There’s been a trend in football over the last years towards greater efficiency with shot locations at the expense of overall shot volume. The massive accumulation of shots based on the motto “You can’t score if you don’t shoot” has become obsolete for most clubs. Instead, teams try to find ways of attacking that create the highest quality shots possible. But how do Bundesliga clubs approach this and how do they convert their chances?
In this data analysis, we will examine which teams are creating on average the highest quality shots and compare them to their overall conversion rate. We will further look at the absolute amount as well as the percentage of shots that clubs take from outside the box.
The impressive ones
Let’s start by looking at the already mentioned comparison between the average quality of shots created vs. the ability to eventually convert these chances.
It’s needless to say that there’s one team which absolutely crushed it: Borussia Dortmund. Surprise? Not at all. There are several articles that try to examine how Lucien Favre’s teams consistently outperform Expected Goals by a significant margin.
Even though you could expect Dortmund to be positioned very high in this graph, it is worthwhile to point out some numbers here. They create the best shooting chances, averaging 0.136 npxG/Shot– undoubtedly a good value. But what’s completely ridiculous is their conversion of 19.86%. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that they overperform their Expected Goal value by 18.1 goals as illustrated below. To put it another way, Dortmund have created just 0.68 xG for every goal scored, this season.
Talking about Dortmund as an outlier, we quickly have to mention Jadon Sancho as well. It’s widely known how good this guy is and what beauty of a season he has, so we won’t dig too deep into it. But to put it delicately: He’s had a pretty “decent” season, outperforming npxG by 6.2 and xA by 6.5. To put this into context: In Europe’s big 5 leagues, only Ciro Immobile outperforms npxG by an even higher margin. Even if Sancho regresses as the season goes on, he would still have outstanding numbers that make him a promising target next summer.
But enough about Dortmund. Besides them, Bayern and Leipzig are also exceptionally good for the quality of the chances they create while being very clinical in front of the goal. They are not as clinical as Dortmund but have a much higher absolute number of shots. Therefore, it’s not surprising that all three teams have scored more than 50 goals already.
Augsburg are the team that in some way represent the bottom half of the table in the upper right part of the graph. A good conversion paired with some quality chances allowed them to score the 6th most goals so far.
The suffering ones
Even though it would be worth to talk about Gladbach and Leverkusen as well, who have opposite issues, we will now focus on the teams, who have issues all over the attack.
First of all, we have to talk about Fortuna Düsseldorf. Their numbers are not bad, they are terrifying. Not converting chances is one thing. But it’s not like they’re being unlucky in front of the goal – they’re just no able to get into good positions. While their npxG last year was at least 0.1, it’s only 0.069 this year. They rely heavily on Rouwen Hennings, who has scored 55% of their goals this season. With all due respect: Relying on a 32-year-old, currently having the best season of his career, is not necessarily a good sign. In fact, they couldn’t make up for the losses of Benito Raman or Dodi Lukebakio before the season.
The other apparent problem child here are Werder Bremen. While they dreamt of the European Cup before the season, they are now fighting against relegation. Having been unlucky at the beginning of the season, they have become really bad according to the numbers. In their last nine matches, they were outscored by every opponent according to expected goals. To make it worse: All their opponents during this period, except Bayern and Hoffenheim, rank in the lower half of the table.
Another, in a certain way, strange team are SC Freiburg, whose metrics look unsustainable since the start of the season. I mention them in this section, albeit they are not really suffering and actually deserve another section called “The lucky ones”. Freiburg currently rank 8th in the Bundesliga, outperforming xG and xGA by a significant margin. They have done this without being able to create good-quality chances or achieving a high conversion.
What about shots from outside the box?
In the introduction, we have mentioned the importance of the shot location when it comes to good-quality chances. We also touched upon the fact that long-range shots usually have a lower percentage of being scored than shots within the box.
However, as we can see below, there are still several teams that still accumulate a high volume of shots from outside the box up to almost 47%.
That being said, taking shots from outside the box as a whole is not necessarily a bad thing. Players who have shown the ability to score from distance should be given the freedom to take longer range shots. Marcel Sabitzer, for instance, has already scored four goals this season. There might be times where it’s clear that the possession isn’t going anywhere and taking a 3-4% shot is the best outcome. It can also help to make the attack a bit more unpredictable.
Not too many, please
However, let’s look at the teams in the Bundesliga and their approaches. Even without going into too much detail, it seems like many teams with a rather high npxG/Shot tend to amass a low percentage of shots taken from outside the box. Bayern or Leipzig, for instance, created several high-quality chances but also shoot from other areas. Consequently, they do not strictly insist on their process for shots within the box.
Dortmund, once again, are a different story. They rarely shoot from outside the box, but really focus on getting into dangerous areas inside the box. As we’ve seen their ability to create high-quality chances and convert them is unrivaled.
Very close to Dortmund, we can see another interesting team: Borussia Mönchengladbach. They also focus on creating shots inside the box. Notwithstanding this focus, there npxG/Shot is only 0.098 yet. Obviously, they have a clear process, but still room for improvement to get into the most dangerous areas inside the box. Interesting side fact: Since Marco Rose took over, their percentage of shots from outside the box decreased by almost 8%.
Go ahead son, test the keeper
Despite everything we’ve talked about so far, many clubs tend to settle for long range shots frequently. Especially due to their lack of creativity, many clubs still rely on this approach. Is it a coincidence that three teams that battle for relegation have the highest percentage of long-range shots?
Düsseldorf, again, are the ones to worry about the most as they lack a process to create chances closer to the goal. Pulling the trigger from distance is presumably not going to solve their issues. Maybe new head coach Uwe Rösler and new signing Valon Berisha can turn things around here. Despite all the negative: Düsseldorf still have all the possibilities to stay in the league if they can improve.
Hertha Berlin, by the way, are another weird case. In absolute numbers, they take the fewest shots from distance, but also the fewest shots in total. Whether consciously or not, it seems like they focus on shots inside the penalty area. Nevertheless, they haven’t been able to create a lot so far this season. If you would switch the graph (shots inside the box), they would sit at the almost exact same position, amassing the fewest shots inside the box.
As the first part of this analysis has shown, there is a strong correlation between the quality of shots on average and a teams’ overall ability to convert. It’s not rocket science: If you can’t create high-quality chances, you’re less likely to convert your chances. Fortuna Düsseldorf are the best example of this suffering.
In the second part, we’ve seen the frequency and proportion of shots from outside the box. It’s no coincidence that, except Schalke, no team in the upper half of the table exceeds 35% for shots from distance. These teams got the message on shot locations and try to avoid pointless shots. That being said, almost all teams still take more than 30% of their shots from outside the box. The long shot will never go away and that’s not what all this is about. Ultimately, it all boils down to teams becoming a bit smarter knowing how to maximize what they get out of their attack.