Visualising each club’s attacking threat
I’ve received a few questions on Twitter lately about quantifying the effect of individual players and – while I occasionally benchmark the leading goalscorers against each other – I realised that I could do with a quick way of visualising how an individual club’s shots and goals break down by player.
What I’ve come up with is a simple graphical template showing the most notable attacking players that I can run for any club at any time.
How they work
These are basically simple scatter graphs that plot a club’s main attacking players as follows:
- On the horizontal axis we have their goal threat, based on the “expected goals” value of shots taken per 90 minutes. This is effectively a measure of the combined quality of their goalscoring chances.
- On the vertical axis we have their scoring rate, using a less abstract measure of actual number of goals scored per 90 minutes.
Both of these numbers exclude penalties, as those can massively skew a player’s contribution away from the threat they pose from open play.
In my regular scatter plots, each club’s “bubble” is the same size, but here I wanted to use the size of the bubble to denote something. I settled on percentage of possible minutes played, so that we can differentiate between near ever-presents and bit-part players.
How they’re set up
I originally intended to put every player on here, but if you do that then you get loads of defensive-minded players all piled on top of each other at the low end and some silly numbers at the high end where someone who netted in a fleeting substitute appearance would have a ridiculously high scoring rate.
I’ve therefore only included players who:
- Have played for at least of a third of their club’s league minutes this season (to filter out super-subs whose numbers aren’t sustainable), and
- Have taken at least one shot per 90 minutes on average (to filter out players who don’t play a regular part in their team’s attacks).
At the moment this is displaying a manageable number of players on each club’s chart, but I may tweak this in future if I happen upon a more effective combination.
The other thing I had to decide was what extremes to use for each axis, for which I’ve used the best-performing player in each division.
Why they’re useful
What I like about these is:
1. They show whether a club is reliant on one or two players or tends to spread goalscoring responsibility more evenly throughout the team.
For example, we can see how reliant Grimsby have been on Omar Bogle so far – they may struggle if he’s ever absent from the side:
Meanwhile Northampton tend to share the load across a number of players:
2. A player’s relative position on each axis tells you how sustainable their performances are likely to be, e.g. if a player is scoring at a rate far higher than the chances he’s getting, then over the long run we’d expect his scoring rate to decrease, and vice versa.
For example, I’d expect Burton’s Chris O’Grady to find the scoresheet eventually, given that he’s getting better chances than anyone else:
Meanwhile John Stead’s impressive start doesn’t look like it can last forever:
That’s more than enough explaining for now – I’ve summarised the most important bits at the bottom of the graphic anyway. Below are slideshows for all three EFL divisions (edit: and the Premier League), with the clubs in alphabetical order:
Birmingham and Brentford are two examples of a team with a dominant forward getting on the end of the lion’s share of their chances, while that role is painfully absent at Ipswich so far. Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle is unsurprisingly the standout performer.
The scales are smaller here – particularly the vertical as there’s nobody banging them in as rapidly as Dwight Gayle in the third tier at the moment. Bristol Rovers’ Matty Taylor and Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp are performing impressively however, while Port Vale’s graphic is worryingly sparse.
Along with Grimsby, Barnet are also heavily reliant on one striker – John Akinde – while many of the promotion-chasing clubs like Carlisle, Doncaster and Portsmouth look to have several reliable outlets in the top right corners of their charts.
I belatedly realised that I had Premier League data knocking around so I’ve added these clubs in too. Unsurprisingly they show that the likes of Lukaku at Everton, Aguero at Man City and Ibrahimovic at Man Utd are the clear focal point of their teams’ attacks. Interestingly Liverpool are spreading the goalscoring burden around a lot more evenly, with plenty of players stepping up during Sturridge’s lean spell.
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