Stats more like it: Old problems persist for Wednesday

Old problems persist, but a certain goal machine may be papering over the cracks somewhat, as Wednesday reach out for the promotion spots.

This article uses the statistics supplied by ESPN Soccernet ( for each of the League 1 teams to see how we’re doing compared to the rest.

Before you say it, or think it even: Statistics only show a narrow slice of reality, and yes, they can be concocted in various ways to show a lot of things that don’t necessarily have a lot to do with reality. But it’s beats anecdotal evidence into a pulp, and lends some sort of objectivity to football discussions at least. So, while not perfect, statistics at least give us the chance to move in the right direction. All in my humble opinion of course.

So just how are we doing this season? At the time of writing the table has us in 7th, 2 points off 2nd position. But behind that are some data that I’ve extracted from Soccernet: Goals, shots, shots on target, assists, fouls committed, fouls suffered, saves and goals conceded. I also have those stats from last season, which means that we can compare ourselves both to how the others are doing and also to how we did last season.

Let’s first look at shots:

Despite only Charlton having scored more goals than us in League One, we’re 22nd ranked on number of shots taken. Of course it’s no great benefit having a lot of shots if they’re all from 30 yards out and flying high over goal. But how exactly have we and the other 23 League 1 teams done with our shots – have we hit them on target?

Short answer: No. We’re actually the least accurate with our shots with just 1 in 4 of our shots inside the goal frame. We have double trouble, then, in having among the lowest number of shots, and also not getting many of those shots on target. But how are we scoring all those goals then? Efficiency:

Something seems askew: How can we have had more goals than shots on target? Answers have to be directed to Soccernet, but I’m fairly certain they do not (for instance) count penalties as a shot on target. But even allowing for registration issues at Soccernet’s end, that’s an extraordinary statistic for us. We may have fewer than 2 shots on target (1,7 to be exact) a match on average, but we’re making those count.

It’s mostly down to Gary Madine (who is indeed a goal machine). He’s now scored in each of our last 4 matches, and his 9 goals this season have come from only 15 shots. Gary Megson’s said a conscious effort has been made to make Madine behave more like a “fox in the box”-striker, instead of dropping deep and linking play (and going missing in the box). That has certainly paid off, and last season, in all of 20 league starts for us, Madine had 26 shots, scoring just 5 goals.

Madine’s success is extraordinary, but also papers over the cracks with our team: We’re not getting a lot of shots away. In fact, not only aren’t we getting a lot of shots away, we’re also not good at getting them on target. And it’s not a new issue: Last season we were just outside the relegation zone, when you ranked League 1 according to number of shots and according to number of shots on target:

Something that both Gary Megson and a lot of fans have noted is the state of our defense. When Megson came in last season in early February, he was tearing chunks of what was left of his ginger hair out about our defensive displays. Danny Batth and Rob Jones were brought in and shored up our defense towards the end of the season. In the 9 matches before Megson took charge, we conceded 25 goals (2.8 on average). In our last 9 matches last season, we conceded 11 goals (1.2 on average). When you compare the entire period Irvine and Megson had with us in League 1 last season, however, Irvine’s 1.4 goals conceded a match compares favourably with Megson’s 1.6.

What was fixed in defense has since been broken, not least evidenced by the humiliations we continue to suffer away from home. And despite Rob Jones and Danny Batth being with us this season as well. We still leak a lot of goals (1.6 a match on average). Is it because the opposition is gifted lots of chances? It doesn’t look that way, as our ‘keepers have only made 27 saves in our matches so far – only Carlisle and Bury have fewer saves:

To make it a little more technical, we can also look at the number of goals conceded compared to the number of saves made. Briefly put, when you look at  goals conceded as a percentage of saves made, the higher a percentage the worse the ‘keeper. And when we compare ourselves with the rest, we’re not exactly covering ourselves in glory:

The stat for Weaver (56 %) and O’Donnell (61 %) is certainly comparable, so you can’t say one’s more to blame than the other. As with the other stats, we can compare that to last season: We were third from bottom in this statistic, so our goalkeepers aren’t making as many saves and stopping as many goals as the ‘keepers in the other teams did last season. And this season.

Yet for all the good work O’Donnell’s done – and he has produced some cracking saves – and for all the good will streaming his way – and I certainly have a lot of time for him – it does seem like the decision to bring in Stephen Bywater has merit. According to Soccernet he didn’t have a single save to make on his debut, and we got our first clean sheet in the league since our opener against Rochdale. It’s far to early to pass any verdicts, but the first sign is encouraging.

In summation, issues that we had to contend with last season seem to persist, but Madine’s fabulous form in particular seems to hide that somewhat at the moment. But we’re still not creating enough chances, and we’re leaking too many goals, not necessarily because we’re allowing the opposition too many chances, but our ‘keepers seem to have let in more goals than they “should have”.

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @ploehmann

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