Early surprises Ikast and Krim - What the stats say
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 fledgling EHF Champions League Women season has already provided several surprises. After three games, four teams are still unbeaten. In group A, it’s not too big of a surprise that SG BBM Bietigheim, who had a similarly great start one year ago, and Györi Audi ETO KC, who are amongst the favourites, are leading the table.
In group B, however, Krim Mercator Ljubljana and Ikast Handbold are the only unbeaten teams, which is quite unexpected given the fact that three of last year’s EHF FINAL4 participants are in that group. While it’s too early to draw conclusions from the data after three games, early trends that could shape the rest of the season for the teams can already be seen.
Differences in the offensive details
Adjusting goals for and against to the number of possessions makes teams comparable, since the raw number of goals is not only influenced by efficiency but also by the number of possessions, indicating whether a team and their opponents play rather fast or slow.
Amongst the surprises in group B, Ikast especially have very fast games with 61.7 possessions per match. With 34.7 on average, they also score the most goals per game, but their actual offensive efficiency ranks third with 28.1 goals per 50 possessions behind, Krim (29.4) and Vipers Kristianstad (28.2) who both play at a slower pace.
At first sight, both teams have very similar offensive statistics. They both have good overall shooting percentages, with 64.7 per cent for Krim (second best overall) and 63.8 per cent for Ikast (sixth best). Both rarely lose the ball with 8.1 turnovers per 50 possessions for each team (second best).
But in the details, they are very different. Despite their very good shooting percentage, Krim struggled with seven metre throws.
Both Jovanka Radicevic and Tamara Mavsar have scored just two thirds of their attempts, while Alja Varagic scored with her single attempt. Overall, they are at 69.2 % (ninth) while Ikast ranks third with 90.9 %. Stine Skogrand has missed just once while Emma Friis and Markéta Jerábková are perfect from the line so far.
Another big difference is the second chances. After 21.8 per cent of their missed shots, Krim continued to remain in possession, which is the best in the competition and another key for their outstanding offensive numbers. Kasper Christensen’s team is well behind with 13.6 per cent (ranked 13).
Krim, the blocking machine
Defensively, Krim also rank first with just 20.6 goals conceded per 50 possessions, while Ikast are eighth with 24.1. Nevertheless, it’s not the goalkeepers that are wholly responsible for the great numbers of the Slovenian side.
Barbara Arenhart and Maja Vonjovic have saved 35.2 per cent of the attempts on their goal, which is a very good number, but currently only ranks seventh. Just two places behind are Ikast’s Irma Schjött and Andrea Austmo Pedersen with a combined 33.3 per cent.
Still, Krim’s opponents scored only 50.0 per cent of their attempts. Why is that? Because Tatjana Brnovic and her teammates just don’t let attempts go through, as they blocked an outstanding 11.3 per cent of their opponent’s field attempts.
That’s twice as many as second placed Metz and four times as many as Ikast. Brnovic alone has blocked 2.3 shots per game so far, which comfortably leads the rankings.
Chart blocks per game
In addition, Krim forces the second most turnovers (12.5 per 50 possessions) and has the fewest two-minute suspensions per game (1.0).
Ikast, on the other hand allow the fewest second chances (7.6 per cent of their opponent’s missed shots result in retained possession), while Krim allows the fifth most (18.3 per cent), which is closely related to their many blocks. For every other defensive statistic, the reigning EHF European League champions are around average.
Faster and faster
A statistic where the Danish side is definitely not average is, as mentioned earlier, pace. With 61.7 possessions per game, only Metz Handball have slightly faster games (61.0) than Ikast. Nevertheless, in attack, Krim, who have 57.3 possessions per game (seventh most), have shorter possessions, lasting 28.5 seconds on average, which is the fourth quickest.
Ikast are only marginally slower in fifth place, at 30.5 seconds.
But the reason for their fast paced games is on the defensive side. Ikast’s opponents have the shortest possessions with just 26.6 seconds on average. Krim’s opponents, in contrast, take 32.3 seconds per possession, the fourth longest.
For Ikast, there are no numbers available for the previous seasons, since they didn’t play in the EHF Champions League, but the development of Krim’s pace statistics reflect the general trend.
After the new rules that made throw-offs easier and allowed for only four passes instead of six after the referees’ signal for passive play were introduced one year ago, the game became faster.
In 2021/22, before the new rules, Krim had 54.2 possessions per game, one season later it was 55.4, and this season they are at 57.3. For the whole competition the average possessions per game was relatively stable before it saw an increase by 3.2 per cent from 54.0 possessions per game in 2022/23 to 55.8.
This season, after three gamedays, the average is 57.1 possessions per game, which is another season-on-season increase by 2.3 per cent.
The new increase is not just because it’s the first three games and the players' legs are still fresh. At this stage last season, the average possessions per game (56.1 after 24 games) was just slightly higher than the whole season average. Two seasons ago the average after three gamedays was even slower than the average for the whole season; just 52.7.
So, it seems that last year’s development through the new rules could have increased further. Newcomers Ikast are definitely one of the main drivers of this development. When they play Krim on Sunday, the Danish side will definitely try to push the pace and use it to their advantage. It will be very interesting to see if Krim will try to match them, or rather, slow the game down.
The Slovenian side, on the other hand, overall has the slightly better statistics but after only three games the sample size is too small for more than early trends. But nevertheless, the winner of the game will definitely make an important step towards the next round with the fourth win.
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.