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Thursday
Jun232011

WPA and AGW: Van Persie is overrated

Well, maybe the title is a little exaggerated. What I really mean is the value of Van Persie's goals last season are overweighted. On the other hand, Darren Bent's goals were undervalued. The explanation comes from WPA, or "win probability added".

If you read the last post, I explained win probability. If not, check it out here. Because we have a probability for every game situation, I was able to weight goals by the added win probability a team has from that goal. In soccer, is a little more complicated because teams can tie. To solve this, I use win percentages instead of win probability. To get a team's win percentage you weight a win as 1 point, a draw as 1/3 of a point, and a loss as 0. The sum of these divided by the number of games a team has played gives us the win percentage. I guess in this case it should be win percentage added instead.

The added part comes in by calculating how much a goal adds to a teams win percentage. Here are a couple of examples:
-A goal in the 95th minute to put the home team up by a goal would have a WPA of .666666. A tie game in the 95th minute gives the home team a win percentage of .33333 (almost every time they will draw the game). However, in this case the home team scored. Now the score is 1-0 in the 95th minute. Now the home team's win percentage is almost 1 (almost every time they will win the game). To get the WPA of the goal we subtract the win percentage before the goal (.3333) from the win percentage after the goal (1). This gives us a WPA of .666666

Basically what WPA does is values goals that are more important to the team. In the example above, that goal is obviously very important to the team. However, a goal in the 90th minute to put a team up by 6 would be worthless to the team. That goal would have a WPA of 0.

I calculated the WPA of the top scorers in the EPL last season (players with more than 10 goals). Interestingly enough, the list shook up a bit. The table is below.


Notably, Darren Bent moves up to first on the list, and Van Persie moves down to 8th. Beyond this, I wanted to know which players tend to score more important goals and which players score non-important goals. Obviously, Van Persie has a higher WPA than most of these players because he scored a lot more goals than them. 

The way I did this was to calculate the average WPA of a goal by a player. I called this the Average Goal Weight, or AGW. The list of the AGW versus goals is below.


Not surprisingly, Van Persie moves to the bottom of the list, and Bent stays at the top. So what does all this mean? I don't think its a good idea to jump to the conclusion that Van Persie is not a good goal scorer. Despite everything, he scored 18 goals last season, which is good no matter how you score them.  However, I think AGW is a good supplement to the top goal scorers list. Last season, Bent was consistently scoring goals that added a whole 10 points to the winning percentage than Van Persie on average.

You shouldn't base your entire assessment of a goal scorer only on AGW. However, I think its something to take in to account.

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Reader Comments (1)

Excellent post. Maybe I've missed something but how do you value goals in between the two extremes mentioned? Do they still have a WPA of zero?

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBabak Golriz

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