The Champions League proper got underway this week and brought with it the usual mouth-watering ties none bigger than the “heavyweights” of European football, Barcelona vs. AC Milan. The match produced the 5th fastest goal in Champions League history when Alexandre Pato score for the visitors after only 24 seconds, and it got me thinking about when teams score the bulk of their goals and in typical OR fashion I’ve penned those thoughts in tables and charts.
The focus for this analysis will be English Premier League 2010/11 season and when referring to “periods” I am in fact referring to the periods after splitting the matches into 6 15-minute periods. During this season 1,063 goals were scored, the distribution of which can be seen below:
When the goals are scored:
It may come as no surprise that almost a quarter of all the goals scored during this season came in the last 15 minutes of the games. There are 2 peaks, one at the end of the first half (31-45 minutes) and one at the end of the 2nd half (76-90 minutes), although the distribution in terms of goals scored per half is a little more understandable with 45% scored in the 1st half and 55% in the 2nd half.
But is this pattern representative of most teams in the league?
In terms of goals scored in each half only 3 of the 20 teams bucked this trend by scoring more goals in the 1st half than they did in the second, namely; Manchester City, Blackpool and West Ham. All the other teams scored more in the 2nd half most notably Stoke, Bolton and West Bromwich who scored more than 65% of their goals in the second half. Does this information help teams build a strategy against these teams?
The above graph whilst a little messy does help identify a few interesting things about certain teams which certainly helps build a strategy against a team and conversely helps the team understand possible shortfalls.
The clear outlier in this case appears to be Manchester City being the only team in Top 5 in the 2010/11 season to not score the most of their goals in the last 15 minutes. Not only that, they scored proportionally less goals in that 15 period than every other period – maybe something for them to focus on this year? Similarly Stoke City seem to have sold themselves short in the opening 15 minutes of their games scoring considerably less than any of their counterparts in the 1st 15 minute period. West Ham suffer a similar fate but in the less orthodox 61-75th minute period. A possible strategy against Newcastle and Fulham is to act cautiously at the end of the 1st half for Newcastle and at the start of the second half for Fulham.
Goals conceded makes further interesting reading.
The distribution is a bit more widespread although as expected the last 15 minute period features heavily with most teams. The exceptions this time round, in the Top 5, is Chelsea who in contrast to the other 4 teams who conceded most goals in the last 15 minutes actually conceded almost a quarter of their goals in the first 15 minutes. Those teams wishing to get one over Chelsea may want to go all out from the start in a hope of catching them cold or off guard.
Bucking the trend in terms of goals conceded in the last 15 minute period are fellow Kings Road’ers Fulham, Birmingham City, Everton and West Bromwich Albion – seemingly these midtable rivals (Birmingham aside) knew how to defend it out at the death, although this did not bode well for Birmingham who were relegated nonetheless.
Winning and losing at half-time:
The above makes interesting reading for Stoke City fans and a definite strategy to try to employ. In matches where they were winning at half time they have the best record in terms of going on to win those matches. But you have to take into consideration the fact that that was only 6 out of the 38 matches. More impressive, and perhaps predictable, were Manchester United who in this “league” table are 4th leading at half time in 20 out of the 38 matches with an average return of 2.65 points per game. Not too far behind them, in terms of leading at half time, are Arsenal who were leading in 17 out of their 38 games however could only return an average of 2.35 points per game.
In terms of being behind at half time again WBA, Fulham and Everton feature again being behind in 17, 16 and 13 out of their 38 games respectively but still managing to claw back a good average points return.
So possible strategies would be for Stoke City to try to score as early as possible against Chelsea and then hold on till half time and hopefully then go on to win the match. Fulham conceding the fewest goals in the last period need to make sure that they are leading against Manchester City going into that period as Manchester City are notoriously bad at scoring in that last period. Don’t count out Tottenham when losing at half time as they can still come back to claw back points only second to Manchester United.
Does all of this really allow you to build a team vs. team strategy? Probably not but it does allow us to make statistically based claims about our favourite teams to prove just how good they are.