10 Points: Manchester Clubs, Open Play Shots & Score Effects (wk 11)

1) PDO...PDO...PDO

You know, PDO is a funny thing: dismissed and ignored in equal measure, but it works just as it says it works (Grayson on (PDO) regression). PDO regresses toward the mean although some (good) teams sustain higher PDO's throughout the season, which may be due to the score effects boost that a team receives once it's one, two or three goals to the good.  

Team WK 11 PDO Wk 10 PDO Change +/-
Southampton 112.17 110.12 2.05
Arsenal 112.06 114.38 -2.32
Liverpool 111.65 109.7 1.95
Cardiff 110.71 114.3 -3.59
West Brom 108.84 107.58 1.26
Chelsea 105.12 108.58 -3.46
Man United 103.22 103.15 0.07
West Ham 102.03 106.15 -4.12
Hull 102 105.32 -3.32
Man City 101.57 103.25 -1.68
Fulham 101.52 102.63 -1.11
Aston Villa 100.38 98.13 2.25
Everton 99.9 99.43 0.47
Newcastle 98.72 89.71 9.01
Stoke 97.55 94.47 3.08
Tottenham 95.02 98.87 -3.85
Swansea 88.88 91.05 -2.17
Sunderland 88.46 83.33 5.13
Norwich 86.43 80.95 5.48
Palace 78.37 78 0.37

Defeats for Man City and Tottenham may have been the two biggest shocks of the week. Both of the defeated teams faced opponents with crazy low PDO's at the time of fixture. Newcastle saw their PDO rise by percentage points. Sunderland saw their PDO rise by 5 percentage points. #Regression.

2) Man City

I'm not bitter about Man City's failure to beat Sunderland.  Not even booked! Seb Larssons terrible tackle on Javi Garcia [GIF] FUCK! F%$&*! It's a red card! In all seriousness, City boast a fine squad that should be more than capable of absorbing injury to players, no matter how key those players may be. Man City failed to create too many clear chances despite the imbalance in the shots and territory count. I have passed through most of the stages of grief in regards to City's away form and I'm now at total acceptance. We've have had problems with away form for the past 3 seasons, so it's probably not personnel or coaching strategy, which have both improved, so what is City's problem away from home? If you know what is ailing City away from the fortress let me know!

3) Man United Title Contenders?

Alan Hansen seems to think so (LINK): AH: Moyes needed desperately to make a big statement after falling short against Manchester City and Liverpool already this season and to beat the league leaders, who have been flying, just shows that talk of United’s supposed demise is totally unfair. Now, Man United's win was mighty important. It was a vital 3 points against an Arsenal team who, although riding some percentages during their first 10 games, are a strong team. United managed to win the game by scoring early and then forsaking any attacking intent in order to prevent Arsenal from creating any scoring opportunities. Once into the lead Man United were out-shot 3-10 for the ~69 minutes of the game. United's shell worked but it was a shell without any counter attacking threat. An ultra defensive strategy, like the one United employed against Arsenal, needs to be tight defensively but it also has to have a counter attacking element to it. Getting an early goal and then sitting back and barely launching meaningful attacks for the remainder of the game probably isn't a strategy you want to employ too often against good teams AH: It will also have erased some of the doubts that have been hanging around Moyes since the start of the season. Nope, I'm not buying that. United's win was an important one but did it really erase doubts about Moyes? Maybe it did for Hansen, but not for me. United's underlying shots and shots on target numbers are really not that impressive, in fact they are barely scraping above league average. Moyes is failing to reproduce Ferguson's set-piece magic or the ability to secure 'from behind' wins. Gone is the efficiency in getting shots on target at a high rate and preventing the opposition from doing the same. Moyes needs time to figure out his players, needs time to adapt to what his squad can and can't do. Will Moyes get there eventually? Maybe. But I don't think he has the system in place to win the league nor the depth of outstanding personnel to overcome those systemic inefficiencies.

4) Player Of the Week

Take a bow Tim Krul. A wall, a one man barrier, superman. As far as I am aware, 14 saves is a record in the OPTA era. So yeah, unlucky Spurs fans.    

5) Southampton & The Fixture List

Southampton are flying! 3rd in the table with 22 points. 15 goals for, 5 goals against and simple math says they are on course for a mind-bending 76 points. Southampton are out-shooting teams and are as defensively sound a team as you are likely to find. But, my has the fixture list been on the easy side so far: Sunderland, West Ham, Palace, Swansea, Fulham and Hull have been Southampton's home opponents. An easier home list you will not find. Away from home Southampton have faced West Brom, Norwich, Liverpool, United and Stoke. Admittedly more difficult but  Southampton's fixture list has been mighty easy so far: Southampton_sos_11_medium Numbers taken at the time of fixture. Southampton's opponents have been poor shots team, unlucky teams (PDO) and sub-par territory teams (Final 1/3rd and possession%). Maybe this writer is slightly harsh on Southampton. After all, you can only beat what is in front of you! Upcoming fixtures:

Southampton's upcoming PL fixtures: Arsenal (a) Chelsea (a) Villa (h) City (h) Newc (a) Spurs (h) Cardiff (a) Everton (a) Chelsea (h). #fuck — Ben Pugsley (@benjaminpugsley) November 11, 2013

  Let's reserve judgement on who Southampton are until the 19 game.  

6) Open Play Shots

This is a pretty simple table: remove shots f/a from set-piece situations and this is what a simple plus/minus table looks like. Open_play_shots_11_medium Tottenham, City and Chelsea round out the top 3. Man United are just +16 in 11 PL games which is, well, not great and it points to those fundamentals I talked about earlier. Swansea are the biggest surprise for me: -11 at set-pieces, Swansea are +34 in open play which is good for 4th in the league. Some pretty nice numbers there for a team on a budget. Fulham and Cardiff are adrift. The bottom 5 are the usual suspects.

7) Injury And European Football

As stated in the previous point, Swansea are a pretty nice team by the open play numbers. So it's would be a shame to watch as the team struggled with the log-jam of games in November and December. Swansea, and other European teams, face 10 games (or more) in 36 days once the PL resumes on November the 23rd, and this jam is sure to take it's toll in terms of injuries and player fatigue. Injury data from the 2012/13 season. Euro_v_non_euro_injury_medium Swansea's small squad, the European games and the Thursday-Sunday fixture list may take it's toll on team selection and, ultimately, Swansea's ability to claim points. European teams suffered last year in terms of Injuries and December was the real hot spot. Swansea seem to be a prime candidate to suffer injury and a possible drop off in points. Ditto Arsenal?

8) Game State & Shots

More graphs! Here is the PL after 11 games and the percentage of shots that occurred at each game state. Game_state_shots_11_medium A couple of things stand out. First is that the percentage of shots taken at close game state looks slightly high at84.71% which leads me to think that we've seen quite a few games this season that have been closer (within 1 goal) than last season. If we have seen closer games this term that may be one reason for the Premier league's low scoring% this term which sits at 28% (it's usually around 32%). The other key piece of information on this table is the imbalance of shots at minus 1 compared to plus 1. 19.93% of all shots taken in the PL this year have come from the team down a goal, with just 17.67% of shots taken by the team up by a goal. This is what we call the shell: teams that are up by a goal tend focus on defensive shape and holding onto the lead. teams trailing by a goal tend to shoot more frequently and enjoy a territory advantage. Why would the leading team sit back on a one goal lead when they could easily continue doing the good things that enabled them to get into the lead in the first place? The leading team probably feels that preventing the opposition from scoring a goal is far more valuable than searching for a second goal of their own. The defensive shell.

9) Referees

Oh, it was a bad week for the men in black/yellow/salmon/green. Terrible late penalty decisions were given against Swansea and West Brom who both lost two points a piece.  My astonishment for Ramires' dive was surpassed only by my horror at the fact the referee awarded a penalty for the supposed foul on the Brazilian. It was a terrible decision and heartbreaking for Steve Clarke and his men. The following day the referee in the Swansea v Stoke game gave a 90th minute penalty against the home side for a handball in the box. I have a few issues with his decision: 1) The referee was un-sighted. 2) It wasn't a handball. 3) No player (that I recall) appealed for a handball. So, no handball, no appeal and the referee couldn't see the incident. yet, the referee gave the penalty. Referee's have a difficult job, it's stressful and incorrect decisions will be made, but my Lord we saw two horrendous incidents this week. I'm obviously impartial when talking of these incidents. It's not like I lost money on Man City or Swansea failing to win! *I lost money on both games! Oh, and don't forget this.  Not even booked! Seb Larssons terrible tackle on Javi Garcia [GIF] No card for what can only be described as a leg breaker.

10) Goal Of The Week

Yeah. As for the PL, check out Stephen Ireland capping off a great Stoke team move.

StatsBomb Podcast 6 - Updated EPL Predictions and a ManU v. Arsenal Preview

The outline for the latest podcast was shaped by reader feedback and looks like this:

Updated EPL Season Predictions Who wins the league? Why?
Who makes the Champions League? Why?
Golden boot winner
2 best new players you have seen this season?
Spurs v. Newcastle
Utd v Arsenal
[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119157352" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Podcast listens have been growing every week, and we've been listening closely to what you guys are interested in. If it's good, tell your friends! If it's not... tell us?

La Liga 2013/14: Forwards & Per 90 Numbers

La Liga: Clubs struggling under piles of debt; squads wrecked by the sale of their best and brightest; fans turning away from subscription channels like Canal+ and GolTV in their droves. It's pretty bleak in Spain if you are a football fan.

Not all the news out of Spain is doom-laden, though: Bale's signing broke  the world record for the highest transfer fee; Neymar was (I think) the second most expensive transfer in 2013/14; Atletico are mighty good; Simeone is God and Diego Costa is not only the most improved player, he may also be about to declare for the Spanish national team! There could also be a three-way battle for the title for the first time in years.

During the Summer I made some mental notes about which stats and leagues I was going to track this year apart from the PL. La Liga was due to be the second league tracked.

That tracking lasted all of 3 games before I realized that it was pretty pointless. La Liga is not a level playing field, the TV money is distributed in a cruel and damaging manner to any team not named Barca or Madrid and to put it bluntly: La Liga is dull and at times unwatchable from this writers perspective.

So why an article about la Liga if I have all this hate for the darn thing!? La Liga has some nice players, specifically forwards (non-attacking mids), and as part of my rebuilding of the Per90 database I decided to check in on some of the best forwards that la Liga has to offer.

Some of these players are pretty high in the scoring charts, others are established players and two (Neymar and Bale) are positionally fluid and could of been discarded from this list. But I create the list, so those players stay for now.

La Liga After 12 Games: Forward Per 90's

*An extensive explanation of what these metrics mean can be found here. Penalties are stripped out.


Player Name Shots p90 SoT p90 Goals p90 Assists p90 Sc% SoT% Passes p90 Give- aways ToP%
Sanchez 3.04 1.6 1.12 0.32 70 52.6 43.8 1.9 57.9
Diego Costa 3.87 2.13 1.06 0.1 50 55 31.9 6.2 95.6
Messi 7.16 3.51 0.95 0.54 26.92 49.1 61.9 2.3 68.5
Bale 2.78 1.39 0.83 1.11 60 50 33.6 3 33.3
Ronaldo 8.43 2.59 0.83 0.19 32.14 30.8 37.8 3.3 100
Guerra 2.29 1.46 0.62 42.86 63.6 34.6 4.1 89.1
Dos Santos 3.68 1.59 0.61 0.37 38.46 43.3 29.9 3.1 75.6
Rodri 2.58 1.49 0.6 40 57.7 20.7 4.5 93.2
Benzema 3.49 1.4 0.58 0.47 41.67 40 30.8 2.4 79.5
Villa 3.3 1.82 0.57 0.23 31.25 55.2 22.6 4 81.3
Gamiero 2.27 1.2 0.53 0.13 44.44 52.9 24.1 2.4 69.3
Neymar 3.38 1.49 0.41 0.95 27.27 44 59.3 4 68.4
Seferovic 4.09 1.56 0.39 0.19 25 38.1 34.5 3.5 47.5

This table is set to Goals per90 but you guys can easily scrape it into a spreadsheet to make it sortable.

Diego Costa is the most interesting player for me. Costa is not a prolific shooter, but has a crazy good goals p90 due to what are likely unsustainable Scoring% and SoT% numbers. Worth looking at Costa's giveaways, but I'll have more on that shortly.

Shots & SoT Per 90



This is how some of the best forwards in la Liga are performing shots wise through the first 10 games.

Of the humans, Diego Costa and Villa are two of the more efficient players in the league (fits with Atletico's system). Seferovic is just 21 years old and is a player is of interest for the rest of the season. Bale looks very un-Bale like so far. A bad back, muscle trouble and new systems may explain some of that performance. Bale's last two games have been crazy good though.

There are two players in that chart that aren't human in terms of shots performance. Messi is more efficient and manages to get 3.5 shots on target per 90 (it's a crazy number, really), Ronaldo is the bigger volume shooter with just short of 8.5 shots per 90. Silly, stupid out of this world numbers.

Giveaways & Passes Per 90

Giveaways = intercepted+tackled

Now, I only posted the chart below as I wanted to see how readers felt about giveaways. When we look at this chart it's obvious that Barcelona have a system that focuses on passing and not giving the ball away, but Barca are a rare beast and not too helpful for the giveaway question I want to ask.




Are giveaways a product of the team system or are they a product of where a player is located on the pitch? If Diego Costa is operating and passing in high risk areas of the pitch then surely his giveaways p90 will be high (see Suarez, Sturridge and Aguero who all post higher giveaway numbers than Costa). Or am I being too generous to Costa in speculating that his position on the pitch may be the cause of all those giveaways?

Maybe giveaways merely point to poor decision making and execution. I'm curious though so any ideas are welcome.

Further reading on weighted pass difficulty from the peerless Gabriel Desjardin at Arctic Ice Hockey & BTN


Anyhow, food for thought. I'll probably look at another league in the next couple of weeks so if anybody has any specific request let me know.


Model Rankings After 10 Games + Random EPL Thoughts

No preamble this week, but plenty of regular amble down below. If you didn’t read my thoughts from last week, they still generally apply, so maybe check those out before we continue. Let’s just say that despite following the rankings week in and week out on my own, I did not expect two of the monster moves listed below. EPL_Week_10-Rankings I’ve highlighted the major movers in green and red. The two moves that I absolutely did not expect to see there were Chelsea going from 3rd down to 7th, and Fulham going from nearly last to middle of the table. Through 10 games, teams are still somewhat volatile, and a couple of bad games in a row can still propel a team up or down the rankings. That said, we’re a quarter of the way through the season, so these rankings as they currently exist are pretty much how you’d expect them to play for the rest of the year unless major changes are made. Fulham Analytics guys have been talking fairly openly about how bad Fulham are for some time now, and given where they were ranked five weeks ago, I wholeheartedly agreed with them.  The surface numbers still peg them as one of the worst teams in the league. Their TSR rank is… well, last. And okay, defensively they are probably the second or third worst team in the league. The big problem with this team is that they simply have no control in midfield. Like, zero. Steve Sidwell was bad last year. Sidwell plus the shell of Scott Parker is dire. Hangeland and Riether at least are quite handy defenders, and their keeping situation is generally okay. But because everything flows straight from the attacking end back at Fulham’s defense at pace, they really struggle against most teams. The thing that’s saving them is that offensively they still have a lot of talent. Berbatov and Ruiz could easily play for better teams, and Darren Bent - despite being a player who just is never that involved offensively - can still score goals. Systemically they are shit, but good offensive players can still save a team. Why is this team so much worse than the one who was actually quite good for the first ten matches last season? No fucking clue. Under the surface this year, they are now performing a bit better than people expect, and it keeps showing up in the results. Confusing stuff. Chelsea How does a Mourinho team go from being ranked 3rd to 7th in the space of five weeks? Step 1) Get dominated at home by Manchester City. (And City were clearly better that match, even though the Hart gaffe gave Chelsea the win). Step 2) Get dominated on the road by Newcastle. That’s it. Chelsea went from rolling teams during a fairly easy stretch of schedule, to looking a bit off the pace against two decent teams in a row. (Newcastle at home are decent. Newcastle on the road… maybe not.) The big problem for this club is that, like Fulham, they also don’t have good control of the match in the center of the pitch. Mourinho’s system works best with a runner + destroyer and a defensive regista like Xabi Alonso involved. Right now he kind of has the runner + destroyer in Ramires (who probably runs more and destroys less, but is quite talented), but they have absolutely no one who can play the distribution + control role. I highlighted this issue in my season preview – “Can Chelsea win the title with Obi Mikel and the ghost of Michael Essien as their defensive midfield?” but the loss of van Ginkel removed yet another important option for that role. It’s interesting to compare how AVB and Mourinho tweak what is basically the same system. AVB prefers to go with two defensive holding midfielders, and has been strangling his team’s creativity with his team selection to the point that they simply aren’t scoring. Mourinho doesn’t have the personnel at DM that AVB does, but at this point in his career is more likely to deploy more offensive-minded players anyway. This results in Chelsea having problems shutting down better clubs defensively. Basically, Chelsea’s midfield is a collection of older, slightly mis-matched parts to go along with their aging, but generally solid defense. The Premier League might be too good this year to allow him to get away with this group of personnel and still win the title. Or Mou might figure out the right combination of parts to steam roll the last 28 games, including adding what they need in midfield in January. It’s impossible to rule his genius out. I think they will recover a bit in the rankings, and obviously they are still second in the table, but I also feel like they will continue to have problems against the better teams in the league. The fact that there are actually nine other teams who can give them problems makes this league campaign a lot more random than it normally would be. Manchester United In the link at the beginning of the article, I wrote about Moyes the Muggle, and how he’s taken a lot of the magic out of United’s offense. What I did not expect was that United’s defense would suffer so much in the process. Here are the baseline defensive stats for United this year under Moyes:

  • Tied for 13th in Goals Against
  • 7th in Shots Conceded Per Game
  • 12th in Shots on Target Conceded Per Game

That’s a fairly significant jump in rate between shots conceded and SOT conceded, which means United have some major issues with defensive organization. I say I’m surprised by this because it’s one of the things he did really well at Everton. While we’re here though, check out the real problem. Puglsey_MUFC_SOT Elite teams do not give up shots on target at that rate. Neither do good teams. In fact, Opta's Devin Pleuler and our own Colin Trainor have both noted that the shots United are conceding in the first 10 matches of the year have the highest likelihood of yielding opposing goals of anyone in the league. Compare that to what the same stat looked like under Fergie and you see the size of the problem. MUFC_SOTA_Fergie The really odd thing is that Everton were only a small touch worse than United defensively last year, obviously with much cheaper personnel. Moyes knows defense, but this team shows no evidence of that so far. So yeah, things are not at all right for United at the moment. To make matters worse, they face the league’s best team at creating chances this weekend. Things like this have already been happening to United this season. [youtube id="duJ1-R7MDAg" width="633" height="356"] Watch out. Doom Patrol If the model has its way, then Cardiff, Sunderland, and Crystal Palace are getting relegated, but Norwich are bad enough that they’re in the mix. Obviously the 7-0 hammering at Manchester City isn’t exactly going to help. Sunderland are showing signs of being less terrible than under Crazy Paolo, despite giving up 25 shots against Hull. I don’t think it will save them, but it’s enough to make Chris Hughton uncomfortable. After them you have a very grindy set of teams that should be safe, but won’t exactly be exciting. This includes West Ham, who would probably be better if they had any semblance of a forward line. Nice Andy Carroll purchase there, Allardici. Random Opinions

  • Chelsea will recover and could certainly win the league, but they need to reinforce their midfield in January. This was a fairly obvious problem before the season started. I can only assume van Ginkel was thought to be enough to solve it.
  • Spurs have the personnel to blow teams out. AVB still isn’t playing those personnel. Will he figure this stuff out before it starts to cost them points? They also could be historically good defensively.
  • United is into their easier run of games, yet their coefficient has dropped. This is me, on record, saying that I don’t think Manchester United will make the Champions’ League this season. *Cue Rocky theme and United ripping off ten wins in a row.*
  • Everton have simmered down after a hot start, and are playing at about the same level as they were last season. Kone and the Barry loan were such bad moves financially for a team on a strict budget, but Martinez seems like a good hire.
  • Swansea are good, but the Europa League eats small squad teams alive. It’s a shame, because they could really do some damage if they weren’t in that competition.
  • As Grayson points out here, Aston Villa have had one of the toughest schedules in the league, and Benteke was injured for a while. Expect them to start churning out results again.
  • Liverpool's numbers have been creeping up since Suarez returned. They may continue to do so with Coutinho back now as well. They still have midfield issues, but I think FSG will be willing to make a big transfer or two if the team is still in good shape at Christmas time.
  • 5 points clear of Chelsea. 6 points clear of City. In the top 3 of the model rankings... this is the first time all year I have been willing to admit that, yeah okay, maybe Arsenal actually could win the title this year. Gulp.


Arsenal's Premier League Shots

Arsenal’s mid August crisis seems so far away at this stage.  At that time they had just lost their opening game of the new season at home to Aston Villa and Gunners’ fans were disappointed at Wenger’s typical Scrooge like dealings in the transfer market.

Then Mesut Ozil signed on the dotted line and all has gone swimmingly for Arsenal since then.

Following their comprehensive 2-0 win over Liverpool on Saturday evening, Arsenal now sits 5 points clear of the chasers at the top of the Premier League.  Their critics would say that they have faced an easy set of fixtures so far; and they would have a valid point.  The current average league position of the teams that Arsenal has faced has been 13th, which compares with the average position of 10th for Chelsea’s opponents. Still, Arsenal can only beat the opponents they face on each match day, and in they have done that 8 times since their surprise upset to Aston Villa.  Their only less than perfect league result has been away to West Brom at the start of last month.

I’m keen to get a look at what the shots in Arsenal’s games can tell us about how they have performed and whether their league leading position after 10 games is justified.

Arsenal’s Defence

Although it’s been Arsenal’s attacking talent such as Ozil, Giroud, Cazorla and Ramsey that has received most of the plaudits I’ve been seriously impressed by the Arsenal defensive performance.

Here is the Shot Chart for the shots that Arsenal has conceded in the opening 10 games of the 2013/14 Premier League season.  And for those unfamiliar with these Shot Charts I am also showing the template that defines the boundary between the four zones that I use:


Shooting Zones


Arsenal has conceded 9 goals this season, but the two penalties scored by Sunderland and Aston Villa are not included in the above chart.

The concession of 125 shots is not elite; in fact the average EPL team has conceded 129 shots.  However, what Arsenal has done superbly is limit the amount of dangerous shots that they give up.  Their concession of just 31 shots (3 per game) from the Prime Zone is the best in the league; Tottenham, Man City and Everton are next best in this measure with 35 shots.


The result of preventing shots from good locations is that the average goal probability per shot allowed by Arsenal (at less than 7%) is the lowest in the Premier League.  I posted the following image in this look (link) at Roma, but it’s worth publishing here even if the figures do not take the latest round of games into account.


Roma AvgExpG Big5


Out of the 98 teams in the Big 5 leagues, only one team, Roma, forced teams to take shots where their average goal probability per shot was less than that allowed by Arsenal.  That metric must bring tremendous satisfaction to the team and their coaching staff.

I am measuring the average goal probability by using the ExpG measure created by Constantinos Chappas and me.  Some outline details about ExpG can be found in this article, but as we use this metric for betting purposes we’d prefer not to reveal the full details of the calculation method.  Incidentally an approach similar to this ExpG model seems to be used by Prozone and Joey Barton recently published some of Prozone’s stats on QPR.

At least we seem to be in good company…….

As well as owning the best average ExpG value allowed per shot, Arsenal have the lowest aggregate ExpG value conceded in the league.  This suggess that the Gunners are defensively sound and means that, on the whole, Arsenal’s low goals conceded total of 7 (excluding those 2 penalties) is deserved.  Although there are four teams that have conceded fewer league goals than Arsenal I would contend that the Goals Against column for those teams (Chelsea, Spurs, West Ham and Southampton) are much better than the shots they have given up would suggest.


The most extreme example of this is Southampton where they have conceded just 4 league goals.  Using the ExpG value for every shot conceded I ran a simulation which replicated the 97 shots that Southampton has faced this season 10,000 times.  In only 2.03% of these simulations did Southampton concede 4 goals or less.

Perhaps Southampton are doing something different where the probability of a team scoring against them is less than the average team in our data set but I don’t think so.  This incredibly low probability suggests that the Southampton goals conceded number is going to see some regression in the near future as the variance that they are currently getting the benefit of will turn on the Saints.

Who knows?  Perhaps Asmir Begovic’s goal for Stoke against the Saints on Saturday is an indicator of the “bad luck” that may be ahead of Southampton.

Arsenal in recent games

What’s even more impressive about Arsenal’s defensive performance is that they have improved as the season has gone on.  In 3 of their opening 4 games Arsenal conceded more than 1.00 ExpG (that is our estimation of the number of goals that a team should score given their shots); and their opposition in these games included Aston Villa, Fulham and Sunderland – none of which could be categorised as strong opposition.

However, in each of their last 6 games their ExpG against has been less than 1.00 and they conceded just 4 goals in those 6 games, so it’s not by luck that opposition teams are feeling frustrated after facing Arsenal.

I have seen Mathieu Flamini singled out for praise upon his return to Arsenal’s defensive system, and our ExpG numbers would corroborate that fact.  It’s probably no coincidence that he missed Arsenal’s opening two games of the season (when Arsenal shipped 2 of their 3 highest defensive ExpG figures).  The introduction of the French man has corresponded with a tangible decrease in the chances that Arsenal have given up.  

Arsenal Going Forward


Arsenal’s 142 shots represent the fourth highest volume of shots amongst teams.  Liverpool has also had 142 shots, and that pair trail behind Trigger Happy Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City in terms of efforts on goal.

Arsenal is very careful with their shooting locations, with no shots so far from the Very Poor Locations zone and 44% of their shots come from the Prime Zone which is well above the league average of 37%.

That Prime Zone figure of 44% is bettered by just Man City, West Brom and West Ham; with all of those teams have more headers than Arsenal.

The significance of this is that a team that has headers making up a larger proportion of their total chances would expect to see those chances originating from closer to goal than shots.  The trade off here though is that headers are converted at lower rates than kicked shots from all spots on the pitch.

All of the above means that Arsenal, although very good, from an attacking point of view have not been exceptional when analysed through the lens of our objective ExpG measure.

Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool (by virtue of their excellent average shot probability) all post aggregate ExpG values in excess of Arsenal’s number.

For the record, we have Man City with an ExpG of 8 higher than Arsenal, and Chelsea and Liverpool both at 3 goals higher than Arsenal at this stage of the season.

It’ll not surprise anyone when I therefore contend that although Arsenal has been a joy to watch this season they have over-performed in scoring 21 goals from their 142 shots. I processed Arsenal’s 142 shots through my simulator and on just over 10% (10.13%) of the simulations did Arsenal score at least 21 goals from the shots they took on. So, the over achievement of Arsenal in front of goals is not quite as significant as Southampton’s in stopping the goals being scored but, for my money Arsenal’s current goal tally of 21 goals (excluding the Giroud penalty) is somewhat inflated given the shots they have taken.

Aaron Ramsey

One of the stars of the season so far has been Aaron Ramsey with his 6 Premier League goals.  The Welsh midfielder has significantly upped his performances this season, probably due in no small part to the increased confidence that finding the net brings with it.

However, Ramsey is a perfect encapsulation of how Arsenal has scored more goals than the shots they have taken would suggest.

Using the same simulation methodology as above I have ascertained that Ramsey would score 6 goals less than 1% (0.85%) of the time based on the shots he has taken this season.

Even without access to advanced metrics, we know that shots are scored at a rate of approximately 10%.  Ramsey’s average shot location is certainly no better than would be expected for the league as a whole.  This simple logic would dictate that Ramsey would have been expected to have scored 2.30 goals from his 23 shots, not 6.

I want to be clear that our ExpG model uses much more complex inputs than laid out in the preceding paragraph, but even those simple numbers can give a sense of Ramsey’s over achievement in terms of putting the ball in the net.

I’m including a plot of all Ramsey’s shots this season and I spent some time trying to think of whose shots I could compare against.  I eventually settled on comparing the shots that Ramsey has taken this season with those taken by the same player last season.



The current season shots are the green dots, with the red and yellow checked dots representing the shots taken by Ramsey last season.

I think it’s fair to say that the general shapes of the shot locations are roughly similar from last season to this.  It is therefore surprising to see that last season Ramsey only scored 1 goal from his 46 shots, yet this season he’s shooting the lights out with 6 goals from half as many shots as last season.  You’d barely believe that these shots were struck by the same player.

I’d suggest that the true Aaron Ramsey conversion rate is somewhere between the two extremes, but the above image is a powerful reminder as to how much variance can exist when analysing individual players’ shots due to the relatively low numbers taken per season.

Interestingly, Ramsey’s variance of 6 actual goals against his 2 ExpG actually explains the majority of Arsenal’s attacking over achievement.


When we combine our attacking and defensive ExpG values for the entire Premier League, we rank Arsenal in third place overall, behind Man City and Chelsea.

Defensively they have been superb ensuring that teams shoot from unattractive locations, but the fact that Arsenal currently tops the league is partly due to variance in my opinion, and unless the Gunners create more and / or better attacking chances I would expect them to come back towards the chasing pack.

As a result of Arsenal’s relatively gentle start to the season in terms of opposition faced, it is inevitable that their strength of opposition will toughen up between now and Christmas.  In the event that goals start to dry up for the North London club the media will probably latch on to the fact that Arsenal have found it tougher as they face better opposition. In my opinion, this will be misguided as Arsenal is due a goal scoring regression regardless of who they face in their upcoming fixtures.


Another way of visualising the “luck” element that Arsenal has benefitted from this season is through PDO.  PDO is a concept that has been taken from ice hockey and it is supposed to measure luck by adding together the % of shots that a team scores and the % of opposition shots that they save. In summary, the league average is 100, and a number greater than 100 would suggest that a team has been lucky.

Our own Ben Pugsley has been keeping a record of PDO (amongst a host of other stats) over on his Bitter and Blue blog, and he has updated the stats for GW10.  His stats tables can be found here.

Arsenal tops the PDO table after 10 weeks.  Now I’m not totally convinced by the merits of PDO as it has at its core a belief that all shots for and against are equal, and I have shown that Arsenal allow poorer quality shots than anyone else in the league.

Still, even with that proviso I think it is useful to show that there is a measure other than our ExpG that shows that as good as Arsenal have been they are perhaps in a little bit of a false position.

I think it’s important for Arsenal fans to recognise this; they can certainly bask in the warm glow of being league leaders but be aware that the shooting performances suggest that there are currently one or two better teams in the Premier League than the Gunners.