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Introducing PFF shooting grades and where Premier League players rank

2MAJKBW Manchester, UK. 19th January 2023. Harry Kane of Tottenham shoots wide during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Credit: Sportimage/Alamy Live News

After more than a decade of shaping the landscape of analytics in the NFL and college football, PFF now brings its renowned player grading system to soccer, evaluating every player for each event during a game.

Unlike traditional data, it measures “contribution to production” rather than just traits or measurables. The system looks at every play, giving a grade of -2 to +2 in 0.5 increments, with 0 being average. By taking every event into account, we create a large enough sample size to eliminate bias and help identify undervalued players while not being swayed by player hype. The grading system evaluates players objectively, regardless of their perceived level of ability.

In this article, we introduce the PFF Shooting Grade as a tool to identify different tiers of shooter performance in the Premier League. To make the comparison more intuitive, the plus-minus grades are converted to a 0-100 scale at the season level. This is done by adjusting the grades for the circumstances of the shot.

For example, the data shows that headers typically receive lower grades than shots, hence each header gets its grade normalized to represent its difficulty compared to other shots. These adjusted grades are then used to convert the distribution to a 0-100 scale, which takes into account the number of shots each player takes, to avoid being influenced by small sample sizes.

PFF grading

Tier 1: High Volume, High Quality:

  • Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
  • Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
  • Ivan Toney (Brentford)

Tier 2: Lower Volume, High Quality:

  • Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
  • Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
  • Anthony Gordon (Everton & Newcastle United)
  • Phil Foden (Manchester City)
  • James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
  • Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)

Tier 3: Decent Volume, Decent Quality

  • Darwin Nuñez (Liverpool),
  • Rodrigo (Leeds United),
  • Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal)
  • Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)
  • Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Tier 4: High Volume, Lower Quality

  • Aleksandar Mitrović (Fulham)
  • Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

There is a strong correlation between shot volume and quality, although the correlation is slightly inflated by the outliers from Tier 1. This suggests that players that are good at it tend to shoot more often, or vice versa. There are numerous exceptions though, most notably former Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah, who is struggling to execute on his opportunities.

Why do we grade shots that are disallowed after the fact? We do so if the players involved are still trying to perform. Not considering them would unnecessarily reduce the sample size of each player.

It is important to understand that PFF is not grading talent in these numbers; rather, strictly the performance on the field. Talented players can have bad games, runs, or even seasons, and often players without nearly as much talent can put together impressive play on the field. We are not necessarily telling you who the best players are. Our rankings are more of a performance evaluation and a reflection of how efficiently a player performed in the time he was on the field.

 

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