Shots Under Pressure Part 2: Headers

By Derrick Yam | September 25, 2018

Shots Under Pressure Part 2: Headers

We first introduced our exploratory data analysis of shot pressure last week, that article can be found here. Now we’re going to examine specifically at headers. The goal is to see if there are any striking differences in the raw pressure metrics, and also look at the players topping each list and which passers are the best at pinpointing “wide open” shooters.

As the tables show, 72% of shots from a player’s head are under pressure versus 62% of all shots are under pressure. The average distance from goal for headers is 9.6 yards, roughly half of the average distance for all shots which is 18.8. That means the pressure radius is on average only, 2.3 yards. Thus, the defensive pressure on these headers is typically even closer to the shooter. Let’s take a closer look at where the pressure is coming from.

Looking at the pressure directions for headers, we see nearly identical results as what we saw with all shots in part 1 of this exploration into shot pressure.

Which players in the EPL take the most shots under pressure?

Players who take the highest percentage of their shots under pressure tend to be the big beefy boys who come up and crowd the box on set pieces. Then there is Steve Mounie and Ashley Barnes, attackers for notably conservative teams Huddersfield and Burnley. To some degree this is likely to be a function of the fact that the vast majority of many defenders shots come from set plays while most attackers will have some mix of set piece and open play headers on their statistical resume. In the cases of the attackers on the list disentangling their set play attempts from open play attempts would be a worthwhile next step.


Which players in the EPL take the fewest shots under pressure?

Notably, players that take a low percentage of their headers under pressure are a much more traditional set of attackers.

Which passers find the “open” player most often?

What we want to look at now is which players are finding teammates in positions to take open shots. It can be assumed at this point, that shots free from pressure are prefered to shots under pressure. Using the “pass_shot_assist” variable in the StatsBomb data we first look at the difference in proportion of shots under pressure given that they were taken after a key pass or not.

Now we can argue this is confounded by team strengths, teammates who make great runs and other factors. We could also argue that headers taken under pressure are not necessarily bad shots. But, given the clear, increased likelihood of scoring in the absence of pressure, it is definitely not a bad thing to be able to target open shooters. The players in the list above definitely pass the eye-test and in coming articles of this series on shot pressure, we will dive even deeper into those passers, their own shooting tendencies and identifying open players/better decisions through freeze frames.

Header image courtesy of the Press Association