Right around now, everyone in and around the NFL begins to argue about the semantics of a single word: "value." What does it really mean to be the "most valuable player" in the National Football League? By definition, can it only be a quarterback because a quarterback is the only player who touches the ball on every offensive play? Or should it go to a receiver or running back or defensive player who is much better than his positional peers than the best quarterback -- even if, by definition, someone in one of those positions simply can't provide as much value as the guy behind center?
In soccer, we sort of tiptoe around this idea by never really getting into the MVP debate. Instead, the awards go to the "player of the year" or the "most outstanding player." Outside of the Ballon d'Or, individual awards don't really carry much weight across the historical narratives of the sport anyway.
On top of that, we're sort of stuck in two phases with our understanding of how the sport works anyway. Either we don't know enough about how soccer works yet to really even attempt to define value or, like in football, the most valuable players are always going to be the ones who create or score the points.
However, while the goal of soccer is to, uh, score more goals than the other team, there's a sub-goal inherent to that idea: moving the ball into more dangerous goal-scoring areas more often than the other team.
Throughout the course of a match, Stats Perform constantly calculates the likelihood that a goal will be scored within the next 10 seconds of a given possession based on where the ball is on the field. And by doing that, they award and penalize players who are undertaking actions that increase, or decrease, those likelihoods of a goal being scored. If you have the ball in an area where there's a 1% chance of a goal being scored and you play it to an area where there's a 15% chance of a goal being scored, you're awarded with the 14% change.
It's called Expected Possession Value, and the numbers represent the combined increase in goal-scoring probability created by each player. That stat isn't a catch-all value metric like baseball's wins above replacement, but it calculates how valuable each player is in buildup play. So, we're going to use it to identify the MVPPs (most valuable possession players) for all 20 teams in the Premier League through 14 matches, ranked in order of MVP.