If you don’t closely follow the SPFL Premiership, you may wonder why games past this weekend were yet to be scheduled. With only 12 clubs in the top flight of Scotland, the powers at be needed to come up with a process to get 38 games each season for each club. In true SFA fashion, they came up with a confusing process of splitting the league in two when there are five games remaining. The top six clubs in the table play five more matches against each other, while the bottom six clubs do the same. Theoretically, it can lead to some exciting matches with the top clubs playing each other for the title or European spots, while the bottom clubs battle to avoid relegation. However, Celtic has developed an eight point gap over 2nd place Aberdeen, while Kilmarnock has built an eight point lead as well over bottom of the table Dundee United. Furthermore, with the table so close like it was this season, you develop the chance of the 7th place club finishing with more points than the 6th place club. Never the less, the format of the league being what it is, the final matches before this split took place (Hearts and Inverness Caley Thistle’s cancelled match to be made up from last week not withstanding, as both’s post split fate are sealed despite the result of the match) this past weekend, so it seemed as good as an excuse to fire back up some updated graphs and tables that I’ve put on the site thus far, with data updated through 33 matches (32 for Hearts and Caley), as well as some individual player graphs. Batter in.
Leigh Griffiths has continued his superb season. Despite not scoring in 3 of the last 4 matches, Griffiths is mostly over-performing expectations in Goals per 90 based on his xG per 90. Kane Hemmings has continued to also perform well this season, as we see his scoring more often than what we would expect based on his expected goals total.
As the season progressed, we continued to see successful strikers in the SPFL Premiership get a high number of their shots on target. It is no surprise that the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Adam Rooney, Kane Hemmings, and Liam Boyce all have at least half of their shots on target. It also makes sense that these players have a high expected goals and expected goals per 90 minutes and are able to get so many shots on target. These guys are getting shots off in positions that have a higher probability of scoring, and thus are able to get more shots on target.
As I tweeted when I updated the Team Table, as we head to split of the SPFL table the 6 clubs with the best expected goal difference are the clubs that make up the top 6 of the league. Pretty Good. Yet we see that Dundee has a higher expected goals total than both Motherwell and St. Johnstone, yet the Dees will be “slumming it” in the bottom 6 to end the season. Clearly, the Well and Saints did something to edge out Dundee for the top 6 on the defensive end (that is what they call in the “biz” a transition!)
Continuing to look at the clubs that were battling for the last few top 6 spots, Dundee and Motherwell conceded the same amount of goals per game, while Saint Johnstone conceded more. However, Saint Johnstone conceded fewer shots on target per match than those two. In addition, both Saint Johnstone and Motherwell concede lower expected goals per match this season. They were able to better limit the higher scoring opportunities than Dundee was, and thus have a spot in the Top 6.
Ross County needed a last day victory, while Partick Thistle and Dundee to lose to sneak into the top 6. The Staggies had one of the higher goals against per game this season, yet had one of the best expected goals against per match, shots conceded per match and expected goal differential. With those type of numbers and the worst save rate in the Premier League at 59.56%, it would not be unfair to think that County’s keeper can shoulder some of the blame for the high amount of goals they have conceded. Scott Fox did miss a portion of the season through injury, but still has the majority of the minutes for Ross County this season. While the club is very much a small club and has overachieved to reach this spot in the table, County should think of upgrading their keeper this off-season. If they can improve between the sticks and keep much of their young core, they could realistically dream of finishing better than their assured top 6 finish this year. However, they should look to their Highland neighbors Inverness Caley Thistle as a warning if they stagnate over the off-season after Caley won the Scottish Cup and qualified for Europe last season and now face a bottom 6 finish.