Scatter graphics: League 2, 2 Mar 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 2016-03-02Dominant 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 everyone except Portsmouth.

Pompey have faced the fewest shots by far: only slightly over half as many as the most permissive defences of Yeovil and York, who have also also struggled to carve out chances of their own.

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 2016-03-02Northampton may not take that many shots but they’ve made excellent use of the ones they have carved out, firing in around two and a half fewer attempts for each goal scored than the average side.

Despite taking a similar number of shots to the Cobblers, Dag & Red and Hartlepool have been among the division’s most wasteful finishers, which is a worry.

Three of the division’s most industrious attackers – Bristol Rovers, Plymouth and Notts County – 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 2016-03-02Plymouth have continued to soak up an impressive number of shots for each goal conceded: just under five more than the average and around double that of Morecambe, operartors of the most porous back line.

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

While Yeovil have allowed plenty of shots at their goal, they have at least soaked many of these up, unlike the cluster of clubs beneath them in the bottom right who have struggled to neutralise opponents 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 2016-03-02York are sitting the highest here: their defence has been the division’s most vulnerable and their attack the weakest, although not by much. Both Dag & Red and Yeovil have had similar troubles up front.

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

The four sides clustered in the bottom right look to be the division’s best all-round performers, so all should have a part to play in the promotion race.