Data correct up to and including 26th February 2017.
After Real Madrid came from 2-0 down at Villarreal to win 3-2 and retain their place atop La Liga, albeit only three points ahead of Sevilla in third place (but with a game in hand), I thought it would be interesting to look at the stats for the season so far to see if they give any indication of which team is likely to win the title this season. I’ll start with a look at the shot stats.
It’s no surprise to see the traditional top two leading the way here, though whilst Real Madrid have maintained a shot ratio of around 67% throughout this season, Barcelona were at 64.8% before the mid-season winter break but have been at 59.8% in the eight games since. That’s hardly a disaster by any means as you can see from the table here, but it does suggest that they haven’t been quite so dominant over the last two months.
Sevilla, meanwhile, are down in eighth on this table and just above Leganes who are currently just four points above the relegation zone in the actual league table, though this can be explained away by the shots on target conversion percentages as we will see in due course.
It’s the obvious top two who lead the way in the shots on target ratio table too, though this time it’s Real Madrid who have seen the greater drop off since Christmas.
The two big guns have both been taking approximately 59% of the shots on target in their league matches over the last two months, which means that they have decreased markedly from the 70.8% (Real) and 64.0% (Barca) that they were taking in the opening four months of the campaign. We can see that Sevilla are once again some way off the pace, though this time it’s Las Palmas who are the team from the lower half of the actual league table who are alongside them here. At the bottom end of this table, it seems that Espanyol have been punching much higher (ninth in the table at the time of writing) than their underlying shots on target stats say they should be.
Opta classify certain shots as ‘clear-cut chances’, and these are ones where the striker should be expected to score; penalties, one-on-ones, and shots from very close range basically covers it. For the first time in this article, it’s Barcelona who lead the way, and this table bears closer resemblance to the actual league table than the first two did too.
Real and Barca account for 20% of the total clear-cut chances in La Liga so far this season between them, and both have more than the top team in England has (which, for the record, is Manchester City with 62), despite playing fewer games. It’s also interesting to note that the Catalan giants have allowed the fewest clear-cut chances against them, which they will hope proves more vital than the fact that six clubs have currently allowed fewer shots on target than they have. We can also see that Barcelona have an edge on Real Madrid at both ends of the pitch if we look at the percentage of all shots which were clear-cut chances. The following table has the top five performers highlighted in green and the worst five in orange To give you an idea of good and bad performance, the league average is 12%.
The team that stands out most to me here is Real Sociedad; fifth in the league table at the moment, yet third bottom here. For the first time we can see what makes Sevilla realistic title contenders, as they’re very efficient at creating top quality opportunities up front whilst doing a very decent job of restricting them in defence. It’s Real who are the form side here though, as they top both sides of the chart (with 18.3% in attack and a remarkable 6.2% at the back) for the period since the winter break.
I mentioned earlier that the shot on target conversion percentages would explain the difference in league position between Sevilla and Leganes, so I’ll close with a look at those figures.
The average for PDO (which is simply the two other figures added together) is always 100, as every shot on target is either a goal or a miss for the attackers, and a save or a goal for the defence. More specifically, the average for shots on target conversion is 32.8%, and save percentage is 67.2%, so you can immediately see why Leganes are far lower in the league table than their underlying shot stats suggest they should be. I can’t speak for Spain, but there hasn’t been a team in the English Premier League with a PDO as low as Leganes’ in the last eight seasons (as we can see here).
The top of this table is why I believe that Real Madrid will win the title, though of course as they have both the lead and a game in hand, this is hardly a revelatory shout. Barcelona have been running incredibly hot this season, and even more so recently; since Christmas they have conceded just four goals from thirty-seven shots on target against, which is ironic considering their recent travails in Paris but also hugely unlikely to continue. In a mirror to Leganes’ performance, Barca’s season long PDO outdoes anything seen in the EPL since 2009, so my feeling is that they will struggle to match Real over the rest of the season.
Though if they win at the Santiago Bernabéu on match day 33, then the Catalans could yet set up a thrilling and tense finalé to the season.