Why Lampard could pay the penalty against Bayern

After another penalty miss by Frank Lampard last week, Differentgame was asked: “Does Lampard put every penalty to the keeper’s right?” Two things struck us after we had watched all of Lampard’s penalties:

  1. He’s taken a lot of bloody penalties
  2. YouTube just gets better and better

Anyway, after studying Lampard’s penalty record for Chelsea and England (all competitions and even friendlies) here’s where Frank puts ‘em:

Lampard Penalty Record

The answer to the original question was obviously always going to be “no” and the variation in those penalties actually looks quite good to the untrained eye.

However, to the trained eye, that of economists using the Nash equilibrium (yes,  A Beautiful Mind, John Nash) it’s a little bit unvaried. Game theory (“If we all go for the blonde, we block each other, not a single one of us is going to get her”) suggests that a right footed taker such as Lampard should go right 61.5% of the time.

If you split the goal right down the middle, Frankie actually goes right 73% of the time. Even 8 of his 10 straighter ones have veered slightly to the keeper’s right (and the two that didn’t, he slipped over as he struck the ball)

Despite his poor grasp of economic theory, Lampard’s scored 58 out of 70 penalties.  A conversion rate a shade under 83%. Not bad. But let’s dig a little deeper.

Here’s where Lampard’s first 53 penalties went:

Lampard Penalty Record

Split the goal in half and at 68% to the keeper’s right he’s closer to that optimal 61.5% for those first 53 spot kicks. His conversion rate was nearly 87%

But here’s where his last 17 went:

Lampard Penalty Record

Splitting the goal in half again, Frank’s getting miles away from that Nash equilibrium. 88% of his last 17 penalties have gone to the keeper’s right and his conversion rate for those 17 was just 71%

The data shows that the keepers are getting a little bit wiser but not much – diving to their right a touch more in recent times compared to overall.

The data also shows that Lampard’s missed nearly 20% of all the penalties he’s ever put to the keeper’s right. He’s missed less than 11% of those he’s put to the keeper’s left.

So why does he keep putting them to the keeper’s right?

It’s his comfort blanket.

He reacted to missing two in a row for the first time by switching to the keeper’s left 3 times in a row. He scored 3 times. He then picked up his comfort blanket again and it served him well until the nightmare summer of 2010 when he missed 3 in a row. First he dragged wide in the FA Cup Final v Portsmouth. Two weeks later Japan’s Kawashima kept him out in a World Cup warm-up match. To cap it off, Thomas Sorensen kept out another at the start of the new Premier League season.

The comfort blanket was duly dropped and only 1 of the next 5 went to the keeper’s right. All 5 were scored. Back on track, safe and warm, the comfort blanket was picked up again. He missed immediately, Mark Schwarzer making a fine stop. But even that didn’t deter Frank. The 3 since have all gone to the keeper’s right – even the last one against Schwarzer  – who guessed right again but couldn’t keep it out.

And just to clarify, there are no “tells” in Lampard’s habits. Each time he takes up the same position just inside the D (about two yards to the left of the ball), licks his lips a few times, looks to the referee to blow his whistle, then begins an evenly paced run up.

The Germans have historically made a habit of noting penalty takers’ proclivities. It seems to have stood them in good stead. You’ve been warned, Frank. Manuel Neuer knows where you live.

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This article was written in May 2012. The full up to date list of Frank Lampard penalties can be seen here.

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One Response to Why Lampard could pay the penalty against Bayern

  1. Mark says:

    Great article Paul, I have to say that when it comes to penalties its not the “lottery” pundits clame it to be, its more a game of poker. If the keeper knows what cards you are likley to have in your deck (where you place your penalties), and is good at reading people then it gives them an edge. If of the taker takes a good penalty ie fast, targeting the corners low down then they will score. The problem is this is alot harder to do under pressure.

    Ps Martinez has worked miracles with what he has had to work with. I agree that his defensive coaching is poor, but the way Wigan finally clicked at the end of the season saw them play Man U, Chelsea and others off the park and I mean take them to school. The passing, movement and technique was great to watch. Not reday for a big big job bur certainly more than Villa, Everton perhaps?

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