This is what I want you to take away from this post: it’s not the most consistent team who wins the League, it’s the most consistently over performing team who win the League. And right now, the most consistently over performing team in the League is Leicester City.
Now what I mean by “over performing” is specifically about conversion rates. “Finishing” in football parlance. The team that is most consistently beating the average finishing rate typically wins the League.
Last season, teams finished 9.5% of all shots taken. Chelsea won the League and lead all teams with a 13% finishing rate. Chelsea also had the best 18 yard box conversion rate (minus penalties) with 15%, League Average was 11%. And Chelsea had the best 6 yard box finishing rate of 45%, while League average was 31%.
The season before Liverpool actually led the League in bulk conversion with 14.7% but Man City was right there with them with 14.4%, League average that season was 9.8%. Arsenal actually led the League in finishing inside the 18 yard box that season with 15.75%, but… Man City was virtually tied with Arsenal at 15.1% and they took 101 more shots than Arsenal did inside the 18 yard box. So, converting at 15%, that was 15 additional goals. City also converted 7% from distance, something they actually have done consistently over the years, beating the League average by almost double every year.
The season before that Manchester United won the League by converting 50% of their shots inside the 6 yard box. That’s a ca ca ca crazy conversion rate. 30% is normal. United scored 25 goals inside the 6 yard box that season on the way to Ferguson’s tearful farewell and Robin van Persie’s retirement.
It’s not true every season that the League leader in conversion will win the League, but from what I can tell, you can’t win the League unless you’re over-performing in conversion.
Leicester have the best overall conversion at 14% while League average is 9.7% but it’s the inside the box conversion which is really crazy. They are currently finishing 17% of their shots in the 18 yard box. My research only goes back to 2009/10 but no team has ever finished a season that high. And that 17% finishing is with me removing their League leading 7 goals from penalties. If we include penalties they are finishing 20% of their shots in the box. The highest I’ve seen was the 2009/10 Chelsea team who finished 16% with penalties included.
The reason Arsenal have struggled this season is because they are only converting 9.5% of their shots in the penalty area. Arsenal don’t typically lead the League in conversion but they have never been below 12% conversion in the 18 yard box.
To illustrate how poorly Arsenal are finishing in the 18 yard box, Leicester have scored 30 goals (minus penalties) on 176 shots. Arsenal have scored 23 goals on 238 shots. If Arsenal had Leicester’s finishing numbers, they would have scored 40 goals in the 18 yard box, an additional 17 goals over what they currently have. If Arsenal even improved to their average of 13% in the 18 yard box it would mean an additional 8 goals over their current tally.
Arsenal’s finishing in the 18 yard box is so poor because three of their players who have taken the majority of their shots in that area have been astonishingly poor finishers this season. Alexis, Walcott, and Ramsey are all finishing below 9% with Alexis the most profligate of all the Arsenal players finishing just 5% on 37 shots. Arsenal fans should be thanking Giroud every day, he’s Arsenal’s best finisher this season at 17% in the box.
There are 13 matches left in the season. The question here is whether this is all sustainable. Will Leicester continue finishing at such a stupendous rate? Will Arsenal finally start getting some goals in the 18 yard box? Will Alexis and/or Walcott come good on their pre-season promise? Will teams stop giving Vardy so much room to run into and so many one-on-ones with keepers?
13 matches left to see.