A Few Italian Heatmaps

Ben Boucher asked me if I could post heatmaps of a few Italian teams for 2012/12 season.

The usual format applies:


I’ll look at the Top 3 teams in league order:







…..and then Inter who finished the season down in 9th



On the face of it those heatmaps are not very different for any of the 4 teams, and so the shooting locations wouldn’t seem to explain many differences in league placings.


Team Heat Maps Awards

Continuing my series of articles looking at shot locations I thought I would bring together a few team heatmaps for the inaugural Heatmap Awards

First of all, for those unfamiliar, here is how I’m defining the different zones where shots are taken from:


West Ham

In one of my very first articles I looked at the “West Ham Phenomenon” where they had much more of their shots from great shot locations that we might have expected.
Well it seems that their obsession with shots from great positions goes even farther than I thought.

Unbelievably, West Ham has the highest proportion of their shots from the prime position than ANY of the other teams in the Big 5 leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France).

West Hame best prime

At 47.6% of their shots from prime locations they are almost 2% clear of the team that has the second most proportion of shots from prime spots, Bayern Munich.  That really takes some comprehending and I think we can put that down to “AllardyceBall”.

I expect that some readers will be suggesting that a large proportion of those attempts from prime positions are from headers, primarily from Andy Carroll.

I had another look at the figures, this time excluding headers and they no longer sit at the top of the table across the Big 5 leagues.  That accolade goes to PSG (35.2%).  However, they only slip to third in the EPL table at just 1% below the figures returned by the two Manchester clubs.  Again, I’d imagine this is a much more impressive figure than most readers would have expected to see.


I’ll shift the focus to Arsenal, where I found some numbers that suggests that the reputation Arsenal have earned for walking the ball into the net has been earned.

Arsenal best poor

Just 0.7% of Arsenal’s shots (inc headers) are struck from what I have termed as very poor locations.  In a “normal” team that would be indicative of serious shot discipline as they do not take wasteful shots.  However, perhaps in Arsenal’s case some more variety may be helpful to them, nevertheless, the Gunners do deserve credit for the careful consideration of their shots.
The next placed teams in the Big 5 leagues had a figure of 1.4% of their shots originating from very poor positions.


The Italian side Pescara is included in this article for the wrong reasons.  They had the worst shooting locations out of all the teams in the Big 5 leagues.


45% of Pescara’s shots came from the two worst zones on the pitch.  It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise to too many readers that they were cast well adrift at the bottom of Serie A this season.
For information, Lazio and Rayo Vallecano also featured at the top of this particular unattractive list.

Bayern Munich

In contrast to Pescara if we look at the two best zones (prime and secondary) combined, we find that the Bavarian giants had the best shot positions out of all the teams in my data set.


Almost 79% of Bayern’s shots came from the two most favourable shooting zones.  On this measure they just pipped Man United (78%) and PSG (77%) across the 5 leagues.

Shots on Target Across the Big 5 Leagues

As tends to happens to me upon reading interesting articles, when I came across this article in relation to shots on target from Ted Knutson yesterday my mind starting to think about what I could prove or disprove.

In the data that Ted analysed, shots in the English Premier League on target were much rare than the other 3 leagues he looked at.  I wondered (as he did) why that might be, and also if that is the case in the data that I have painstakingly gathered.

For those unaware, thanks to Squawka, I have recorded each shot that was taken in the Big 5 leagues for the season just ended.  The Big 5 leagues are the top divisions in England, Spain, France, Germany and Italy.

Shots on Target

The following table shows the proportion of shots that were on target in each league for the 2012/13 season:


So my findings pretty much tally with those of Ted.  The German Bundesliga has the greatest proportion of shots that are within the frame of the goal at 35% and England bring up the rear with less than 32% of the shots taken in the Premier League being on target.

Possible Explanations

In order to try to explain why different leagues would have different percentage of shots on target when they play the same game I came up with the following possible explanations:

  1. The players in the EPL are less skilful or accurate than those found in the other four leagues
  2. On average, shots are taken from worse locations in the Premier League than in other leagues
  3. There is greater defensive pressure on the ball in England than is found in the other leagues

Those possible explanations don’t exactly break new ground, in fact Mr Knutson came up with those  exact same explanations in this article posted on Thursday afternoon.

I’m afraid that as a data collector I can’t really offer up anything substantive in terms of proving or disproving the first possible explanation, however, hopefully I (and my data set) can be useful in trying to see if explanations 2 and 3 have any merit.

Shooting Locations

One aspect of the game that I have plenty of data on is shooting positions, so I’m able to investigate the shot locations for each league.
Before I do that I’ll explain a little about how I’m going to present the data.

Following some feedback on how I was assigning “poor” and “good” shooting locations in previous articles I have come up with the following graphical representation method.


Shooting locations have been divided into 4 groupings as shown above.  I am not going to tell the readers what the expected percentage of shots on target should be for each grouping, but hopefully the above will be a useful way to compare the shooting locations across each of the leagues.  In summary, the farther away from the goal the location the poorer the shooting location becomes.

For each country I will also include a much more visually impressive heatmap than the ones I have created.  These snazzy heatmaps where created for me by my friend @cchappas. The two styles of viz work well together, as one gives detailed information whilst the other provides a much easier “at a glance” representation of the data.




36% of shots in the Bundesliga this season were taken from the central belt within the penalty area, although I haven’t noted it on the image, 14% of shots were taken from within the 6 yard box.  30% were taken from slightly worse, but still promising, locations and finally just 5% of shots were taken from what I have described as very poor positions, ie far out or beyond the edges of the penalty area.

How does the Bundesliga compare with the others?




The shot spread in La Liga wasn’t very different to those seen in Germany, at 34% Spain had slightly less shots from the prime central positions.  Those few missing percent of shots that came from the central area in Germany were pushed out slightly to the Secondary positions, but other than that it was pretty much as we were.




The trend of the slight decrease in shots from Position A continues when we look at the French Ligue 1, this is witnessed by the increase to 5% for shots coming from the worst locations.  Indeed you can see that the shot distribution is much more even in France than in the leagues we have looked at so far.




I am looking at the leagues in descending order of shots that end up on target and the amount of shots taken from prime positions in Serie A is now down to 31%.  It’s comforting when the results of a test match the hypothesis that we set out with, ie that the decrease in shots on target can be (at least) attributable to the shot locations.
With that in mind, and the fact that the EPL has the lowest percentage of shots on target I wonder will the amount of shots from prime locations in the Premier League fall much below 30%?




Wow.  What has happened here?

36% of shots in the Premier League came from the best positions.  Not only that, but within that figure 15% of shots were from inside the 6 yard box – none of the other leagues posted a higher figure that that.  Contrary to what I had expected to see the Premier League actually had shots from better positions than the other leagues.

The amount of shots from the secondary position is also exceptionally high at 35%.  This leaves just 29% of shots being struck from the two worst zones in the EPL, the next lowest figure was 33%!!
The Premier League clubs will undoubtedly be happy to learn that the players on their books take shots from what appears to be the best positions on the pitch, certainly compared to the other leagues in my data set.

Does that mean that my hypothesis of shot location acting as an explanatory variable for explaining the percentage of shots on target in the bin?

I don’t think so.  Excluding England, there certainly appeared to be a clear pattern where the proportion of shots on target was correlated with the amount of shots that were taken from the more favourable shooting locations.
But, given the amount of shots in my data set I don’t think we can ignore the findings from the Premier League.  Can we come up with a logical explanation for these findings?

Defensive Pressure

If you’re still with me, you may recall that the third and final possible explanation I had in my locker to explain why different leagues had a different amount of shots on target was that of defensive pressure.
Presently, and it is a great bugbear of the analytics community, there is no (or virtually no) data available which measures defensive pressure.
However, prompted by a few articles by Footballfactman such as this one I realised that we could probably use the amount of blocks as a proxy for defensive pressure.  After all, a shot can’t be blocked if the striker isn’t being closed down at the moment they shoot for goal.

I looked at the proportion of shots that were blocked this season in each of the Big 5 leagues, and the findings make interesting reading.


Perhaps as expected, the Premier League is well clear of the other four leagues in terms of the amount of shots that are blocked.  I think we could conclude that there is, indeed, much more pressure on the shooting players in England than there are in the other countries.  Perhaps this is because teams tend to play with a higher line in the Continental leagues and allow much more space in behind them, but whatever the explanation the effect is certainly there.

In my opinion the amount of pressure on the ball in England is even more stark than the above table shows.

Remember that shots in the Premier League came from better positions on average than the other leagues.  In an earlier article where I looked at where blocked shots originated from there was a clear pattern where the amount of shots which were blocked decreased the closer the shots were to the goal.  Earlier on in this article we ascertained that the top flight English teams actually had a greater proportion of their shots from those prime locations where blocked shots should have been less of an occurrence.
England has 42% of shots from outside the box in the secondary and marginal position zones – and this is where blocked shots occur at the highest rate.  However, Spain also has 42%, France 41% and Italy a massive 48% from these zones.

This, combined with the fact that England has more shots than the other leagues from prime positions where blocks are rarer suggests to me that the pressure on both the ball and the attacking players in the Premier League is not even fully captured in the above table of blocked shots.
I think this is a very important point for anyone who attempts to undertake analysis of the different leagues.


We confirmed that different leagues do have different proportions of shots are on target.  There are several different possible explanations for why this could be the case.
I didn’t attempt to see whether the first explanation, ie players having different skill levels was plausible, but I think I was able to ascertain that the shot location is an important aspect in explaining whether a shot is going to be on target or not.

However, the third possible explanation, that of defensive pressure seemed to have an even stronger explanatory impact than that of shot location and this was starkly seen in the Premier League where the amount of blocks was far in excess of what we might have expected, especially given the shot positions.

The Smart and Accurate Shooting of Sau

Following on from this article that MixedkNuts wrote on Serie A talent I thought it worth taking a cursory look at the shooting figures posted by Cagliari’s Marco Sau this season.

As Ted points out in his article he has some really admirable goals and shots on target numbers.

Here are his shot and goal charts (exc penalties) for the 2012/13 season:

Look at how tidy his shooting locations are. The vast majority of the shots are from central and / or fairly close in and his goal conversion ratio is also something to admire.
He seems to have the ideal mix of being a smartshooter and well as a sharpshooter.

So although most readers of this article won’t have heard of Sau before this afternoon, I’d have to agree with Ted in his summation of “This guy is special and could be a good goalscorer pretty much anywhere.”

Why Always Suarez?

The inspiration for the title of this piece came from Man City’s former wayward Italian forward.  However, as I was forming the gist of this article in my head I thought that perhaps Luis Suarez may have some merit in his claims of picking up more than his fair share of Liverpool blame.

The aspect of Suarez’s game that this article will look at is how his choice of shot selection compared to Liverpool’s shot selection as a whole.

Entire Team

To begin, we’ll remind ourselves of Liverpool’s shot locations over the course of the 2012/13 Premier League season:


To recap, shots from “poor positions” are defined as shots from outside the extended dotted penalty area.  20% of their shots came from this area with 56% originating from the confines of the penalty area and 31% of those occurring within the six central zones.
It’s worth noting that the values for inside the penalty area may not be exactly correct, I used the boundaries of my zones that most closely match the penalty area.  It’s not the absolute minutiae of the detail that the above images are used for, instead I find them a great way of presenting an overview where otherwise there would be a lot of data to absorb and analyse.


We’ll now look at the shots that Suarez took last season:


Remainder of Team

Following a request by @DanKennett, I created the heatmap for shots taken by Liverpool players not named Luis Suarez.  Here is the image of shots taken by all the other Liverpool players:

Liverpool Exc Suarez

How does Suarez compare?

As Liverpool’s main striker it would normally be reasonable to assume that the shots Suarez take would be from better positions than his team mates.  This would certainly be the case for the vast majority of main strikers for most teams.
However, there is a perception that Suarez is not very careful with his shot choices and that he takes shots from a lot of unfavorable positions.

Yes, we can see that Suarez takes some very wild shots, as witnessed by the red cells on the left hand side of his image.  However, in fairness to the Uruguayan both of those zones seen just 1 shot each.  Does that fact put a different complexion on his heatmap?

If we consider that “just” 16% of his shots are taken from what I have described as poor positions then perhaps his infamy for taking crazy shots is perhaps a little undeserved.

Let’s put his shots from poor positions into context.

His Peers

Looking at main strikers; Van Persie had just 7% of shots from poor positions.  Ba had 12%, Defoe 11%, Tevez 12%, Benteke 4%, Lukaku 7%, Kone 13% and his Anfield colleague Sturridge had 7%.

So there is no doubt that in terms of players whose main role is to lead the line and be the main attacker for their team that he takes shots much earlier than his peers would typically do.  However, he would probably contend that it is unfair to compare him against this group of players as he doesn’t play in a similar style to most of them and his rate of 16% isn’t that far above most of those other players.

Let’s now look at a grouping of  players who don’t just lead the line and the proportion of shots they took from poor positions.  Bale had 29%, Cazorla 28%, Lambert 26%, Walcott 14%, Mata 11% and Rooney 24%.  Suddenly when Suarez is compared to this group of players his shots from poor positions figure of 16% looks quite good.

Given the type of game Liverpool play and how often Suarez is involved in the attack you could almost make a case for his shots from poor positions being fairly low.

Within Liverpool

As stated above, it would normally be reasonable to assume that Suarez (as the main striker for Liverpool) would have better shooting locations than the rest of his team, however I am not sure that most Liverpool fans would have agreed that this was the case in the season just ended.

It may be a surprise, therefore, to see that Suarez had less shots from poor positions than the rest of the Liverpool team.  Shots by players other than Suarez originated from poor positions 21% of the time, remember that Suarez had just 16%.Suarez also trumps his teammates in terms of shots from inside the penalty area, he had 63% with his teammates just at 53%.


Given the position Suarez plays there will be some bias in his figures compared to his teammates as a whole, as he should find himself shooting closer to goal than they do.
However, before writing this article the author assumed that Suarez’s shot selection would be worse than the rest of his teammates.  It was therefore a surprise to find that in reality Suarez’s shooting choices do not seem to be as wild as his reputation would suggest.

Just perhaps, at least in this regard, he might have some merits in his claim that his reputation can’t seem to earn a break in England.

Arsenal and their Pretty Pictures

@JoshJMTG said this morning after reading the locations article “So wait, you’re telling me that the trouble with Arsenal really is that they always try to walk it in?”

Well, it gets worse, or maybe that should be better.  I was playing around with some dates and managed to create this very pretty looking Arsenal picture:


Believe it or not, the above is the heatmap for every single (all 433) shot that Arsenal took in the EPL after the 27th October.
They didn’t take a single shot from wider than the outsides of the penalty area and they never took a single very far out shot either.  Over a period of seven months that is pretty amazing.

Just as a means of comparison here are the images for a couple of other teams over the same period:



Man United


and, Liverpool


So, Arsenal certainly win the prize for the Prettiest Picture, although perhaps sometimes just a little variety may be beneficial to them.

Did Liverpool have Two Seasons?

Following on from my shot locations articles I was asked to have a look at Liverpool’s season to see if they showed a marked difference in terms of their shot locations in each half of the season.

I could have chosen a number of dates as the cut off point, but @benjaminpugsley came up with the idea of looking at BC and AC, ie before and after Coutinho.

I have done this and have used the date of 16th February as the dividing point, which I believe is just prior to his first start.

Whole Season

First of all, let’s have a recap on how Liverpool’s shot heatmap looked for the entire season.


20% of shots came from poor positions (as before I am using the dotted line as the start of the poor positions area), 56% from inside the penalty area with 31% of those  coming from the central 6 zones within the penalty area.

Early Season

Now let’s look at what their shot heatmap looked like for games played prior to 16th February.


Shots from poor positions are fairly similar at 21%, 56% from within the penalty area and 32% from the central portion of the penalty area.  All in all, the numbers for the first portion of the league are very close to those displayed over the entire league programme.

Late Season

And their shot heatmap for games played after the arrival of Coutinho .


Once again, not very different to that generated by games played prior to 16th February.


Despite what the perceived wisdom may suggest, it doesn’t appear that the arrival of Coutinho resulted in Liverpool having a vastly different shot profile from the one that they had before his arrival.
As an aside, I also looked at using other different cut off dates.  I looked at Christmas Day, Sturridge starting and transfer window – but the findings were all pretty similar.

Liverpool didn’t materially change where they struck their shots from over the course of the season.
Yes, they had slightly less shooting zones in games after 16th February, but as those games had just 232 shots versus 500 before the cut-off t its quite likely that this phenomenon was simply as a result of having fewer shots.