Monday, May 14, 2012

All Must Have Prizes

Following my earlier piece on the limitations of a statistical approach to football analysis, the sight of Bolton at the top of the shooting accuracy chart caused me to set myself a little challenge: to see if each team in the Premiership could in fact claim to be ‘number one’ at something.

Fig. 1 - the Anfield Cat

Now, I’ve rigged numbers before (things like fig. 1 don’t just happen), considered it on several other occasions (giving up plotting the relative positions of Didier Drogba’s head and ground level in Chelsea v Barcelona because sitting down at half-time was too difficult to force on the x- axis), and screwed up a couple of times (the form guide that suggested certain teams were averaging more than three points a game early on in the season) but I can assure you that all these numbers are echt, coming as they do from the lovely people at (thus, certain stats such as shots / on target may differ from other data sources, and I don’t have possession / pass completion stats).

Not Opta, I’m afraid. I can’t afford Opta. If anyone is interested, my birthday is in January...

The rules – each achievement must be positive (i.e. no ‘best at letting in goals’), so yes, I was most worried about finding something for Villa; and the Occam’s Razor approach applies, start with the obvious stuff and only apply filters where necessary.

  • ‘accuracy’ is the percentage of shots deemed on target; ‘efficiency’ the percentage of shots on target resulting in a goal; ‘conversion rate’ is the percentage of total shots resulting in a goal; ‘save rate’ is the percentage of shots on target against that did not result in a goal. 
  • Filters applied include home / away record, 2011 / 2012 split, and, when I got desperate, results by month and multiple combinations of the above.

Here are the results – well done everybody.
  1. Manchester City – most goals (93), most shots (666), most shots on target (399), most shots and shots on target in a single game (35, 24 – v QPR), fewest goals conceded (20), most home points (55), most home wins (18) and at that point I stopped writing down any more things. There were lots of others.
  2. Manchester United – most first half goals (40), most away points (42), most away wins (13) and again, stopped writing them down, and again, there were lots of others.
  3. Arsenal – highest 2011 away accuracy (64.18%), most goals in February (14)
  4. Tottenham Hotspur – highest number of corners in a game (19 v Villa – joint with MCFC v QPR and NUFC v SAFC), most points in September (9) November (9) January (10) and May (7), most goals in November (8) January (9) and May (7)
  5. Newcastle United – highest 2012 away efficiency (28.89%)
  6. Chelsea – most shots in 2011 (314)
  7. Everton – highest 2012 home save rate (92.31%) and efficiency (27.54%), most goals in April (14)
  8. Liverpool – most corners (308)
  9. Fulham – the only team with no red cards this season. Good lads, they are. Also, recovered two half time deficits to win, so highest turnarounds.
  10. West Bromwich Albion – most away goals in February (6)
  11. Swansea – fewest fouls (309) and yellow cards (40), highest home save rate (87%)
  12. Norwich – most away goals in January (4 – joint with Liverpool and Sunderland)
  13. Sunderland – highest 2012 efficiency (24.47%) and save rate (86.36%)
  14. Stoke – highest home efficiency (26.6%)
  15. Wigan Athletic – most points in April (9)
  16. Aston Villa – I swear I am not doing this on purpose but I genuinely can’t find a thing...
  17. Queens Park Rangers – highest percentage of points at home (70.27% - rising to 95% in 2012)
  18. Bolton – highest home accuracy (64.96%) and 2011 accuracy (67.45%)
  19. Blackburn Rovers – highest 2011 away efficiency (31.37%) and conversion rate (18.6%)
  20. Wolverhampton Wanderers – highest percentage of points away in 2012 (87.5%)
This of course proves absolutely nothing, but it was interesting to see how difficult it was to find 'winning metrics' for teams high up the table - Arsenal, for example; one might expect a more obvious skill or facet to the game to emerge from the dataset for a team that finishes third; ditto Newcastle and Chelsea. What this perhaps indicates is the weird up-and-down nature of the season, with teams having slow starts, slumps, collapses etc - and conversely, with Wigan and Everton doing their usual end-of-season thing.

While Villa is the only team I couldn't find anything for, the QPR and Wolves stats are, of course, a half-the-story story, meaning mostly that they were shocking away from / at home respectively. But I am a slave to the numbers.

Anyway, I have failed, so it really doesn't matter. As you were.