Relative Shot Creation Passing Stats (or how I learned to stop worrying about Graham Dorrans & love the play of Jason Holt)

written by – Rangers Report    

The stats used in this post come from a database of nearly 100 statistical categories that I’m collecting this season for the SPFL.   Access to updated stats will only be made available to people who contribute a one-time fee of £15.  If you are interested, read more here.

Jason Holt’s recent play has created a lineup dilemma once Graham Dorrans is ready to return to action & has inspired me to finally add Relative Shot Creation passing data to my ongoing collection of SPFL advanced stats.

The concept is pretty straight forward.  How does a player’s stats compare to the rest of his teammates playing a similar position?  For now, I’ve honed in on midfielders & wingers.

The Shot Creation Passing Stats that I decided to focus on will be Key Passes, Secondary Shot Assists, Establishing Passes (the third shot assist), Expected Assists, Scoring Chance Key Passes, & xG Chain.

Below you’ll see all of those stats & how each Rangers midfielder/winger compares to his peers for each of those categories. (I was very liberal with minimum minutes played for the graph below.  The stats are in relation to every minute played by a Rangers midfielder or winger this season).

Click on the graph for a full page view of it.

You can see that there is a pretty consistent divide.  Daniel Candeias, Josh Windass, Niko Kranjcar (in limited minutes), & Jason Holt are out-producing their peers in most shot creation passing stats.  On the other side, you see that Ryan Jack, Carlos Pena & Graham Dorrans are all underperforming in relation to the other midfielders & wingers on Rangers.

Now let’s isolate each passing stat to see what how each player is impacting play in relation to his teammates.

Relative Key Passes per 90

  • Niko Kranjcar has only played 176 minutes this season, so there is a real sample size warning here.  However, it is proof that when he is on the pitch – he is very active in setting up shots & is averaging 1.43 more Key Passes per 90 then his midfield teammates.
  • Daniel Candeias has been among the league leaders in Key Passes all season long, so there is no surprise here.
  • Dorrans & Windass aren’t that far into the negative here, but the difference is that in the first graph – you see that this is the only area in which Windass has a negative rate relative to his teammates.  Dorrans?  He’s in the negative for each of the passing categories listed here.  The good news is that he is averaging 0.33 non-penalty goals per 90, the ‘not so good’ news is that I recently highlighted the fact that the data suggests he likely will not sustain that scoring rate.
courtesy of SNS

Relative Secondary Shot Assists per 90

  • Josh Windass has an awful lot of critics among Rangers supporters but I find it very difficult to overlook the fact that he consistently plays a key role in the passing network that leads to shots.  His impact here, relative to his teammates, is a major reason why he is getting consistent first team minutes this season.  The only other regular with a positive rating here is Candeias & that is largely because of the discrepancy between Windass & the other midfielders.  Both Windass & Candeias have 11 Secondary Shot Assists this season, but Windass has done it in 200 less minutes.
  • Even when Carlos Pena slots into that #10 role for Rangers, he really becomes more of a target man forward.  His impact in attack cannot be overlooked, I mean he is averaging 0.91 goals per 90 — which is a sensational rate.  Additionally, his actual Conversion Rate on unblocked shots isn’t that much higher than his Expected Conversion Rate (0.30 & 0.24).  He is only outpacing his xCR by 0.06, Dorrans on the other hand has a difference of 0.28 (a Fenwick Adjusted Conversion Rate of 0.38 compared to an Expected Conversion Rate of 0.10).
  • The point is that you could make an argument that getting Carlos Pena back in the lineup may be a bigger priority then swapping Dorrans in for Holt.  At 30 years old, Dorrans seems much better suited to play in Ryan Jack’s role in the midfield.

Relative Establishing Passes per 90

  • I like this stat, basically the third shot assist, because it can highlight which players are consistently piecing together the play prior to the opening that lead to shots.  On an isolated play, it is either the critical pass that created some tempo in play, or it can be an inconsequential short pass that simply kept the ball moving.  However, as the numbers of games stack up – it is difficult to overlook the importance of players who have compiled high numbers of these shot creation passes.
  • Jason Holt is currently tied for the team lead with seven Establishing Passes with Josh Windass.  He has played in 440 less minutes (that’s basically the equivalent of five matches).  That should be proof enough that Holt has played a pivotal role in setting teammates up in advantageous positions in the attacking third.
  • Oh, look!  It’s Josh Windass again!
  • The fact that Candeias is last on this list highlights what we see on the pitch.  The goal of many attacks is to get the ball at his feet so he can deliver the ball to a target in a scoring area.  It’s also evidence that he has been very effective at this because he doesn’t have to rotate the ball all that often.  If he did you may see his rate higher here.  But that’s not his role.
  • Ryan Jack has been very effective as a defensive presence in midfield.  I am a little surprised that he hasn’t been more involved in the build-up play though.  This should be an entry point to further analysis, what is happening to passing networks that Jack is involved in?  Why aren’t they leading to shots?  What is Holt doing differently then a player like Dorrans, who has played in a similar role all season long?
courtesy of RFC

Relative Expected Assists per 90

  • Some have criticized Rangers of being one dimensional while in attack & well…I get it.
  • Given that the team does rely on balls coming in from the flanks, you would expect Windass to have a better impact on his final ball.  Again, further analysis is needed.  What is happening when Windass has the ball on the wing?  Does his higher rates for the second & third shot assist support the idea that he’d rather get the ball to someone else to make the pass to someone in a good shooting position.   Does his final ball simply lack the kind of quality to create shooting chances?  Are there players in good space for a shot that he simply isn’t seeing?
  • The fact that, as a more central midfielder, Holt’s Relative Expected Assist rate is -0.01 is a good sign that he’s actually adding something from that role that has been missing all season long…i.e. look at those bottom three on the graph.

Relative Scoring Chance Key Passes per 90

  • Well, that’s interesting.  All those questions about Windass in the former graph & there he is, getting Key Passes on Scoring Chances at a much higher rate then his teammates.
  • Daniel Candeias & Windass have combined for 14 Scoring Chance Key Passes (Candeias with nine & Windass has five), no other midfielder from this group has more then one.
  • 50% of Windass’ Key Passes have been Scoring Chances.  That’s a similar rate to Ali Crawford, Scott Sinclair, & Hibs’ Brandon Barker.
  • Graham Dorrans has zero Scoring Chance Key Passes this season.

Relative xG Chain per 90

  • Candeias & Windass have had a real tangible impact on the build-up play to quality chances all season long.  Meanwhile, Jason Holt has remerged from the shadows & has been a revelation to the play in the attacking third.
  • I know it may feel like I’ve picked on Dorrans in this post but the fact is that his build-up play relative to his teammates has been in the negative in every category looked at here.  Additionally, his goal scoring record is poised to take a dip so I’m really not sure if there should be a real rush to get him back in the lineup.

Beyond comparing players to their teammates, it can help provide some context to how a player’s production can be impacted by his team’s ability to generate offense in general.

For example, Aberdeen’s Ryan Christie averages 1.21 Secondary Shot Assists per 90 minutes, while Josh Windass averages 1.19.  Those rates are basically identical.  However, Christie’ Relative Secondary Shot Assist rate is 0.70, while Windass’ is 0.32.

What does that mean?

Christie’s per 90 rate is 0.70 higher than the Secondary Shot Assist rates of the other midfielders & wingers on Aberdeen.  Windass averages the same number of Secondary Shot Assists as Christie but it’s “only” 0.32 higher then his Rangers peers.  In other words, Aberdeen is highly reliant on Christie in their build-up play leading to shots & he is often the player who can get the ball to a teammate in a position to make that final pass to set-up a shot.

Rangers are less reliant on one player to make that play.  They have four midfielders/wingers who average 0.90 or more Secondary Shot Assists, while Aberdeen only has Christie who passes that threshold from that position.

Look for more on using Relative Shot Creation passing stats in the coming weeks.

The Process

Here’s how a player’s Relative passing stats are figured out.  Let’s use Daniel Candeias’ Relative Key Passes as the example

The objective is to figure out how his Key Passes per 90 compares to the average rate of the other midfielders & wingers on the team.

So…we take the other midfielder & winger’s Key Passes per 90 & subtract it from Candeias’ Key Passes per 90 (2.11).

It looks like this:  2.11 – (35/(3,456/90)) = 1.20.  Each player who has played winger or midfield for Rangers is included, so everyone from Dalcio to Jordan Rossiter to Ryan Jack have had a total of 35 key passes.  They have combined for 3,456 minutes, which translates to them averaging (as a collective) 0.91 Key Passes per 90.  When you subtract that from Candeias’ rate it determines his RelKP rate of 1.20.

The key is to not include Candeias’ Key Pass totals when figuring out the collective Key Pass rate.

My plan is to do this for all midfielders & wingers in the Scottish Premiership.

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