Since I have been writing about statistical analysis in football, I have noticed I start to resent clubs that perform above what their underlying statistics suggest they should. I would not classify it as “hate”, but I often find myself rooting for these types of clubs to see a regression to the mean that the numbers might forecast. However, this season I cannot help but root for Ranheim to continue to overachieve and shock Norwegian football.
Since their arrival in Norway’s top flight this season, Ranheim have been so damn likable! Their goal GIFs on Twitter are both funny and a great example of creative interactions clubs can have on Twitter. They are a smaller club who have been able to compete with the big boys of Norwegian football this season, sitting only behind Brann and ahead of their much larger Trondheim neighbors Rosenborg in the table. They were facing a wind-up order as recently as 2016, yet have been able to recover from these financial troubles and compete for an Eliteserien medal.
All of these factors make Ranheim extremely easy to support for a neutral. However, given our analytical nature here at KroneBall, we must report the numbers suggest this second in the table form Ranheim have put forth thus far is likely not sustainable. So what have the noisy neighbors of Trondheim done so far to find themselves in these uncharted territories of the table and why is not likely to continue?
Much of Ranheim’s early success is down to their attack through 13 matches. With 25 goals scored, Ranheim lead the league in scoring thus far. Pretty impressive given some of the big name strikers at other clubs. While scoring 25 goals in 13 matches is incredibly impressive, looking at Ranheim’s conversion rate numbers we see that their goal scoring could be unsustainable.
Our pal and colleague at Modern Fitba Seth Dobson, a Scottish football analytics site we help run, has previously written about conversion rate and how long it takes to stabilize. Conversion rate is found by taking goals scored divided by shots taken. Seth found that conversion rate can see large spikes in variance in small samples, but eventually stabilizes after a certain number of shots. Using data from Scottish football, he found that it takes about 1,200-1,300 shots before conversion rate stabilizes, as well as a 12-14% conversion rate being the average. With this information, Seth highlights the issue with reading too much into conversion rate from a small sample. A player or team seemingly scoring with every chance they take is just a bit of regression to the mean away from seemingly missing every chance.
Using the data the wonderful people at Stratabet provide us, we can utilize Eliteserien data to see if these same trends Seth found in Scottish football also translate to Norwegian football. In the graph above we see the conversion rate for every shot taken in Eliteserien last season. We see in the graph a similar trend as in Scottish football, where conversion rate does not stabilize until roughly about 1,300 shots and the average conversion rate was between 12-14% last season.
So what does this all mean for Ranheim? Looking at their conversion rate, we see it is much higher than that average range of 12-14% at 21%. While some elite clubs and players see their conversion rate consistently higher than this range (Seth cites Celtic in Scotland in his article for example), we can safely expect Ranheim to see some regression in this metric as the season continues. To put it plainly, the goals might slow down for Ranheim.
If we take a look at some underlying statistics such as expected goals for Ranheim thus far, they substantiate this theory that they are overachieving. They have amassed an xG total of 13.99, 13th in Eliteserien so far. Compare this to the 25 goals they have scored and you see signs that Ranheim are far ahead of what we would expect based on these underlying statistics. Another sign a club could be overachieving is looking at the goal difference subtracted by their xG Difference. Ranheim, which is at 4.22. A positive number here signifies a team over-performing their underlying metrics. These numbers help support the idea that Ranheim’s second place form might not be sustainable.
The play of Mads Reginiussen so far for Ranheim is a great representation for the club’s season so far. The 30 year old striker is second in the league in goals scored so far, with 7 goals scored. Reginiussen has decent underlying statistics as well, with an xG total of 2.45 and 0.25 per 90, 26th and 32nd respectively. He is attempted 12 shots, averaging 1.2 per 90 minutes, and 0.20 xG per attempt. While this is an impressive xG per attempt, 10th highest in the league, Mads Reginiussen only averaging 1.2 shots per 90 would suggest that he would not be able to continue goal scoring form. Mads is able to get into good positions when he has gotten shots off this season, but has not gotten a lot of them.
This is further highlighted by the fact that so far this season Reginiussen has a conversion rate of 58.3%. FIFTY EIGHT POINT THREE PERCENT! Over half of Mads Reginiussen shots for Ranheim this season have been scored! That is an insane conversion rate! Now either Mads has waited until he is 30 years old to reveal he is, in fact, a peer of Messi and Ronaldo, or his goal scoring is just not sustainable.
If Ranheim’s attack is putting forth unsustainable numbers, could their defense bail them out if they regress to the mean and stop scoring at ungodly numbers? Probably not. The Trondheim club has conceded 21 goals this season, which is 13th in the league. Their underlying defensive stats are not much better, conceding 17.21 xG against, which is middle of the road at 7th in Eliteserien. They have conceded the 3rd highest number of shots in Eliteserien, allowing their opponents to take 154 chances this season.
Not all of the metrics around the Ranheim back line are bad though. Though they allow their opponents to take a lot of shots, they force their opponents to take a lot of lower quality shots. Ranheim have restricted their opponents and they have allowed the 3rd lowest percentage of their shots conceded from the danger zone, or the area in the 18 yard box in between the 6 yard box length wise. The fine Strata folks also quantify the the number of defensive players in between an attacker when they take a shot. Ranheim have the 2nd highest number of defenders on average between their opponent and the goal when their opponent takes a shot in Eliteserien. The numbers may not suggest the Ranheim defense is an elite one, but it certainly have some positive signs.
While I may have just spent 1,100 words justifying why I do not think Ranheim’s form so far this season is sustainable, I have some good news for Ranheim supporters. They cannot take away those points you have gotten already, even if the stats suggest you were a bit fortunate to get them. Furthermore, there are well known examples recently of football clubs who were performing above and beyond what their statistics suggest they would. It certainly worked out well for Leicester City!
A more than reasonable goal for Ranheim before the season began would have been to avoid relegation. If this was Ranheim’s aim before this Eliteserien campaign began, they are already nearly there. Last season Sogndal went to the playoff with 32 points and Sandefjord survived with 36. In 2016 Stabaek went to the playoff with 31 points and Tromso survived with 34 points. Ranheim are just a few points away from reaching these point totals.
Of course, Ranheim will now be setting their sights much higher than safety. While the stats would suggest that they cannot keep up this form, it would be an amazing story if they could keep up this form. A medal for Ranheim would be an unbelievable story, but Ranheim hoisting the trophy on the last day of the Eliteserien season would be a movie I would be first in line to view.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.