Mirror Mirror On The Wall Which Mainstream Stat Is The Most Useful Of All

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 27: Pablo Zabaleta (L) of Manchester City leads his team-mates in applauding their fans after winning the pre-season Asian Tour friendly match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Birds Nest Stadium on July 27, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

There are many mainstream stats available to the viewer of a game when watching on television. We are fed a teams possession % and shots totals as a method of telling us who is dominating the game along with the scoreline which is naturally the best tell.

In this post I want to show the reader which mainstream stat best correlates with who actually won the game even if I don't agree with the use of mainstream stats in the manner in which they are presented, ie, without context.

We shall be looking at which one of shots, shots on target, shots off target and possession best correlates with winning the game.

Method

What I have done is trawl through all 380 EPL games and see which team, the home team or away team, registered the most shots and then checked the shot winner with the actual winner of the fixture.

An example:

Man City at home to Liverpool. Man City had 11 shots and Liverpool 16. Man City won the fixture but lost the shot battle. This shot result is recorded as an away loss in the shots battle. If the shot totals are tied, the team that gets wins the fixture gets the nod for the win in terms of shots.

I have used this method for all types of shots and possession %. That way we can see which mainstream stat best correlates with the actual win, draw or loss result.

Total Shots

Home


Win Draw Loss
Frequency 128 59 58
% 52.24 24.08 23.67

Away


Win Draw Loss
Frequency 58 32 45
% 42.96 23.7 33.3

Overall


Win Draw Loss
% 48.94 23.94 27.1

We can see from the tables above that the if the home team has the most shots it is more likely to win the game than if the away team has the most shots. Overall having the most shots leads to a win % of 48.94.

Scoring the most goals obviously leads to a win % of 100%. The higher the percentage the better.

Shots Off Target

Home


Win Draw Loss
Number of results 124 60 60
% 50.81 24.59 24.59

Away


Win Draw Loss
Number of results 49 36 51
% 36.02 26.47 37.5

Overall


Win Draw Loss
% 45.52 24.47 29.21

We clearly see that by all categories shots off target correlates less well with actual likelihood of winning the game by virtue of scoring the most goals. 45.52%

Shots On Target

Home


Win Draw Loss
Number of results 146 53 27
% 64.6 23.45 11.94

Away


Win Draw Loss
Number of results 90 37 27
% 58.4 24.02 17.53

Overall


Win Draw Loss
% 62.1 23.68 14.21

Shots on target in my opinion is the best mainstream stat that we have available and it seems to be backed up by these numbers.

At home if a team has the most shots on target they are likely to lose the game only 11.94% of the time. Home win % when using shots on target is 64.6 %, which is a pretty accurate number,

Away win % when using shots on target dips slightly in comparison to the home numbers and this is to be expected,

Overall shots having the most shots on target would ensure that that team wins 62.1% of the time, compared to 48.94 for total shots.

Remember that number, for it is the highest so far and we only have possession to look at.

Possession

Home


Win Draw Loss
Number of results 118 54 50
% 53.15 24.32 22.52

Away


Win Draw Loss
Number of results 66 38 54
% 40.74 23.45 33.33

Overall


Win Draw Loss
% 48.42 24.21 27.36

The only percentage lower than possession is shots off target. Total shots gives us a better tell on the chance of the team that has the most winning the actual game.

A team with the most possession away from home won the fixture only 40.74% of the time. Having the most possession away from home doesn't translate to the chance of winning nearly as much as I thought it may.

It is obvious that these numbers will fluctuate from season to season, but we have here a 380 game sample size from which to draw on and from those 380 games it tells us that if any one mainstream stat correlates with actually winning a football game, that stat is shots on target.

Final Table

% Win Draw Loss
Shots on target 62.1 23.68 14.21
Total Shots 48.94 23.94 27.1
Possession 48.42 24.21 27.36
Shots off target 45.52 24.47 29.21

Shots on target is the best correlation every which way we look at it.

So next time you may watch a game of football on television, don't listen to pundits talk of heart or hussle, the superior shot totals or the superior possession a certain team had in comparison to the opposition, look out for the shots on target numbers. For that one mainstream stat will tell you more about who is more likely to win than anything else they have to say about the game.

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