Three teams that must…improve their attack

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The World Cup is now a distant memory, and Premier League teams are firmly focussed on readying their squads for the new season. Many have already acted decisively in the transfer market – the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Alexis Sanchez will all be lighting up English grounds next season.

But in the coming weeks, this activity is sure to escalate even further. Of those teams who competed in the Premier League season last year, here are three who should be particularly prioritising attacking recruits during the remainder of the summer transfer window.

Crystal Palace

Tony Pulis undoubtedly enjoyed a fantastic first season at the helm in South East London, taking the Eagles to an unlikely 11th place finish. With strong performances based on defensive solidity (the Eagles kept 11 clean sheets throughout the season), Pulis prioritised being difficult to beat. But when we review Palace’s performances across the season, we can see that despite the effectiveness of their tactics, there remain some significant deficiencies when it comes to attacking.

Only Cardiff and Norwich, both of whom were relegated, scored fewer goals than Crystal Palace last season, and it isn’t difficult to see why. In total, Palace registered the fewest shots of all Premier League teams last season (414), and only four sides that survived hit fewer shots within the opposition penalty box (236 – a key metric for assessing how likely a team is to score a goal).

These indicators tell us that Palace had a problem creating any kind of goal scoring opportunity. Even more concerning is that despite this low level of chance creation, working to Premier League averages regarding chance conversion, they still should have scored more goals than they did. On average, one in every twenty four shots from outside the box during last season went in, while one in every seven inside the box found the net. For Palace, these ratios were one in 36 and one in eight respectively.

This shows that Pulis’ side had difficulties creating and converting chances of any quality during last season, and indicates that as well as a more flexible tactical approach, the Eagles would benefit from significant midfield and attacking recruits this summer.

Newcastle United

Newcastle have already been busy this summer as the club seeks to reinforce its depleted ranks. Having seen a number of players leave, including top scorer Loic Remy, the signings of Cabella, De Jong, Janmaat, Riviere and Colback will have been a welcome sight for Geordies. But despite these signings, a review of the Magpies’ performances last season show a clear need to do more to sharpen their attack in the forthcoming campaign.

Newcastle notched 43 goals last season, significantly fewer than those teams that Newcastle fans would be hoping to compete with managed (Everton registered 61, Tottenham 55, and Southampton 54). In headline terms, this may at first seem surprising. Newcastle actually registered the fifth highest number of shots on the opposition goal of all teams in the Premier League last season (583). But looking just at this number is highly misleading. When it comes to creating better quality chances – those in the opposition penalty box – the Magpies fared less well (just 271).

No team in the Premier League last season took a lower proportion of its shots within the opposition box than Newcastle, highlighting the overwhelming tendency of their players to shoot from distance, perhaps indicating a lack of movement up front, or a lack of guile in midfield. And although they managed to create a reasonable number of chances in the box, their conversion rates again lagged behind the league average for the season – one in eight inside the box, and a staggering one in 45 outside it.

This shows that Pardew urgently needs to address the attacking play of his side in the season ahead. Shooting from distance must be curtailed, and De Jong and Cabella empowered to provide new options to create better quality chances inside the opposition box. Once inside the box, Riviere must add a more clinical final touch, and Cisse must recapture his form of 2011/12. And there may still be a case for further attacking recruits in the remainder of the window.

Hull City

For many, Steve Bruce was a strong contender for manager of the year last season, leading the Tigers through contention off the pitch, to a relatively comfortable Premier League finish, and an FA Cup final. But despite spending big on new strikers during the January transfer window, Bruce’s side continued to struggle for goals, and will need to improve in 2014/15 if they are to progress.

Hull City could only muster 38 goals last season, with only Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Norwich City registering fewer. On 16 separate occasions, Bruce’s men failed to score at all, reflecting the low level of overall chances Hull created in 2013/14 (428) and the lack of good quality chances created inside the opposition box (233).

Although the number of long range efforts Hull converted was broadly in line with the Premier League average of one in 24, inside the box, their conversion rate was one in eight. This hints at a lack of composure in front of goal from expensive January recruits Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, who may have finished joint top scorers for the Tigers, but could each only manage 4 goals.

Once again, these numbers emphasise the need for Bruce to look again at the shape and style of his side going in to the new season if they are to improve their record in front of goal. New signings Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass will provide the side with more pace and width, and the opportunity to put more crosses into the box. But aside from creating more dangerous chances, they will also need to improve their finishing within the box to move further up the league table.

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