Teams that cross most don’t always score more goals. And why I find Norwich very intriguing

Some interesting findings off today’s EFL Championship charts, with 31/32 games played and Sheffield United set to face Reading tomorrow.

I ran a fairly simple plot on volume of crosses, added a column to calculate the ratio of right- to left-sided crosses and showed that via a colour code.

No real surprises about which teams get the most crosses in, with Villa and Sheffield United topping the table.

Rplot01

What does stand out about the Blades is the left-sided bias. But, that’s not really a surprise, more a satisfying graphical point on the chart.

What does surprise me is that Norwich — challenging strongly for automatic promotion — are in the lower reaches of the table for cross volume.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. If you scan down the teams, there’s no league table-like order to the way they’re arranged. So, although there are some currently successful teams near the top, it clearly is possible to fling in lots of corners and not translate that into league success. See Millwall for proof of that.

Norwich might sit two places up from the quite un-penetrative Sheffield Wednesday in the cross volume stakes, but that’s not the full picture.

We can dig deeper here, by plotting crosses against shots.

Rplot

And that shows that the usual suspects —  Sheffield United, Leeds, Villa — occupying the right-hand end of the chart with lots of crosses and reddened points that show they score plenty of goals.

But, check the reddest, most goal-scoringest blobs on the chart and it’s Norwich and WBA, with relatively low cross volumes. What’s more, Norwich have bunged in something like 100 fewer crosses than West Brom.

It’s not the first time I’ve noticed Norwich in a strange position on the chart.

Recently, I started to plot amount of time in the opponent’s third against the number of passes made there.

This season, the likes of Sheffield United and Leeds are doing lots of both. Some other teams are getting to the opponent’s box a lot but not necessarily making things stick like the above two (see Millwall again).

Rplot02

Norwich stand out again here, with relatively low amounts of time in the opponent’s third but lots of passes when they are there.

Norwich look like a team that try to dictate play in the middle third. Then, when they get chance, go through the gears towards the opponent’s goal to exploit a less dense defence.

In other words, they create space where they want it: Right through Zone 14 and on to goal.

It’s an approach I’ve lightly obsessed about (see previous posts, re plan Bs etc). I find the idea of being able to shift/pull an opponent vertically and then get in behind quite fascinating and a potential answer to low block traffic jams.

That’s all assuming I’m reading things correctly.

 

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