DATA DEPENDENT: EPL Golden Boot only tells half the story of effectiveness

With the English Premier League season drawing to a close, the league’s Golden Boot, given to the player with the most goals, will be decided on the last weekend of matches. It is still very much in play for a handful of players. Right now, it’s a four-man race with Jamie Vardy leading the pack that includes Danny Ings, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Mohamed Salah. (NOTE: This was written before Raheem Sterling scores his 19th goal of the season.)

While scoring goals is definitely a sign of productivity, it isn’t the only metric. Team sports involve many other players and very often, getting them involved in the flow of the game can make the difference between winning and losing. Being efficient in front of goal can be considered a positive when it comes to a player’s relationship with teammates as well. If a striker is shooting every chance he gets but scoring only on occasion, it ends up being a negative in the long run. Every shot a player takes comes at the expense of another player.

Let’s compare. We’re going to keep it simple and straightforward.

Jamie Vardy

The Leicester striker has had a great year scoring wise. His 23 goals indicate that he’s been outperforming this season, registering nearly 4 goals over his 2019 xG of 18.20. He is scoring 0.63 goals per 90 minutes. His 2.52 shots per game puts him above his rivals in terms of efficiency. He’s been clinical in front of goal. Full stop.

However, when it comes to getting teammates involved, Vardy is underperforming. While his 6.37 xA is second only to Salah, he isn’t living up to it. It could have something to do with the fact that he averages 12.5 passes per game, the least among all four. Still, his 0.2 A90 has him second best in that category.

Sometimes, not all goals are created equal. Goals against top sides matter a bit more, especially if your team is in the hunt for silverware. They also matter more against teams close on the table. Vardy has scored three times against top sides, once against Manchester City and twice against Arsenal.

Jamie Vardy
Goal Number Home/Away Vs.
1 A Sheffield United
2 H Bournemouth
3 H Bournemouth
4 H Newcastle
5 H Newcastle
6 H Burnley
7 A Southampton
8 A Southampton
9 A Southampton
10 A Crystal Palace
11 H Arsenal
12 A Brighton & Hove Albion
13 H Everton
14 H Watford
15 A Aston Villa
16 A Aston Villa
17 A Manchester City
18 H Aston Villa
19 H Aston Villa
20 H Crystal Palace
21 H Crystal Palace
22 A Arsenal
23 A Bournemouth

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah is an interesting case. While far from the goal scoring heights he reached two seasons ago, he is still in the hunt for a second Premier League Golden Boot. Unlike Vardy or Ings, he is on a team with a number of other scoring threats and you’d expect his shots per 90 to be lower than his peers. Yet, it’s completely the contrary. His gaudy 4.05 shots per game tells the story of a player who probably hasn’t met many shots he didn’t fancy taking. His 19 goals have him about even with his 20.21 xG. He just hasn’t been clinical and that matters.

Something else that matters is spreading the wealth among teammates and Salah does that better than the other three. He is outperforming his 8.58 xA and his 0.28 xA90 is the highest among the Golden Boot candidates. No doubt, Jürgen Klopp’s system makes it easier to excel in this category. He averages more passes per game than the others, coming in at 28.9 passes per game. He also beats out everyone with 1.8 Key Passes. Vardy is a distant second with 1 Key Pass.

Considering Liverpool’s championship run, you’d expect Salah to have his fair share of goals against top sides. His goals against Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester City, and Manchester United are consistent with that.

Mohamed Salah
Goal Number Home/Away Vs.
1 H Norwich
2 H Arsenal
3 H Arsenal
4 H Newcastle
5 H Tottenham
6 H Manchester City
7 A Bournemouth
8 H Watford
9 H Watford
10 H Sheffield United
11 H Manchester United
12 A West Ham
13 H Southampton
14 H Southampton
15 H West Ham
16 H Bournemouth
17 H Crystal Palace
18 H Brighton & Hove Albion
19 H Brighton & Hove Albion

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal’s star striker’s numbers compared to his Golden Boot candidate peers are sort of a reflection of his team. Middling. On an individual level, his 20 goals are a significant overachievement compared to his 14.9 xG. It’s interesting to note the drop off on his xG from 2018 when he had a 23.55 xG to 2019. He is fairly clinical with 2.64 SH90, second only to Jamie Vardy.

In terms of distribution, Aubameyang’s 2 assists falls well below his 4.43 xA and his 0.13 xA90 is second from the bottom. He does average a healthy 22.6 passes per game.

In terms of scoring against top sides, Aubameyang’s performance is actually pretty good. He has goals against Spurs, Manchester United, Wolves, Chelsea, and Leicester.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Goal Number Home/Away Vs.
1 A Newcastle
2 H Burnley
3 H Tottenham
4 A Watford
5 A Watford
6 H Aston Villa
7 A Manchester United
8 H Wolverhampton
9 A Norwich
10 A Norwich
11 A West Ham
12 A Bournemouth
13 H Chelsea
14 A Crystal Palace
15 H Newcastle United
16 H Everton
17 H Everton
18 H Norwich
19 H Norwich
20 H Leicester City

Danny Ings

giphy-4

Last but definitely not least, Danny Ings is having a monster of a year. His 21 goals are way past his 13.98 xG. Compare his 2019 goals against the 9.92 xG in 2018 and you get an idea just how much of a breakout season its been. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Austrian version of Heavy Metal Football has done wonders. Ings’ achievement is even more impressive when you consider Hasenhüttl has all but abandoned the 4-2-2-2 formation he made famous while at RB Leipzig and hasn’t settled on a regular formation for the entire season. Ings also hasn’t been particularly wasteful in front of goal.

Unfortunately, his 2 assists is under his 2.79 xA and his expected assists per 90 is a microscopic 0.09 xA90. He’s averaging 16.6 passes per game.

Considering being on a mid-table team, Ings has scored consistently against top sides as well as teams closer in the standings. He’s collected scalps from Liverpool, Spurs (2), Chelsea, Wolves, Arsenal, and Leicester. On top of that, he’s scored against Everton (2), Crystal Palace, and Newcastle, all of whole are close in points.

Danny Ings
Goal Number Home/Away Vs.
1 H Liverpool
2 A Tottenham
3 H Chelsea
4 A Wolverhampton
5 H Everton
6 A Arsenal
7 H Watford
8 H Norwich
9 A Newcastle United
10 A Aston Villa
11 A Aston Villa
12 H Crystal Palace
13 H Tottenham
14 A Leicester
15 H Burnley
16 A Norwich
17 A Watford
18 A Watford
19 A Everton
20 H Brighton & Hove Albion
21 A Bournemouth

WORDS: Marc Landas

RESEARCH: Anish Uppal

DATA SOURCE: Understat.com; Whoscored.com

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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