European Top 10 Lists

A smattering of top and bottom lists involving teams shot data on offense and defense. These may be interesting to you, may be not, but I love looking at them because the more I watch and think and look at season stats the more I think the table lies. Soccer is such a low-scoring sport and such a sport of small margins that I think luck plays a larger luck in the final table than it does in most other sports. That’s is a future experiment to determine table vs performance variability in soccer vs baseball, football, hoops, hockey, etc but for now I think it’s safe to say at the least we can learn a lot about how teams play by looking deeper. Some of these stats have more repeatability than others, for example SOT% on offense is as you would expect is pretty repeatable year-on-year. Goal/SOT for offenses have much more randomness. Non-blocked SOT% for defenses has a large amount of randomness as well. A more detailed post on which of these are repeatable and which aren’t will be coming later but for now enjoy the Europe-wide tables.

Offense

Exp G per game 

Top

Bottom

Shot on target% (with distance rank, lower=better)

Top

Bottom

Goal/SOT

If Hamburg and Evian switched goal/SOT rates (and Hamburg are taking shots from closer than the French side) the Dinosaurs of German football would have 19 more goals and would not be sweating relegation. Evian would have 18 less goals and almost certainly headed for Ligue 2.

Exp G/S – who is getting the best/worst quality shots

Top

Atletico Madrid lead Europe in header% at nearly 30%. Roma are the bottom team at just over 5%. Atletico is nearly 6 times as likely to head a shot as Roma are.

Bottom

Teams outperforming xG

Do not mistake this for a lucky table. For example, Real Madrid’s shot distance and ability to put balls on target and in the goal is a several year trend which means you expect them to overperform their unadjusted expG. At some point I will post the adjusted expG numbers in which I expect Real Madrid to fall off this list. Caen and Evian on the other hand I do not. Spurs I think have been very lucky this season as well as can be seen here. Lyon and Wolfsburg are two very interesting cases as both have had surprisingly strong seasons and sit in 2nd in their leagues right now. Neither get amazingly close shots, yet put the ball on target extremely well and score at a high rate. Wolfsburg especially I feel has become overrated due to the beatdown they put on Bayern, I’ve heard a podcast where Napoli was dismissed in the Europa League because they had to face Wolfsburg. The Wolves are playing very well, but aren’t quite at the level of elite European side yet.

Teams underperforming xG

I’ve already talked about poor Hamburg here. They have since added a absolute beatdown at the hands of Leverkusen and are 3 points from safety. They have never been relegated from the Bundesliga and I hope they aren’t this year. They can complain a bit about their absolutely putrid luck at scoring the ball when they put the ball on target, a shocking 13.9%. Hamburg take shots from closer than Wolfsburg but the when the Wolves put the ball on target it is 2.5x more likely to go in. Granada, Burnley, QPR, Metz, and Almeria all sit in the relegation zone.

Defense

Exp GA per game

Top

Dortmund are the surprise here as every other team on this list is likely headed for the Champions League.

Bottom

Spurs have allowed a closer average shot than any other team in the top 5 leagues in Europe.

SOT allowed %

Top

Bottom

Bayern Munich stands out here like a sore thumb. I would guess they allow such a high SOT rate and have such a low block rate (the two go hand in hand oftentimes) due to how they play. They want to limit shots against most of the time and are trying to get the ball back with high pressure instead of getting men between the ball and the goalie. So the very few shots they allow tend to come with fewer players than most teams have back.

Goal/SOT

Top

Bottom

Exp GA/S

Top

Bottom

Block%

Here is where the English sides just absolutely crush the opposition as I’ve talked about before: https://saturdaysoncouch.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/english-defenders-getting-stuck-in-shot-anatomy-of-europes-big-league/. 8 of the top 10 get stuck in while Juve and Udinese have some of the English grit and toughness. Everton and Hull are more than twice as likely to block a shot as those soft-defenders at Celta Vigo , Freiburg and Bayern Munich. Cool to see the massive difference in approaches that Bayern and Juve take to becoming the best defenses in Europe shown so clearly here.

Top

Bottom

Non-blocked SOT%

Top

Bottom

In a category that is almost totally random when you look at the big picture as we can see below:

we see one team doing it year after year. Juve has now made it 3 straight years right near the top, obviously tied into their forcing teams to take such long shots. Or maybe the groundskeepers simply paint the boxes super huge in Turin and fool the opponents? Can’t count it out with Torino at #3. A strange nugget from this category is a shot against Celta Vigo is 43% more likely to miss the target than one against Eintracht Frankfurt, despite Frankfurt giving up a longer average shot.

Teams outperforming raw expG (allowed fewer goals than expected)

I don’t think this is a list of “lucky” teams. There are a number of adjustments that need to be made to the expGA tally before you can conclude which teams are actually lucky or not. Juve’s ability to consistently have low SOT% and low G/SOT numbers means they aren’t simply getting lucky year after year. However, Gladbach is one I am comfortable saying fortune is smiling upon them. The Foals goalie Yann Sommer has saved nearly 87% of on-target shots. They are generally coming from a long distance away but the 10th place distance team, Guingamp, allows on target shots to be goals at a .292 rate. If the Foals allowed goals at that rate then they would have allowed almost 20 more goals this season and certainly would not be locked into next years Champions League and the $25+ million that will come with it. Maybe this is how they get back to their rightful place of dueling with Bayern: a sizzling goalie and poor opposition shooting helping them to the UCL then they kick on. Wishful thinkings maybe, but would be nice to see. And if you like reading about the history of soccer at all I highly recommend Tor! by Uli Hesse, it’s an absolutely brilliant book that has filled me in on all kinds of German soccer history I knew very little about. Great read, not a slog at all.

Teams underperforming expG (allowed more goals than expected)

No surprise for people who have followed the Bundesliga to see Dortmund way up in the unlucky category. They and Napoli could miss out on big-time UCL money because they can’t keep teams from pouring the ball into the net.

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