This, from Bitter and Blue, is a far better and far more detailed exposition of the point I made earlier this month—Manchester City’s problem has to do with a low shot and save percentage, as revealed in the club’s PDO:

As we have seen, Man City control enough of the football in their away games, they control over 3/4 of the shots on target in their away games and are solely being let down by low scoring and save%’s. As we know that those percentages are liable to the influence of luck and regression to the mean, it doesn’t require too much imagination to say that Man City will, at some point, if the shots count stays consistently high, begin to score more goals and gain more points.

Again, this is a lovely use of simple predictive metrics to make a clear case that City’s away form is statistically likely to improve as the season progresses. I would only add the corollary: Manchester United’s equally high sh%, which leads the league near 30%, is also bound to regress. Chances are, the race will tighten over the next several months.

Note that none of this means City will overtake United, or win the title. Just that the team is likely a few points better than their current points total suggests. Despite the happy media narrative about a team in distress, I’m willing to bet that a grouchy Joe Hart or Mario Balotelli is not going to suddenly affect City’s impressive shots ratio.

Comments (10)

  1. Have you played organized football Richard?

    (Not meant to be snarky, honest – just genuinely curious)

    • Well, not at any level that would be recognizably good, but yes.

      • I have a number of questions for you regarding analytics, would there be an email address at which I could contact you for some clarification?

  2. Why is it inevitable that sh% would come closer to the mean? Isn’t that implying that it is necessarily artificially high? Isn’t it plausible that a talented attacking team with arguably the best striker in the world would have a shooting % that would be substantially above the mean, and could just as easily stay there. The problems with using total shots have always been many and it makes no allowance for shots being not created equally. As any football fan knows, there are good shots and bad shots, and some teams are more eager to take the latter.

    • That’s true, but the great thing about shots as a ratio is that it banks that football teams aren’t merely shooting to rack up the numbers but to score goals. Not all shots are great, but generally, over several games, the ability to take more than you concede is a really clear indication of superiority. Morever, the SoTR corrects somewhat for the quality problem you raise here. City’s is still very high.

  3. I take the point, but to say that Citeh “are a few points better than their current points total suggests” is just false. Their point total is what it is, and it is the final measure of success in the league.

    You have a plausible explanation for that total and a plausible hypothesis for how they may gain more points from this point forward, but to chalk it up to “luck” is ludicrous. It’s execution and they’ve not executed; they’ve not scored on or stopped enough shots. This isn’t luck, this is how games are decided, and the results of games lead to points and points to table position.

  4. So last Sunday, City outshot United and lost 3-2. Not counting the goal that… uh, didn’t count. So, yeah, there’s that.

    • Right, and United were far more efficient in shots. But that game, you’ll note, did not decide the Premier League title.

      • Two things- 1) All the stats you love held true for the game last Sunday, and United could perhaps have won more convincingly if it’s 3-0 when Young scores. The game is about tactics, and SAF clearly did better than Mancini. Tevez changed the game when he came on; likewise, Welbeck when he was introduced.
        2) How do your stats account for the fact that United’s defense will improve, especially if Vidic and Rio stay healthy. I’m not sure if Kompany is set to miss time, but that will be a massive blow to City, as will losing Yaya to the African Cup.
        …And, yeah, one game doesn’t decide a title-but when that win is away at your biggest rival who happen to be the current title-holders and the biggest threat to beat you to the title and they haven’t lost at home in two years and they fought back to tie with minutes left and then the guy you got that they wanted wins it in injury-time (breath)- this game meant more than six points.

        • Those are all factors that may or may not have an effect. Whether a single player absence will involve a radical change in either team’s ability to maintain shot ratios is doubtful.

          Anyway, I’m not “arguing” for stats. I’m stating that as of now, they indicate the race has a good probability of tightening. I’m just interpreting the numbers. You however are biased in your support of United, and are speaking from the perspective of a fan caught up in the narrative. Which is fine. Chances are the points gap from City’s low shot and save percentage will be insurmountable.

          But you would agree the dog fight is still between City and United, no? I have stated no differently.

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