Offensive performances in the Eredivisie, early observations…

Posted on 4 September 2011


Four match rounds into the new season, the present international break gives teams an excellent opportunity to evaluate their performance thus far, having playing just over 10% of the season. In the Eredivisie table, Twente is the only club to maintain a 100% score and is trailed by Ajax and PSV, making last year’s top three also the three clubs leading the pack already. At the other end of the table, Excelsior has had the expected difficult start to the season, having won only a single point to go with the worst goal difference (-9). Other disappointing performances are NAC’s one point and Heerenveen’s 16th place with just two points.

But this post will not just sum up the league table in words. The intention is to look at offensive performances, much like we did at the end of last season to allow a later follow-up post to dive into the defensive performances to go with that. The example of NAC and Heerenveen is a nice one to introduce the relevance of looking at sheer goals scored and conceded. Both team occupy very disappointing places in the table so far, but Heerenveen did so by scoring 6 and conceding 14, while NAC scored only 4, but also conceded half of what Heerenveen did, 7.


Goal scoring attempts

In a broader sense we will start off by simply looking at the amount of goal scoring chances created. Data are obtained from Infostrada Sports, without whose support the present article could not have been made. Defending Champions Ajax lead this chart, having created 85 goal scoring attempts, leading to 15 goals scored, three more than the second most productive team, Twente, who scored 12 goals from 72 chances. A surprising high number of chances have been created by Feyenoord (79) and Groningen (71), who both managed only 8 goals.

Bottom team Excelsior comes in second last in terms of goal scoring attempts (34), only beating VVV (32). Heracles created only a handful of chances more (39), but did score 6 of them, as much as the median amount of goals of all Eredivisie teams. Add to that the fact that they also hit the woodwork four times, only beaten by Groningen’s five, and Heracles shows to have been close to an even higher conversion rate.


Club Goal scoring attempts




























De Graafschap











The amount of goal scoring attempts is only part of what constitutes a good or weak offense, it also comes down to converting these chances. The simple version of this statistic could be created by simply dividing goals by attempts, but it is even more insightful to bring the amount of shots on target into the equation too.  The graph below shows how teams did with regard to the fraction of shots that were on target on the vertical axis and with regard to converting shots on target into goals.

Click graph for enlarged version


To assist in interpreting this graph, cross sectional lines have been added for both league averages. On average 22.2% of all shots on target resulted in a goal and 53.6% of all shots were on target. Teams in the upper right hand corner, PSV, AZ and Twente are doing above average with regard to shooting on target and to converting those shots into goals. This analysis supports the fact that their balance in this regard seems fine. PSV and Twente are also doing fine in terms of overall chances created, but AZ seems to have their relative weakness in that department with only 49 goal scoring attempts.

If teams in the upper right hand corner are doing fine in shooting on target and converting those shots, teams in the lower left hand corner are underperforming in both of these areas. NAC and VVV find themselves in this undesired area of the graph, mainly with a low fraction of shots on target.

The other two corners offer the most likely areas of advice to improve a team’s offensive game. In the upper left hand corner, teams like Roda, Excelsior, Feyenoord and NEC show that they do hit the target more often than other teams, but fail to convert these shots on target into goals. Teams that create few chances, like Excelsior, suffer most obviously as their lack of goals is quite known already, but teams like Feyenoord, that create more chances than most other teams, are provided with an excellent suggestions to improve their offensive game.

The final of four quarter is also a very interesting one. Ajax is also the team with the most distance to the center of the graph, suggesting the most outlying offensive performance. Of their 85 created attempts, only 38 were on target (43.2%), but of those 38 attempts on target, a record 15, or 39.5% were scored. Since shot distance is best predictor for the shots on target ratio, this suggests that reduction of shot distance could improve the defending Champions’ offense significantly.

A detailed look at Ajax’ shot on target ratio on player level reveals that their offensive players perform extremely well, while their midfielders fail to find the target with most of their shots. Sigthorsson, Boerrigter, Sulejmani and Ebecilio registered a total of 35 shots, finding the target with 22 of those (63%) and scoring 10 goals (45%). All other players fired in the remaining 50 shots, finding the target only 16 times (32%), scoring 5 goals (31%).

Of course, midfielders will always be outperformed by the forward team mates, who often fired in shots from superior positions, but the huge gap between the offensive performances of Ajax’ midfielders and forwards suggests that a key towards improvement should be to circulate more balls towards their front three, rather than firing in shots from distance. In a future post we might dive into other teams’ ratios when comparing forwards with the rest of the team.

Posted in: Eredivisie