Have you ever wondered how many goals your side scores from outside the box? Do you want them to do better? Were you curious about the rivals’ efforts from distance?
As an Arsenal fan I have grown tired of the number of times the Gunners are criticized for their overindulgent passing. Although it isn’t entirely without merit, surely, I have always thought, taking pops from distance was an inefficient way to score and Arsenal were better off trying to create quality chances.
Now, thanks to the stats available on EPL Index, I was able to look at the number of goals each Premier League side has scored from inside and outside the box. Given the number of variables involved, it’s virtually impossible to form conclusive opinions but these stats do offer some food for thought.
First, let’s start off with a graphic that shows the number of goals each side has scored from outside the box this season.
Since I haven’t followed all the clubs’ games in detail there were quite a few surprises for me. City and United are leading the pack, which is quite understandable given just how many goals they’ve scored. But Sunderland in third place, tied with Tottenham, stumped me. Newcastle aren’t far behind with Wigan for company. Wolves, on the other end of the spectrum, are yet to score from outside the box!
Interestingly, 4 of the current top 5 on the League table are also there in the best five clubs in terms of goals from distance, and almost in the same order. Clearly, the importance of scoring from outside the box cannot be ignored.
But it’s also interesting to note that Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea are quite low in this list. In fact, the total goals scored by these clubs from outside the box just matches those scored by United alone and falls short of City’s League leading figure of 14. Nevertheless, Arsenal are currently the third highest scorers in the League while Chelsea have the same number as Spurs despite scoring significantly fewer goals from distance.
The next question that came to mind was, are some clubs shooting less often and is the number of goals related to the number of attempts from outside the box? Let’s look at the stats for long range efforts.
This graphic paints a different picture, so to speak. Chelsea have attempted the most shots from outside the box, followed by Spurs. City are close to the top as are Wigan but Liverpool have had more attempt than United! The Gunners are somewhere in the middle but so are the Magpies. Wolves and Swansea are close to the tail end here as well but Blackburn and Villa are in the lower half here whereas they are in the top half in the previous chart.
Overall, there doesn’t seem to be a straightforward correlation between shooting from outside and goals scored. So simply stating any side must shoot more often would be a highly simplistic suggestion.
Looking at the efficiency of various teams when shooting from outside the box can provide further insights.
This table is largely similar to the original one for goals from outside the box but there are some noteworthy differences. The top three are common, Newcastle move a place up, but Aston Villa take the fifth spot as Tottenham drop back a couple of notches.
Chelsea are in the bottom three, having swapped places with Stoke in the listing for shots, while Arsenal and Liverpool are again in mid-table/bottom half.
More than the places though, it’s worth looking at the actual shooting efficiency numbers. City are again the Leaders but they don’t even have an 8 percent conversion rate for shots from outside the box. In all, only four teams do better than 5 percent, that is one goal for every 20 long-range strikes! More than half the sides succeed with less than 3 percent of their Howitzer-attempts, if one could call them that. Chelsea have scored only 3 goals in over 200 attempts for a success rate around 1.4 percent.
These numbers make this debate quite intriguing. Clearly, many of the top teams have scored more goals from outside the box. So there is definitely a case for others to get more. That it adds a different threat to a side’s attacking abilities is undeniable. But considering the inherent inefficiency of the approach, is it imperative for teams to shoot more frequently or should they focus on improving the success rate?
It’s hard to believe there can be a single answer to such a question. Each team will probably have to look at its own circumstances and decide what’s best for them.
One would have to compare a club’s shooting efficiency from outside and inside the box. All clubs have better figures when it comes to scoring from inside the box, understandably so, but some might not be able to create a high number of such chances and/or the difference in efficiency might not be high enough. It’s a tough balance to achieve and boils down to the split-second decisions made by the players on the field of play. But a manager could provide general instructions to guide his players.
For instance, a club like Wigan – 8 out of their 21 goals have come from long-range strikes – might do well to attempt an even higher number of shots from outside the box as they are relatively better at it and have struggled to get many goals from inside the box.
In contrast, Villas-Boas might want to restrain his players from chancing their luck as they can open teams up and score from inside the box. Such inefficient shooting usually just results in a loss of possession, something the young manager seems to cherish and builds his tactics upon.
Clubs in the middle, like Arsenal, would want to work on their shooting skills. Of course, you could say that about every club, but those in the middle are best placed to benefit from it. The ones at the top are doing it fairly well while those at the bottom would need a massive jump in quality that might demand excess training coming at the cost of other work. The ones in the middle aren’t wasting too many shots, relatively speaking, but they could do well with an added goal-scoring threat. They could, arguably, achieve this with a minor boost in shooting practice. It might also involve identifying players who are better at controlling their howitzer-attempts and creating more chances specifically for these players.
At this point it’s again worth noting that these numbers are too small to draw any kind of conclusive opinions. For instance, a team might have scored a couple of lucky deflections and that could have put them higher up on these lists than their shooting otherwise merited. Similarly, another side might be unlucky with some of their better shots hitting the woodwork. Those playing against parked buses might have seen many excellent strikes blocked.
It’s also hard to incorporate the various situational issues that each side faces into such an analysis. For instance, as an Arsenal fan I would like to see the Gunners use the space on the edge of the box better, especially from corners which are often half cleared. Most Gooners would like to see more attempts like the one Arteta scored from against Blackburn. But this issue is rather team specific. United probably already are very good at sustaining pressure and pouncing on half-clearances. Smaller clubs, or those that win fewer corners, might want to look at early shots from counter-attacking opportunities. And so on.
This analysis has given me a better insight into Arsenal’s long-range shooting. They attempt just over 1 shot per game less than City, and average less than 1 shot per game below United, as far as shots from outside the box are concerned. For the Gunners it shouldn’t be about increasing the number of shots, but Arsenal could do with shooting better or even by being more selective and purposeful. But I can see room for counter-arguments here.
I have offered opinions on some of the other teams but those might not be accurate as I haven’t watched as many games or with as much involvement as I have with Arsenal. Hopefully, these stats will have given you something to augment your own observations about your clubs attempts from distance. What do you say? Please leave a comment.
All of the stats in this article are from the EPLIndex.com Stats Centre. You can have access to Opta Stats and be able to produce articles like this published on EPLIndex.com and distributed too! Subscribe Now!