Wayne Rooney

2 02 2010

The fact that so much of the attention after the Arsenal game was on Nani’s performance, in many ways, is a reflection on Rooney’s performances this season. Rooney was undeniably great in that game, but that’s not news anymore. Time and time again Rooney provides top drawer performances, so much so that it seems at times that we have become desensitized to his brilliance.

But with the World Cup looming, people have started to look at Rooney’s form with the big picture in mind. There’s the obvious question of whether Rooney can maintain his current level of play, which he will almost certainly have to if England are to have any chance of challenging for football’s biggest prize, but some have even been led to wonder if United’s dependance on Rooney, who has filled the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure admirably, will mean he gets overplayed, at the national side’s expense. In fact, with 34 starts in 35 games in all competition since August, including 23 of 23 in the Premier League, Rooney could be looking at a long and tiring season.

For now it remains to be seen how many minutes Rooney will log before the domestic season draws to a close, although England fans must surely be hoping for Owen to return swiftly to form if only to spare Rooney’s legs. His current level of form, on the other hand, is easier to examine. The most obvious feature when looking at his stats this year is his consistency. Fantastic news for England fans, Wayne Rooney has been performing at a ridiculously high level all year. How else could he have surpassed the total set by last season’s leading scorer by the end of January?

The chart below shows Rooney’s per game averages in shots, shots on target and goals for each month of the season so far. It shows us three things worth considering.

  1. Rooney has netted in every single calendar month so far. In fact the longest he has gone without a goal is three games across September and October. By contrast he had scored in 4 consecutive games prior to that, his longest such sequence of the season. Although he is currently on a 3-game run worth 6 goals.
  2. There are no worrying anomalies on the graph. Although there is a slight dip in production in October, it is not significant, and the exceptionally high standard set in August simply exaggerates it. Even during a relatively ‘off’ spell, Rooney’s production was more than respectable.
  3. He is excellent at taking the chances that come his way. A sudden drop in shots attempted in November, a full 2 per game less than in October, coincided with a modest upturn in shots on target and a marked increase in goals. In other words, regardless of what is going on around him, Rooney is superb at making sure he keeps the goals coming.

A chart showing Rooney's shots, shots on target and goal per game averages, broken down by month.

So while the shots attempted tend to fluctuate wildly, the shots on target and goals don’t necessarily follow, resulting in a fairly consistent output. But perhaps the best news for United fans, and potentially England fans to, is that in the last couple of months the stats are all trending upwards. So at nearly 7 shots a game, more than 2 hitting the target and a sublime 1.5 goals over January and with trends pointing upwards we have to wonder what Rooney’s limit is and if he might not just maintain this form, but exceed it in the coming months.

If he can continue to produce like this for the rest of the season, not only will he give England fans some real hope come summertime, but he will be on pace to pass the 30 goal target set by his manager. With 20 goals in 23 games, Rooney is currently on track to net 33 goals in the league this year. Should he achieve it, it would be the highest Premier League tally since 1995, leaving him just a goal shy of the all-time Premier League league record of 34 goals set by Andrew Cole in the 93/94 season and matched by Alan Shearer the next year.

Manchester United have won the Premier League in each of the three seasons when one of their players topped the scoring chart.

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Shot Efficiency – Part 2

29 01 2010

After my earlier blog on shot efficiency I decided to expand my focus and look at the numbers for all players. Below is a brief summary of those who stood out from the crowd when I looked at shots attempted, shots on target and goals scored. In the interest of consistency, and the fact that I started on this a couple of days ago, the games in midweek have not been included in these figures.

The Good

Rooney and Drogba

As mentioned in the initial post, they just make trouble for opposition keepers. The only two players to have taken over 100 shots this year, they are well ahead of Hugo Rodallega in third place who has attempted a meagre 85 shots so far. A combination of ability to create chances as well as an impressive supporting cast means these two terrorise defences on a regular basis.

Rodallega deserves a special mention here, because he actually manages to push Rooney out of the top 2 for shots on target per game. Drogba gets an impressive average of 2.4 shots on target per game, while Rodallega (2.0)and Rooney (1.9) take second and third place.

Jermaine Defoe

Despite averaging 1.7 shots per game less than Drogba (and, incidentally a full 2 fewer than Rooney), the pair are tied for second place, along with Darren Bent, for second place in goals scored this year. He’s making keepers work hard too, with 1.8 shots on target per game.

Sunderland

Or rather, Sunderland’s strikers. Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones both rank in the top 5 for goal efficiency among players taking at least 20 shots this season. In other words they are both scoring with over 20% of their attempts. Sunderland fans keep count, for every 5 shots they take between them, odds are one of them will go in.

Also worth a mention are Agbonlahor and Anelka who, as well as being in the top 10 scorers list, have managed to hit the target with 50% of their efforts. Not bad with that volume of shots.

The Bad

Unfortunately, these statistics also help to name and shame a few players who might not be helping their team as much as they would like.

Grétar Steinson

He’s hardly the worst offender, but he makes the list for being the only player in the league to register 10 or more shots and to have failed on every occasion to hit the target. Bolton fans can take heart from the fact that he hasn’t wasted possession on too many occasions, having only taken 11 shots so far.

Steve Sidwell

He narrowly avoided joined Steinson in the other category, but despite averaging well over a shot a game he has yet to manage a second goal-bound effort. If he’s not hitting the target, let alone actually troubling the keeper, then someone really needs to tell him to stop shooting and look for the pass a little more.

Robinho

His Premier League season may be over already, but he hasn’t left for Brazil yet and so he’s still fair game. The player who broke the British transfer fee record (and his fee is still the highest paid by a British club) did not have the best of seasons. He wins the honour of most shots per game (2.3) among players without a goal in at least 1 Premier League start. No the cup doesn’t count – these stats are Premier League only. Remarkably, he hit the target with 43.5% of his shots, but unfortunately ‘nearly-goals’ don’t count for anything.

Lucas

The most shots (29) without a goal. It’s perhaps not as wasteful as Robinho when you consider he has made 22 appearances for Liverpool this season, meaning he takes a full shot less per game, but nor is it something to be proud of.

Tom Huddlestone

Perhaps the worst offender in the list, Huddlestone at least saves some face by being the only one to have actually scored. His crime, not unlike Sidwell’s, is being guilty of shooting too often. No-one minds as long as a few go in, but at the rate he shoots he needs to be doing better. In fact, of the 18 players in the league averaging over 3 shots per game, Huddlestone’s shot efficiency is by far the worst. In 61 shots he has hit the target on only 9 occasions and scored just once. That’s rounghly one shot on target for every two games he plays and, get this, a goal efficiency (percentage of total shots that go in) of just 1.6%. As the second most prolific shooter (if not scorer) on his team, that’s just not good enough.

The Rest

Stephen Jordan

He has started all 21 games so far for Burnley and has yet to take a single shot.

Robin van Persie

He should really have made the Good list, but his injury has got in the way of a good start to the season. His per game stats show how good his season could have been; he ranks in the top 5 for shots, shots on target and goals (4.6, 1.7 and 0.6 respectively).

EDIT: I checked, Stephen Jordan started again on Tuesday. He still hasn’t taken a shot.





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