If you are a regular reader of the website, firstly thanks but secondly you will no doubt be aware that I am keeping a keen eye at how efficient teams are in not just the Premier League but also the four other major European leagues, they of course being La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A. But what if we ask the question who has the best defence

I then looked at the data from the other end of the pitch and analysed just how many shots a Premier League team can absorb before conceding – the last time we looked at that was back in Week 11 of the season, so apologies that has not quite been up to date but there has been a whole raft of data to look at in the meantime.

Once again thanks to whoscored.com for all the necessary data.

Here is the Premier League table with additional information such as the amount of shots faced this season and per game average.

Team Shots pg Games Played Total Shots
Manchester City 5.9 15 89
Manchester United 12.1 15 182
Chelsea 10.9 15 164
Liverpool 7.9 15 119
Arsenal 9.4 15 141
Tottenham 8.7 15 131
Burnley 15.1 15 227
Watford 16.4 15 246
Leicester 16.5 15 248
Everton 17.6 15 264
Southampton 16.7 15 251
Brighton 15.1 15 227
Stoke 15.9 15 239
Bournemouth 13.0 15 195
Newcastle United 16.1 15 242
Huddersfield 20.1 15 302
West Bromwich Albion 15.6 15 234
Crystal Palace 17.7 15 266
West Ham 15.6 15 234
Swansea 16.2 15 243

Let’s now rejig the order of that list with the 20 Premier League teams sorted in order of their defensive ratio – highest to lowest this time around

Team GA Shots Faced Defensive Ratio
Manchester United 9 182 20.2
Burnley 12 227 18.9
Southampton 18 251 13.9
Chelsea 12 164 13.6
Swansea 18 243 13.5
Leicester 20 248 12.4
Brighton 19 227 11.9
Huddersfield 26 302 11.6
Bournemouth 17 195 11.5
West Bromwich Albion 21 234 11.1
Newcastle United 22 242 11.0
Crystal Palace 25 266 10.6
Tottenham 13 131 10.0
Watford 26 246 9.5
Everton 28 264 9.4
Manchester City 10 89 8.9
Stoke 30 239 8.0
Arsenal 19 141 7.4
West Ham 32 234 7.3
Liverpool 19 119 6.2

But as regular readers will know by now, things always look better in a graph. Well at least they do in my opinion


Manchester United may be second in the Premier League but they are on top when it comes to defence. That is true when we look at goals conceded this season with Jose Mourinho’s men only conceding nine goals from their first 15 matches, an average of 0.6 per game.

But they also absorb the most shots per goal, as things stand David De Gea can deal with 20.2 shots per goal which when you look at the fact that he had to deal with 33 when up against Arsenal last week would have meant that he performed above average and when you consider his performance that statement could not ring any more true.

Burnley were second when I last looked at the list four game weeks and although they are have lost their last two matches in the Premier League their defence still looks pretty resolute, as Nick Pope can currently deal with an average of 18.9 shots before conceding.

The most drastic collapse though is Tottenham, life without Toby Alderweireld is a real concern at present. The last time that Mauricio Pochettino’s men won a Premier League game they would only concede once every 14 shots, it is now four less as Hugo Lloris is breached one in every ten shots.

This means that Tottenham have gone from the third best defence in terms of shots to goals against ratio to 13th in the space of four weeks. Toby or not Toby that is the question, it certainly looks like the North London club need the Belgian back and quickly.

An interesting measure is Manchester City who can only deal with an average of 8.9 shots per goal, which does not sound all that impressive but you have to take into account that their defence is hardly troubled therefore they should not be all that fussed by this as they at least have a watertight back line.

There are two ways of looking at this, Manchester City have so much possession that they have little worries at the back and therefore in turn hardly have to deal with any shots. Naturally they will concede because they are not superhuman but at the same time this means that when they do they will be unfairly rated in this ranking list.

Whereas it looks like Manchester United can seemingly invite pressure as we saw on Saturday night but manage to withstand that, whether you can make the conclusion about busses being parked by Jose Mourinho is up to you, but that is an argument that I am going to steer clear off for now.

Liverpool at the bottom of the list probably sit in the middle of the two schools of thought, they have certainly had their defensive woes this season and also seem to be inviting a lot of shots so their ratio is probably a truer reflection than that of Manchester City’s but still with a small caveat attached to it.

Here is the Premier League if it was ranked by defence – with lowest chances against at the top

Team GA Shots Faced
Manchester City 10 89
Liverpool 19 119
Tottenham 13 131
Arsenal 19 141
Chelsea 12 164
Manchester United 9 182
Bournemouth 17 195
Burnley 12 227
Brighton 19 227
West Bromwich Albion 21 234
West Ham 32 234
Stoke 30 239
Newcastle United 22 242
Swansea 18 243
Watford 26 246
Leicester 20 248
Southampton 18 251
Everton 28 264
Crystal Palace 25 266
Huddersfield 26 302


As you can see the big six are also the teams that have faced the least shots this season, does this add any credence to the fact that they have the best six defences – arguably not when you look at the likes of Burnley who have only conceded 12 goals this season and the fact that Swansea have conceded the less goals than that of Arsenal and Liverpool and they are bottom of the table.

What we could do is compare goals conceded vs chances faced and see how the two metrics balance out

SR – Shots Faced Ranking
GAR – Goals Against Ranking

Team GA Shots Faced SR GAR
Manchester City 10 89 1 2
Liverpool 19 119 2 9
Tottenham 13 131 3 5
Arsenal 19 141 4 10
Chelsea 12 164 5 4
Manchester United 9 182 6 1
Bournemouth 17 195 7 6
Burnley 12 227 8 4
Brighton 19 227 9 11
West Bromwich Albion 21 234 10 13
West Ham 32 234 11 20
Stoke 30 239 12 19
Newcastle United 22 242 13 14
Swansea 18 243 14 7
Watford 26 246 15 16
Leicester 20 248 16 12
Southampton 18 251 17 8
Everton 28 264 18 18
Crystal Palace 25 266 19 15
Huddersfield 26 302 20 17

If you look at the huge disparity between Liverpool’s SR and GAR then that will explain just as to why they can absorb such fewer chances, the same can be said for Arsenal who also have a huge disparity between the two. While there is very little difference between the two metrics when we look at Manchester City, again we need to consider whether or not they should really be looked down upon for being so resilient in defence.

That will definitely have given us some food for thought going forward and now the task will be to link this data with the shot efficiency article of the same point of the season and look at just what correlations there are, when that comes about we will then be able to point at what ends of the pitch are either over or under performing.

I’ll close this article off now as otherwise it is danger of getting far too long and I don’t want to hit you with too many stats in one hit. However this is certainly a topic that we will return to as once we connect all the pieces of the puzzle then we can take the analysis on to a new level. The joys of being a freelance football statistician.


I hope this was of interest to you and if you would like to discuss any potential work ideas with me then please feel free to email me at realfootballmanwordpress@gmail.com as I am always looking to undertake additional projects to the ones I already have. Thanks, Dan.