27 Goals / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

We have a cool new little toy! You may have missed it, but a few weeks ago Matthias unveiled  historic expected goals. We use "historic" in a limited sense here - it only goes back to 2011 - but this is a big deal for multiple reasons.

The most applicable of those reasons right now is the ability to compare Chris Wondolowski's 2012 season to Bradley Wright-Phillips' in 2014. Unfortunately, since we don't have shot locations or even  most specifics for the league during prior to 2011, we are unable to compare these two seasons to Roy Lassiter's 27 goals back in 1996, so this post will be about comparing the two record-setting seasons we have data for.

Name G xG G-xG Sht Avg Dist Avail UnAst Pct Reb Pct KeyP Asst xAsst Cross Pct Through Pct xG + xA
Wondolowski 27 21.71 5.29 127 16.9 6.07 0.24 0.06 38 5 4.16 0.22 0.02 25.87
Wright-Phillips 27 22.85 4.15 109 14.9 6.24 0.17 0.03 19 1 2.35 0.28 0.15 25.20

While obviously similar, there are subtle but key differences. You can see that BWP earned more xGoals than Wondo, but Wondo was more involved in incorporating his teammates in the attack with almost twice as many xAssists than Wright-Phillips.

It is also interesting that Wondo had seven percent more Unassisted Shots and three percent more shots (twice as much) via rebounds. There could be a few explanations for this, but two seem to most fit what we already know - 1) that Wondo is a poacher, and makes the most of his opportunities, and 2) that much of Wright-Phillips' success can be attributed to playing alongside Thierry Henry.

Feeding into the latter theory, it is notable that BWP's shots came from a full two yards closer to the goal. Now there is a lot of inference that Henry created most of those shots either by his elite play making skills or by way of creating space. Our dear friend Matthias actually put out a friendly little stat about three weeks ago on this subject.

As of that tweet, 26 shots created by Henry accounted for 25.7% of the total shots taken by Bradley Wright-Phillips. It makes sense that while he did a lot to help Bradley become the prolific goal scorer that, he's not the only reason. No goal is a better example of BWP's ability to create his own shots than the goal that tied the record. Phillips has the ability to do things with the ball at his feet that Wondo does not. That control has lead to more opportunities in higher leverage situations.

One last point; it's interesting that neither lead the league in Goals Minus Expected Goals (G-xG). In the final table neither finished in the top-3, suggesting there was a bit of luck on their side, which is almost always the case when a goal (or 27 of them) is scored.

My point here is just to evaluate how both individuals created their total expected goals in the season in which they scored 27 for their teams. It's not necessarily about one being better than the other. Both performed great feats that should be acknowledged, and both did it in different and exciting ways.

I'm just grateful that we have a bit more information that allows us to give context, and lets us to understand more than what have in the past. That we can compare these two accomplishments and see how they are different using actual data - and not only our shoddy memories - is both an interesting and fun exercise.