written by – Rangers Report
Expected Goals can add so many layers of evaluation to how both teams & players are performing. For example, in Hibernian’s recent 2-1 victory over Rangers, the total Expected Goals for both teams was 0.9. The subjective view of a very even match played by two good teams was supported by the objective data. In fact, I recently ran the match through an xG simultor created by Danny Page. It replayed the match 10,000 times & Rangers walked away with at least a point 65% of the time. The point is that xG can be real measure of how well a team or player is playing & can be an indicator of who will sustain success & who may be destined to regress.
Now, let’s apply those Expected Goals to Rangers & the rest of the Championship.
These are the Expected Goals totals for each Rangers player this season. As you can tell by the volume of the circles, Rangers offensive attack is driven by the chances created by Martyn Waghorn & then also relies on the supplemental opportunities by Jason Holt & the two full backs – Lee Wallace & James Tavernier.
The surprising impact here is Kenny Miller. He has only played in 48% of the minutes this season but ranks second in total xG. Unfortunately the actual goals have not been coming with the chances created. The ‘eye test’ has seen a forward whose finishing has let him down & the numbers support that. Of his 17 shots – only 41% have been on target & of those shots on target only 29% have beaten the goalie. For more context, Waghorn’s shooting accuracy is 64% & 39% of his shots on target have been goals. If Miller was finishing at that rate he would have 6-7 goals & not just two. So there should be optimism that if Miller can continue to get his chances, he will begin putting the ball in the back of the net.
Let’s add another layer of analysis by seeing which players are generating the ‘best shots’ on average. That is, who has the best average xG for every shot they take.
Note: please ignore the extra two zeroes on the end of each number. I am playing around with a new tool & haven’t figured out all of the nuances yet — so pretend those last two zeroes don’t exist. Thank you.
Given the previous results, it is not a surprise to see Miller at the top of the list but let’s highlight the efficiency of Jason Holt. That 0.19 average means that most of Holt’s shots are coming from a High Danger area. Holt has been adept this season at getting space in the penalty area & has been a useful shooting option as a result. Holt has 16 shots this season & 69% of those have been from within the penalty box & 56% have come from a High/Very High dangers area.
It should be noted that this data was run based on total shots. If you subtract Waghorn’s eight penalty shot, then his averageg xG per shot is actually 0.14. Given that he has 45 more shots than a player like Barrie McKay makes his average even more impressive. Side note: Waghorn has accounted for 24% of all the team’s shots this season.
Headed shots have been interesting this year. Of all the headed shots taken this season from a High Danger area, only 7% have resulted in a goal. That’s league-wide. But, when a player can get closer to the goal & get a header in the vicinity of the six yard box (aka a Very High Danger shot) – the success rate spikes up to 26%. So, the low numbers for Danny Wilson, Dominic Ball, & Rob Kiernan highlight the fact that their headed shots are not coming from a Very High Danger area. In fact, only Waghorn has managed a header from the Very High Danger area & it was a goal. For some context, Jon Daly is second in the league with three headed shots from that Very High Danger area.
The team’s average of 0.12 represents the fact that Rangers are deliberately trying to increase their chance of scoring by getting shots off from within the penalty box. Players in those last two groupings of .07 & .06 are not generating high quality chances (on average). For Wilson, Ball, & Kiernan the number reflects headers in the box – which the data suggests has not been an effective way of scoring this season. That trend is eye opening & may just be a fluke…or maybe the new norm.
For the others, the number represent the fact that the majority of their shots are coming outside the penalty area. For James Tavernier, that is not a surprise given the number of free kicks that he has taken. His skill-set on set pieces has bucked the trends & has led to three goals off of free kicks (league play only).
With regards to Gedion Zelalem, his role appears to be to set up quality chances. It’s going to be his key pass that leads to a High Danger shot rather then him taking that shot. But, it may be a good idea for Zelalem to watch video of the shots that a player like Jason Holt is taking to see if there is an entry point for growth.
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