I wrote a few weeks ago about the correlation between goals and final third passing and I think it would be a good time to review the current data as we come to the end of the year.
If you look at the table at the bottom of the page you will see that Man City have attempted the most final-third passes 3759(FTP) so far this season, have completed the most final-third passes (FTP C) and have the highest % completion of final-third passes (FTP C) along with with Arsenal.
Spurs are the most accurate and in their 20 games they have averaged 1 goal per 45.00 final-third completed passes. (Goal/FTP C).
Aston Villa are the least accurate with 1 goal for every 90.46 final-third passes completed, just edging out QPR .
Academic statisticians have been looking at the correlation between final-third passing and goals. With R2 at 0.6502 we appear to have a very good fit ,with most of the EPL teams clustered around the line.
Spurs sit above the line and have scored more goals than the FTPC predicts but this can be easily explained by their counter-attacking style, sitting back and breaking quickly into the final third. Manchester United also sit above the line. When they are in possession in the final third they play like a well-oiled machine, scoring goals for fun. Sadly we cannot say the same when they are not in retention of the ball.
Aston Villa and QPR sit adrift of the line and are keeping each other company in the bottom left. The reasons that QPR are not scoring goals is that their strength of shot, in terms of exactly where they are shooting from, is in general terms mainly outside the box. Of the 14 shots that QPR had against Liverpool, for example, just one was from inside the area.
You can see how important it is to understand where the shot has been taken to avoid the data giving you contradictory information. I have not watched every Villa game but I am aware that, with their young squad, they are finding it difficult at the moment. (Although they were excellent during the first half at home to Manchester United, with excellent penetration. They countered Liverpool well in another good game. I would expect Villa to move closer to the line in the next few weeks.)
I have to mention Liverpool, as they sit below the line. I worked out that with their data, they should have scored 8 more goals to sit with Arsenal on the line. The question is why have Liverpool not scored 39 if there is a correlation between goals and FTPC? My argument is that there is too much emphasis on the perceived strength of players rather then accepting the data as it presents itself.
Liverpool are too slow to recycle possession and do not have the ability to stretch teams. There was the classic example of Suarez getting behind the QPR left back and crossing the ball into the danger zone only to be greeted by six QPR shirts and no Liverpool players.
I do not buy the idea that Liverpool are unlucky and should score more as this should even out over time but if they sit on the line at the end of the season then we will have noted improvement in the final third.
In conclusion, there is certainly a correlation between final-third passing and expectation of goals. Some teams will not fit the line but instead of spending hours trying to work out why I think time would be better spent looking at predicting the expectation of goals by looking at the cluster of pressure.
Liverpool had 9 shots on target at Swansea but fired a blank so my offer to you is to have a look to see where they shot from (ie the strength of the shot). I look forward to looking at the data at the end of the season.
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