By Dan Kennett

Following the recent podcast [LINK] and extensive discussion about the merits of Andros Townsend’s long-range shooting, I thought it would be timely to update the Shot Benchmarks that I’ve previously shared on twitter in 2012 to include the 2012/13 season.  This post can serve as a useful reference for the analytics community.

Over 5 complete seasons of the Premier League there are nearly 55,000 shots in total

Of those 55,000, nearly 500 are penalties that continue to be scored at a rate of 3 in 4 (75.6% to be precise).

There are also 2,300 Direct Free Kicks (DFK) converted at an average of 1 in 15 (6.6%).  Conversion rate varies from a high of 8.5% in 2009/10 to a low of 5.2% in 2011/12

From now on, all totals EXCLUDE penalties and DFK’s

The total shots inside the box has remained almost constant over 5 seasons with an average conversion of 13.1%.  Season conversion rates vary from a low of 12.4% (1 in 8) to a high of 13.5% (1 in 7.4)

Where it gets interesting is shots OUTSIDE the box.  The total shots taken outside has declined year on year for 5 seasons.  The total has fallen by 12% from 4600 in 2008/09 to 4050 in 2012/13

The conversion of shots outside the box has also improved over time (even if 2012/13 slightly less than 2011/12).  In 2008/09 the figure was 1 in 50 open play shots outside the box scored a goal!  Over the last 2 seasons this has improved to 1 in 30.  Over 5 seasons the average is 1 in 37, a huge difference to the 1 in 15 scored from direct free kicks.

The chart below illustrates the 2 points above:


As a consequence of the decline in total shots outside the box, the proportion of shots INSIDE the box increased year on year from 55.6% to 59.1%.

Trying to sum it all up with a nice soundbite, the last time I looked at this analysis at the start of 2011/12, the mantra was that 45% of all shots are from outside the box for just 15% of the goals.

If we exclude DFK’s and penalties and look over 5 years, this changes to a less snappy 42% of shots are outside the box for 14% of the goals.  But it still begs the question, if the chances of scoring from outside the box are so low why do teams even try to do it?  Wouldn’t it simply be better to keep passing and probing until a chance inside the box could be created or a set piece opportunity won?

As for Andros Townsend, well if he keeps on shooting at the current rate then he’ll probably score from a long shot the match after next…


  • Gerard

    There are numerous factors that contribute to the statistic of shots outside of the box but I think the main factor is self-interest. For a player, the more goals scored, the more valuable the player is (thus, earn higher wages, play for better teams etc). They’re min-maxing: it is easier to dribble and position themselves outside the box for a shot than it is, inside. If you have a manager who actively discourages his players from shooting outside the box, a player would act in his self-interest to comply with the boss who decides whether he plays.

    Have you looked at individual team’s shots inside and outside the box?

    • Dan

      I think you’re correct Gerard. I recall an interview with Kevin Nolan at Bolton when he said he’d “probably be fined” for scoring the winner from outside the box. It’s no coincidence that Sam Allardyce teams are always have one of the lowest “% of shots outside the box” in the EPL. Sam knew all this a long time ago and he instructs his players not to do it.
      As for data by team, I do have it and will do a followup, time permitting. In meantime, you can get some inside/outside box info from WhoScored

  • Anthony

    Shots outside the box may lead to other positive outcomes other than goals
    – rebounds – Sunderlands goal against liverpool last week
    – Deflections / own goals
    – Handball for penalties
    – Corners
    – A display of strength and dominance
    – Drawing defenders out of the box to block shooters
    I might be clutching at straws with some of them, but clearly long shots have utility outside of just scoring goals…
    Keen to hear some thoughts?

    • Dan

      I can see your point Anthony but personally I’m not convinced that those positive by-products of shooting that you list will happen often enough to justify the ‘waste’ of long range shooting
      E.g. 45% of long range shots are high, wide and not very handsome with another 35% blocked. Only 1 in 5 are even on target

      But knowing the indirect benefit of long range shooting on goals scored could only be a useful thing

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