Highway to Fulham’s Danger Zone

By Tim

The fact that Fulham stink, that we’re terrible on both ends, that we can’t control the game anywhere, isn’t news.

But what’s worth exploring is just how bad we are.

Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) of Cartilage Free Captain has some great shot statistics that I highly recommend you check out. But what I want to focus on here is how he divvied up the one half of a football field into several Shot Matrix Zones. The word “matrix” makes even my head spin so bear with me.

Here’s the map:

(courtesy of Michael Caley)

And here’s why divvying the offensive zone is important: conceding shots closer to the net are easier for the offense to score. Shots further away are more difficult to score. This is a very simplistic maxim exists in most other ball/net games.

So, if a defense concedes a higher amount of shots closer to the net than they do the further away, it’s representative of bad defense.

Michael took Zones 1-3 and placed them into what he dubbed the Danger Zone (cue the Kenny Loggins!). Basically, if you’re conceding a high amount of shots from there your defense stin–


Fulham are leading the league with 241 shots in the DZ. Next to them is Cardiff with 232, followed by West Ham at 184. If you take the total of all DZ shots (3040) and average it out per club we’re nearly 100 over the average.

Of that total, 92–NINETY FREAKING TWO– are what’s considered on DZSoT, or shots actually target (what Bent is incapable of doing; also somehow Cardiff are one worse than us). We all know how we are repeatedly getting outshot, but this takes that figure to a whole new level.

What about the Wide Shots? Fulham aren’t as bad in that category–17th!–but second worst when it comes to Wide Shots on Target.

What we can glean from this is our opponents don’t need to shoot from odd angles inside the 18-yard box. No, they just can pass or dribble to a better location! (Cue 2nd half highlights from that home Southampton game)

Next up is Shots from outside the 18 yards box, or Zones 6-8.

Fulham are 2nd worst behind West Ham, and just 3 above Cardiff and Sunderland with 242 shots conceded from outside the 18 yard box. 34 of those are on target.

So not only are teams literally dribbling down our throats, we’re affording them time and space from outside the box. Think Mucha at home in September. Or both times Shelvey scored for Swansea. Or or I’ll stop now.

What does this mean? It means we literally cannot defend in any facet of the game. The 5-0 loss on Saturday wasn’t an anomaly, down to some refereeing decision, or because we were playing a team who exponentially outspent us. There is empirical precedent for losses of that magnitude to happen; and will probably happen again this season.

In fact, it might even happen this Sunday!

Although not particularly notable in one specific facet, Everton are still in the Top 8 in Offensive DZS, WS, and SoB. Hopefully the spectre of catching Arsenal/4th place will be a bridge too far for them and they’ll bottle it. Otherwise it’s going to be a long, long day.

So what about our offense?

We’re currently 19th, tied with Crystal Palace on just 117 shots in the Danger Zone. Let me repeat: We are tied with Pulis-ball. Let me repeat again: we are tied with Pulis-ball. For DZ shots on target, we’re tied for 18th with CP, Cardiff, and Swansea at 45. Moving away from the net, we’re not as awful in the wide areas or outside the box, but still in the bottom half of the league.

But our offensive futility is a chicken/egg thing: is it bad because our defense is awful, or is it bad for other reasons? In January we shipped off our moody but still very talented forward, and only mercurial play-maker, and thus have been left with starting highschoolers and the-footballer-formerly-known-as-Darren-Bent. Hence since the start of 2014 we’ve scored 11 goals in 12 games.

What’s the point of all this?

I suppose if this was a business, lawyers would recommend we file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (or whatever equivalent you guys in England have) and reorganize everything.

(Kenny Loggins cued!)

[Quick tangent: Kenny Loggins looks so 80s in this video but I’m fairly certain the barista that served me coffee this morning looked just like him. Everything old is new again..]

3 thoughts on “Highway to Fulham’s Danger Zone

  1. So how did we go from a defensive unit that can keep out Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus and was called the Thames Barrier to the worst team defensively by a long shot? The Shakhtar game was the best defensive game I have ever seen – we worked as one fluid defensive team, expanding and retreating depending on the threat. Making Shakhtar take impotent shots from long range.

    Did Jol not care about defense? Did he not do defensive drills? How can a team disintegrate like that?

    My worry is that it is a LOT easier to scrape to stay in the Premier League than it is gain promotion from the Championship.

    I am not sure how I will get to watch games in Australia when we get relegated :-(

    1. That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?

      Must be said that game and historic run was four years ago, and we should no longer compare the two as current peers.

      Personally think it’s a combination of coaching, in that Jol, like Sparky before him, came into a good setup and kept the status quo. This worked out for first 18 months. Yet when it came time to really earn his pay and adapt, he kicked the can down the road and didn’t bother change anything. Which is why toward the back end of last season, but mostly beginning of this season, our TSR et al were reaching historically low levels. There was really no excuse for it considering the warning signs that were appearing around this time last season.

      So take that and add our top 2 CBs regressing to Championship caliber. In fact one is currently playing there. For years the talk has been about replacing Murphy and strengthening the center mid, which was true, but I think we all overlooked our aging defensive stalwarts. This year alone we’ve had 6 different CBs, with an even larger number of pairings, and that may increase. Two seasons ago we had 4 total. Plus add to this the fact Reither is not a starting RB, of which fans are finally coming around to the realization, and we’ve had a ‘potpourri of poop’ at LB for several seasons despite Richardson’s recent uptick.

      We could then look at our midfield but enough ink has been spilled about them.

  2. Good piece Timmy. Sums up what a mess we’ve been in our own end. If memory serves, didn’t Roy used to tie the back four together in training to emphasize spacing and moving as a unit? That’s probably a bit extreme, but the focus on details like that can make all the difference. We don’t seem to have any discipline in keeping our shape throughout a match or in closing down passing lanes (another hallmark of Roy’s d) and teams run right through us as a result.

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