It was noticeable when Chris Powell came into the role as Huddersfield Town manager, the first thing he wanted to do was to shore up the defence; reasonably enough – if you don’t concede a goal, you can’t lose a game; that has seen the goals conceded per game drop from 2.60 to 1.67; which is a significant amount.
However, the more eye-catching changes have come up front, where the arrival of Grant Holt has shaken up a previously light-weight forward line. As of late, the goal-scoring figures bear that out – Town score slightly more goals under Chris Powell (1.44 per game) than they did before his arrival (1.33), but that average has only recently gone higher.
So what has changed?
Well, for a start, The Terriers are having more shots. One of the rubrics that can be used to predict how a team will perform over the course of a season is ‘Shot Dominance’; basically, the amount of shots a team has in comparison to their opponents. The higher the ShDom figure, the more likely a team is to succeed, with a figure around 1.00 representing an average team.
That stands to reason. If you have 10 shots, and your opponents have 10 shots, you would expect the average number of goals you each score to be the same, too. That figure can be refined a little to Shots On Target Dominance in order to negate those long range efforts that hit the corner flag that really have no bearing on anything.
In the first of those ways of looking at performances, Chris Powell’s Town side have actually regressed since he joined. Instead of hanging around 1.10-1.20 it is dipping gradually towards 1.00. Huddersfield Town, it seems, are an average Championship side. That’s not a surprise – I use the word average in its original sense. It means there’s about 12 sides better and about 12 sides worse. Finish 12th or 13th, and Chris Powell will have done a decent job this season, I would say.
In the other measure – in Shots On Target – they’re improving; that’s a good sign at the very least; if you have fewer shots, but more are on target, you’re doing something right.
I ought to mention at this point that the bold lines are the important ones – they’re the running average. The faded lines are game-by-game results; it’s nonsensical to look at them in isolation, but they illustrate why the change is going on overall.
So, if they’re not having as many shots as they were, what is the difference? Well, it comes two-fold.
Firstly, in the quality of those shots. A look at the percentage of shots that were on target shows that there’s no real change to that trend; the figure is just over (%SOT) 30% and has been all season. However, there’s a marked improvement in the number of shots on target that are finding the back of the net (%SOTG - % Percentage of Shots On Target (That Were) Goals) – indeed, since Powell took the reins, he’s seen that figure leap from 18% to 24%. That might not seem a huge amount to leap up, but it is.
Powell’s side average 15 shots per game. Given that 30% of those are on target, it means that there’s around 5 shots on target per match. 18% is less than a goal per game. 24% is more than a goal per game (albeit only slightly). Seeing that clinicality is on an upward trend, though, it will be interesting to see how it develops over the next few games.
Ultimately, while the new look Huddersfield Town may be shooting at goal less, they’re making a better fist of it when they do. Quality, it seems, rules rather than quantity.
There are reasons for this, though the numbers illustrate only what is fairly obvious from the outset; the side are balanced far better under Powell than previously; Sean Scannell’s resurgence is key in this, as is Powell’s willingness to trust Harry Bunn.
Both of those represent have been hugely responsible for the upturn in form and, looking at a graph of where Town have attacked, it’s clear to see that the wide areas are becoming not just more important, but better balanced, too.
Having two wide men creating chances for players in central areas sounds a very old fashioned idea and while in some ways it is, and certainly Grant Holt will tick a few ‘old-fashioned’ centre forward boxes, there’s more to Scannell and Bunn than that. The latter (in particular) has a fair few goals to his name as well as the wide play, while the former Crystal Palace man looks reborn of late. Credit must go to Sean Scannell and his willingness and ability to do something with the ball when he has it.
For clarification – though Scannell has only played 64% of the season to date (818 minutes) he has created 13, or 8.2%, of Huddersfield Town’s chances. It’s an impressive contribution; compare him with Harry Bunn and his 899 minutes (71%) have created 11 chances (7.0%).
To finish; the second part of the dominance stat comes about because it is a comparison between Huddersfield Town and their opposition. The fact is that Town are becoming more dominant in terms of shots despite having fewer of them. How can that be? They’re allowing fewer shots, too.
That’s a simple enough test to judge by and is easily seen on another graph. The top line is the general number of shots – you’ll see that that remains a little inconsistent for both sides, but the shots on target number is diminishing for Town’s opposition week after week. Again, the fewer shots you have, the less likely to score. The fewer of those are on target, and that decline of likelihood is redoubled.
Chris Powell, then? He’s not just brought about a more effective attack but is showing the beginnings of a more effective defence. It’s been a fine start.