Premier League Moneyball: Is Kevin De Bruyne as bad as Jonjo Shelvey?
The explosion of tactical analysis in football has brought a tactical revolution in football strategy. Teams are actively using analytic data to minimize low-value shots and maximise every scoring opportunity. My previous article, Premier League Moneyball, details this revolution.
Jonjo Shelvey the Inefficient Outlier
One clear outlier that is bucking the trend is Jonjo Shelvey. I’ve detailed his extremely low-value shooting habits before in my article about Newcastle. Here is a refresher on how inefficient Jonjo’s shooting decisions are.
Last season Jonjo took 37 shots from outside of the penalty area. He converted on 1 of those shots. Here is his lonely green goal dot from his goal chart from last season.
Not only did he only score 1 goal but he only put 9 shots on goal out of his 37. Here is his shot chart from last season.
I pick on Jonjo Shelvey because he is an extreme outlier and a high profile player in the Premier League who every fan knows and has an opinion on. The average Premier League team took only 39.7% of their shots from outside the penalty area. Jonjo took 88% of his shots from outside the penalty area last season! That’s an inefficient outlier.
Who is Manchester City’s Jonjo Shelvey?
Manchester City’s Jonjo Shelvey is none other than Kevin De Bruyne. Yes, you read that correctly! Manchester City’s Jonjo Shelvey is Kevin De Bruyne!
De Bruyne is one of the league’s elite players. Last season for Manchester City he scored 8 goals and had 16 assists in helping lead them to the title. The 16/17 season he had 6 goals and 18 assists and the 15/16 season he went for 7 goals and 9 assists.
How in the world is Kevin De Bruyne similar to Jonjo Shelvey?
Last season in the Premier League De Bruyne took 94 total shots. 72 of those shots were from outside the penalty area. That amounts to a Shelvey-esque 76.5% of his shots were from outside the penalty area. Remember the league average is 39.7% of shots from outside the penalty area. Here is a chart of his shots from open play (this excludes direct free kicks).
As you can see from the above the chart, it looks similar to Jonjo’s open play shot chart. One difference is De Bruyne has more shots inside the penalty area. He doesn’t avoid the penalty area like Jonjo but he has a similar shot profile from outside the penalty area.
But De Bruyne had 8 goals to Shelvey’s 1
Shelvey scored 1 goal on his 37 shots. De Bruyne had 8 goals on his 94 total shots. Jonjo converted 2.7% of his shots into goals. De Bruyne converted 8.5 % of his shots into goals. At first glance, De Bruyne is 3x more efficient than Jonjo but let’s dive deeper into De Bruyne’s shot decisions.
Good Kevin or Bad Kevin
Let’s break down De Bruyne’s 94 shots from last season.
De Bruyne had 22 shots last season from inside the penalty area and scored on 3 of those shots. His conversion rate inside the penalty area was 13.6%. Those are high-value fantastic chances.
Next, let’s look at his direct free kicks and set-piece shots. De Bruyne had 21 shots from direct free kicks and other set pieces which accounted for 2 of his 8 goals. That is a conversion rate of 9.5% of his set-piece shots were goals. Again that is a decent return.
The inside of the penalty area and set-piece shooting profile we can call Good Kevin. There is no problem with Good Kevin’s decision making.
That leaves us with 51 shots from open play that De Bruyne took from outside the area. Of those 51 shots, he scored 3 goals. That is a conversion rate of 5.8%
Those 51 shots from outside the area were inefficient high volume chances. Consider that Leroy Sane took 57 total shots, Gabriel Jesus took 56 total shots and David Silva took 54 total shots. Those are totals! De Bruyne’s shots from outside the area are nearly the same as the total shots taken by 3 of the most prolific teammates.
Let’s consider these 51 outside the penalty area shots as a separate player. That player would have a near identical profile to Jonjo Shelvey. Let’s call this separate player Bad Kevin.
Manchester City is littered with talented attacking players
Sergio Aguero had 94 total shots with 21 goals for a conversion rate of 22.3%.
Raheem Sterling had 87 total shots with 18 goals for a conversion rate of 20.6%
Leroy Sane had 57 total shots with 10 goals for a conversion rate of 17.5%
Gabriel Jesus had 56 total shots with 13 goals for a conversion rate of 23.3%
David Silva had 54 total shots with 9 goals for a conversion rate of 16.7%
Bad Kevin had 51 total shots with 3 goals for a conversion rate of 5.8%
What Should KDB do instead of shooting from distance?
De Bruyne is surrounded by talented highly efficient scorers. Taking a shot that will only result in a goal 5.8% of the time is not a wise option. He is going to need 17 shots to score 1 goal.
I will provide the same advice for Kevin De Bruyne as I wrote for Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie. Instead of blasting the hero shot, his team would be better served with him finding a better option, a more dangerous option.
If the option is De Bruyne shooting OR playing a through ball to Sterling/Aguero/Sane/Jesus/Silva the choice should always be to play the through ball. A successful through ball will result in a chance ranging from a 16.7% to a 23.3% shot!
The data tells us that De Bruyne needs to complete a through ball to Silva only 33% of the time for that pass to be a better option.
The data tells us that De Bruyne needs to complete a through ball to Gabriel Jesus only 25% of the time for that pass to be a better option than the 5.8% outside the penalty area shot.
Fans might not agree with the data as they want the spectacular goal, but the data shows that De Bruyne needs to play to his strengths which is playing dangerous passes instead of the hero shots. He has 16 and 18 assists the past two seasons at Man City. That number could be even higher!
Despite being the top dog in the Premier League there is room for even more attacking efficiency. My advice to Pep is to get rid of Bad Kevin and encourage only Good Kevin. Pep please get Kevin De Bruyne to stop shooting from outside the box as he is your Jonjo Shelvey.