Not all goals are created equally. In fact, some aren't created at all, but offered up by the defense like a teriyaki sample plate. Here's a quick look at who's benefited (and been harmed) most by this sort of goal.
SportsMatrix went through the EPL season so far and counted each time a team made a mistake that led directly to a goal, a penalty being awarded, or a dangerous chance in front of net. From there, they compared the overall "gift" chances to the number of goals scored or conceded by each team on these plays. Here's how their chart for goals conceded looks:
This is fascinating stuff. (You can find the same chart for goals scored at the original post.) Arsenal, surprisingly, are the fourth-worst gift-giver in the EPL. Two of the top three, Norwich and Fulham, have given up 16 and 13 chances, respectively. And though they've only conceded five and six goals on those opportunities, they have given up league-worst totals of 31 and 35 goals overall on the season. So the chances themselves, at least on defense, seem to trend with the overall quality of a defense.
However, we wanted to take a look at how the goals scored in these situations fit into the overall figures for the season. (Note: We weren't quite sure when the cutoff for the SM piece was, so we assumed the games were as of Dec. 23.) The graphics at the top and bottom of this post show what percent of overall goals each team has scored or conceded on these "gift" chances. From this, we can extract something resembling luck.
The idea is this: the chances of converting on these opportunities are largely down to luck. The league average for them is 47 percent. For example, Chelsea are second overall in percentage of gift goals conceded (27.8 of all goals), and have conceded five goals on six gift chances. This is an average total of gift goals, but a crazy-high percentage. If they had instead conceded a more average three, they would dip under Everton's league-best 17 goals conceded, to 16. Everton, meanwhile, have allowed just one goal in nine gift chances, and are bottom in the league in percent of gift goals. Knock them up to a more average number (it's not all Tim Howard), and they're still a strong defense, but not the league leaders.
On the other side, Manchester City and Chelsea have both put away eight goals on 13 gift opportunities, far ahead of the league-wide conversion rate of 47 percent. Manchester United has seven goals on just nine such opportunities. It stands to reason that unlike the percentage of conceding gift goals, a team being able to turn them into goals should be sustainable for more talented teams. A team that's already wasteful in front of net will likely continue to be so when gifted chances at goal. However, we can still find some useful information here if we pick out teams that are scoring a lot in spite of not netting many gifted goals, or, more unfortunately, are relying on gift goals for an overwhelming amount of their offense.
Here we get more context that we would from just the gifted goals chart. Man City is tied for the most goals scored in gift situations, at eight, but has also scored a preposterous 53 goals this season, with just 15.7 percent having come from gift goals. Meanwhile, Hull has scored an averageish five goals on gift chances, but that accounts for nearly a third of its overall output. Anemic Fulham, Stoke, and Crystal Palace all rely on these goals for their offense as well, while—wholly unsurprisingly—Arsenal is total shit at getting them, and Liverpool are below average, meaning the Suarez-powered Reds attack has actually been slightly unlucky despite scoring 43 goals, second best in the league so far.
Obviously, there is nuance to all of these numbers. Certain sides, like Norwich or West Ham, are going to be overmatched more often than others, and be pressured into costly turnovers in their own third while failing to force any in the opposing third. And while Chelsea have been unlucky off of its turnovers, Liverpool and Arsenal are both shooting themselves in the head with sloppy play in defense. But while Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 precludes it from pressuring the ball much, and therefore winning as many gift chances as other clubs, Liverpool's pressuring 5-3-2 has given it plenty of them.
These are things you can see readily enough with your eyes, but it's a surprisingly easy thing to prove out as well. Since this was a holiday one-off by SM, you probably won't see this list updated any time soon, but we'll let you know if they do.
Overall goals charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum