Jamie Vardy’s Shots On Target conversion rate

I had a small debate with another Fantasy Premier League manager this week about Jamie Vardy’s Shots on Target conversion rate. The other manager was arguing Vardy “has scored the amount of goals you would expect of a striker from his shots on target so far this season”.

I disagreed because I thought he had scored more goals than you would expect of striker from his Shots on Target so far this season. In his amazing 2013/14 season, Luis Suárez scored 31 goals, but he did it from 81 Shots On Target – a conversion rate of 38 per cent. Sergio Agüero, as I mentioned when I looked at his statistics earlier this month, has converted Shots On Target into Goals at a rate of 43 per cent this year and last year. Vardy, on the other hand, has converted them at 56 per cent so far this year.

Shots on Target to Goals Trend 2015The chart shows the Shots on Target to Goals trend line among forwards who have played at least 500 minutes this season. As you can see, Agüero and Graziano Pellè are on trend, while Harry Kane has not been converting as many of his Shots On Target into Goals as we might expect. Vardy is well above the trend line, meaning he is converting more of his Shots on Target into Goals than we might expect. Not many players will manage to sustain that conversion rate for a whole season.

Shots On Target to Goals trend line 2013-14

Here is the Shots on Target to Goals trend line for Suárez’s amazing season in 2013/14. I have included Vardy’s 2015/16 dot here in black for comparison and some other noted players in grey, except Agüero whose dot remains blue to distinguish him from Rooney. Vardy has played 891 minutes in 2015/16 so I included all forwards who played at least 800 minutes in 2013/14 in this chart. Vardy’s 2015/16 numbers are clearly above the 2013/14 trend line. Daniel Sturridge’s dot shows that it is possible to sustain a run above the trend with a conversion rate of 52 per cent that season.

Shots On Target to Goals trend line 2014-15

Here is Vardy’s 2015/16 black dot against the 2014/15 trend line for forwards who played at least 800 minutes. I’ve also picked out Vardy’s 2014/15 performance with a second black dot and highlighted a few other notable names with grey dots.

In this last chart, Vardy’s 2015/16 figures are again above the trend line and he has improved dramatically on his 2014/15 Shots On Target to Goals conversion rate, which was 22 per cent. The clear over-performer last year was Diego Costa, who converted 55 per cent of his Shots On Target into Goals.

Vardy is converting more of his Shots on Target into Goals than the trend. However, the data also suggests that one or two high-scoring players each season can sustain a high Shots On Target conversion rate throughout a season. I’ll leave it to you to judge whether Vardy can do so this year.

Finally, it should be noted that even if Vardy’s conversion rate were to drop a bit, that would not automatically make him a bad pick. Look at the top chart again and you’ll see the Leicester City striker has fired more Shots on Target than any other forward in the 2015/16 season. If Vardy from here on out only converts 40 per cent of Shots On Target (16 per cent less than his current rate this season), then he would score eight goals from 20 Shots on Target. Another striker converting at 40 per cent, but only managing 15 Shots on Target over the same period, would score six goals.

Vardy’s Shots On Target conversion rate may be high, but while he continues to get lots of his shots on target he looks a good option. Whether he continues to get as many good shooting opportunities when the fixture list strengthens is another matter.


Guest post: Whither Chelsea?

Chelsea are normally a great source of Fantasy Premier League players, but not this year. I asked Ruth_NZ why and here is his reply: 

I am a Chelsea supporter, have been since my dad took me to my first game nigh on 50 years ago. We have family memberships and I get to a fair few games. I know the club pretty well. I guess that’s the reason that Diva asked me about my thoughts on Chelsea’s current situation and prospects. This is the result, written in the way of “the story of the season”.

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1. Pre-season was a disaster

In 2014/15 Chelsea’s preparation (starting at Cobham with a couple of local friendlies, followed by an altitude training camp in Austria with some European friendlies) had been perfect and resulted in a fantastic start to the season. This time Chelsea started a week later than any other Premier League team because Jose Mourinho wanted them to have a good break. The first day of pre-season was in the USA because it was fitted around a US tour. Basically pre-season was massively compromised by commercial interests and was about as far from ideal as you could get.

On the first day of the season, Chelsea came up against a Swansea team that had started pre-season two weeks before Chelsea and hadn’t compromised it. The result was 2-2 but it was obvious that Chelsea didn’t look fit or sharp at all compared to a well-prepared Swansea. That was the first step on the slippery slope, followed by a demoralising beating from a sharp Manchester City team and, after a narrow win at West Brom, a 1-2 home defeat by Palace.

I was at the Palace game and Chelsea didn’t deserve to lose it – the stats show that they had 64 per cent possession, double the shots and double the shots on target. But too many Chelsea players were way below par – Ivanovich was getting taken apart by every winger he faced and was targeted mercilessly by Palace, Costa overweight and not sharp, Hazard not incisive, Fabregas lightweight and Matic looking clumsy. Chelsea were now sliding down the slope.

2. Complacency at the club?

The late start to pre-season could have looked clever if Chelsea had started well. Now it looks complacent. And the complacency also stretches to the summer transfer window. The previous season, Costa and Fabregas were lined up in advance and signed on July 1. This time, nothing of the sort. Chelsea spent the summer chasing two players they couldn’t get – Stones because Everton wouldn’t sell and Pogba because he’s waiting for a move to Real Madrid and wouldn’t come even when Juventus accepted Chelsea’s bid of around €75m. Pedro was an afterthought, it was a top central midfielder that Chelsea needed and they didn’t get one. “Champions need to strengthen” was Alex Ferguson’s motto. Chelsea didn’t. City did, big time, and so did United.

3. Crisis of confidence

The early results led to a crisis of confidence and the manager didn’t help. Jose Mourinho is loved by Chelsea fans and the vast, vast majority want him to stay, there’s no doubt of it. Personally I’d want him to stay even if Chelsea finished mid-table this season. I have experienced many mid-table finishes before (and worse) and it would be nothing new to me – I used to go to Chelsea in the old second Division when they were awful and I would do so again. It is also true that Abramovich wants him to stay – after all he only signed a new four-year contract last summer and the whole idea of Mourinho coming back was that it would be long-term.

But there is no doubt that Chelsea’s poor start took Mourinho completely out of his comfort zone – I don’t think he had experienced anything like that in his whole managerial career. He has had to find solutions for a problem he hadn’t faced before and he didn’t have them to hand. The pressure showed in his immoderate treatment of Eva Carneiro and his unusual (for him) criticism of individual players. His calm was gone.

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Meanwhile the players couldn’t put it together. Anyone who has excelled at something will know how important confidence is. When you have it then certain things that you do are easy and come naturally. When something punctures it you can find that, try as hard as you like, you can’t do them at all, it just won’t come. That’s how it was for Chelsea. They kept trying to play like they had for most of last season but it wouldn’t come. You could see the strain on the faces of Hazard, Fabregas, JT… They knew it but they couldn’t change it.

4. False dawns and injustices

As September passed, Chelsea couldn’t pull themselves out of it – even a run of three successive wins didn’t dispel the collective unease which was, by now spreading to the Chelsea crowd. And it reached its nadir on October 3 against Southampton, another game I was at. Chelsea dominated the first half in a very, very quiet Stamford Bridge and were deservedly 1-0 up. Then, just before half time, Southampton equalised. The collective groan in the players and the crowd was almost tangible. It was as if that one goal sealed the game. Chelsea seemed to have no reserve of resilience left to call upon.

During this time it is also true that Chelsea somehow seemed to be on the receiving end of a succession of poor refereeing decisions and what, to Chelsea fans at least, almost looked like a vindictiveness towards the club and especially the manager. Costa’s ban for a hand flap (given after the event) against Arsenal; the fine and suspended stadium ban of Mourinho while Wenger (who said similar things) received not a caution and Gabriel had his red card rescinded despite kicking out at Costa; the nonsensical sensationalism in the press about Mourinho having “lost the dressing room” and being on the verge of a sacking.

A confident Mourinho and a confident Chelsea would have been able to turn these things to their advantage. But the ship was already struggling in heavy seas and every new event seemed like an additional blow.

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5. The turning point?

I think the turning point came during the international break after the Southampton game. Mourinho took the unusual step of going to watch a number of his players in international games; Costa came out and admitted he had come back for pre-season overweight and was intent on getting his fitness right and other players also made statements of intent.

Mourinho’s press conference before the Villa game was the first sign I saw that a rally point had been reached. He was the calmest he had been all season. He made it clear that he and the squad had accepted that they weren’t playing well and that confidence was low. So they were going back to basics – tactical discipline, effort and work rate, solid structure – “tactical solidarity” to use his phrase. Rather than struggling to replicate what they did last season they were going to focus on what they could do now which meant playing in a way that “compensates” (Mourinho’s word) for the lack of form. They were going to graft their way back to it.

Psychologically this was very interesting. When you have high expectations of yourself and can’t meet them it is debilitating. I think the solution Mourinho found was to change the expectations – they are no longer trying to replicate last season, they are now trying to graft their way up the table and set a new foundation for themselves. If they can do that, confidence will start to return and the flair will follow, at least that seems to be the idea.

6. Where are Chelsea now?

In the four games since then, Chelsea have beaten Villa 2-0, drawn 0-0 in Kiev (a game they shaded but where a draw was an acceptable and creditable result), lost 2-1 at West Ham (an even game despite Matic being sent off before half time) and drawn 1-1 at Stoke before going out on penalties (a game that Chelsea would have won if not for a brilliant performance by Butland). The way the team has played has been solid, intelligent commentators have remarked that the players are “playing for the manager” and there is a visible improvement in performance if not results. I think Chelsea are on the way back now.

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They are out of the title race, five defeats is too many. But I don’t think that’s what matters to the squad right now. They just want to get their level back and they are going to graft their way there. That’s what I see. There is still a way to go and the train could still derail. But as a Chelsea fan I feel a positive momentum for the first time this season.

7. Future prospects

I’m a realist when it comes to FPL. I wouldn’t advise anyone to bring Chelsea players in just yet. But I would advise a careful watching brief. The tide seems to be turning and if it continues to do so then there will come a time when Chelsea assets will have to be looked at in a different light. In my view a Chelsea defender (Begovic, Azpilicueta, Zouma) is worth holding even now if you have them. And I fully expect to be bringing Hazard into my team by Gameweek 15 at the latest. Chelsea begin a very good fixture run then and provided the train hasn’t derailed in the meantime I think we can anticipate a different Chelsea, with more of the flair and dominance most would expect, to be starting to appear.

As a last comment, I think that Mourinho may well look back at the first half of this season later on and see it to be the most important period of his career. If he can bring the team through, which I think he will, and learn the lessons of his own mistakes, which I also think he will, it will make him a more complete manager. And that should be good for Chelsea too.

Shots on Target ticker Gameweek 11

Here are my Shots on Target and Shots on Target conceded tickers for Gameweek 11.

Shots on Target ticker GW11-16

Shots on Target Conceded ticker GW11-16

Last week the tickers over-estimated the number of Shots on Target actually hit in Gameweek 10 by an average of 0.96.

The range was 10 Shots on Target. Bournemouth’s weakened defence was again on the end of a pummelling, this time by Tottenham, which exceeded the ticker value by 4.72. At the other end of the scale, Manchester United limited Manchester City’s potent attack to just one Shot on Target, 5.31 below the ticker value.

Harry Kane

The hat-trick hero in Gameweek 10 of the 2015-16 Premier League season was Harry Kane. The Tottenham Hotspur forward bagged 17 points for the 16.6 per cent of Fantasy Premier League managers who have him in their team.

Goals were always likely to start flowing at some point from the England international, who came second in the race for the Golden Boot last season despite not being Tottenham’s starting striker for the first 10 games. Kane’s underlying statistics show why.

Harry Kane GW1-10 2015-16

Only two strikers have fired more shots in the Premier League than Kane this season. Only in Spurs’ Gameweek 2 clash against Stoke has the PFA Young Player of the Year failed to fire at least three attempts in a match. Furthermore, a large portion of those shots have been hit from inside the penalty area, which is another positive sign.

Where Kane was falling down this season was getting those shots on target. He only managed four shots on target in the first six games. I noted after the Gameweek 6 match against Crystal Palace that Kane seemed to snatching at shots. A player who is struggling to hit shots on target will struggle to score goals.

But notice how Kane has started hitting the target more frequently since Gameweek 7. I suspect he was low on confidence and forcing his play, but is now playing with more freedom.

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The fixture list mostly looks promising for Spurs (AVL, ars, WHM, CHE, wba, NEW). Some FPL managers might worry that Kane’s hat-trick was against an injury-ravaged Bournemouth side, but we know from his goal against Manchester City in Gameweek 7 this season, plus braces against Chelsea and Arsenal last year, that he can score against anyone.

A bigger issue is whether there is room for Kane (9.2m) in one of the three FPL forward spots. Jamie Vardy (7.2m) is in amazing form, having scored nine goals in the last seven games. Graziano Pellè (8.4m) hasn’t scored for two weeks, but FPL managers will be in no rush to remove a player with five goals and five assists this season, plus five good fixtures in the next six games (BOU, sun, STO, mci, AVL, cpl).

The third highest scoring FPL forward is Odion Ighalo, who offers great value even at his current price of 5.4m. Just behind Ighalo is Lukaku. At 8.4m, the Everton forward is cheaper than Kane and he doesn’t face another team from last season’s top eight in 2015. And then there is Wildfried Bony (8.3m), who scored two last week on his first start filling in for the injured Sergio Agüero in the normally highly productive Manchester City forward line.

Until Agüero is back, FPL managers can afford to field two 8m+ forwards, Vardy and a strong midfield. But once the Argentinian returns, they could face a tricky restructuring job if the money is spread too broadly. Kane looks a good buy, but FPL managers will have to consider carefully whether he is better than their other options.

Swansea City’s form

There has been a fair amount of talk this week about Swansea being out of form. The suggestion is that they have been playing badly, particularly widely owned attacking players like André Ayew and Bafétimbi Gomis. The former has been removed from 50,000 Fantasy Premier League teams so far this week and the latter from more than 80,000 teams.

Swansea are without a win in five matches, the same length of time Gomis has now gone without scoring. After bagging seven goals in the first four gameweeks, the Swans have only notched three times since. This blog post came about because I was interested in what clues the underlying statistics, plus the defensive strength of the opposition Swansea played, might reveal about their situation.

Swansea City form GW1-9 2015-16

I charted Swansea’s Shots, Shots in the Box (SiB), Shots on Target (SoT) and Goals, plus the average number of Shots Conceded (OpAvSC), Shots in Box Conceded (OpAvSiBC), Shots on Target Conceded (OpAvSoTC) and Goals Conceded (OpAvGC) by each opposition team up to and including their game against Swansea. In Gameweek 1 this means Swansea’s offensive record matches the defensive record of their opponent, Chelsea, because both teams had been involved in just one game. By the time Swansea played Stoke City in Gameweek 9, the Potters had played eight other games so Swansea’s performance has less overall impact on the defensive statistics. Put another way, some divergence is to be expected between Swansea’s weekly offensive statistics (shown by the blue lines) and their opponents’ respective average defensive statistics (shown by the grey and black lines) as the season progresses.

What’s interesting from the chart is how Swansea’s underlying offensive performance roughly peaks and troughs with the defensive strength of their rivals. For example, against Everton in gameweek 6, Swansea’s Shots and Shots in Box tick up against a rival that had conceded more of them on average than Manchester United and Watford, the Swans’ opposition in Gameweeks 3 and 4 respectively. It is worth noting, however, that the up tick did not show up in Shots on Target or Goals scored.

As an owner of Ayew, the chart gives me some reassurance that fixture strength may have played a part in Swansea’s recent drop in goal production. However, last week’s game against Stoke is more concerning because all but one statistic – Shots – failed to move in the same direction as the opponent’s defensive form.

Aston Villa defensive form GW1-9 2015-16

GC = Goals Conceded; SoTC = Shots on Target Conceded; SiB = Shots in Box Conceded; SC = Shots Conceded

Next up for Swansea is Aston Villa. The Villains have not kept a clean sheet since the first day of the season. However, the underlying statistics were generally not as bad as I expected them to be and there are six teams in the league who have conceded more goals than them. The chart clearly shows performances away from home are worse in the first five weeks, although that pattern has broken down in the last four weeks. On average, Villa’s defence has conceded 1.4 Goals, 4.1 Shots on Target 7.2 Shots in the Box and 11.8 Shots per gameweek this season.

The data doesn’t provide much clear cut evidence to work with. Villa appear to be poor defensively, but not terrible, and Swansea’s play has roughly swung with fixtures – although the last game was worrying. Nevertheless, I think I’m tempted to give Ayew another game and then reassess.

Mesut Özil

Back-to-back gameweeks with double figure points have brought Mesut Özil to the attention of Fantasy Premier League managers. In the first quarter of this season, the Arsenal midfielder, who has just risen back to his season start price of 8.5m, has scored 49 FPL points. That’s nearly half his score from the whole of last season and lifts him to seventh for total points scored by midfielders in 2015/16.

Özil’s attraction is further boosted by costing 0.5m less than last season and by being the second highest scoring midfielder in a vibrant Arsenal attacking side, but costing 3.0m less than Alexis Sánchez. Whether Özil is a good pick though depends on what FPL managers want from a midfielder.

Mesut Özil GW1-9 2015/16

If the manager likes players who deliver assists, Özil is looking a good choice. The German international did not play in Gameweek 4, so he is averaging more than 4.5 chances created per game. His team mates have slotted away six of those chances to propel him to joint first among FPL players for assists.

Özil is creating chances about a third more frequently than he in his past two seasons in the Premier League and they are being turned into assists at a higher rate – about six per cent more often than the average for midfielders this season. Before we get too excited, it’s worth noting that this chances created to assist rate is more than double Özil’s rate from last year and more than four percent above his rate the year before.

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Generally, Özil hasn’t shot very often in matches this season, but his shot production did show a small spike in the Gameweek 7 match against Leicester City and in the following week’s clash against Manchester United. He is shooting more frequently than last seasons and the season before by about 12 minutes and 16 minutes per shot respectively. However, strip out the two games where his shooting stats spiked this season and he is shooting less frequently than in either of his other two Premier League seasons. His Shots on Target conversion rate look fine, but he does not feature anywhere near the top of the midfielder shooting charts so from a goals perspective he does not look a great option.

An FPL manager buying Özil may benefit from a steady supply of assists, albeit potentially at a slightly slower rate than he has displayed so far this season. That manager may also get the odd goal out of him. However, if those Gameweek 7 and 8 numbers turn out to be an anomaly rather than an indication that Özil has turned a shot production corner, those goals may be few and far between.

Shots on Target ticker Gameweek 10

Here are my Shots on Target and Shots on Target Conceded tickers for Gameweek 10.

Shots on Target ticker GW10-15

Shots on Target Conceded ticker GW10-15

Last week the tickers over-estimated the number of Shots on Target actually hit in Gameweek 9 by an average of 0.81.

The range was nine Shots on Target, with Manchester City exceeding its already high value by 4.50 Shots on Target against a weakened Bournemouth defence. At the other extreme, Sunderland might have shown the first potential signs of tightening up their defence under new manager Sam Allardyce, limiting West Brom to one Shot on Target, 4.53 below the ticker value.