The curios case of FF Jaro, or: why not all shots are created equal

This is something I wrote during the winter as something of a brief introduction to my ExpG numbers, that has become slightly relevant again what with SJK sacking Alexei Eremenko Jr. five games into his contract. The Eremenko Jr. effect is something I’ll touch on in a later blog post. I apologize for the lousy picture quality.

FF Jaro is a small team from a predominantly Swedish-speaking area of the west coast of Finland. Last season they ended a 15-year stay in the Veikkausliiga (the top division of Finnish football) by finishing dead last in the table. Inconspicuous as it may sound, it was everything but. According to the most basic statistics available, FF Jaro were a more than competent team, and better than at least four or five of their rivals. So can a team finish last, yet be better than roughly half of the teams they’ve faced? To answer the question, let’s look at the stats.

Under manager Alexei Eremenko Senior, FF Jaro has evolved into one of the best passing teams in the country. Their possession and pass completion rates score above average in the league, as can be seen in the chart below, and they are slightly above average in passes per match.


Eremenko Senior really seems to have a knack for developing players in his own mold. A playmaking midfield maestro (for FF Jaro in three stints, among others) in his playing days, he has not only overseen the development of Simon Skrabb (scorer of the goal of the season in the Swedish Allsvenskan last year), but has also personally conceived three Finnish international midfielders: Alexei Junior, Roman and Sergei (who, at 17, is only a youth international, but he’s getting there) who have all played for Jaro.

The Eremenko family is, then, quite intrinsically linked with FF Jaro as a club. Since it is one of the most recognizable family names in Finnish football, it should be considered a compliment, but it’s not always that black and white. Last season, for example, seemed to derail when Alexei Senior signed his troubled eldest son Alexei Junior and proceeded to play him in a for him uncomfortable deep playmaking role. Before his signing Jaro had been winning a point per game on average, which, had it lasted the whole of the season, would have seen them finish a solid ninth in the league. After the signing, Jaro only managed a measly 0,69 points per game. Eremenko Junior’s offensive contribution was also quite poor, which suggests that his signing was maybe a tad self-indulgent rather than in the best interest of the team.

Pass stats are a decent indicator of playing style, but they don’t really have much to do with how many points a team accrues over a season. Looking at shot stats instead shows that Jaro managed a totally decent 52% Total Shots Ratio, which was sixth best in the league. Total Shots Ratio compares the amount of shots a team takes to the amount of shots it allows (shots taken + shots conceded/shots taken) and serves as a decent indicator of team performance. According to FF Jaro’s TSR, they should have been much higher in the table, but TSR is only a ‘decent’ indicator for a reason. Jaro couldn’t make their shot dominance count which can be seen in their league-worst shot conversion rate of 7,1% (league average is about 10%). So for some reason, Jaro managed to create enough chances to perform well, but just couldn’t put them away.


The reason for this discrepancy can be found in the team’s Expected Goals statistic. Expected Goals (or ExpG henceforth) are basically shots weighted with their historical likeliness of going in. Jaro’s ExpG difference (ExpG for – ExpG against) was -6,98, which was the fourth worst in the league, but what set them apart in a bad way was their ExpG/Shot of 0,078, which was by some distance the worst in the league and way below the league average 0,095. This indicates that the reason for Jaro’s poor conversion rate was that they were attempting too many low probability shots, which simultaneously boosted their TSR to an unrealistic level.


In the end Jaro arguably wasn’t even the worst team in the division. KTP ended with the worst goal differential as well as the (by far) worst ExpG differential in the league. For some reason, be it luck or something else, Jaro still managed to finish three points behind them in the table – not that it matters, they’ll both slug it out in the first division next year since KTP lost their relegation playoff against second placed Ykkönen side PK-35. We will, however, be much the wiser heading into the impending season not to treat all shots equally.


4 thoughts on “The curios case of FF Jaro, or: why not all shots are created equal

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