Talking Tactics

Strikers more clinical in front of goal

Adrian Clarke 2 Jun 2017
Diego Costa, Chelsea

Adrian Clarke reviews 2016/17 and finds shot-conversion rates soaring for Premier League's top strikers

Now that the dust has settled on another exciting Premier League season, Adrian Clarke took stock of the numbers generated and analysed the trends of 2016/17.

In the first of three articles, Clarke looks at a leap in standard from forwards over the course of the campaign.

There were 1,064 goals in the Premier League in 2016/17, the second-highest tally recorded in the last 14 seasons.

Joshua King, AFC Bournemouth
Joshua King was one of 12 players to score at least 15 PL goals in 2016/17

Twelve forwards reached the 15-goal mark, the first time so many had done so since 1994/95.

The breadth of quality we saw inside the box in the Premier League was excellent.

All this was no mean feat considering we witnessed the lowest amount of shots and crosses in 14 years. 

See: Rush of goals sets end-of-season record

Compared with 2010/11 there were a remarkable 1,316 fewer efforts on goal, and from wide areas there was an average of just 28.43 crosses per match. In 2003/04, that figure stood at 41.98.

I would suggest that players are becoming more selective inside the final third. They are making fewer wasteful shots and crosses, and showing a greater degree of patience.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane
There were far fewer wasteful goal attempts this season with shot-conversion rate up to 33% from 20% in 2015/16

That said, this was a season that leapt off the page for its quality finishing.

Four of the top five leading marksmen raised their chance-conversion rates substantially, with Manchester City's Sergio Aguero the only member of this season’s 20-club to produce a downturn.

Chance conversion of season's top scorers
  Goals Chance
conversion
  15/16 16/17 15/16 16/17
Kane 25 29 20% 33%
Lukaku 18 25 21% 29%
Sanchez 13 24 18% 28%
Costa 12 20 23% 25%
Aguero 24 20 26% 20%

See: 2016/17 top scorers

Waiting for the right moments to open up before taking a crack at goal, many of the division’s leading strikers were significantly more clinical this season when opportunities fell their way.

Since Opta began recording the data in 2003, the PL’s average shot accuracy (46.34%) and shot conversion rate (10.93%) have never been higher.

Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez
Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, Diego Costa and Alexis Sanchez all raised their chance-conversion rates in 2016/17

The share of goals also became a little distorted this season.

Forging a large gap between themselves and the rest, the top seven highest-scoring teams contributed a total of 522 goals, a share of 49%.

This was way ahead of the 445 (43%) managed by the clubs who ended 2015/16 occupying those same spots.

As fans we all want to see more goals scored, so these developments have to be regarded as positive, but hopefully next term the mid-table sides can contribute more.

See: Three-man defences reaping rewards

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