Through analytics top-flight sides have learnt to be more efficient and clinical in front of goal, with the Premier League set to record its highest-ever scoring season in the top division in more than half a century.
So far 210 games have taken place, with the goals-per-game average standing at 2.85, the highest since the 1967-68 season (3.02) in what was then the First Division.
Many would assume to score more goals you need to create more chances and thus have more attempts on goal.
However, the role of analytics and data have proved this theory wrong, a report in The Times has revealed.
Managers are increasingly reliant on the information provided to them by their clubs’ analysts, with many coming to realise that sometimes less means more.
Premier League sides are scoring more goals per game while taking fewer shots this season.
Shot-conversion rate and the percentage of attempts on target are at their highest since Opta began tracking such data in 2003/04.
Omar Chaudhuri, head of football intelligence at 21st club, a consultancy that advises club on making smarter decisions though use of advanced statistics, said: “This is one area of the sport where analytics has had a real, measurable impact.
“One of the fallouts from these models has been to evidence how few shots outside the box are actually scored — around three in 100 attempts, compared to around 15 in 100 inside the box, excluding headers.
“Of course, it’s harder to create chances inside the area, so teams have increasingly given up shooting opportunities from range in order to give themselves a better chance of creating a fewer number of high-quality chances in the box.”
With that in mind, it is no surprise then that the teams who take a higher proportion of their shots from outside the area are the ones struggling near the foot of the table.
For example, Fulham have taken the most attempts from 18 yards or more, 49 per cent, ahead of Southampton with 47 per cent.
By comparison, only 32 per cent of champions Manchester City’s shots have come from outside the box, a third of Tottenham’s and 36 per cent of the leaders Liverpool.
In terms of shots inside the six-yard box, the results are inverted.
A tenth of Liverpool and City’s attempts have come from six yards or less, with Spurs on 11 per cent.
In contract, two per cent of Huddersfield Town’s shots have been from close range.
While the Terriers have had none from open play, three of their five efforts from six yards or less that originated from set pieces have resulted in goals.
Chaudhuri continued: “The reduction in crosses probably contributes towards the trend in shooting distances/patterns.
“It’s difficult to score from headers, so again teams are probably prioritising ball possession over putting it into the box.”
This is highlighted by the fact 10 per cent of City’s goals have come from crosses, as opposed to 38 per cent of Huddersfield’s.
It must be noted that celebrating a tap-in from six yards doesn’t have the same enthralment as a 30-yard thunderbolt, but who is to going to argue Manchester City’s 9-0 demolition of Burton wasn’t a joy to watch.
While only one goal came from that Carabao Cup clash on Wednesday night came from outside the box – Oleksandr Zinchenko’s long-range stunner – the game was the perfect example of a top side working their way into goal scoring opportunities, as opposed to resorting to long-range efforts.
These data-driven strategies are more important and critical than ever in this digital age, and an increase in goals is never something that should be looked upon in a negative way.
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