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Shoot! Why Shots on Target Ratios Are the Only Stat You Need

28th February 2019 / Julian
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Anybody that has played the beautiful game at a junior level may have once heard this little chestnut from a well-meaning coach: if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.

True enough, but it is actually good quality shots, e.g. a shot on target, that are the key to scoring. The more shots you have on target, the more likely you are to score, right?

By that token, we might expect a league table to accurately represent a table of data where teams are ranked according to the number of shots on target they produce.

Well, we think we can go one further than that with our Shots on Target Ratio (SOTR) model.

What is the SOTR Model?

It’s quite simple: we have taken the number of shots on target delivered by each of the 20 Premier League teams so far during the 2016/17 campaign, divided that figure by the number of shots on target they have conceded, to create an overriding ratio that – theoretically at least – tells us how efficient a team are both in defence and attack.

The logic is straightforward enough: if a team is firing in plenty of shots on target but yielding very few, then they are in prime position to win more matches than they lose.

Here’s how the current 2016/17 data set looks at the time of writing (September 25, 2016):

shots-on-target-table

The Verdict

The first thing to note here is that the Premier League season is just six weeks old (at the time of writing), so clearly we need more data before we can draw any significant conclusions, but the table is shaping up quite nicely so far.

The teams are ranked according to their current league position, and so the right hand column is not sorted in descending order. But as you can see, the Shots on Target Ratio metric is *almost* identical to the layout of the league table, but with a couple of significant outliers.

The conclusion we can draw is that yes, the Shots on Target Ratio is an important metric because it accurately reflects the overall league table (which is obviously the most important data set of all!).

But what the SOTR system can do is highlight ‘outliers’, i.e. teams that have overachieved or underperformed so far this season, as our review below identifies.

English Premier League 2016/17 So Far….

So what have we learnt so far? Well, we can say with some confidence that the top three are fully deserving of their places towards the summit of the division given both their points earned and their SOTR rating, with Arsenal being our first curious selection: with their SOTR, they should really be a lot further down the table. But what we do know is that Laurent Koscielny’s injury at the start of the season set the Gunners back defensively, and so there is some mitigation to their shots conceded count.

Look at Chelsea too: they have conceded 12 shots on target that have resulted in nine goals being scored against them! That is rotten luck, and that ‘success rate’ will decrease as the campaign wears on, meaning that Chelsea will surely finish higher than their current eighth place.

For bettors who enjoy attacking the goals markets, Arsenal and Liverpool are fine propositions at the moment. The large number of shots on target they are recording – and conceding – goes someway to explain why 83% and 67% of their respective matches have witnessed three or more goals.

The next outlier of interest is Southampton. With their SOTR they should really be in the top six of the division, but a low conversion rate (four goals from twenty-five shots on target) has seen them struggle. The return from injury of Charlie Austin should fix that, so it’s quite likely that the Saints will march up the league table from here.

Clearly, sides at the wrong end of the table are going to be those who don’t create many goalscoring opportunities but yield plenty. As things stand, Burnley, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Stoke are likely to be the four teams vying for relegation unless they improve dramatically. The Clarets in particular look to be in dire trouble.

The Limitations of the SOTR Model

As with most betting systems and theories, SOTR has limitations just like any other. The notion that ‘the more shots on target a team has, the more likely they are to score’ is true, to all intents and purposes, but it certainly doesn’t mean they are duty bound to win the match.

The SOTR model comes with its own frailties….

#1 – How relevant is a ‘shot on target’?

What’s the difference between a shot at goal from three yards out and one from 30 yards? Simple: the strike from closer range has more chance of being converted than the speculative long ranger. Both are recorded as shots on target, but clearly there is a disparity in relevance between the two.

Perhaps a more relevant measure would be to rank shots on target in terms of importance, or give each a score in terms of the likelihood of that shot hitting the back of the net.

#2 – Misconception: shots on target = goals

Shooting on target is one thing, putting the ball in the back of the net is quite another.

But it is the quality of shots on target, rather than their regularity, that is perhaps the more important metric. If your side has 10 shots on target and the opposition one, there is no reason why they can’t win 1-0 if a) their goalkeeper is in fine form and b) your team’s strikers are in wasteful mood.

#3 – Shot On Target….Opportunity or Wasteful Finishing?

Once a shot on target is recorded, it’s a fair assumption that the team in question has created a shooting opportunity of some merit; very rarely is a shot on target a wasted use of possession.

But what about the story behind the story. What if a shot on target *should* actually have been a goal? Maybe a striker has enjoyed a free header from six yards out, or – lest we forget – a saved penalty is still a shot on target.

So, the SOTR metric can be a measure of wasteful finishing as much as it can reflect quality creative play….that’s why the model needs tweaking somewhat. But, as we have seen, it’s a darn good place to start when placing your bets.





The tip is based on the personal opinion of the author. No success is guaranteed. Please gamble responsibly. 18+

* All mentioned odds were valid at the time of writing. Betting odds are subject to fluctuations. Please check the current odds with the respective bookmaker!




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