For our first This Week In Premiership Stats look at individual players we’re going to keep it pretty straightforward. A little less of me pointing wildly at charts of percentage breakdowns of passes made per attack and a little more of just chatting about who kicks the ball at the goal the most. So, here are the players that pull the trigger the most from open play in the Scottish Premiership so far this season and their average xG per shot.
All data is correct prior to the matches played on Friday 6th November 2020 and supplied by Modern Fitba.
I’ve drawn a cut off at a minimum of 600 minutes played which feels fair given that’s roughly half of the most minutes played by anyone in the Premiership (Scott Pittman and Jon Guthrie at Livingston with 1236) so far. As a quick aside on availability/usage; seven players (two each at Livingston, Rangers and Ross County and one at Dundee Utd) have played 1200 minutes or more and the first Celtic player in terms of minutes played is Callum McGregor (of course) way down at forty-one. Celtic only have eight players that have played more than 600 mins – McGregor, Kris Ajer, Vasillas Barkas, Scott Brown, Jeremie Frimpong, Ryan Christie, Greg Taylor and Shane Duffy. Two of those are no longer starters, one is out injured and one should be sent back to the Talksport scrap heap.
Talking of McGregor, and Celtic, on this list the midfielder shows up in 23rd, with an average xG per open play shot of 0.06 (just ahead of Lewis Ferguson at 25th and 0.05 per shot) and Christie is their only player in the top ten. Odsonne Edouard has 3.02 OP attempts per 90, with an average xG per OP shot of 0.14, which would stick him 2nd in the table but has only played 536 minutes. I feel as though there might soon be a push from some pundits for Celtic to drop Edouard and it’s worth noting that the shot conversion rate of the other options is likely unsustainable; Albian Ajeti has scored 56% of his open play shots, Leigh Griffiths 50% and Patryk Klimala 30%. Last season the highest in the league was Jermaine Defoe with 33% and the highest this season, for those with more than 600 minutes, is currently Nicke Kabamaba at 22%, Alfredo Morelos is at 10% and Lawrence Shankland and Kevin Nisbet have both scored with 12% of their attempts.
Nisbet is fifth on the list of open play shooters and, if including other types of attempts, takes an impressive 3.55 shots per 90. Interestingly he has taken the most shots from inside the six yard box per 90 in the league. It’s early in his career at this level and obviously team tactics and teammate ability is a factor but his 2.57 open play shots per 90 and average xG per shot of 0.15 compares favourably with Shankland’s 1.54 OP shots per 90 and 0.12 xG per OP shot.
Another player from the top ten that we should look at in a little more detail is Ryan Christie. Recommended reading first is Tiago Estêvão’s defence of long shots.
However, long shooting is something that has to be considered within the broader context of decision making. The value of a long shot does not arise within the context of immediate goal scoring: when considered within the immediate context of “will I score from this shot” they’re obviously bad, but the various contexts in which they arise are much more varied than an xG model allows. As such, they should not, nor will they ever be, dismissed from our game.https://medium.com/@TiagoEstv/in-defense-of-long-shots-e230c6f6815c
Christie’s average xG per OP shot of 0.08 means that the model would expect a goal once every 12.5 shots. Including set pieces he takes an average of 3 shots from outside the box every game. The next highest in the league, with over 600 mins, is (you probably guessed this, right?) Lewis Ferguson with 1.6 per 90.
Estêvão’s article states that the players in the English Premier League that shot most frequently from outside the box hit the target on average 24% of the time and the most efficient among them hit the target about 50% of the time. There are reasons not to discourage Christie too much – obviously long shots can be an effective weapon especially against low blocks and poor keepers and it can help force chances from rebounds or corners (which are a real threat for Celtic due to Duffy and Christopher Jullien) – but his open play shot accuracy from all locations this season is 35% and he’s around that EPL average from outside the box, not elite.
Two quick comparisons are quite useful. First, with himself; last season Christie shot 2.23 times from open play per 90 and had an average xG per shot of 0.12. Secondly, Ryan Kent has a broadly comparable role and, although his volume of shots has decreased over the last few Rangers matches, his shot map is worth a look compared to Christie’s.
A few notes to finish on;
Marius Ogkmpoe has the lowest average xG per open play shot – 0.07 – for a centre forward in the league with 600 minutes played.
Callum Hendry and Ross Stewart still have a conversion rate of 0% for open play shots. Hendry hits the target 16% of the time and Stewart 22% of the time (for some context; Morelos 32%, Nisbet 37%, Edouard and Shankland both 41%).
Livingston’s new forward, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is attempting just 0.81 OP shots per 90 whereas Lyndon Dykes took 1.30 per 90 last season.
Nisbet has attempted the most -14 – shots which have been blocked. Christie and Ianis Hagi with 12 and Ian Harkes and David Turnbull with 11 are close behind.
Finally, Motherwell have struggled to decide on attacking system and personnel until recently this season but it seems likely Tony Watt will be their starter up front against Celtic on Sunday. He is taking 1.11 OP shots per 90 with an average xG per attempt of 0.13 whereas Chris Long has taken 0.95 OP shots per 90 with an average xG of 0.12 per attempt and Jordan White has an average xG per shot of 0.10 on his 0.64 OP attempts per 90.