A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
Some much less contrived analysis for you this morning as I continue to make up for a dearth of recent posts. After participating in some lively debates about which teams play the most exciting football, I thought I’d try analysing shot data from this season as a measure. The first graph below sorts each team by the average number of shots they take in a match, split out by whether they actually hit the target or not.
As you’d expect, there’s a broad correlation between where clubs finished in the table and how many shots they attempt, although with a few interesting exceptions. Despite disappointing seasons, Morecambe and Burton work opposing defences as hard as anyone, while Port Vale and Aldershot’s relative shyness makes their failure to keep pace with the play-off chase easier to understand. One thing that surprised me slightly in this graph is how (relatively) bad Wycombe are at hitting the target: their number of shots on target is more comparable with Hereford and Macclesfield than Chesterfield or Bury. This could lead to problems in League 1 when chances are at a relative premium.
While we’re at it, let’s have a look at the other end of the pitch and see how many shots teams face per match on average, again split by whether these troubled the ‘keeper or not:
Morecambe and Aldershot once again find themselves at opposite ends here, although Hereford’s porousness edges out the Shrimps to help explain their own nervous season. The ironically-named Shots are not only reluctant to attempt many of their own, but they’re also very good at stopping opponents from firing them in. What’s particularly impressive is that their defence restrict the opposition to just over 3 shots on target per match: if they can find a way of attacking more effectively without disrupting their defensive solidity then they could be a force to be reckoned with next season. The downside of Crewe’s open, attacking style of play is plain for all to see, while it’s also interesting to see Shrewsbury inviting quite a few raids on their goal.
Now let’s combine these two datasets and graph how many total shots each team’s matches produce on average:
So there you have it – if you’re a neutral in search of attacking entertainment then you could do a lot worse than head to the Globe Arena of a Saturday, but steer well clear of the Recreation Ground unless you’ve got a seat near the halfway line. Crewe’s ability to generate outrageous scorelines is as well-known as Stevenage and Port Vale’s predilection for grinding out 1-0s, so their relative positions in this list aren’t too surprising.
This is all very well and good, but essentially all I’ve done so far is count things, which is quite unambitious. Let’s try something a bit more revealing: how about if we compare the number of shots a team takes with how many goals they actually score:
So Crewe are dangerously efficient: if you allow them 5 or 6 shots then expect to be picking the ball out of your net. Most of those Morecambe shots we mentioned earlier were in vain seeing as they take almost twice as many attempts to register a goal; along with Bradford their disappointing season suddenly seems like less of a mystery. When viewed in tandem with the first graph in this post, you can get some indication of where specific teams need to focus on improving for next season. Take Northampton for example: they’re pretty efficient in front of goal, which suggests that improving the supply to their attackers could well turn them into promotion contenders.
Now let’s look at the defensive version – comparing the average number of shots each team faces to goals conceded – to see if that reveals anything of import:
So while Shrewsbury invite quite a few shots (again we’re comparing this with the second graph in this post), they boast an incredibly resilient defence. This makes Torquay’s 5-0 win over them all the more impressive given that, on average, a team would have had to shoot roughly 52 times in a match in order to achieve this (as well as limiting them to no more than 6 shots of their own, as per the previous graph). With their defence already looking solid, the Shrews’ priority is surely to improve further up the pitch if they’re to go one better next season and secure automatic promotion. Unsurprisingly the division’s bottom three clubs comprise the bottom three here also, while well-drilled Stevenage are difficult to breach. I was intrigued to see Hereford placed so highly here, but given the sheer number of shots they face it’s only fair to expect a few of them to stay out.
As always, comments, observations and development suggestions on the above will be politely welcomed.