Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Premier League Goal Scorers at Euro 2016.

The creme of the footballing elite may play in La Liga or Budgesliga, but there is no shortage of top class Euro 2016 talent who currently grace the Premier League.

18 countries currently engaged at France 2016 have at least one Premier League based squad member, led unsurprisingly by England (23), followed by Wales (13), Belgium and Republic of Ireland, both 12, down to Romania, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden with one each.

On the field, the tournament has followed the regular pattern of opening round matches by producing tight, low scoring contests, probably exaggerated by the possibility of knockout qualification for a third place group finish.

It is therefore natural that the focus in the later group stage games will fall on those players who are more likely to deliver goals for their country.

Analysing goal scorers has a series of components. Scorers are successful partly due to their ability to get on the end of lots of chances and then convert these chances with a modicum of skill.

So an ideal goal scorer's output is driven partly by shot volume and partly by shot conversion.

Often the latter is seen as the mark of a natural scorer, the ability to clinically dispatch a chance, even if a player has been largely anonymous in the match. While a player who consistently gets into good scoring positions without success, especially over the short term, is labelled profligate.

In the tables and plots below, I've looked at all Premier League players at Euro 2016 who have scored at least five goals in the last Premier League campaign and I've simulated the outcome of every non penalty goal attempt they made during the 2015/16 season.

This simulated model for each player using such inputs as shot type and shot location produces a distribution of likely outcomes based on the frequency and quality of their chances in 2015/16 paired with the finishing ability of an average Premier League player.

Wales and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey scored five goals in 2015/16 from nearly 70 attempts. A poor haul from so many attempts, especially when the location is accounted for. Our modelled "average player" only scored fewer than Ramsey's five in 1.8% of simulations and would perform as well or better in a whopping 98.2% of such simulations.

Wonder kid, Marcus Rashford, also bagged five Premier League goals from considerably fewer attempts.

Mr Average would equal or better Rashford's haul in just under 5% of simulations and would fall short of his five goals ~96% of the time.

So if we take these simulation based conclusions at face value we may, selection dependent, have the best and worst Euro 2016 Premier League finishers facing off when Wales play England on Thursday afternoon.

Certainly Rashford has out performed his cumulative expected goals tally by as wide a margin as Ramsey has under performed his.

However, temping though it is to treat "advanced" stats with a degree of certainty, they should still be placed within a larger probabilistic context.

For one, Ramsey has an earlier body of work, where his conversion rates were much better.

Also if we model Ramsey's 2015/16 conversions from the basis of a slightly below average player and Rashford's compared to a slightly above average finisher, then both become less extreme outliers within two closely related classifications,

Expected goals do an excellent job of describing a player's season. Ramsey has been less than clinical, whereas Rashford has been writ large. But as a projection for the future, there is usually a large pull towards the average for the league as a whole.

The English striker is likely a better finisher than the Welsh midfielder, but the gap is unlikely to be as wide as their respective 2015/16 figures imply.

In the remaining tables I've simulated the Premier League attempts of all players at Euro 2016 who scored five or more actual non penalty goals.

Those whose red figures, denoting their actual goal tally, fall above the greened up most likely outcome from the simulation failed to catch the eye as a "clinical" finisher, while those whose red figure falls below green probably did.

The majority of the Euro 2016 player's 2015/16 Premier League achievements are within statistical touching distance of those expected from our "average player".

Kane, Rooney, Long, Benteke, Giroud, Arnautovic and Sterling are each cocooned within a sea of greened up average output.

Which may encourage you to lean towards attempt volume as a more important driver of actual goals than the perceived ability to consistently nutmeg the keeper once you get him in your sights.

1 comment:

  1. I got even money on Aaron Ramsey to score +5.5 goals for the entire PL season, which I considered great value playing for Asrenal. I thought I was slightly unlucky due to his injury record.

    But I was actually remarkably unlucky by him being so crap !