The West Ham Phenomenon

In my previous article where I looked at the average shot position (exc penalties and headers) of the leading strikers last season in the Premier League the average position of Kevin Nolan’s shots stood out for me.
Nolan’s average shot position over the course of the season was closer to the goal than any other player in the entire league who had more than 65 shots.  I don’t watch that much of West Ham, and so that finding did surprise me somewhat.

Following some discussion on my Twitter timeline with @footballfactman @them_l_g  @basstunedtored it was suggested that the taking of shots close to goal was likely to be a deliberate tactic by Sam Allardyce.  Allardyce’s interest in football analytics is well known, and it certainly seemed a plausible explanation.  It could be possible that someone has told Allardyce that taking long range shots may not necessarily be the most optimum tactic (really?).

I thought I would test this theory.

So I looked at the average shot position of all the shots taken by the 20 teams in the Premier League last season.  I used the same methodology as in the previous article, and so I excluded penalties and headers.

As expected, given the large number of shots taken, all the teams have a fairly close average shot position.  In order to help identify different teams I have zoomed in on the graphic below; the black dot is the penalty spot and the red line is the outline of the penalty area.


And look what the data clearly shows.

Three teams’ average shot position was much closer to the goal line (relatively speaking) than all the other teams in the Premier League.
Those three teams are the two Manchester teams, who finished first and second, and West Ham, who didn’t.

In fact, only six teams had average shot positions which originated from inside the penalty area.  Those teams’ final league positions were 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 10th (West Ham).

Ignoring West Ham there appears to be a pretty strong correlation between shots originating from close to the goal and league position.  Of the strong teams, only Chelsea and Bale Tottenham had shots that came from outside the penalty area on average.  I will generalise therefore and say that, as a whole, it seems that the stronger the team the closer to goals their shots are taken.

With this in mind, it seems hugely significant that West Ham were the team that actually had the closest average shot position to the goal line.  Such a close position just would not be expected from a team of their ability.

To me, it seems clear that Sam Allardyce has introduced a deliberate strategy of trying to shoot from close to goal.  Although this seems obvious, it is clear that there are not many other teams in the league who have, so far, decided to adopt a similar strategy.


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