Scatter graphics: League 2, 6 Feb 2016

Here are updated scatter graphics for League 2, which compare the attacking and defensive performance of each club. These are explained here if you haven’t seen them before.

Shot dominance

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. The stripes are like contours: the greener the stripe, the better the performance (and vice versa for red).

L2 Att Def 2016-02-06Dominant Accrington continue to make pre-season predictions of their relegation look ridiculous, having taken more shots than anyone else in the division and allowing fewer than all but two other sides.

One of those two is Portsmouth, who have faced the fewest shots of anyone by far, and around half as many as the most permissive defence: that of Yeovil.

While Notts County have created plenty of chances this season, they’ve also allowed a worryingly high number in return.

Attacking effectiveness

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:

L2 Att 2016-02-06Northampton may not take that many shots but they’ve made excellent use of the ones they have carved out, firing in almost three fewer attempts for each goal scored than the average side.

Despite taking a similar number of shots to the Cobblers, Hartlepool have been the division’s most wasteful finishers, marginally more so than Bristol Rovers who have at least fired in around four more efforts per match.

Rovers are among a cluster of the division’s five most industrious attackers, all of whom have been below-average at converting their chances so far. Sides like Carlisle have presented a greater all-round threat: balancing regular attacks with clinical finishing.

Defensive effectiveness

Next 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:

L2 Def 2016-02-06Plymouth have continued to soak up an impressive number of shots for each goal conceded: just under five more than the average and almost double that of Crawley, operartors of the most porous back line.

Among the cluster of other strong defensive performers we find Oxford, Wycombe and Bristol Rovers – along with Mansfield – who have all kept pace at the top end of the division thanks to their solidity at the back.

While the likes of Exeter and Yeovil have allowed plenty of shots at their goal, they have at least soaked many of these up, unlike the four clubs in the bottom right who have struggled for solidity this season.

Expected goals

Finally here’s an attempt at correcting the first graphic for the quality of chances created and allowed, using the same “expected goals” values that power my shot timelines (explained here). The reason for doing this is that the results tend to correlate more strongly with performance than when we treat all shots equally:

L2 EG 2016-02-06York and Stevenage are sitting the highest here: their defences have been the division’s most vulnerable, although not by much. The more spacious bottom part of the graphic shows that there’s much more variability among the better-performing back lines with both Wimbledon and Portsmouth having allowed roughly half the quality of chances in an average match this season.

Three of the current bottom four – YorkYeovil and Dag & Red – have been the three worst performers overall, with the three worst attacking records and all among the worst five defensive ones, so two of them are likely to be filling the relegation spots at the end of the season.

Both Notts County and Carlisle look to have seen strong attacking showings undermined by leaving themselves open at the back, while Wycombe head a cluster of sides in the bottom left whose strong defensive performances have come at the cost of a cutting edge up front.