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PL 2013/14: Shot Blocking

A quick post on teams' ability to block shots.

I was thinking some about blocked shots today and whether shot blocking, on a team level, was a skill or simply a function of spending too much time in your own end and blocking shots as a final, desperate measure.

I'm not sure I have a definitive answer to the puzzle above. I've too little data and tiredness aplenty prevents me from thinking too deeply on this subject.

Anyhow, let's have a look at some numbers.

Percentage Of Opponents Shots That Were Blocked (Shot Blocking)

The chart below is straight forward: Shots Blocked/Shots Against

Defensive Shot Blocking %
Arsenal 22.82
Aston Villa 24.07
Cardiff 27.83
Chelsea 25.55
Everton 23.02
Fulham 27.80
Hull 29.28
Liverpool 23.16
Man City 11.02
Man United 20.53
Newcastle 23.30
Norwich 31.40
Palace 28.48
Southampton 20.61
Stoke 25.82
Sunderland 28.43
Swansea 23.87
Tottenham 20.63
West Brom 26.01
West Ham 26.63

Some teams block a higher percentage of opponents shots, and that's completely normal. The top 6 shot blocking teams in 13/14 are:

  1. Norwich
  2. Hull
  3. Palace
  4. Sunderland
  5. Fulham
  6. Cardiff
So, what's up with that list? None of these teams are particularly solid defensively nor do they have a reputation for running intelligent defensive schemes that aim to limit opponent shots on target.

So why does that Top 6 have the highest shot blocking percentage?

Final Third Passes Against

That title is a proxy of sorts for time spent in your own end/own final third. Teams that have a high number of final third passes against are likely poor teams who are pinned into their own end by superior opposition. Agree?

I kind of agree with my own statement. Reasons I may not: Score effects are a thing and likely skew some of these numbers. It's also worth noting that some teams are able to somewhat effectively restrict opposition passes in their own third despite not possessing a huge amount of talent on a team level. In other words, they have pretty good defensive systems. But in general my initial point stands.

Here's looking at you Swansea, Southampton and West Ham. Big Sam was on TV last night extolling the importance of zone entries and restricting opponents in the final third.

Final 1/3 Passes A
Palace 2157
Fulham 1981
Sunderland 1951
Norwich 1945
Cardiff 1872
West Brom 1860
Aston Villa 1859
Hull 1855
Stoke 1847
Liverpool 1729
Newcastle 1671
Arsenal 1631
West Ham 1586
Man United 1569
Southampton 1546
Chelsea 1497
Swansea 1486
Everton 1483
Man City 1421
Tottenham 1281

Look at the top of this table. What do you see?

I see that 5 of the 6 (Hull are 8th worst) best shot blocking teams are also the teams that get pinned in their own end for the most amount of time (proxy).

There's obviously a disconnect here: How can we say that teams are good shot blockers when it appears that shot blocking - raw numbers or percentage stats - has more to do with how much time you are pinned into your own end which really, really isn't a good thing.

So it doesn't look like shot blocking, in general, is a skill which has some separation from how much time you spend in your own final third. Obviously some teams may well exhibit some slight skill in blocking shots, but the best shot blocking teams in the league also tend to be the teams that get hemmed in by their opponents.

Shot blocking as a percentage looks to be more of a last ditch measure rather than a definite skill.

It must be said that without that shot blocking skill teams like Palace, Fulham, Hull & Sunderland would be in far worse positions than they currently sit in. If those shot blocking percentages were lower that would mean things like opposition shots on target numbers would be higher. Higher shots on target against numbers likely lead to more goals against.

The Chart


Teams who blocked a higher percentage of shots than time spent in their own zone may have predicted:

  • Tottenham
  • Swansea
  • West ham
Teams who blocked a lower percentage of shots than time spent in their own zone may have predicted:
  • Palace
  • Villa
  • Stoke
We only have 130 games of data to play with here so these numbers are obviously liable to some change before the season is out. I'll revisit this topic at the seasons end.