent Györ, they are good in attack and defence as they rank both third in goals per 50 possessions with 28.3 and goals conceded per 50 possessions with 23.3. They score efficiently, shooting 63.4% from the field (second-best) while they allow the lowest field-shooting percentage of their opponents with 53.0%. Their goalkeepers also have the best field goal save percentage with 37.9%.
In offense especially, Markéta Jerábková with 7.1 goals per game (ranked third) including 5.5 goals (also third) from the field stands out. With Anna Vyakhireva’s 5.2 field goals per game (fifth) they are the only team with two players amongst the top five field goal scorers.
Like their semi-final opponents Györ, there are not many glaring weaknesses in Vipers’ numbers. But what stands out are the problems their goalkeepers have with seven-metre penalty throws. Their opponents have the second highest success rate in the whole EHF Champions League scoring on 83.4% of their penalty attempts while Györ’s goalkeepers save just 12.7%, the third lowest amongst all 16 teams.
More from data analyst Julian Rux can be found at Handballytics.de. There you can read his latest articles, in which he analyses all kinds of handball topics from new, data-based perspectives. You can also find him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.