Is Too Much Weight Placed On The Assist?

7 September 2020 | Performance
Is Too Much Weight Placed On The Assist?
The statistical boom that has overwhelmed football in the past few years has certainly been a positive one. Never have we had more numerical input at our fingertips and this has enabled more informed discussion at all levels of the game. Whether you are a fan or truly understand the concept of xG, there is no doubt that it is around to stay and although this signifies the first in a new wave of football metrics, it is one of the original set that may need greater focus.

Because in this day and age, goals scored is simply not enough of a barometer for attacking talent and now the direction of travel seems to be based on goal contribution – a change that allows midfielders and attacking defenders to enter the conversation.

The goal contribution is an amalgamation of goals scored and assists – fuse the two together and you can begin to formulate a picture of which players are at the sharper end of the pitch when it really matters.

It is a measure that applies equal weight to both goals and assists, but in doing so one wonders if the picture is being distorted and because of this, does the statistic of goal contributions actually lack a vital amount of context.

If we take the scoring of a goal as the absolute gold standard in terms of statistics, to apply the same value to an assist seems rather heavy and although Ice Hockey offers a similar balance in terms of weight, perhaps this idea needs to evolve.

What if there was a more universal measure for broadcasters and analysts to use and one that does not have to be all that radical in terms of change. Instead it acts as nothing more than a simple tweak:

Goals – Worth 1 point
Assists – Worth 0.5 point

Add the two together and then you would have a much purer representation of a goal contribution table. To add some further context to the theory, let’s look at the Premier League values from the end of the 2019/20 season.

Nine players with the highest total goal contributions (when goals and assists are treated equally):

Player

Gls

Ast

G+A

Kevin De Bruyne

13

20

33

Mohamed Salah

19

10

29

Jamie Vardy

23

5

28

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

22

3

25

Sadio Mané

18

7

25

Danny Ings

22

2

24

Marcus Rashford

17

7

24

Raúl Jiménez

17

6

23

Anthony Martial

17

6

23


As you can see it is Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne who tops the contributions chart, which for a midfielder is an incredibly impressive feat. However, the picture looks different once we apply a new standard in terms of calculation.

Nine players with the highest total goal contributions (when assists are worth 0.5 points instead):

Player

Gls

Ast

G+A

Total Value

Jamie Vardy

23

5

28

25.5

Mohamed Salah

19

10

29

24

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

22

3

25

23.5

Danny Ings

22

2

24

23

Kevin De Bruyne

13

20

33

23

Sadio Mané

18

7

25

21.5

Raheem Sterling

20

1

21

20.5

Marcus Rashford

17

7

24

20.5

Raúl Jiménez

17

6

23

20


As you can see in the second table, De Bruyne actually drops to fifth in the charts and the winner of last season’s Premier League goal contributions becomes Jamie Vardy (who also snared the Golden Boot accolade for himself as well)

While looking at this table and the variations that are compared to the first, it does beg one question: Are midfielders or primary assist providers punished by this new scale? The answer is perhaps, but only because the previous measure needs recalibrating.

Ultimately it depends on your viewpoint, you cannot be given an assist without a goal being scored but you can score a goal for yourself and because of this, it can be argued that the act of net busting should be viewed at a higher level.

If we were to expand on this idea further, is there scope to create an ultimate game score by all the actions that are carried out by each of the individual players – something that we already see in the NBA.

A measure of each positive actions be it pass, tackle, assist, goals scored, and all applied with different weights in an overall formula. In doing so, it would stop match ratings being scored out of an arbitrary 10 and instead add genuine scale to performance.

Whether you believe that assists are equal to goals or not, hopefully this article will at least provoked an element of thought going into the new season and even if you do not agree, this should at least provide some form of additional context behind the numbers.

 

Written by Dan Tracey

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