Wednesday, 12 October 2016

How exciting is the English Premier League?

So, it's the start of the English Premier League (EPL) season. Sport generates vast amounts of data, all available for analysis and insight, and in this post (and probably a couple of following posts), I will be looking at the English Premier League (football, aka soccer) for recent years and reviewing how the game has changed. This will form a practical look at data, reporting, analysis, insight and actionable analysis.

This is a reconstructed post: I originally posted this in September but the post has since been deleted or lost.  Here's what I can remember of it.

There are a number of questions to be asked (and answered):

How 'exciting' is the English Premier League?

How many goals can you expect to see per game?
How many games end in goal-less draws?
How many games are won by a one-goal margin (perhaps a good definition of a tense, exciting game).

This data can then be used to compare the English Premier League with other leagues (in the UK and abroad).

So, to start with, what's the average number of goals per game (total scored by both teams) for each of the last eleven seasons.

And the answer is:

And how does this compare with the percentage of games that are dull, uninteresting, goal-less draws?

The line graph above shows the percentage of goal-less draws.  It doesn't exactly trend with the average number of goals per game, but when the percentage of goalless draws is high (2008-2009) then the average goals per game is low (less than 2.5).

This does lead to an interesting point that would make marketers and headline-writers happy: "Less than 10% of EPL games end in goalless draws" (excluding 2008-2009).

Now we can see that 2006-2007 had the lowest average number of goals per game, while 2011-2 had the highest; we can then analyse these two seasons side by side - see below - to understand where the differences were.

Key points:
- 2007 had 34 0-0 draws, compared to 27 for 2012.  Only 2008-9 had fewer (25).
- 2011-2 had more games with five, six, seven, eight and ten goals.  
- The highest scoring game in 2006-7 was Arsenal 6 - Blackburn 2.  
- In 2011-12, the highest scoring game was Man United 8 - Arsenal 2.

Finally, which seasons were most interesting from the perspective of one-goal winners?  Not just 1-0, but 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and so on.   
2011-12, with its huge average number of goals per game, doesn't do so well here.  2006-7 and 2007-9, the two games with low goals per game and high percentage of goalless draws, does marginally better - they were both really mean seasons.

Football data obtained from this football website; others are available.



Analysing the data at this level - with trended comparisons - has given us the ability to compare one time period with another.  There's nothing actionable here, but we get a nice headline about the percentage of 0-0 draws.  In the next post I wrote (chronologically, before the original version of this post was lost), I segmented the data by team, and that provided more interesting insights.

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