The Glen Hoddle Clinical Finishing Index. And Arsenal.

Stat of the Week: The Glen Hoddle Clinical Finishing Index

By J B Harwood

A few weeks ago one of the Sky Sports favourite pundits was waxing lyrical about Arsenal. How pleasing on the eye they are, the quality of their play, everyone’s second favourite team… the usual diatribe. You could feel a “but” coming on and yes, it duly arrived. “But they are not clinical enough in front of goal… lots of opportunities but the end product is just not quite there”.

Now I must admit I’ve never been a great fan of Mr Hoddle. Ex Tott, not very entertaining in his commentary, anti Arsenal most weeks, but… he once was the England coach, he played under Wenger at Monaco – maybe he had something here. Had big Glen been pouring over the statistics, examining comparative numbers of the top 4, developing inciteful analysis of reasons for the Gunners third position in the league?

Well… No. Sorry Glen my first impressions were right.

Clinical finishing is actually quite easy to measure. Take the number of goals scored and divide it by the number of shots at goal (important to look at the number of shots, and NOT shots on target). Over the course of an extended number of games you can get a good feel not only for how accurate the team is but also its leading marksmen.

What do the numbers for this season’s Premier league tell us.

………………..Shots                Goals               %

Arsenal           398                  73                    18.3

Man Utd          433                  72                    16.6

Chelsea           523                  75                    14.3

Tott H              402                  55                    13.7

What about Champions League (maybe Glen was confused over what he was watching?)

…………………..Shots                Goals               %

Arsenal              104                  18                    17.3

Barcelona         101                  12                    11.9

Man Utd            110                  17                    15.5

Real Mad          122                  16                    13.1

Not bad for a team without a Centre forward for most of the season.

So who is responsible for this clinical finishing. Again looking at the EPL for this season.

………………….Shots                Goals               %

Fabregas           62                    15                    24.2

Van Persie        34                    7                      20.6

Arshavin            53                    9                      17.0

Bendtner            34                    4                      11.8

Eduardo            30                    3                      10.0

Walcott              18                    2                      11.1

Note, that before he was grievously assaulted in 07/08 Eduardo was hitting his stride with 4 in 17 shots (23.5%). But there is one other player that should be mentioned here.

If you watch carefully next time you are at the Emirates, after the first team has finished warming up there is one player who is the last to leave the pitch. He’ll go over to where the goal keepers are warming up and let fly with one or two shots from distance.

Whilst I’ve been watching they’ve been pretty accurate, often top corner (but then again this is practice and he doesn’t have some hairy defender breathing down his neck). This player is seldom mentioned in dispatches, and I doubt that Glen Hoddle can even spell his name let alone mention him, but this season he’s scored 4 goals from 14 shots (28.6%) and 2 of those goals were match winning goals.

His name is Denilson and he’s only just turned 22 years of age. Now we are beginning to see why Wenger described him as “very efficient” and a bit of a cross between “Gilberto and Rosicky”. Of course in addition to the 2 match winning goals Denilson belted the last minute effort against Hull that Boaz Myhill couldn’t handle and which Bendtner put away.

I’m sure Denilson was not bought for his shooting and the smaller the numbers the less statistically significant they are. But as a defensive midfielder that passes, intercepts and wins the ball more than any other in the EPL to be scoring important goals is worth highlighting for a player that is often unfairly criticised by Arsenal fans.

By way of final comparison if you look at his numbers last year (when he wasn’t injured for 2.5 months) he scored 3 from 29 (10.3%) which is very respectable for someone in his first year in the EPL and who invariably shoots from outside the box. And these are numbers which are still better than another long range specialist Frank Lampard (7 from 82 shots, 8.5%, excluding penalties this year).

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42 Replies to “The Glen Hoddle Clinical Finishing Index. And Arsenal.”

  1. I love it…..

    A stirring example of why we have made it so far in both campaigns…

    What is the age differential between the teams?

    And, I know for example Fabs-22, RVP – 26, Dudu – 26, Arshavin – 29, Bendtner 21, Walcott 21….

    I look at it as we have at least nine more years of a Bendtner & Walcott…. Golden era… Golden Era…. GOLDEN ERA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I have to agree – this is a brilliant piece of analysis – exactly the sort of article that I love to publish on Untold.

    It is also an example of why I changed the home page so that it gives a list of recent articles – I don’t want this to get lost as soon as the next article appears.

  3. This is pretty insightful for those who wish to say without checking their stats first (IF THEY GOT ANY ).

  4. I think Thomas Vermaelen statistics must be 50 % of his shots going in. 🙂

    Great article and great statistics, JB.

  5. Great piece, very interesting stuff. It just goes to show how the common “expert” view is often flawed.

  6. Kind of interesting your article as always.Having saying that your writing is always interesting but is a bit future sited.

    I am not sure about Denilson.Yes is young but we do not have to forget he played a lot for his age.So far for me is just an average player.Just take a look at the Birmingham game what was his contribution ?Nothing .So please do not hype it.

  7. This article appeared on the board. Don’t bother reading it by the way……

    ……… is a tawdry piece of neo-journalism…..a slag attack by some primped up berk fresh out of college.

    Anyway…….merely for the fact that Martin Samuel bothers to say sensible things, I will be reading the Daily Mail from now on.(never thought I’d hear myself say that).

  8. Good job, you just made me re-trace some respect for the Brazilian.

    The Verminator must be in the 50-60’s then, what a player!

  9. Spot on article mate – shove it down the throats of the D&G anti-Denilson mob..!

  10. Arsenallllllllllllllllll…

    Lets believe……

    We can win tha league.

    cAMANNNNNNNNNN you gunners!!!!

  11. It’s one of those media delusions that they convince themselves of. What changed in this team from last season is that we’ve been very clinical, and don’t overplay.

    It’s like the Arsenal won’t shoot drivel. When the truth is that we’ve scored twice as many goals from outside the box as any other team.

  12. Very good analysis, J B Harwood.

    Alex: Just so I can be convinced that you do really know how to judge & predict a good footballer –
    Name me two, nay one, football youngster that YOU, not any other person, had discovered and adjudged, from the age of 15, would be a sensational footballer, who had then gone on to be a sensation at 22? What criteria or single criterion did you use to judge the youngster?

    Your answer will help me to understand and subsequently decide whether to respect your opinion or just not bother.

  13. Great analysis, without wishing play the blame game would it be possible to do a similar analysis on goalkeepers- it sure would be interesting to see how that panned out.

  14. Excellent article.

    Tony, I wonder whether it’s possible to find a way of making sure more people read such an excellent rebuttle of the misguided truths and convenient lies we so often here. I’I for sure, will be doing my small part and promoting this article in my own small way.

    These punks called pundits are doing a serious injustice to football.

  15. Very interesting article if a bit flawed.

    What isn’t taken into consideration in the raw data is how good a chance and attempt on goal actually was.

    I’m sure if you analysed all the chances for each team you would find that we had the highest number of “golden opportunities” missed.

    Chances that Man U & Chelsea would put away time and time again.

    THAT is what these pundits are really talking about and the real point is that we create so many opportunities we seem to be less focused on the finishing.

    If you cast your minds back to the Invincibles, how many goals do you remember were tap-ins by Pires or Ljungberg?

    Pires especially would always take up a position at the far post to ensure if the goalie parried or if someone miss-kicked he was there to tap it in.

    Our current team are a fantastic passing team but need to follow through to the end. Be there on the 6 yard line ready for when the ball comes in.

    One thing that could be a factor is our shaky defence.

    I’m 100% positive Pires & Ljungberg had more confidence in their team mates in defence than Arshavin, Nasri & Cesc have in theirs.

    Its also a matter of experience. We are already seeing a big improvment in players who have, in previous seasons, come in for criticism. Bendtner, Diaby, Eboue & Song to name a few have shown they are improving and can be important players for us.

    I hope Wenger has his whole squad practising their finishing. We don’t want to be waking up on thursday morining wondering how we lost to Barca when we missed 2-3 “golden opportunities” to score!!

  16. But Hoddle is right. We shoot less than the other teams, and I daresay if you did another analysis, of time spent in the opposition half, we would top that too.

    So the ratio of time in opponents half:shoots taken, I suspect we fare badly

    Personally I think all this is academic anyhow. We score lots of goals, and if we were awarded half of our penalties, we would have scored heaps more goals, especially since when we score one early on, we have a tendency to bag 3 or 4.

  17. Great article here! I don’t know where you managed to get those stats, but if you can, I’m sure those “experts” can too. I’ve always listened to those rants about Arsenal being not clinical enough all too often, from pundits and down to other friends who support other clubs.

    I would love to compare Vermaelen’s stats to Lampard’s 8.5%, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this site :). Oh and I remember reading somewhere that Rooney has never scored a single goal outside the penalty box this season about a month ago, but how many times do we see him belt them from outside?

    Stupid pundits indeed…

  18. Darius has it right we need these kind of articles (that ARE actual articles) to be seen by more people

  19. Oh I’ve found the stats for the top few players here.

    On first glance, it looks like Torres has the best shooting accuracy on that list, with 18 goals from 68 shots (26.47%, but lower than Denilson), but we all know he’s a proven striker. Rooney on the other hand has taken the most shots out of any of those on that list, with 26 goals from 165 shots (15.76% acc, but only 60 shots on goal)

  20. Sorry for leaving out TR and TV.
    Rosicky 3 goals, 23 shots (13.0%) this is EPL only
    Vermaellen 7 goals, 26 shots (26.9%) v. impressive.

    The numbers show that Chelsea shoot from everywhere. Arsenal and MU are the better comparison. All those shouting at Nasri to “shooooot” will miss the delicate chip for Fabregas to finish.

    The above numbers are all from the Telegraph EPL player stats. Not sure where Fox gets their numbers from. The top strikers will get about 25% over a season (Torres, Villa, etc). Adebayor managed 23% in his 30 goal season. Also the numbers above were prior to the last weekends games (Lampard scored 4 – but even removing the 2 penalties from the numbers – his accuracy is now just over 10%). If you remove Fabregas’s penalty strikes he is running at 20.7%).
    Rooney this season (excluding penalties) is 22 goals/116 shots (19.0%) in the last 2 seasons he was 12 goals each season and 13.6% and 14.1%


  21. The biggest set of jackass pundits of all is those on Fox Soccer Channel that we on the other side of the pond have to put up with. Warren Barton, the ex-Wimbledon/ex-Newcastle, is supposed to provide quality insights to his American counterparts and he is the biggest purveyor of this type of unfounded analysis that JBH has highlighted. This weekend he was happy to reiterate his long-held view that Arsenal lack physical and mental strenggth despite the attempts of his co-presenters to restrain him. Put him and Hoddle in the same rubbish bin and discard them.

  22. Hoddle is spot on though. We have far and away the best midfield in the country, and all things being equal we should score more goals than we do.

    The fact that Rooney has until this season been vastly overrated is by the by.

    If you stuck Ian Rush in the Arsenal 9 shirt, he would score 50 goals a season.

  23. Mark – I am sorry, but your post is typical of the unfounded “IF blah, blah, blah THEN blah, blah, blah” stuff that many fans spout.

    First you say “We have far and away the best midfield in the country, and all things being equal we should score more goals than we do”. Well, why is our midfield “far and away” the best? I would say it is very good, and will get much better as it gets more experience, but on what basis is it “far and away” the best in the country? And only 2 clubs have scored more goals than us this season, even though we have missed our top striker for half the year. So on what basis should “we … score more goals than we do”?Just how many goals should we be scoring? Five a game? Ten a game? Twenty a game? How many would you be happy with?

    And then you say “If you stuck Ian Rush in the Arsenal 9 shirt, he would score 50 goals a season” by which I guess you are saying that his old club midfield of Souness, Whelan, Kennedy etc and strike partner of some guy named Dalglish was far inferior to our team? Yeah, I see what you mean. I mean, that Liverpool side only won 4 Championships, 4 League Cups, 2 European Cups and an FA Cup in 5 years. Bunch of pillocks they were. Useless players. Ian Rush would have been far better with our team around him than the likes of Dalglish, Souness, Whelan, Nicol, Lawrenson, Hansen etc etc (and you can disaparage Lawrenson and Hansen as commentators all you like, but they were MAGNIFICENT players). Come on, you really dont know anything if you are saying things like that.

    You have to be reasonable about these kind of statements.

  24. Mark, I don’t understand your point. Hoddle said Arsenal weren’t clinical enough, lots of good attacking play but an inability to put it away. The above numbers show that Arsenal are better than all of the others at “putting it away”. Even with RvP out injured for 4 months.
    The only reason the team is not at the top of the league is the number of goals conceded.

  25. Shotta-gunna – i can think of a few more names that you can add to that and put in the bin.

  26. Being clinical isn’t just about hitting the back of the net when you shoot, it is also about knowing when to shoot.

    If Arsenal only had 10 shots on goal all season, and scored all 10, would you say they were 100% the most clinical team……obviously not.

    When we are in the groove, we can bang away 6 a match no trouble….

  27. Re the midfield. Firstly Fab is the world’s premier midfielder.

    Liverpool’s midfield suffered a lot from losing Alonso.

    Man U have been a midfield free team since Ronaldo…..built more around a very good defence, and fast wing backs, and blitz counter-attacks. Giggs and Fletcher are good, but no match for Fab and Song.

    Chelsea probably have the best midfield aside us. Mikel is very strong, Lampard scores goals, and Malouda has become very good…but Ballack is not that great a player.

    Again, Fabregas, Song, Denilson are imo better than Lampard , Mikel, Essien.

    The build up play and through balls of players like Nasri and Fabregas are simply way better than any other team, in my opinion.

    And I rate Denilson very high, as well as Diaby……great players.

  28. Mark – build-up play and through balls are not the only requirements of midfield play. What about defensive play, breaking up opposition play, toughness etc etc? These are all things that our young midfielders are still learning.

    You say Utd have been “a midfield free team” this year. Have you seen Utd play? Fletcher, Park etc haven’t been outplayed all season. In the games we played against them they matched us in Manchester and completely outplayed us in London. Ronaldo was an attacker, not a midfielder (a wide attacker, but an attacker nonetheless) so him leaving wouldnt make any difference to Utd’s midfield play.

    And Chelsea also shut us down in midfield this season. And Essien is as good as they come.

    For our midfield to be considered the best they have to outplay everyone else, not just paint pretty pictures. They have the talent and hopefully will be the best in years to come, but saying things like they are “far and away” the best simply builds unrealistic expectations that lead to crushing dissapointment when they play at their level, and not at the level that you expect them to. That crushing dissapointment leads to unfounded criticism of the players and so on and so on. And that leads to you criticising our midfield for not scoring enough due to the fact that they are “far and away” the best in the League.

    And using the word “great” to describe Denilson and Diaby? They havent even progressed past very good yet. Hold off on using “great” until they have deserved it. If those two are “great” players then what is Leo Messi?

    And then you say Cesc is “the world’s premier midfielder” as if it is just fact ignoring the idea that he might not even start for Barcelona if he played there.

    Let these kids grow up before saddling them with these unrealistic expectations.

  29. Whenever I have watched United in the last few seasons they have largely bypassed the midfield, attacking very quickly down the flanks in general, or on the counter.

    This season Arsene, as usual, has played the long game and stuck Nasri and Fabregas out of position, in order to develop them, and to develop other players.

    ……..At times his principles and plans have cost him…….

    ……..and you can’t legislate for crap refereeing which allows ongoing fouling…….

    In a straight match, of football not fouling, Arsenal have the best midfield in England, IMO.


    Whenever I’ve seen Denilson he’s been excellent. He passes very well, has an awesome shot, and reads the game very well.

    Diaby covers a lot of ground and scores goals.

    Nasri is a superb footballer, and we don’t need to mention Cesc.

    Chelsea from what I saw got a lucky break, and capitalized on it….and we gifted Man U those games, particularly the first match, and also the second……..

    But by and large, teams don’t even bother to compete with our midfield….

    Maybe you don’t believe me now, but time – not much of it – will show how good the midfield is.

  30. LRV
    Please do not get me wrong because i still rate Denilson.So i am not the likes of anti denilson group.Hey what i am saying is “This is Arsenal first team “and we are at the end of the season and i dont think because is just 22 is excusable.The way is maturing seems too slow in my opinion.That is all.

  31. I like such articles because I enjoy playing with stats or numbers in general.

    There is no way I agree with general statements that Hoddle and others in the media make. Having said that, I’m not sure this article shows the complete picture. If you go by the simplistic definition of goals/shots ratio, then your point is completely valid. I’m not sure this definition is totally accurate, although it might be the best we can have based on the limited stats available.

    We don’t have statistics that show where these shots are taken from and whether it was an open goal or not. In the absence of these stats people have to go by their opinions that are formed by watching games over a period of time.

    In that sense I feel we are not as clinical as the other teams. Cesc is as good as anyone even in that sense. But Arshavin, Bendtner and Eduardo (this season) have not been clinical enough in front of an open goal or when presented with a gilt edged chance. This is just an impression I have and it is not based on the last two or three weeks.

    Rooney, Lampard et al shoot at sight. So their numbers in general will be lower. But if we see their finishing when presented with good chances it will be quite high. Torres would probably be the best. Unfortunately, such stats aren’t available. Whether they should or should not shoot at sight is a different debate entirely.

    It’s great to see that Denilson is working on his finishing. Our players are young and they can all improve if they put in some extra effort after training. That’s how Ronaldo made himself the player he is, not everyone is born with a gift like Messi.

  32. Desi, I hear your argument but the moment you start with “fan perception” you will lose it (fan bias will take over). The above stat is perfectly valid provided its over an extended period (eg 3 quarters of the season is over). If you look at after just a few games it will be distorted by a few good or bad performances. When a player has 80 to 100 shots at goal you will get a very good idea of who is best (quality becomes apparent over the long term). So its the best we can use for now, unless you analyse every single attempt – which is impossible. Also remember that the very best only score 1 in every 4 or 5 attempts – its a shame that some players get slammed for missing a couple of chances in a game.

  33. Jbh,

    I agree with your analysis. This is the best relatively rational option we have. I hope you didn’t get the message that I was being critical.

    Looking at it over time works both ways. For instance over time we might get a balanced view but a player in form might be doing much better at a given period. Similarly one out of form might be doing worse. You might say that is the reason we must look at it over time, while a manager might have to decide in the moment.

    Completely agree about the best needing 4-5 shots. It’s easy to forget that when someone is on a hot streak like Rooney or has a relatively bad time like Arshavin has been having.

    I’m hoping we are clinical on Wednesday, it will make a big impact on our qualification chances.

  34. You know there is another way of looking at this. Let’s consider the big games,

    At Old Trafford – United 14 (2) – Arsenal 12 (1) ; shots (goals)
    At Emirates – Arsenal 12 (0) – Chelsea 10 (3)
    At Emirates – Arsenal 20 (1) – United 12 (3)
    At Stamford Bridge – Chelsea 13 (2) – Arsenal 12 (0)

    Not sure what it proves but by the definition of goals/shots ratio we are quite poor. Quality of chances makes a big difference but it’s difficult to capture.

  35. I think what Hoddle means is that some players when they get within 30 yards of goal get the scent for it.

    Drogba has one thing on his mind when he gets near the goal……

    Our players tend to pass a lot and look for the best outball. That’s cool, but at some point someone has to take responsibility and go for goal.

    Rooney is always going for goal, and often unsuccesfully.
    But he has the confidence to fluff four or five half chances, and keep trying.He has no inhibitions about playing a bit crap, and this season he has really come good.

    Now obviously Fab is a great finisher, and Denilson a great shooter.

    But apart from that we are not always the most clinical in front of goal.

    Often the defenders have come up and been more straightforward about it, and just banged the ball in the net.

    Samir is getting the confidence now to dribble past the opposition a few times and crash it in too.

    We can score a lot of goals, but I would say if Drogba and Rooney spearheaded our midfield, we would score hatfuls of goals all the time.


  36. @ Mark
    “Being clinical isn’t just about hitting the back of the net when you shoot, it is also about knowing when to shoot”
    I would suggest that hitting the back of the net when you shoot is EXACTLY what being clinical means.

  37. Not really. Nasri through on goal against B’ham and electing to pass is exactly the sort of fluffy thinking that Hoddle is talking about.

  38. Good article. Wondering though, if there are any comparable stats that would show shots on goal related to time of possession. I wouldn’t think that the Arsenal would be top of that list….

  39. Stats are great ain’t they!
    However, stats don’t always necessitate the beneficiary of favourable stats to have to go and buy polish for the polishing of trophies…..
    and sometimes a ‘hunch’ about something (i.e. Arsenal don’t like it up them) isn’t a bad indicator.

    I suspect that Messrs. McCarthy, Pulis and O’Neill always feel they have a better chance against Arsenal than they do against Man. U. or Chelsea, even if the stats might not suggest it.

  40. @ Mark

    Nasri was too close to the keeper, which is why he made the pass. It was not a good pass, but it was a good reason to pass – that he thought a teammate was better placed. That’s intelligent, not fluffy thinking.

    But in any case, Hoddle’s criticism was: “But they are not clinical enough in front of goal… lots of opportunities but the end product is just not quite there”.
    That’s different to what you said: “I think what Hoddle means is that some players when they get within 30 yards of goal get the scent for it. Drogba has one thing on his mind when he gets near the goal.” A player could have that desire and determination and still not be clinical if he has poor technique or lacks composure – they’re different qualities. Wouldn’t you say?

  41. @ Sean
    The stats quoted show that we have the best goals/shots ratio, which was the point of the article.

    McCarthy, Pulis and O’Neill always feel they have a better chance against Arsenal than they do against Man. U. or Chelsea, even if the stats might not suggest it.
    That just shows you how important the belief is, and why so many sides roll over for ManU. And I do believe that we have beaten all of those teams in the league this season, except for drawing once with Aston Villa. So their belief is probably unfounded.

    And perhaps you can list the teams who DO like it up ’em?

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