In an article published last week I looked at which Premier League players performed particularly badly in terms of finishing the chances that they had. We discovered that Chelsea’s Ramires had the dubious honour of being the inaugural winner of the Premier League Sodden Boot.
In this second installment of our end of season Premier League shooting review I want to look at the average chance quality of shots taken by individual players. Once again, I will undertake this analysis through the lens of the ExpG model (created with Constantinos Chappas) as we determine which players’ choice of shot quality gave them the greatest chance of scoring, as well as those that did anything but that.
The ExpG model takes into account much more of each shot’s specific circumstances than just the location, but the shot location is extremely important; hence the title of this article.
As with the Sodden Boot analysis I am only looking at players that took in excess of 50 shots (or headers) in the Premier League this season. In performing this analysis I have excluded penalties and shots taken directly from free kicks. A penalty taken will see a player’s overall average ExpG value per shot increase due to the approximate ExpG of 0.77 that a penalty gives them, and this is not required as the purpose of this article is to assess the quality of the chances attempted.
Top of the Pops
Based on the stated criteria – at least 50 shots / headers, excluding penalties and direct free kicks – can you take a guess as to which player’s chances, on average, were of the highest quality this season in the Premier League?
At 6ft 7in, Peter Crouch certainly wasn’t the first name that I thought of, but, by some margin, his shots and headers had the highest average ExpG value, ie chance of the shot resulting in a goal, during the 2013/14 Premier League. In fact, Crouch was the only player to have an average ExpG per shot of greater than 0.20.
As expected of a player with such a physical advantage, Crouch had a large number of headed attempts with just 34 of his 60 efforts at goal being struck with his feet. I have written previously that headers are converted at lower rates than kicked shots, and so it is worth pointing out that our ExpG model does actually award a lower value for a header compared to a kicked shot from the same location.
I’m sure that Crouch will be disappointed that his 60 shots resulted in just 8 goals this season, compared to the 12.5 that the ExpG values of his shots would have suggested.
Crouch’s Shot Locations
Crouch’s very attractive shooting locations, split by headers and shots, are as shown below:
Source for Shot Locations: Opta
Best Of The Rest
Very interestingly, the three players that follow Crouch and occupy 2nd – 4th place are the three Man City strikers – Aguero, Dzeko and Negredo. Below this grouping of Man City strikers we have the main attacking threat of each of the other leading teams, with one notable exception. Luis Suarez.
Although Suarez improved his shooting discipline this season, with the result that the average ExpG of his shots (exc pens and direct free kicks) increased to 0.131 from 0.12 last term, his penchant for long range shooting ensures that he fails to occupy one of the leading positions in respect of the quality of the average shot taken. I hasten to add that, in theory his shooting opportunities were of lower quality on average than those players appearing on the list!!
Suarez’s average shot quality of 0.131 was enough to see him placed in 19th in the rankings of average ExpG per shot.
Man City Attacking Prowess
When we see how the remaining leading positions in the chance quality table were shared out amongst the other teams, it is very noticeable that Man City managed to have three strikers that had truly excellent shot chance quality.
It is possible that all three players have superb footballing brains and only choose to shoot when the chance is of a sufficiently high quality. Whilst this may be true, it is difficult to think that there are not some serious team effects at play here. Man City’s style of patient, probing play, through balls and pullbacks resulted in them having 47% of their shots from the Prime Zone – the highest rate in the Premier League. Attaining this level of shot quality, whilst also taking the second most shots in the league is the short hand reason why Man City won the league this season.
David Silva’s average ExpG of 0.148 seen him post the highest figure in the EPL for non strikers; yet another example of just how City were able to create high quality chances this season.
Shot Quality by Team
Unsurprisingly, these shooting locations seen Man City possess the highest average ExpG value per shot (exc penalties and direct free kicks) in this year’s Premier League:
Repeatability of Average ExpG
In my Sodden Boot article I stressed that the conversion rate of Goals : ExpG on an individual player level does not yet seem to be repeatable from season to season. The little work I have carried out has indicated that the average ExpG per shot on a player level does show some level of correlation. This is something that I hope to look at closer during the summer recess.
However, it is intuitive to think that the average ExpG per shot value is more likely to be influenced by the role played in the team than by a desire inherent in the player to just shoot from positive EV places. Of course, the people at the very top of this table will be in that position due to a very effective combination of both factors; their role on the team as the main striker as well as possessing the smarts to be aware of the quality of the shots they attempt.
The Other End of the Table
That then leads us to a group of players that do not seem to view shot quality as being of any great importance to them. At this stage I should point out that some of these players do appear to be very good at long range shooting, one such example is the ex-Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye. However, for every Cabaye we have players who, for their own benefit, should be pointed to the following table:
Andros Townsend certainly gained notoriety during the early part of the campaign for his hugely wasteful shooting, and so it is perhaps with some surprise that Townsend doesn’t have the honour of topping this particular table of shame. Instead, with each shot having an average ExpG value of less than 4%, Norwich’s Nathan Redmond can lay claim to be the player that shot from the worst positions during the 2013/14 Premier League campaign.
Redmond’s Shot Locations
Source for Shot Locations: Opta
Townsend and Redmond are both young, at 22 and 20 respectively, so perhaps their shot decision making will improve as they mature. As it stands, however, they only serve to frustrate the Spurs and Norwich supporters as they brought too many of their team’s attacks to a premature end this season.