Conversion rates

Just a quick post, this one, on something that’s been bugging me for a few weeks.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Middlesbrough “failing to take their chances”. The impression is that the strike force needs loads of attempts at goal before one fortuitously sneaks under the goalkeeper’s body or something.

This has been reinforced by performances like that at Leeds just before Christmas – one goal from 14 attempts, compared to the home side’s three two from nine – and Cardiff a month or so earlier, where 19 chances failed to produce a single goal, while the Redbirds nicked the points with one goal from six attempts.

Is it true more generally, though? Do Boro’s strikers need a succession of “gilt-edged opportunities” before they finally trouble the scorers?

Before I present the results of a few hours’ data entry, just a couple of warnings. First, these figures ONLY tell you how good the team is at converting the chances it gets. A team could have lost every match this season 11-1 and still be top of this table by scoring with every attempt on goal. That would just mean the defence was REALLY rubbish, and the ball was never getting anywhere near the opponents’ goal.

Second, the accuracy of the figures rests entirely with the people who do the match stats for the BBC website. I’ve worked out that they do not include penalties as “attempts on goal”, as you will see from this page – Nottingham Forest and Hull City managed to score three goals from one attempt on target between them.

Bearing those things in mind, are Middlesbrough particularly bad at taking chances? No. Quite good, actually. Fifth best in the league, to be precise, with 6.42 attempts per goal. Here’s the table:


Is that level of accuracy costing us against promotion rivals? Not really – or at least it’s swings and roundabouts. Of those higher than Middlesbrough in the league, Cardiff need 6.87 attempts per goal on average, and Hull’s performance is really quite poor on 8.30 (16th in the league). Crystal Palace and Leicester, in the two positions below, are the two best chance-takers by miles.

(The more curious among you may wonder where Boro rank in the accuracy of their shooting: what proportion of total attempts are “on target”? 18th on this one, I’m afraid, with 49.13%. Hull and Palace are both around the same mark, though, Cardiff a bit better on 51.39%, and Leicester streets ahead of anyone else on 61.32%.)

Conclusions? 1. It takes until the second week of the Christmas break to have the time to sit looking at football stats for half a day or so. 2. It might be frustrating watching your team fail to score from nearly 20 attempts, but it’s not necessarily indicative of a long-term problem.

Happy New Year!

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