Wayne Rooney’s Goal Scoring for England

Wayne Rooney has arguably been England’s figurehead since at least 2006. Breaking through in the run up to Euro 2004, an 18-year-old Rooney was highly impressive at the tournament itself, and has fulfilled the hype at club level in the years since. For England, however, Rooney has often been a maligned figure, and following the poor showing at this World Cup, many are advocating a reduced role.

His goals by game record is pretty good, as shown below:

rooney2Rooney has managed 40 goals in 95 matches (0.5 goals per 90) for the national team. Considering England play difficult opposition regularly, both in qualifiers and friendlies, its a pretty good record. Its also worth pointing out Rooney does not always complete full matches- he’s completed 90 minutes just 38 times in his 90 caps.

He’s closing in on Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals for England, although will certainly need to win more caps than Charlton managed (106).

RooneyRooney’s record in competitive matches is far more impressive than in friendlies.

rooneyRooney has 31 goals in 60 competitive matches (0.61 goals per 90), and just 9 in 35 friendlies (0.31 goals per 90). His poor record in friendlies is probably due to a wider variety of personnel, different tactics, and reduced minutes, but its worth pointing out that his record in competitive matches is excellent.

He has 16 goals in 22 World Cup qualifying matches, even if his performance at these tournaments has been poor in terms of goal-scoring (World Cup matches between the red lines below).RooneytournSo, should Rooney be dropped? As someone who is at this point unsure on whether Daniel Sturridge should be the long-term replacement option, I’d be a little reluctant. Arguments about style of play aside, he has a great scoring rate, especially in competitive matches. That said, Rooney is getting older, and his fitness has always been in question. In my opinion, England shouldn’t give up on him just yet.

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Goal Record for Portugal

The graph below shows how Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal record has developed over time for Portugal.


Ronaldo broke Eusebio’s goal record for Portugal against Northern Ireland in September last year, and became Portugal’s all time top scorer when he broke Pauleta’s record of 47 goals just prior to this World Cup.


Eusebio’s 41 goals were scored over a much smaller number of appearances, and Ronaldo has been used as a wide forward in the past, meaning their totals develop somewhat differently.

One of the first things I noticed about Ronaldo’s numbers is that slump in goals between his 50th and 75th cap. I wondered if this coincided with anything, so looked first at managerial changes.


The dashed lines represent the tenure of Carlos Quieroz (between Ronaldo’s 59th and 77th cap). Ronaldo only scored 3 goals under Quieroz’s management, although this slump does seem to begin in the final matches under Luis Felipe Scolari. He also received less playing time, appearing in just 18 matches out of a possible 49 under Quieroz. Since Paulo Bento’s appointment in 2010, Ronaldo has surged to Eusebio’s record with 27 goals in 37 games.

Finally, how does his form coincide with major tournaments?


Ronaldo has scored 6 goals at European Championships, but has just 3 World Cup goals (indicated by red lines). This is a little surprising given Portugal’s good showings in 2006/2010.


Neymar vs Pele and Ronaldo for Brazil

Following on from yesterday’s piece on Neymar and his burgeoning goal tally for Brazil, I wanted to take a look at how he compares to the top 2 goalscorers in Brazil’s history- Pele (92 caps, 77 goals) and Ronaldo (98 caps, 62 goals).


Pele’s line is remarkably steep- between his 8th and 53rd appearances- a period of 8 years, he had more goals than caps. After that, he levelled off a little, before having a boost right at the end of his Brazil career, with 6 goals in his final 10 caps.

At no point did Ronaldo have more goals than caps, and he started a little slower than both Pele and Neymar, but scored 22 goals between his 10th and 40th caps, and a further 22 goals between his 40th and 70th caps.

Barring a incredibly rise in his scoring rate for Brazil, Neymar will not catch Pele in the same number of appearances- he would have to score 42 goals in his next 40 games for Brazil to reach 77 goals in 92 caps. If he continues scoring at 0.7 goals per 90 minutes, he will reach 77 goals somewhere around his 120th cap, but considering Neymar’s age its hardly impossible that his scoring rate will continue to increase.

One cool stat to come out of this- if you look closely at the graph, you’ll see that right now Neymar and Ronaldo’s lines are at precisely the same point. This is because at 52 caps, Ronaldo had 35 goals- the exact same record as Neymar. To add to this, Ronaldo was 22 when he picked up his 52nd cap. Neymar is also 22.

On Neymar’s scoring rate for Brazil

Following his brace against Cameroon earlier this week, Neymar now sits on 35 goals in 52 caps for Brazil. He has climbed to joint-6th in their all time top scorers list, having overtaken Rivaldo in his last match. Indeed, with 4 more goals, he will enter the top 5. Neymar is 22.

Possibly the most amazing thing about Neymar’s career with the national team is his consistency. I wanted to see how Neymar’s goal tally had developed; had it started slowly, with substitute appearances and limited minutes, before enjoying a boom?

Nope. Neymar has been a constant for around 2 and a half years now. There was a clamour for Dunga to include him in the 2010 World Cup squad, but he missed out. Dunga’s successor Mano Menezes started selecting a number of promising younger players with regularity: Oscar, Lucas Moura, Ganso, Leandro Damiao- but principle among them was Neymar.

When Neymar plays, he plays. Of his 52 caps, he’s played over 75 minutes in 45 of them, and has never played less than 45 minutes. When he appears for Brazil, he plays, on average, 85 minutes per game. In short, if he is available, he starts, and has appeared in Brazil’s last 36 matches. This is why, at age 22, he is already over a third of the way to Cafu’s all time appearance record for the Selecao.

His scoring record is also amazingly consistent. He scored on his debut, had 9 goals by the time he reached 20 caps, and 24 goals by 40 caps.


This consistency is reflected in the 2 graphs below, the first showing his cumulative goals per 90 minutes figure game-by-game:

Rplot01The line is straightening off between 0.6 and 0.7 goals per 90 minutes. A relatively flat line on a graph like this can make it seem as if not much is happening, but Neymar is performing fantastically just to keep it in that range. In fact, it is actually increasing- Neymar had scored just under 0.6 goals per 90 by his 30th cap, and now he is at 0.7 per 90.

 And the second graph taking the average of his goals per 90 figure over the previous 5 games:

 Rplot02This smooths things out and lets us see periods where Neymar has been relatively quiet, and those where he has really excelled. We can see he had a hot streak from his 21st to his 26th cap, where he scored 8 goals in 6 matches. His excellent performance at the World Cup and his hat-trick in a warm up game against South Africa has also boosted his record more recently.

So just for a bit of fun, how many goals could Neymar be on by the next World Cup?

We must make a few conservative assumptions first:

a)    Brazil will play ~25 competitive and ~25 friendly matches between now and the 2018 World Cup (Neymar will be 26).

b)   Neymar will play in at least 75% of these, averaging 85 minutes each game as he already has.

So lets assume Neymar plays in 75% of these 50 matches, gaining a further 37 caps. If he continues at a rate of 0.7 goals per 90 minutes, he will score a further 24 goals by 2018, taking his tally to 59- just 3 goals away from equalling Ronaldo. Barring injury, however, it is much more likely that Neymar will play in almost all of these games, and could have already surpassed Ronaldo by the time the tournament comes around. Also, his scoring rate has increased in recent months, so assuming he will score 0.7 goals per 90 minutes consistently may end up being too conservative.

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Profiling Young Forwards

Young forwards are the hottest property in football, quicker to enter into fans’ consciousness due to YouTube showreels and impressive goal tallies than young players in other positions. They dominate transfer rumours and, whether logically or not, command the biggest transfer fees.

I’ve taken a look at the 20 best young (21 or under) forwards in the top 5 European leagues from this season, in terms of non-penalty goals and assists per 90 minutes (NPGA90). The only requirement was that at least 900 minutes had been played.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 17.40.30

The big performers:

Mauro Icardi has had injury problems, and was largely used as a sub in his first 6 months at Inter, but found significant playing time towards the end of the season, finishing up with 9 non-penalty goals. Icardi has registered 2 assists, and has a reasonable key pass per 90 rate, but his shot accuracy has been pretty poor. It will be interesting to see if he can improve this next season.

Domenico Berardi is another interesting name. Purchased by Juventus but remaining at Sassuolo this year, Berardi has 16 goals for the season (6 penalties), averages an assist every 360 minutes, has more shots than any other forward in this sample, and is involved heavily in the final third with a good number of passes. His key pass per 90 number is also the best of this sample, and it will be interesting to see what Juventus decide to do with him- he looks a fantastic prospect.

Josip Drmic was heavily linked to Arsenal, but has since joined Leverkusen for peanuts. A real penalty box forward, none of his 15 goals came from outside the area.

Some other interesting ones:

Timo Werner: At only 18-years old, has a goal or an assist for every 180 minutes played.

Richmond Boakye: Another Juventus loanee. Good goalscoring rate, but poor shot accuracy suggests inefficient shooting. Key pass numbers not great, which may be due to his year abroad at strugglers Elche.

Juan Manuel Iturbe: Just been signed permanently by Verona for just 15 million Euros. Played a lot this season, with a good key pass rate, and registered a respectable 8 goals.

Saido Berahino: Takes a lot of shots, with poor accuracy, and heavily involved in terms of passes completed. It will be really interesting to see if Berahino can continue to improve after this promising season.


The following graph plots assists per 90 against key passes per 90- which of these players has contributed most to their teams’ attack?


Berardi, Iturbe, and Keita are pretty high in both of these measures, whilst Rolan, Deulofeu, and Werner are often played wide, doing well in terms of assists whilst registering fewer key passes.

Shooting behaviour

This graph shows shots per 90 and average shot accuracy, and here we can see inefficient shooters- Boakye, Paco Alcacer and Icardi are regular shooters but may be taking their shots from poor locations. Drmic is particularly efficient- the vast majority of his shots come from inside the box, and his accuracy is pretty good.


Passing behaviour

This one shows successful passes and key passes per 90. Iker Muniain is the most involved of our young forwards, playing 33 successful passes per 90 minutes for a Bilbao side who like to keep the ball. Berahino, Keita, and Berardi are impressive here too- heavily involved and with a good key pass rate.


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Top Scorers, Non-penalty Goals, and Shooting

A quick look at a selection of the current top scorers across Europe today. I have selected the top 20 players from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un, the Bundesliga, and the Eredivisie, in terms of their goals scored per 90 minutes. Goals per 90 minutes give a much clearer picture than a goals-per-game ratio, as we can account for actual minutes spent on the pitch. Stripping out penalty goals is also important, as they don’t really tell us much about goal-scoring ability. I’m borrowing Statsbomb’s non-penalty goal per 90 metric here (NPG90). Here are the current top 20, ranked by NPG90:

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 11.24.04 (2)

Mattia Destro sits at the top, with just over 1 goal for every 90 minutes he has played this season for Roma. Destro, signed 2 years ago, was initially heralded as the future of Roma’s attack, but a combination of injury, resulting unfitness, and lack of opportunity led to an underwhelming first season. It was only in December of this season that Destro scored his first Serie A goal of the campaign, and he’s missed a lot of game time (including a 4 match disciplinary ban which has just ended), but we may get a glimpse of him at this summer’s World Cup.

Hamburg’s Pierre-Michel Lasogga is an interesting name on this list. The big forward has found significant playing time this season, after some ACL injury problems, and has 13 non-penalty goals. His team are consigned to a relegation playoff, with their opponent announced later today, and Lasogga has been linked to Newcastle in recent weeks. Ciro Immobile, on the back of a fantastic season with Torino, looks to be moving to Borussia Dortmund soon.

We can also look at productivity. Here are our top 20 by shots per 90 minutes:

 Shots90We can also think about how many shots in the box a forward takes. These numbers treat all shots within the box as equal, which, in terms of Expected Goals, they are not. Still, it allows us a snapshot. This chart plots goals scored within the box (minus penalties) per 90 against shots taken in the box per 90.


Alexis Sanchez, Podolski, Bale, and Ikechukwu Uche have been scoring at a great rate despite having fewer shots from within the box this season per 90 than players like Aguero, Ronaldo, and Dzeko.

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Scouting Young Defenders- What Can the Available Data Tell Us?

Scouting defenders, and in particular young defenders, is hard. Publicly available data on defensive actions during a match (tackles, interceptions, blocked shots, etc.) do not give you such an easy glimpse into a player’s ability compared to offensive players, who can boast strong pass completion or key pass numbers. A player who makes more defensive actions in a game is not necessarily better than the one who makes fewer (Chris Anderson and David Sally coined this conundrum as the Maldini Principle in The Numbers Game, due to the Italian defender’s tendency to make one tackle every two games on average).

So what information can we use to help with this problem? It is highly likely that the most useful information about defender performance is less easy to track (e.g. good positioning and anticipation), but what can we get from the currently available stuff?

In the interest of scouting young defenders, I’ve collected data from 44 fullbacks and centre-backs under the age of 23 from Europe’s top 5 leagues. These players were selected as they have appeared in 20 or more matches this season (no less than 1000 minutes). All data from Opta, via Squawka.

Categorising actions

A useful first step is to categorise the actions a defender performs: actions intended to win possession/defend, and actions intended to keep possession/attack.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 18.59.30

Collecting per90 numbers for each of these actions, we can add them together to give a rudimentary ‘Offensive Contribution per 90’ (OC90) and ‘Defensive Contribution per 90’ (DC90) measure for each player. Here are our centre-backs:


And our full-backs:


The importance of possession

One thing we can look at is average possession of a defender’s team. The amount of time a team is without the ball and the number of defensive actions that team performs is probably related- Steven Caulker is likely to make more tackles, clearances, etc, than Jerome Boateng. These possession stats are based on number of passes rather than actual time in possession. Below I’ve plotted OC90 and DC90 against average possession for that defender’s team.

Note: You may notice the X-axis is weird, denoting possession as a figure somewhere between 6 and 8. Because most teams post somewhere between 45-60% average possession, I’ve taken the square-root of each average possession figure for each team (this is known as a square-root transformation, and is useful for count data like ours).

TL;DR: Makes it easier to see differences in our data, possession increases from left to right along X-axis.


There is something of a trend for low-possession-team defenders to make more defensive actions, but its not exactly a clear relationship. David Alaba is the massive outlier on the right- very few defensive actions for a very high possession team. Meanwhile, players like Cardiff’s Stephen Caulker, Sampdoria’s Shkodran Mustafi and Livorno’s Federico Ceccherini contribute more defensively for lower possession teams. Arthur Masuaku of Valenciennes and Omar Elabdellaoui of Eintract Braunschweig are doing little defensively for low possession teams, both in the relegation places.


The relationship between a team’s average possession and these defenders’ offensive contribution is a little clearer- the more possession a team has, the more likely the defence is to contribute to keeping possession and attacking the opponents’ goal. David Alaba is the massive outlier again, completing a large number of passes per game. Ben Davies and Daniel Carvajal (who’s labels are overlapping) do plenty offensively, with Freiburg’s Matthias Ginter and Wolfsburg’s Robin Knoche completing a lot of passes.


 Splitting our defenders into centre-backs and full-backs is also important. Full backs are more likely to complete a greater number of offensive actions than centre-backs.  Here are the same graphs again, but with centre-backs as circles and full backs as triangles. This sample features 18 young CBs and 26 young FBs-


We can immediately see the centre-backs who have great offensive contributions (mainly lots of passes): Niklas Sule, Matthias Ginter, Robin Knoche, and Aymeric Laporte do a lot with the ball from centre back. Emre Can has also played in midfield this season, so his number may be skewed a little.


Layvin Kurzawa of Monaco, Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg and Timothee Kolodziejczak do a lot defensively for their teams from full-back, whilst Steeve Yago, Matthias Ginter, and Samuel Umtiti don’t register as many defensive contribtions as other centre backs.

 Anyone we like?

 Robin Knoche completes a lot of defensive actions, but also completes plenty of passes and has a high attacking contribution. Knoche is first choice in something of a porous Wolfsburg defence. One to watch maybe. Hoffenheim’s Niklas Sule is another who completes a lot of offensive and defensive actions, and features regularly despite being just 18.

He gets a bit lost in these charts, but Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolsburg completes tonnes of key passes, and has 0.23 assists per 90 this season. He is already rated as one of the best left-back prospects in Europe, and has been linked with practically everyone. Nurnberg left-back Marvin Plattenhardt also has good key pass stats. Benjamin Mendy of Marseille is another great attacking full-back, although his low completed passes per 90 figure means he gets lost in the cluster too.

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