Monday, 25 March 2013

The Premier League: The easiest Top Division to Score in?



So, I was thinking about the past last week (I know, it’s what keeps us Liverpool fans going, especially after defeats).  I was thinking in particular about Fernando Torres in his debut season for Liverpool (07/08). I remember the Premier League and Liverpool fans raving about him getting 24 goals in his debut season and it was very impressive. But then I looked at the Premier League leading goal scorers this season and there’s a great deal of players, with about 9 games to go who are already on double figures for league goals this season and it made me think there will be one or two more who will join Luis Suarez with more than 20 Premier League goals this term.
I then had a look in Italy, Spain and Germany’s top leagues to see how many of their players are into double figures this season and this is what I found.

The Premier League:
 

 The Bundesliga:
 
 La Liga:

 Serie A:


As you can see, there are a lot more players in the Premier League who are on double figures in comparison to their counterparts in the other top European leagues. 

Let’s have a good look, in the Premier League, there are 19 players with 10 or more goals. While in Serie A there is 12, in La Liga there is 13 and in the Bundesliga there is 11.

It’s a staggering difference. But why is this the case?

Could it be down to the players in England being far more clinical? Possibly, but I don’t buy it, the Premier League lads with 10 or more goals have the joint second highest average shot accuracy, behind Serie A. If it was down to better finishing, surely the more accurate Serie A players would be on double figures?

Stats Via Squawka
The Premier league also has the second highest amount of average shots per game (3.12). In terms of chance conversion, England have the worst out of the leagues analysed (21.31%). So if the Premier League strikers were overall better finishers, surely they would have a better chance conversion rate?
Another theory which I was considering was could it be down to the decline in quality of defending in the Premier League?  

Let’s look at the facts, the average Premier League team has conceded 41.85 goals this season, which is the worst out of the 4 leagues analysed. This clearly suggests the Premier League teams are struggling to keep a sturdy defence, but it’s all well and good saying that, but why? Is it down to woeful keeping or shoddy defending? 

Again, it’s hard to directly point the finger on one particular reason, after all each player and club is different. 

But a point a few intelligent people have suggested to me on Twitter, on the reason why more players in the Premier League getting into double figures is due to the growth of the versatile attacker. The type of attacker who can play anywhere across the attacking line, they can play in-between the lines and can crucially create in these positions. The result of this means defenders have to be more intelligent and more aware of the space in front and in and around their zone.
I think surge of agile, versatile and two –footed geniuses are having an effect on how teams defend in the Premier League. Perhaps there is a lack of understanding of how to deal with these types of players, after all when players like David Silva, Juan Mata, Cazorla and Suarez are given space between the lines, they can not only create for themselves, they can also create space and freedom for their team mates too. 

But I don’t think the poor defences and poor keeping is the outright reason why players in England are getting more joy. A part of me feels it is due to the lack of structure in Premier League playing style nowadays. Although far more teams are more comfortable on the ball, perhaps this has come at a cost, as in order to be a progressive passing team it is dependent on two things, 1.) the pass and 2.) the movement of the player who wants to receive the ball. But the problem can occur when the team without the ball press high and aggressively and the pass does not go from A to player B and because player B is now slightly out of position there is more room in the transition phase for the attacker to run into the space or pass into that space for someone to run onto. So in other words, I think Premier League teams are poor at defending transition phases meaning incredibly intelligent players can pick up and exploit these gaps in the opposition.  

When watching the Premier League, you can sometimes feel the unbalanced nature of it. You have these outstanding attackers who are waiting for these transition phases to be able to get the ball and dictate the game. While on the other hand, you have the defensive unit of the team, defending a transition and unlike the attackers they are not as confident or come into their own during this period. Too often in the Premier League especially during transitions you can see defensive players finding themselves out of position, or find themselves giving an opposition player incredible amount of space and time. 

So tie to things up, the reasons why there are more Premier League players who have scored 10 or more goals, in my view comes down to this:
  • Poor defending and keeping
  • Attacking teams being more effective in the transition, while PL teams defending transitions have been poor
  • More agile, intelligent and creative attackers
Other Observations 

When collecting the stats for this article, a number of interesting facts hit me, so here are some of my observations from the stats.
  • Sign him up! Frank Lampard: He maybe old, but he certainly still knows where the goal is. Lampard at 34 years of age has 12 Premier League goals, with 4 coming from penalties. But what I find just as impressive as his goals tally is his chance conversion (31.60%), which is the best out of the Premier League players selected. This shows, although Lampard is getting on in terms of age, his eye for goal still remains deadly.
  • Steven Fletcher, he scores when he wants: Out of all the players analysed, in Germany, Spain, Italy and of course England, Fletcher has the 6th best average shot accuracy (67%). Furthermore, the Scottish international has one of the better chance conversion rates too in the Premier League, I get the feeling, if Sunderland created more chances for him, he would definitely get more goals. His statistics suggest he is an instinctual finisher, it will be interesting to see how he does next season, if he manages a similar goal tally as this season, I can see a bigger clubs seriously taking a look at him.
  • Robert Lewandowski shows why he’s one of Europe’s most wanted strikers: Lewandowski has an outstanding 62% shot accuracy and a very credible 28% chance conversion rate this season. The stats reinforce the argument that the Polish international is a very efficient and intelligent finisher.
  • Mario Mandzukic, what a good addition he’s been to Bayern: Mandzukic has proved he is more than good enough to challenge Mario Gomez for the central striking role at Bayern. The new Bayern signing has the second highest chance conversion rate out of the Bundesliga players analysed. It will be interesting to see how Pep Guardiola utilises him, but I fancy him to be a key player under the Spaniard.
  • Klose, he knows where that goal is: Now, most of us remember Klose from the World Cups, where he virtually is in a league of his own. But even in club football his finishing prowess is very impressive. The German has the best chance conversion rate out of the players analysed, 37% which is a mightily remarkable figure, one which probably has Serie A defenders incredibly wary. You give him one chance, he will punish you.

  • Lionel Messi: Of course, everyone and their dog knows Lionel Messi is something else. But often there are moments when you compare him to other players in football and you recognise how extremely talented he is. Consider this, in the top 5 leagues in Europe, Lionel Messi has on average 5.3 shots per game, which is the third highest, so you may think, well it is no coincidence he has nearly 50 league goals this season. But when you look at his shot accuracy and his chance conversion rate it really drums home how outstanding his finishing is. Out of the players analysed, Messi has the second highest shot accuracy (69%). While he also has the second highest chance conversion rate (35%). When one considers the amount of chances he gets per game, this is actually quite impressive. Compare Messi’s shooting and finishing stats to the two other players in who have the most shots per game.  (Look at the staggering difference in chance conversion, shot accuracy and of course, goals) 
 Statistics via Squawka and WhoScored

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  3. I think Premier League teams are poor at defending transition phases meaning incredibly intelligent players can pick up and exploit these gaps in the opposition.

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