Shot Efficiency

28 01 2010

You’ve got to hit the target. It’s a simple truth, and one often repeated during the course of a football game. A shot that’s off-target is a wasted opportunity: all it does is hand possession back to the opposition.

As result, it makes logical sense that a player who can hit the target with relative regularity is a valuable commodity. A shot that is headed for goal forces a save or a block, which can result in follow-up chances or corners if the initial shot doesn’t go in.

With this in mind I decided to see which players stood out from the crowd with regard to shot efficiency. Quite simply I looked at the percentage of shots taken that hit the target, and the percentage that go in. In the interest of simplicity I only looked at players from the current top 3 teams: Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The first thing that became apparent was that both John O’Shea and Fran Mérida have an impressive 100% goal rate this season. They have, however, only taken a single shot each over the course of the 09/10 campaign. Consequently I narrowed it down to players who have taken at least 25 shots so far this season.

The resulting list of 15 players contained all the players you might expect to find. These players accounted for 106 of the teams’ combined 139 Premier League goals this season and an impressive 815 attempts on goal.

The standout player of the group was Cesc Fábregas. Love him or hate him he really contributes. As well as being the only player in the league to have hit double digits for both goals and assists (11 and 11), the Arsenal captain has seen a whopping 20.4% of his efforts hit the back of the net.

In terms of total attempts, unsurprisingly, Rooney and Drogba are leading the pack. It follows that they are also leading the league in goals right now. What was surprising was that, despite taking 29 fewer shots than Rooney, Didier Drogba has hit the target on 2 more occasions. This translates in to a difference of over 10 percentage points in their shooting efficiency.

But if that should be the case, how come Rooney has 19 goals to Drogba’s 14 this season? In fact, despite missing the target far more frequently, Rooney actually scores a higher percentage of his shots than Drogba. Even more extreme is Anelka, who has hit the target with an incredible 50% of his 58 shots. But while over half of Rooney’s goal-bound efforts hit the back of the net, barely one in 5 of Anelka’s beat the keeper.

Which makes you wonder how much benefit there is in hitting the target. It would be interesting to know how many of those saved or blocked shots resulted in goals, whether from the rebound falling to an attacking player or a goal from a resulting corner. At the end of the day, Rooney may be more of an all or nothing striker, but at the rate he’s scoring, nobody’s is thinking too much about the missed shots.

Note: Statistics include league games up to 25 Jan 2010

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