Can this be optimal?

I’ve been gradually warming up to soccer, at least as played by the better European clubs. But one question I have is this:: ESPN, The Magazine, 9/19, p. 114, reports that in the English Premier League, averaging over the last four seasons, the percentage of shots on goal was a hair more than 36%.

To compare, the percentage of passes completed in the NFL on 3rd down and 8 or longer is roughly–this season, as I write–about the same. But in the NFL the receiver will usually be personally defended, the passer will often be pressured, and most importantly, the receivers’ reach is much, much smaller than a soccer goal. I understand that soccer players should shoot for the edges of the goal because that reduces the chances of the goalie blocking the shot.

But can it really be smart to shoot nearly 2/3 of the time with no chance of scoring? I assume so because there are many, independent, highly paid professionals in competition, but it seems odd.

Craig Newmark

Associate Professor of Economics, North Carolina State Univ.

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