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League 2 Stats: Better Lucky Than Good?

There were mixed fortunes for the potential promotion candidates on the opening day of the season. Impressive victories for Portsmouth, Cambridge and Leyton Orient would have pleased their fans, while Luton and, in particular, Oxford fans will have viewed the opening day as points dropped. Obviously, it is incredibly early stages and we cannot draw any real conclusions yet, but we shall just take a quick look at some of the performances on the opening day of the season.

Cambridge United 3 - 0 Newport County

Bookmaker Odds: Cambridge 1.76, Draw 3.79, Newport County 5.15

As mentioned last time, Cambridge are a team that have spent plenty of money in the summer and will have been pleased to get off to a good start, albeit against a Newport County side that are one of the favourites for relegation following major budget cuts over the summer. While Cambridge were outshot 10-13, their six chances from the danger zone was beaten by just two other teams in the division on the opening day.

Barry Corr showed why Cambridge were so keen to bring him in as he scored twice, once from a header from a corner and the other from a one-on-one after some poor Newport County defending. My model classes these two chances as combining for 0.4 ExpG, although due to lack of data, it is unable to class one-on-one chances any differently from a normal chance from that area, so the reality is that it should have been worth more.
Two goals from Barry Corr got Cambridge United off to a good start in League 2

While Newport County had 13 shots on goal, Cambridge were able to restrict them to just two shots from the danger zone, with seven of those 13 shots coming from outside the area. They mounted up to give an ExpG scoreline for the match of 1.2-1.0, but as mentioned earlier, the nature of Corr's second goal means this could well have slightly underestimated Cambridge's dominance in the match.

A solid start for Cambridge, although there will undoubtedly be tougher challenges still to come.

Stevenage 0 - 2 Notts County

Bookmaker Odds: Stevenage 2.42, Draw 3.36, Notts County 3.18

Newly relegated Notts County were not necessarily expected to push for automatic promotion, but will be optimistic of challenging for a playoff spot and they will have been encouraged by their performance on the opening day of the season. They outshot Teddy Sheringham's side 11-8 and will have been particularly pleased to have had two chances from very close range, converting both of them. In terms of ExpG, they had the advantage 1.8-1.4, so while the match might have been slightly closer than the scoreline suggested, they were certainly good value for the win.

One minor concern may be the three chances conceded by Notts County in the danger zone and the three further chances from inside the penalty area, compared with the four danger zone chances and one further in the penalty area that they created, but it is an encouraging start for their Dutch manager, Roberto Moniz.

AFC Wimbledon 0 - 2 Plymouth Argyle

Bookmaker Odds: AFC Wimbledon 2.58, Draw 3.28, Plymouth Argyle 3.01

Plymouth got off to a good start with a victory at AFC Wimbledon, but the scoreline does certainly not give an accurate representation of the match. AFC Wimbledon were able to outshoot Plymouth 14-11 and in terms of the quality of chance created, the home side had a clear advantage. In terms of ExpG, AFC Wimbledon had the advantage 1.7-0.6, so will count themselves very unlucky to have lost this match.

Plymouth created zero chances from the danger zone and of their two goals, one came from outside the penalty area, while one was volleyed in from a difficult angle. It was not a promising start in attack and this was tempered by the seven chances that AFC Wimbledon created in the danger zone, three from headers and four with the feet. Andy Barcham had two good chances from the centre of the box, while Adebayo Akinfenwa had several good headed chances as he continues to show that he is a real handful at this level.

Plymouth will certainly be looking to create more in the attacking areas as the season continues, while AFC Wimbledon will need to look to finish off their chances more efficiently if they are to improve on last season's mid-table finish.

Shooting Areas

In terms of calculating shot quality, each shot taken in the match is recorded with four pieces of information. The first two are obvious and they are the player that took the shot and the outcome of the shot (goal, saved, missed or blocked). The third is the shot type - whether the shot was with the left foot, the right foot or the header. Clearly, a shot from the same location has a different probability of resulting in a goal if it is a shot with the foot, rather than a header, so it is important to differentiate between the two. The final piece of information is the shot location. This is broken down into six different categories. These are 'Very Close Range', 'Centre of Box', 'Left/Right Side of 6-Yard Box', 'Left/Right Side of Box', 'Difficult Angle' and 'Outside Box'.

With these four pieces of information, we can combine this season's data with that from last season to see the probability of any type of shot resulting in a goal. For example, we can see that a headed chance from the centre of the box is scored 10.3% of the time or it is worth 0.103 of a goal. Calculating these values across every possible shot type, we can create a basic expected goals model.

Clearly, this is very basic, but it has to be so due to the lack of further information at this level. It treats a shot from just outside the area as identical to a shot from 45 yards and a one-on-one chance from the centre of the box as identical to a shot squeezed away under intense pressure from the same position, but without video highlights of every shot taken, it is impossible to really go into further depth. It is also debatable as to how relevant ExpG can be for individual matches as opposed to aggregated up over the season, but it is one of many tools that we can look at to get an overview of a match.

Hopefully though, this will help to give us an idea of which teams are overperforming or underperforming their underlying stats. Looking at last season, the teams that had the three highest ExpG difference across the whole season finished inside the top 3 and gained automatic promotion, while Southend, who were promoted through the playoffs, were fourth by this measure, so it clearly represents the quality of teams relatively well.

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