Okay, let’s get this started. In the early 1990s the German TV station Sat.1 started showing the weekend games in a show called “ran”. In that show they introduced the so-called “ran database“, a device not specified, but heavily quoted, when they were trying to press football into a strict measure to explain the game to their viewers. This ended up with strange explanations like “Team A hasn’t lost a home game to Team B in the past 15 years” which was easy, because Team A played in Division 1 and Team B in Division 2 over that timespan, so both teams simply haven’t played each other in the past 15 years. While the content of this statement was true, it didn’t explain anything. I find this extremely annoying.
One statistic that’s often shown during halftime reports or at the end of a match is “shots on goal”. While this might give you some kind of how dominating a team might have been, what exactly is a shot on goal? First of all let’s look at where the ball might end up when it is shot in the direction of the goal.
- The ball will be shot so it will either hit the post, the crossbar or the net
- The ball will go past the post or the crossbar
- The ball will go very far from the post or the crossbar
- The ball will end up for a throw-in (unlikely, but it happens)
So what out of those four possibilities is a shot on goal and which one isn’t? Obviously the first one can be labelled as a shot on goal. It was meant to be placed there and might be a goal if there wasn’t a goalkeeper. The second possibility might as well be called a shot on goal but then it’s getting difficult to distinguish. When is a ball a shot on goal depending on how far the target is missed? One metre? Two metres? 5 metres? And that’s where it becomes too random for me.
Some TV programs distinguish between “shots on goal” and “shots on target”. While I see the point, what does this tell me as a viewer? When a team has a lot of shots on goal, but very few on target, does this mean anything? What ‘s the conclusion I can get out of this statistic? That the team just isn’t good at shooting the ball on goal? So do they need more training in that matter? The thing is, with those kinds of statistics there is no way I can understand how the mach was played without having seen it myself.
Also, if a player has a lot of shots, what does that mean? A striker should have a lot of shot attempts, after all he’s the one responsible for scoring goals, that’s his profession. Still strikers might only shoot on goal once or twice during a match and score. The value of a striker cannot be measured by how many times he shoots the ball in the direction of the goal, he depends on the balls he gets from his teammates.
Where I’m trying to go here is, this statistic is flawed because there is no definition for it. Where in basketball or baseball you can measure things like throws (be it 2-point or 3-point) or hits and actually get some information from it, there is absolutely no way a statistic like “shots on goal” will tell you anything