Change the way you get on goal: shooting from outside is disappearing, more and more teams are approaching the area to increase the percentage of goals
“No shoot, Vinnie, no shoot!”. Don’t pull Vinnie, don’t pull. Years later, Pep Guardiola’s cry to Vincent “Vinnie” Kompany still rings out in the bowl of the Etihad Stadium: in the race for the 2018-19 Premier League, City were nailed to a 0-0 draw with 20 minutes to go at home with Leicester, Liverpool hot on their heels ready to overtake in the lead. Kompany, ignoring Pep, chose the shot from distance: goal under the cross. And a week later the Premier League trophy lifted by the Citizens. Why did Guardiola beg his captain not to shoot? Simple: the shot from distance has a very low percentage of completion – a low value of Expected Goal, abbreviated to xG – so it is statistically better to look for a more “advantageous” shot. And, as always, Pep’s team is among the most avant-garde in building actions for a goal that has a high probability of being scored (you know the low cross that crosses the small area for the attacker positioned on the second post? Here: in those cases the xG is very high). It is a trend that has spread and the data from the first twenty days of Serie A confirm the trend.
The “ignorant” shot, à la Kompany, is an increasingly less practiced solution, above all fewer and fewer goals come from conclusions of this kind. Napoli have the best attack in the league with 48 goals, but only one of these came from outside the area: that of Kvaratskhelia against Monza, a wonderful and powerful right-footed shot from distance. And to think that Napoli have the highest number of shots in Serie A (339). Spalletti’s team – who if he’s not a guardioliano is certainly a coach who loves to get on goal with maneuvering and enveloping action – is the one that produced the most xGs: 38.68. The overall calculation actually takes into consideration all the team’s shots (266 shots) but if we limit ourselves to the value in xG of the shots that become “real” goals, here too we find the highest figure: 13.20. This is because Napoli tries to reach more profitable conclusions. And in fact, most of the goals arrive no more than 11 meters from the goal and in a central position.
In a recent lesson for the coaches’ refresher course, the blue match analyst Antonio Gagliardi explained how in the last few years of the NBA the choice of shots has changed: the one from the middle distance has disappeared, in favor of close 2-point shots (high percentage) and above all of 3-pointers (more profitable). In football there is a gradual evolution towards the closest finish, perhaps to be sought with an extra pass into the box, but which produces a higher xG. Inter, second for Expected goals, has a very high concentration of goals and shots from the small box (and the second best attack with 40 goals, 5 of which from outside the box). Atalanta, which also scored 8 goals from distance (the most of all), shot fewer than Cremonese (266 shots to 269) but with a higher xG per shot (0.12 to 0.08). Lazio score almost exclusively from a central position and within eleven metres. The same principles guide Fiorentina and Monza, which has the highest xG value in Serie A for “real” goals scored: 0.36 xG, i.e. each shot that finished on the net had an average goal percentage of 36%. Not too surprising if you analyze Palladino’s enveloping game, which scored 7 goals from the small box. Attention: these are not modern football devilries. Roma is the team with the highest xG value for shooting (0.13): a team of Mourinho, perhaps the coach philosophically considered in antithesis with Guardiola. Cremonese, Empoli and Sampdoria share the worst figure: 0.08 xG per shot. It means non-optimal choices for the conclusion, perhaps due to the lesser ability to get close to the opponent’s goal.
Only one goal in the whole championship was recorded by Opta with a value of 1 of xG (that is, in fact not wrong): curiously from an Empoli native, Parisi, against Cremonese, a header on the goal line. The shortest? 0.02. And 7 of such “improbable” goals were counted. Two are from Okereke from Cremona: one, the right-footed against Inter, so to speak. Just as disadvantageous as Kompany’s against Leicester.
February 3 – 09:41
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