Category Archives: Exeter

Clean Sheets Analysis of League 2

A football game is all about attacking and defending. Therefore, keeping a clean sheet is as important as scoring goals. A team scoring a goal doesn’t guarantee any point but keeping a clean sheet guarantee at least one point and potentially getting three points. In this post, the defensive performance of League 2 teams would be discussed by analysing the clean sheets of League 2. Updated to January 28, there were 338 matches had been played, that means there were 676 team performances.  Of these 676 team performances, 189 ended up with a clean sheet (28%). The teams produced 7.88 clean sheets on average. In these 7.88 clean sheets, 5.38 clean sheets led to wins and 2.50 clean sheets led to draws. On the other hand, clean sheets produced about 2.35 points per team and match on average.

The frequency of clean sheets is shown in the following chart.

Frequency of Clean Sheets of League 2 Teams

As shown in the chart, there is a huge range in abilities to keep clean sheets (from 2 to 13). Fleetwood and Cheltenham performed much better than other team, producing 13 and 12 clean sheets. Part of their ability to generate points has been their ability to produce good defence. In the top 4 clean sheet producers (10 teams), only Accrington, Morecambe and Aldershot are in the bottom half of the table. It indicates two results. Firstly, good at keeping clean sheets can lead to good league positions. Secondly, it suggests that defence is not the main issue of the above 3 teams. In order to improve their league positions, they should focus on improving their attacking. Moreover, the bottom 2 clean sheet producers are Bristol Rover, Plymouth and Wimbledon. They are the bottom 3 teams in the League 2 table as well which indicates the importance of keeping clean sheet. On the other hand, it shows how strong Port Vale’s goal scoring was. Port Vale only produced 7 clean sheets which are below average. However, they are at the top of the table which means the high number of goal scored can overcome the weakness of their defence.

Clean sheets were of different value for different teams. This is shown in the following chart.

Points gained per Clean sheet of League 2 Teams

Clean sheets had enormous value (3 points) for Exeter and Wimbledon. For every single match they held clean sheet, they won the game and got 3 points. Note that Wimbledon is at the bottom of the league table. That means the biggest problem of Wimbledon right now is the defence, not attack. On the other hand, Plymouth had the worst performance in the above chart. It shows that even Plymouth had kept clean sheet, they only managed to 1.5 points on average. Considering both charts, it means that Plymouth is having problems in both attack and defence. In the top 5 teams in this chart, 4 of them are in the top 6 of the league table. In other words, it’s not only keeping clean sheets that’s important, but also how the team managed to get points from clean sheets.

By combining both charts together, the teams can be analysed from another perspective which is shown in the following diagram. 

Frequency of Clean Sheets vs Points gained per Clean Sheet

In this chart, the two axes are the two average numbers (2.35 points gained and 7.88 frequencies of clean sheets). The objective of using two average numbers as the axes is to divide 24 teams into four quadrants showing different abilities. Firstly, Bristol Rovers, Plymouth, Torquay and Rochdale are at the bottom left corner. The characteristic of the teams in this quadrant is that they are both weak at producing clean sheets and getting points from clean sheets. The opposite quadrant is the top right quadrant which means the teams were good at producing clean sheets and got points from clean sheets as well. Gillingham was the best performer in this quadrant which means Gillingham had a good balance of attack and defence. On the other hand, the top two performers of keeping clean sheets were in the bottom right quadrant, they should focus on improving their attacking because it was the main issue hindering both teams from getting points from clean sheets.  The same argument could be applied to Aldershot and Morecambe as well since they are at the bottom half of the league table. Port Vale didn’t show why they can be the top of league table in this chart because they were weak in producing clean sheets. However, their efficiency is better than Gillingham by getting more points per clean sheet game.

To conclude, keeping clean sheets is a strong indicator of a team’s defending ability. However, it’s not only keeping clean sheets that’s important, but also how the team managed to get points from clean sheets. Therefore, by dividing 24 teams into four quadrants showing different characteristics, we can understand why some teams are doing better than others and which aspects (attacking or defending) should be the main focus point for team improvement.

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Analysis of top 4 strikers in League 2 (2)

The analysis is continued following the first part last week (here). In the shot analysis, when treating unequal frequencies of starting appearances, the data are “normalised” by dividing the data by the frequency of starting appearances.

shot analysis

Although the other three strikers have at least 2.5 shots per appearance, T Pope had only 1.83 shots per appearance which is significantly lower than others. In terms of getting shot chances, T Pope is weaker than the other three strikers. On the other hand, A Akinfenwa showed his weakness as he only got 1.12 shots on target per appearance. N Wells and J Cureton are similar, both getting high number in shots and shots on target. Even T Pope got less chance to shoot; he still managed to get 1.48 shots on target which means he utilise the chances well. If you look at this chart only, you may wonder why T Pope is the leading goal scorer in League 2. It is all because he is particularly strong at catching the chances even the chances he get are less than others. This brings us to the next analysis chart: Accuracy rate vs Conversion rate.

Accuracy rate = no. of shots on target / no. of shots total

Conversion rate = no. of goals / no. of shots total

accuracy rate vs conversion rate

T Pope is outperforming others in this chart in both rates. In previous chart, N Wells and J Cureton showed they got more chances to shoot and they did well in number of shots on target. It is reflected in their decent accuracy rate (66% and 71%). However, conversion rate is their weakness (26%) and it explains why they can’t be the leading goal scorer even they got more chances. T Pope’s conversion rate (48%) is 22% more than them. A Akinfenwa did well in conversion rate (31%) but he is weak at accuracy rate (45%). From the above two charts, you may realise N Wells and J Cureton are so similar. They both good at getting shooting chance, have a decent accuracy rate but weak at converting chances into goals. T Pope is another type of striker who is highly efficient. A Akinfenwa strike a balance between both types.

where strikers scored

In analysing where the strikers scored, we can find out other characteristics of the strikers. A Akinfenwa is weak at long shot because only 8% of his goals were scored outside 12 yards from the goal line. It is reasonable if we combine the finding last week suggesting that he is strong at scoring by headers and in set play. N Wells is strong at scoring in 6-yard box (67%). Last week, we found out that he hasn’t scored any goal by header. If we combine both together, I guess that his goal scoring style is like “poacher” to catch the chances in 6-yard box by using his agility rather than strength. T Pope and J Cureton had a good balance in goal scoring area with T Pope stronger at 6-yard box and J Cureton stronger at 12-18 yard area.

Number of touch

This chart fits our finding beforehand. A Akinfenwa is strong at heading and he scored 92% of his goals within 12-yard area from goal. It is reasonable to see that he scored all goals by using 2 touches or less. N Wells fits his “poacher” style by scoring all his goals using 2 touches or less. In terms of using 3 touches or more, T Pope had the highest percentage (20%). If we combine our finding of his high conversion and accuracy rate, it can somehow show his composure in front of the goal by getting the best chance to score.

Time analysis of goals

We can find out the strikers’ particular goal scoring pattern by using time analysis. Firstly, A Akinfenwa is much stronger in second half, only 31% of his goals were scored in the first half. Note that 46% of his goals were scored in the last 30 minutes of the game. This may be explained by his strength and strong header to attack at the end of the game. N Wells haven’t scored any goal in the last 15 minutes of the game. It is reasonable if we sum up the previous findings. Usually there will be direct style and long ball in the last 10-15 minutes if a team is losing, but N Wells is not the same type of striker like A Akinfenwa. N Wells is strong at feet and agility rather than header and strength. T Pope’s goal scoring pattern is interesting. 70% of his goals were scored in the mid 15 minutes of the halves. Only 5% of goals were scored in the first 15 minutes of the halves. He may need time to “warm up” in the game before showing his goal scoring power. Then we move on to the assist analysis to see how the strikers’ goals were assisted.

assist style

J Cureton is stronger than others in dribbling which can create the scoring chance himself. A Akinfenwa and N Wells have no dribbling goals, that means they heavily rely on the support from teammates because they can’t create chances themselves. It is reasonable if we refer back to the characteristics of these two strikers. N Wells is strong at scoring in rebounds because 25% of his goals were assisted by teammates’ shots. It fits his “poacher” style mentioned above. Moreover, none of his goals were come from crossing. Surprisingly, only 20% of T Pope’s goals were assisted by passing. He relied on crossing (40%) more than other strikers. Then we analysed where the assists were. Please note that only open play goals assists were shown in the following diagrams.

A Akinfenwa: 

A Akinfenwa assist zones

As I mentioned last week, A Akinfenwa is strong at headers and set play. This diagram shows that his headers goals were heavily linked to set play. Therefore, only 40% of open play goals assists were from the flanks.

J Cureton: 

J Cureton assist zones

J Cureton’s goals were mainly assisted from the right flank and centre. If any team play against Exeter, they should pay more attention to defending at their left flank (particularly from 12 yard to outside the penalty area) because 35.7% of J Cureton’s goals were assisted from these two zones.

N Wells: 

N Wells assist zones

This diagram further supports my previous arguments about the characteristics of N Wells. He is strong at agility and feet, weak at headers and strength. He plays like a “poacher” but none of his goals were come from crossing. Therefore, this diagram is under expectation that 83.3% of assists came from centre. By using this diagram, we know more about how he scored. 33.3% of assisted were from 12-18 yard area. If we combine this with the previous findings:

  1. 67% of his goals were scored in 6-yard box
  2. 50% of assists were passing, 25% of assists were shots
  3. 89% of goals were scored by feet
  4. 100% of goals were scored by 2 touches or less

We can figure out a full picture how he scored open play goals: his teammates attack through middle of the pitch, making a pass or take a shot (particularly 12-18 yard area). If it is a pass, he would at most take one touch before the shot. If it is a shot, he would take the rebounding chance in the 6-yard box.

T Pope: 

T Pope assist zones

From last week’s finding, T Pope is an all-round striker. He is good at scoring by right foot, left foot and header as well. Even in this assist diagram, the assists covered a wide range of areas. These make defending the leading goal scorer a difficult task. However, it is still a useful tip to find out that 41.3% of assists came from centre.

I think the whole analysis process covers enough details to find out the characteristics of the strikers. This is the end of the striker analysis. I may make a review about striker analysis at the end of the season.

Analysis of top 4 strikers in League 2 (1)

Different strikers have their own characteristics in scoring goals. They can somehow reflect their teams’ goal scoring characteristics as well. We will focus on the top 4 goal scorers in League 2. The analysis is quite long so I divide it into two posts. The second part will be continued next week. The following table shows who they are, their team and the position in league table. Please note that all the data is updated to 28/12/2012.

Name

No. of goals

Team

Team league position

T Pope

20

Port Vale

2nd

J Cureton

16

Exeter

10th

A Akinfenwa

13

Northampton

11th

N Wells

12

Bradford

5th

 It seems that being a top team does not necessarily need a top goal scorer as only 2 of the top 4 strikers are playing for a team in the top 7 of the table which is the promotion playoff line. The other 2 strikers are playing for the teams in the mid-table position. However, I agree that a high quality striker can bring an average team into a top team.

no. of goals and percentage of team goals

Although T Pope is the top goal scorer, he doesn’t have the highest percentage of team goals. J Cureton is the striker whom the team relies on the most because he scored 47% of the team goals. It is worthy to note that all 4 strikers scored more than one-third of the team goals.

Apart from looking at the number of goals, we should analyse by looking at the starting appearance as well in order to understand the efficiency of the strikers.

goals per starting appearance

As the top league goal scorer, T Pope is the most efficient striker as well. He scored 0.87 goals per starting appearance. Note that J Cureton scored more goals than A Akinfenwa but A Akinfenwa is more efficient because he scored slight more goals than J Cureton in terms of goals per starting appearance.

We discussed how important the first goal before (here) so it is worthy to analyse the strikers’ ability to scored the first goal in the match.

first goal percentage

A Akinfenwa performed much better than other strikers in terms of first goal. 46% of his goals were first goal, which is obviously higher than that of T Pope (30%) and J Cureton (31%). His percentage of first goal is almost double the percentage of N Wells (25%). This is A Akinfenwa’s strength and people may ignore it if we don’t analyse the strikers from this perspective.

Then we move on to analyse the relationship between open play and set play goals. 

open play vs set play

T Pope (85%) and J Cureton (88%) scored most of their goals in open play, obviously higher than the percentage of other two strikers. N Wells struck a balance by scoring 50% open play goals. However, 25% of his goals were come from penalties. A Akinfenwa is particularly strong at scoring set play goals as 62% of his goals were from set play. Note than 31% of his goals were from throw-in which is much higher than other strikers. Moreover, he scored the highest percentage of goals in corner (15%) as well. He is a good example showing that the team top goal scorer can reflect the goal scoring characteristic of the team. Northampton scored more goals in set play (53%) than open play (47%). In all 18 set play goals, 50% of them were came from throw-in. The goal scoring pattern of Northampton and A Akinfenwa is almost the same even he scored only 35% of team goals.

Then we will analyse how the strikers scored the goals. 

goal type

Note that I have excluded the goals from penalty in this chart. T Pope shows he is an all-round striker and this may explain why he is leading goal scoring table. The goals he scored by using his right foot (35%), left foot (30%) and head (35%) were almost evenly distributed. J Cureton is particularly strong at scoring goals by right foot (80%). However, it can be treated as a weakness as well because it is easier for the defender to mark him. N Wells is weak at header as he hasn’t scored any goal by header. However, he is strong at scoring goals by using both feet. A Akinfenwa is strong in air as he scored 58% of his goals by head. It fits what we find that he scored the highest percentage of goals from set play (62%) among 4 strikers, particularly in throw-in (31%) and corner (15%). In short, scoring goals by header in set play is the strongest weapon of A Akinfenwa.

The analysis will be continued next week by analysing these 4 strikers from different perspectives including where they scored, when they scored, where assist came from, assist types, shots total and shots on target.