Overworked and wasteful: last season visualised

Kevin Robinson Kevin Robinson
No Nay Never July 9, 2012
pretty graphs, but somewhat meaningless information. there's far too many things ... 3 years ago

Football League statistician Ben Mayhew casts his eye over Burnley’s charts from last season.

Over at Experimental 361, I’ve developed a set of graphs to visualise and compare teams’ attacking and defensive performance, which I’ll be using here to briefly analyse Burnley’s season.

In a convoluted nutshell, the horizontal axis measures the average number of goal attempts a team either creates or faces in a match, while the vertical shows how many shots it takes on average for a goal to be either scored or conceded. These are quite simple metrics, but used together they can be quite revealing (as this post will hopefully demonstrate).

I’ve used them below to plot out Burnley’s attacking (green) and defensive (red) performance, split by (H)ome, (A)way and (O)verall. The axes are centred on the average values for the Football League, which allows us to split the graph into quadrants (which I’ve labelled). The 23 smaller dots on each graph show the overall performance of the other teams from last year’s Championship for comparison.

Click the charts to view full-size.


The line links Burnley’s home and away performances, which are strikingly different. At home, they rain shots in at an impressive rate – almost 16 per game – but away from Turf Moor their attack calms down and behaves like that of an average Football League side

What’s disappointing is how many shots are wasted: it takes the average team just under 8.4 shots to score each goal, but Burnley need 10 overall, rising to 11 at home. This could be due to either the quality of chances being created or the quality of the finishing.

The fact that 5 more shots are being taken per match at home compared to away hints potentially at impatience or the team feeling under pressure to get a result in front of their own fans. However this shouldn’t detract from a positive overall picture: no Championship side created more shots at goal last season.


Having seen this chart for quite a few teams, the thing that strikes me first is the relatively small difference between home and away performance. Most teams have a much wider spread here, suggesting that Burnley aren’t easily intimidated by a hostile crowd and that Eddie Howe doesn’t change the team’s style of play significantly away from home.

The defence are busier than most and have to face an extra shot per match on their travels, but given their better-than-average ability to soak these up this isn’t particularly concerning.

Looking at Burnley’s away record last season, there were a fair number of defeats and very few draws, so perhaps a more cautious approach to reduce the number of shots faced could see them grind out a few more points on the road.


The headline message for the coaching staff from these numbers is to instil a bit more patience up front. If they can focus the team’s formidable attacking energy into carving out clearer-cut chances then Burnley can be optimistic of breaking into the top half of the table.

In terms of replacing Jay Rodriguez, this analysis suggests that bringing in a forward who is a composed finisher should be the priority, as the team is already creating plenty of chances and just needs someone reliable on the end of them.

Defensively, the high-profile capture of Jason Shackell should add sufficient steel to the Clarets’ rearguard to drive the required improvements here. If Eddie Howe can recruit as impressively at the other end then a play-off push is a real possibility next season.

Summing up

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never watched Burnley play, which in addition to leaving a gaping void in my soul also prevents me from interpreting these graphs with a detailed knowledge of the team’s playing style. Please feel free to weigh in with your infinitely more informed interpretations in the comments section below.

Why do we waste so many chances? Is our defence as bad as we’ve sometimes made out? Comment below.

Check out Experimental 3-6-1 on the web, on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Kevin Robinson
    Kevin Robinson

    This is very interesting. I wonder if being overworked contributed in any way to conceding so many late goals.

  • Richard Moore

    Fascinating, clear and mercifully,concise.

  • Andrew Greaves

    Excellent stuff. Really useful article.

  • Gary Mills

    At home particularly I always thought we had a huge amount of the ball and numerous goal scoring opportunities with often nothing to show for it.

  • Gareth Maybury

    We had more shots on goal than any other Cmapionship side, if only a small % were better we’d be in the playoffs. Giving the ball away too much cost us

  • Michael Connell

    “In terms of replacing Jay Rodriguez, this analysis suggests that bringing in a forward who is a composed finisher should be the priority, as the team is already creating plenty of chances and just needs someone reliable on the end of them”
    This is the problem with doing analysis solely on statistics. That’s no criticism of the author, it’s a very insightful article and it would be impossible for him to watch all football league teams but the conclusions drawn can sometimes be misguided.

    Firstly, we’re not creating the sort of chances that a ‘clinical finisher’ would thrive on i.e. through balls into the box in behind the defence. We lacked creativity in central positions last season to create those sort of chances; both McCann and Marney prefer to pass in front of the opposition defence and spread the play wide and although our wide players tended to come inside, apart from Stanislas none of them really looked to play balls in behind and instead look to shoot or go backwards.

    The stats show that we have lots of chances but most of these I would suggest, having watched the team last season, come mainly from long range shots and crosses into the box both of which aren’t exactly clear cut or the kind of opportunities a poacher would look for. Jay himself wasn’t at all that kind of player either. He had some pace and could finish but his movements tended to more often be coming short for the ball and linking with the midfielders. It’s that back-to-goal link up play that we’ll need to replace as Paterson and Austin are both players that look to get into the box.

    The poor chances to goals ratio more likely shows us that we need either more creativity centrally or better quality crosses into the box. It’s not that we’re not taking chances, we’re not creating them. Liverpool had the exact same problem last season with having lots of shots and hitting the woodwork but scoring few goals.

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to Michael Connell

      Yes, I thought it was odd when some stats came out before showing we were creating loads of chances. Not good quality ones. I can’t remember many sitters any of our strikers missed last year. We’ve got (certainly had, if not still have) one of the division’s best strikeforces – it doesn’t add up that the chances are not being taken.

  • Adam Haworth
    Adam Haworth

    Brilliant and to the point. Perhaps lacking a bit of wider context of the team, but that’s to be expected and does not detract from the article really.

    Love the conclusion: “I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never watched Burnley play, which in addition to leaving a gaping void in my soul also prevents me from interpreting these graphs with a detailed knowledge of the team’s playing style.”

  • claretandblueblogger

    I’ve been watching Burnley for years and have never seen them play!

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to claretandblueblogger


  • Ben Mayhew

    Thanks all for the comments – as Michael and Adam pointed out, I based my observations purely on the stats so wasn’t expecting to get the conclusions spot on. I’ll be capturing more detailed data this season so my accuracy will hopefully improve, and your more informed interpretations are a massive help.

  • Steve Kelly

    Very good analysis, not being in the Premier League really hurts nerds like me who need a good dosing of stats from time to time.

    On the attack, I feel that shooting from range is not a bad thing but way shove us more into the “wasteful” category. However it may also reinforce the need for a creative Robbie Blake style passer!

    On the defence, I think away from home isn’t broke so don’t fix it, though signing Shackell won’t hurt. At home for me we ship too many chances to the opposition, and for me need to stay tight until we get the first goal then kick on – this would see BFC moving to the top left of the graph, and the top of the league table too!

  • quoonbeatz

    pretty graphs, but somewhat meaningless information.

    there’s far too many things not taken into account for these stats to be of much use.

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