Monday, 18 June 2012

When To Shoot Smart and When To Shoot Often.

71% of France's shots against England were attempted from outside the penalty area,or 15 out of 21 and one of those long range efforts saw Nasri beat his club keeper,Joe Hart with a cut shot that dipped late and low into the bottom corner.I haven't checked France's longterm shooting preference under Blanc,but I'd be surprised if such an extreme shoot on sight policy on Monday is indicative of their usual style.The further away you are from goal,the less likely you are to score or hit the target.Teams do become slightly more likely to shoot from distance if they are trailing or drawing against sides who they feel they should defeat,so perhaps that,coupled with England's tendency to get men south of the ball contributed to Les Bleus tactics.

If we take last year's EPL season as a guide,goal attempts from inside the box outnumbered those taken from distance,6100 for the former and 4841 for the latter and the average league conversion rates confirms the relative difficult of scoring from greater distances.14.5% for those attempts inside compared to 3.7% for those outside.These ratios of course vary between games and between clubs,but in view of the large drop off in conversion rates,it's worth trying to ask which teams are at least trying to balance their attempts towards an optimum.

Realistically our attempts won't be entirely successful for both practical and methodical reasons,so it's sensible to initially list the obstacles.Firstly,there's shot quality.Not all shots are going to be as easy to save as others,even from the same area of the pitch and there's no reliable way to measure a shot's difficulty,anyway.Opinion was evenly split between Hart being at fault or simply beaten by a dipping topspin shot in England's first Euro 2012 game.So even if we witness every shot personally our opinions will often be as diverse as a those of a boxing judge.The shooter and the keeper are the best judges of a shot's quality and their voiced opinions are likely to be biased based on the outcome of the attempt.

Secondly,we know with absolute clarity the fate of 14.5% of shots from inside the box in last season's EPL,they went in the goal,but we know next to nothing about the other 5214 attempts.They could have been saved,have gone wide or been blocked.They could have resulted in a change of possession or led to a corner,a goal mouth melee and a subsequent goal.So we know the benefit of a successful shot,but we can only guess at the average benefit of an unsuccessful one.

Lastly,the alternative to attempting a longrange effort isn't automatically trying one closer to the goal.We many be able to deduce that a team is shooting too often and with poor efficiency from distance,but they may need to develop the play from ten potential longrange efforts to produce one extra effort from inside the box.Overall their scoring could become even less prolific because of their laboured efforts to effect a shot from closer range.

Goal Attempts for Each Team from the EPL 2011/12 Season.

TEAM. Attempts
Inside Box.
Goals from
Inside Box.
Outside Box.
Goals from
Outside Box.
Man City. 452 73 288 20
Arsenal. 419 67 222 10
A Villa. 260 30 179 8
Sunderland. 242 31 217 13
Man Utd. 394 73 253 15
Wigan. 263 29 257 13
WBA. 301 36 245 10
Liverpool. 394 39 277 7
Stoke. 240 34 138 3
Everton. 297 42 225 8
Spurs. 371 52 331 14
Newcastle. 256 44 238 12
Swansea. 252 36 221 8
Bolton. 277 40 222 6
Wolves. 279 37 194 3
Blackburn. 241 39 214 7
Fulham. 289 42 257 6
Norwich. 280 47 243 5
Chelsea. 349 60 324 5
QPR. 244 35 296 7

The number of goals a team scores over a season is a function of how often they shoot and their conversion rate for turning those shots into goals.Therefore,in simplistic terms a team can try to increase the number of goals it scores by either shooting more or shooting more effectively or ideally both.As we've divided shots into long and shorter range attempts we can see if shooting efficiency or shot count is the better indicator of goals scored in both cases.

If we plot the number of goals a team scored from outside the box against firstly each team's number of shots and then against each team's shot conversion rate we find that the number of long range goals scored by a team is much more strongly related to conversion rate than number of attempts.

The number of long range goals a team scores is strongly linked to having players who are adept at shooting from distance,merely shooting more often may not result in many extra goals,especially if the extra shots are being taken by less skilled long range shooters.Last season at least,Chelsea's scored from just 1.5% of their shots from outside the box and they were similarly below the league average for conversion rates in 2010/11. Teams with players who can only score at that lowly rate from distance would expect to score around four goals from outside the box.Chelsea managed five last year,but only because they attempted 80 more shots than an those of an average side.Unless their longrange shots were providing extra value to go along with their tiny goals tally,such as corners or rebound shots closer to goal,they would probably been better off using the possession to try to create a shot from inside the box or alternatively restrict their long range efforts to a core group of proven specialists in an attempt to drive up their conversion rate.

If we now look at shots from inside the box we now see that the situation is reversed and there is a stronger positive correlation between the number of shots you take and the number of goals you score rather than between conversion rate and goals.So in contrast to long range goals,the main,reliable driving force behind increasing your scoring rate is to take more shots.In contrast to longer range efforts when only proven talent with a well established shot conversion rate should be encouraged to attempt a shot,once we get inside the 18 yard box,the experience of last season's EPL would suggest that shots should now be taken at every opportunity by whoever they fall to.

The picture is far from complete,we can probably calculate roughly how often a 30 yard shot results in a goal,but we are still a long way from knowing how the likelihood of a goal changes if the player chooses to make a pass instead of taking a shot.So at the moment we are merely looking at shots in terms of a success if a goal is scored and as a failure if the effort remains scoreless.

How teams try to improve their scoring can vary between sides,either through new signings adding better skills or established players discovering newfound talents.But the previous analysis may indicate that in general,teams are best served by leaving longrange efforts to a select few and allowing a free for all and a shoot on sight policy when chances fall inside the box.

If we return briefly to Nasri's strike against Hart and England,the Frenchman's conversion rate from outside the box over the last four EPL seasons with first Arsenal and then Manchester City is 5 from 111 attempts,making him likely to be a well above the league average,especially if we factor in the four additional shots that hit the woodwork.And therefore,a prime candidate to be one of France's designated long range shooters.

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