I read a very interesting article by Ben Pugsley (who you can follow on Twitter here) which looked at the scoring percentage and shooting efficiency of the top ten strikers in the Premier League this season.
I thought I’d use the shot placement data from EPLIndex to see if it could explain a couple of points in the article, as well as digging into the improved goal scoring record of Luis Suárez whilst I was at it.
In case you’ve not read any of my previous shot placement articles, a quick explanation. Opta divide the goal into six sections: high and low for left, centre and right. As an example, here are Suárez’ figures from 2012/13 so far:
We can then calculate what percentage of their shots a player puts into each section of the goal, and what percentage of shots they score by area, and compare both figures with the totals for the league as a whole.
In Ben’s article, he looks at ‘Scoring %’ (which is calculated by dividing goals scored by shots on target (SoT)), and with reference to Michu, who has scored a whopping 51.7% of his shots on target, he says:
Michu’s scoring% is crazy high, even by the top 10’s standard. I am struggling to accept that Michu will continue to score at 51.7%. His scoring % is a classic example of a ‘bubble’, and it will burst and slowly regress toward, and maybe beyond, that 40% top 10 average.
A look at the conversion percentages for the different areas of the goal shows that Michu is vastly over-performing specifically in the lower half of the goal. The Spaniard has put 72.4% of his SoT in the bottom half of the goal, against a league average of 76.5%, so broadly the same, but he has scored 57.1% of those shots when the average is just 27%.
In simple terms, Michu has scored over twice as many SoT in the bottom half of the goal than the league average. Even the other nine top scorers in the Premier League only average a goal with 38.7% of their shots here, so the Swansea man is vastly outperforming some of the best strikers in the world at present.
Fantastic for now, but it surely can’t last. For instance, he’d have a total of nine goals instead of fifteen this season with a league average performance in the lower half of the goal, and that is closer to what I would expect him to score next season, not least as his conversion percentage for the top half of the goal (37.5%) is broadly in line with league average (33.3%) so could easily be upheld next season.
In his article, Ben also notes that he thought Papiss Cisse’s Scoring% would regress this season, and indeed it has. The Senegalese forward has had one more shot on target than last season, yet has six fewer goals this term. Once again, the shot placement info goes a long way to explaining why.
For starters, Cisse has gone from putting 62% of his shots in the bottom half of the goal last season to 77% this season. Whilst his conversion percentage for the top half of the goal has remained in the 60%s (which is hugely impressive), his record in the bottom half has regressed from a Michu-bettering 61.5% in 2011/12 to 23.5% this season, so he is now below the aforementioned league average of 27%.
This is specifically down to the fact that Cisse is shooting more at the low centre of the goal, where the keeper has the best chance of making a save (as he’s probably stood there) and just 15.7% of shots are scored on average. The Geordie hitman puts 8% more of his shots in this zone than he did last season, and is paying the price accordingly.
In the unlikely event that Cisse had upheld his remarkable form in the lower half of the goal, he’d have thirteen goals this season instead of seven, and would be in the top ten Premier League scorers. If his top half of the goal form regresses to league average too, then he might only score six goals next season.
Finally, as this is a Liverpool blog, a look at how Luis Suárez has performed this season and last. The data shows he is riding the crest of the wave that Cisse is currently drowning in.
Like the Newcastle man, Suárez conversion percentage for the top half of the goal has remained fairly consistent; 33.3% last season, down slightly to 27.3% during this campaign.
However, the Uruguayan is now scoring 42.2% of his shots in the lower half of the goal for Brendan Rodgers, when he only scored 20.5% of them for Kenny Dalglish last year. The proportion of shots he puts in each half of the goal has only changed by 0.9%, yet he is scoring twice as many. How come?
Remember how I said Cisse is putting 8% more shots into the worst part of the goal? Coincidentally Suárez is putting 8% fewer in this area than last season, and is reaping the rewards as a result.
Perhaps a lot of this may seem very obvious; finding the corners of the goal where the keeper has less chance of scoring is hardly football rocket science after all. But the above data does demonstrate exactly why some strikers’ goal scoring records have fluctuated from last season to this, and it will be interesting to apply the theory to Michu in 2013/14.
Related articles you might like:
Shot Placement: The Suárez Show – Liverpool beat Norwich City 3-0 at Carrow Road, and this explains why.
Shot Placement: Gerrard’s Impact Against Everton – The captain bagged a hat-trick against the Toffees, but what part did his shot placement play in that?
How Important Is Shot Placement? - Proving that Liverpool’s shooting has been poor this season, in an article for The Tomkins Times.