I started writing this post a couple of days ago after noticing Crystal Palace seemed to be performing better than their poor goal-scoring record this season was suggesting. Then I saw the good underlying statistics predominantly came from one game and it made me question whether I should carry on. Anything can happen in one match. Last season, for example, Newcastle scored six goals in one game from six shots on target. It didn’t mean the Magpies were an amazing team in anything other than that match – they were relegated. After some reflection, I’ve decided to plough on but this is a health warning not to read too much into one game. We need more data to know if it marked a turning point or was simply a blip.
Crystal Palace did not have a great start to the Premier League season. They lost against West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur by a single unanswered goal in both games. In Gameweek 3, against Bournemouth, they did at least trouble the scoreboard operator, but still ended up in a 1-1 draw. Palace are the only team this year not to score at least two Premier League goals.
Despite this lack of goals, the Eagles’ shots and shots inside the box numbers are comfortably among the top 10 in the league. A closer look shows they were firmly in the bottom half of the table for those metrics after the first two games, which is not too surprising given their opposition, but that changed after Gameweek 3 when Crystal Palace were second in the league for shots and shots inside the box. After a poor opening 45 minutes against Bournemouth that featured a missed penalty and three long-range efforts, Palace unleashed 20 shots in the second half, including 15 in the penalty area and four on target.
The Cherries are a weaker defensive side than Palace’s first two opponents, but the game was also notable for being the first Premier League game Christian Benteke had started in for the Eagles since his move from Liverpool. Nevertheless, if the forward had an impact, it wasn’t reflected heavily in the shooting statistics – he fired three of Palace’s 24 shots in the match, striking each of them from inside the area. If anyone who watched the game has a view on the impact he had on the team, I’d be interested to hear more in the comments.
History suggests Benteke could have a lot to offer. He reached double figures for goals scored in each season he played for a poor Aston Villa side, including 19 strikes in 2012-13. Last season he managed nine goals for Liverpool from about 17 games worth of playing time.
The Belgian doesn’t often shoot from distance. He has fired between 78 and 88 per cent of his shots from inside the penalty area over the last four seasons. Despite this close-range bias, the proportion of his shots that test the keeper is normal for a Premier League striker.
However, Benteke, who is priced at 7.4m in Fantasy Premier League, has generally had a very good shots on target conversion rate during his time in England – only in one season did it drop below 40 per cent.
I excluded penalties from the shots on target conversion calculations, but Benteke hasn’t been reliant on them to substantially inflate his goal numbers. He scored from the spot once in each of the last two seasons, twice in 2013-14 and three times in 2012-13. Benteke has staked a claim for penalties at Palace after Yohan Cabaye’s Gameweek 3 miss.
If Crystal Palace can carry on creating the high volume of shots in the box that they achieved in the second half against Bournemouth and can ally that to Benteke’s strong finishing, they may find the goals start to flow. FPL managers should not get too excited by one half of one game against the Cherries, but it is something to keep an eye on.