If you don’t shoot, you don’t score; or so the saying goes. But if we look at the numbers when it comes to shooting, a shot isn’t just a shot. Is it blocked, on target or off target? Is it from inside the box or outside the box? From open play or a set play? Over the 140 games played last season, shooting figures were collected which might change the view of “shoot on sight”.
As you might have noticed, Andy Harper has a lot of ‘Harperisms’. Whilst this is by no means a classic by Harper’s standards, one of the most common topics he likes to bring up is Thomas Broich and his lack of goals. It usually goes something like this:
Thomas Broich is a fantastic player. I just wish he would shoot more.
The general idea is that if a player, say Thomas Broich, doesn’t score enough goals, then the problem is that they probably don’t shoot enough. But perhaps it is that the player does not shoot from the right positions.
Shaun Mooney has already discussed the importance of effective possession, especially in the final third, so if a team works the ball into the final third, should they shoot whenever the chance arises, or should they look to work the ball into a better area? As Adelaide United has found this season, the final third is the most difficult area to have possession of the ball, so is shooting from distance an effective use of a team’s final third possession?
Last season, in 140 games, there were 3395 shots on goal in total. Out of the 3395 shots in total, 44.8% (1520) were from outside the box.
Melbourne Heart were the most shot-shy team, with only 282 shots (10.4 shots/game), compared to Western Sydney Wanderers who attempted 428 shots (14.8 shots/game).
|Outside Shots||Shots to Goal Ratio||Inside Shots||Shots to Goal Ratio|
Looking at the above statistics crudely, a team will need around 26 shots from outside the box to score a goal, but a shot from inside the box will only need about six shots to result in a goal. But in order to further break down those basic numbers, below is a heat map which shows where the goals were scored from last season.
This heat map excludes own goals, but the 375 goals allow for a pretty decent sample size, and two ‘hot’ zones have appeared. Those two zones, which range from the goal line to the penalty spot (width of the six-yard box), saw 217, or 57.9%, of the 375 goals scored.
Bearing in mind that 37 goals were scored via penalties, even if those goals were to be excluded from the equation, those ‘hot’ zones still represent 53.3% of the goals. It is clear that those two zones combined is the the key area for scoring goals.
It certainly isn’t rocket science – those two zones are in central positions and are closest to the goal, but perhaps the percentage of goals which come from those areas will surprise you.
In order to further explain the previous table, which outlined the likelihood of scoring from inside or outside the box, we can look at how many shots were required from the different zones to result in a goal.
As the graphic demonstrates, the ‘hot’ zones need 3.1 and 4.4 shots per goal. This is compared to the zones from the areas furthest from goal (beyond 25 yards out) … which I like to call the “Ruben Zadkovich zone”, which needs 39.5, 49.5 and 56.5 shots per goal.
As the first table showed, each team is different, and the previous heat maps just show the A-League as a whole. So this section will show separate data for each of the 10 teams to show where they take their shots from.
|% of shots Inside the Box||% of shots in key zone|
- Unsurprisingly, Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners took the highest percentage of shots from the key goal scoring area. They were the equal top scorers in the regular season, with Victory coming third and Central Coast coming second and winning the Grand Final.
- The next two teams, with the highest percentage of shots from inside the key goal scoring area, were Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory with 25.5% and 25.0% respectively. Yet Perth Glory were the league’s lowest scorers with only 29 goals in the regular season (30 goals all up). Wellington Phoenix did not do much better, with only 31 goals. Perhaps the easiest way to explain this is that both Wellington and Perth were very dependent on crossing to get balls in the box. Crosses, the type both sides used last season, often result in headed goal scoring opportunities which is much more difficult method of scoring goals, especially the further from goal you are. To further this, of Wellington’s 84 shots in the key zones, 51 were headed shots.
- But perhaps the biggest anomaly is that only 24.8% of Western Sydney Wanderers’ shots were from the key zones, despite them having immense success last season. An easy explanation of that is the fact that the Wanderers where incredibly willing to shoot from outside the box, and attempted 61 more shots from outside the box than the league average of 152. This high amount of shots from outside the box skewed their percentages, but Western Sydney still attempted 106 shots inside the key zones, which was equal second highest amount, equal with Melbourne Victory (and behind Central Coast Mariners with 122).
The statistics map out just how wasteful shots from outside the box are, needing on average 26.2 shots per goal. So perhaps next time a player is in space with the ball at their feet 30 metres from goal, instead of yelling “SHOOOOOT!” in unison, the crowd might say, “Hey, Ruben, please don’t be so wasteful with our final third possession and pass to a teammate in a better position.”
And perhaps next time Andy Harper ponders Thomas Broich’s lack of goals, he might say:
Thomas Broich is a fantastic player. I just wish he would shoot from key goal scoring positions more.