2016-17 season in Eredivisie witnessed some very exciting moments, especially at the end of season, with Feyenoord claiming the title after 18 years of drought. Ajax came up just short ending wiht 81 points (they had higher hopes coming into the last round). PSV was below expectations, ending 6 points behind the champions, securing a place for European qualies (let’s not get into what happened there).
With the help of the Strata data, I tried diving into Eredivisie 16-17 at team level, with a focus on the Big Three. Let’s go.
Let's start with some shot numbers. Looking at the first graph, we see that teams are basically clustered into 3 groups in Eredivisie. (all numbers exclude penalties)
Far away at Quadrant I, the Big 3 certainly are on a different level: they are way ahead on shots per game(p/g), and shots on target p/g numbers (1).
As seen on the above final standings table, relegation battle was intense. 7 of the last 8 teams were placed at the final table with a margin of 5 points: 11th Den Haag had 38 points and 17th Roda had 33. We observe similarity on the graph, at Quadrant III, with 6 of these teams plus the Go Ahead Eagles. The outlier is PEC Zwolle, who despite having better offense numbers, only managed to finish at 14th spot.
What about efficiency? The second graph tells some stories:
• Feyenoord not only had phenomenal conversion rates, but also was much better than others. (16% in all, 38% in on-target shots)
• Although they were the second best team in shot numbers, PSV, lost in efficiency: it was on-par with relegated teams on on-target conversion rates. 25%. This probably is one of the reasons for their lack of success during the season.
• Utrecht’s nominal shot numbers were league average but their high conversion rates helped to secure the fourth spot.
• As in shots, conversion rates also indicate the relegations (2): We spot the three teams (NEC, Roda, Go Ahead Eagles) in quadrant III.
How did the shot conversion distribute over the pitch? With aid of precise location data from Strata, let’s take a look at the Big 3. (click to enlarge images)
Feyenoord must have some sharp shooters!
Drilled down to smaller zones, it’s easier to see what happened at PSV: quite good at the 6-yard area (50% of shots scored) and not so good at 18-yard–centre (orange on the pitch): only 14% conversion rates as opposed to Feyenoord’s 23% and Ajax’ 20%. (remember the league average, including PSV, was 16.5%).
To put into nominal numbers context, PSV have scored 3 goals less than Ajax with 46 more shots in that area. They didn’t have any trouble creating chances, as we also saw above in shots numbers, but couldn’t convert.
To avoid repetition, let’s take a slightly different approach for defensive metrics and combine Shots-Conversion figures into one graph. In defense, there aren’t many surprises:
• The Big 3 conceded the least shots per game and have the lowest conversion rates conceded. PSV certainly didn’t perform bad at this end of the pitch.
• As the other two members of the quadrant III, Utrecht and Vitesse complete the top-5 standings in the final table.
• Roda had relative success in conversion rate conceded but it wasn’t enough. Their goals conceded (51; 45 excluding penalties) is actually in the top-10, however they were the lowest-scoring side: only 26 goals in 34 matches.
PSV’s low conversion rates, as it seems from the above graphs, probably got in the way to championship. But is it fair to assert that PSV players underperformed in scoring? What if majority of PSV shots were against a defense line packed with players? (‘Park the bus’, you know.) What if some were from obscure spots on the pitch?
That’s where the expected goals (xG) come into play and things get more interesting!
Until next time!
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.
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(1) Shots on target defined as shots either scored, saved by the goalkeeper or hit the woodwork.
(2) In Eredivisie, last team directly relegates; 16-17th spots play a playoff.