Scatter plots: comparing the “big four” divisions
With the final round of Champions League group games this week, comparisons between the top European leagues will surely be forthcoming, so I thought I’d try smashing together the attacking and defensive records of all their clubs onto one set of scatter graphics. These are explained here if you haven’t seen them before.
First of all, here is how the number of shots taken by each club compares with those they face in return. The average number of shots taken per match is on the horizontal and the average number faced is on the vertical, so bottom right (take plenty, allow few in return) is good while top left (take few, allow plenty) is bad.
Apologies for the chaotic busy-ness of these graphics – it’s partly why I stopped at four divisions and didn’t try and lump more in there – but hopefully you can work out where everyone is based on their kits. You can click any of these graphics to bring up a full-sized version in a new tab:
Bayern‘s dominance of matches in Germany is clearly visible here: only Real Madrid have taken a comparable number of shots – around one fewer per match – and they have allowed around a shot and a half fewer per match than anyone else.
Arsenal and Napoli are right on top of each other here – similarly dominant to Barcelona in shot terms – and are also close together on both of the other charts.
In the bottom left, Man Utd and Deportivo both appear to be achieving success at the cost of entertainment, with a below-average number of efforts seen at both ends of the pitch.
The number of shots allowed by Frosinone is really quite startling, but at least they’re taking a respectable amount in return.
Now let’s look at attacking alone. The horizontal axis stays the same as in the graphic above, but now the vertical shows the average number of shots needed to score each league goal. Therefore bottom right is good (taking lots of shots and needing fewer efforts to convert) and top left is bad:
Dortmund are the most clinical side in the top four divisions, needing roughly one fewer shot to score each of their goals than Everton or Leicester, the Premier league’s most clinical teams. It’s how they’ve managed to score just one fewer goal than Bayern despite taking over four fewer shots per match.
Poor Malaga are the most wasteful side by quite some distance: they’ve taken almost 24 shots for each of the seven goals they’ve scored in La Liga so far this season. Two other Spanish sides – Las Palmas and Levante – are also among the five most profligate attacks.
Interestingly, Stuttgart are stuck in the Bundesliga relegation zone despite taking almost as many shots as Dortmund and the tenth most of the 78 clubs in this graphic.
West Brom and Bologna have taken the fewest shots of any side here – both are averaging fewer than nine per match – but the Italian side have made better use of theirs.
Finally let’s look at the defensive situation – basically take the above chart and replace the word “taken” for “faced” on both axes. Now top left is good – facing fewer shots and able to soak up more per goal conceded – and bottom right is bad:
At the very bottom we can see the other reason that Stuttgart are struggling: nobody in these four divisions has withstood fewer shots for each goal conceded, although Bournemouth come close. Interestingly Dortmund (in the bottom left) also fare poorly at keeping their opponents’ shots out, instead seemingly relying on not allowing very many.
The stand-out performers here are Atlético Madrid and Inter, who have soaked up a heroic number of shots for each goal conceded. Given Inter’s relatively ordinary position in the previous graphic (they take a fair few shots but also need quite a few to find the net), it looks like they owe much of their table-topping performance so far to their defence.
Both Stoke and Crystal Palace appear to be successfully absorbing a large number of shots, as along with Valencia they complete the five most resilient defences but they both allow over two more attempts at their goal per match than the average.
Note: Obviously these graphics don’t tell you everything about a club – for example there’s no examination of the types of shots that teams are taking and allowing – but they’re a good starting point to understand how teams are performing relative to each other.