07 August, 2010

The Sweet Spot of Scoring to Avoid Injuries

No one likes the guy who takes the ball to the corner flag at the end of the game to waste time. When you are in the lead, this is typically called "time management". For the opposing teams, you're a target to get a nice hard foul.

So where is that sweet spot between scoring goals, deflating an opponent so that they don't score, yet minimizing the fouls (possibly dangerous) against your team?

Actually, there are two answers to this question. Granted, my time and resources are limited, but by analyzing the EPL's scorelines for the 2009-10 season and comparing them with the number of fouls given/received during those games, I've determined two possible sweet spots.

Originally, I discounted all games with a 0 goal differential. Usually, with a draw, it's assumed there are lots of fouls as both teams are jostling to get the three points rather than the 1pt draw. Perhaps, that's where I was mistaken. There was an average of 25.33 fouls in all draws last year.

When you move up to 1pt games (a close win or loss), fouls jump up to a staggering 27.96/game. I know that doesn't sound like a lot of difference between the two, but consider this, most teams are okay with taking the 1 pt draw when they were ahead (hey, points are points), while teams that are down a goal, usually are scrapping to get the equalizer.

When considering games with a 2 goal differential, the fouls drop back to an average of 25.7/game. In and of itself, this doesn't mean much, but when one more goal is scored by the team in the lead, the fouls jump back up to 26.75/game. When a team goes up by 4 goals, the fouls jump again to 28.6/game.

Looking at the numbers, one can deduce a few things. One, in draws, some teams are happy to just walk away with the point. Why push up on offense and create space behind your front line and perhaps concede the goal? In 2pt games, the chance of scoring a goal is plausible, but 2, in such a short period of time, can seem overwhelming to the down team. A team is just deflated and typically, coming back from that is not going to happen. At this point, they will bunker and try to keep the scoreline respectable. Perhaps to maintain the advantage, the team in the lead should pass it around and occasionally make runs into the opposition side for shots on goal to keep the other team honest.

When a team is up by 3 or more goals, it is pretty safe to say that the down team is insulted. Knowing they can't, in most likelihood, make a scoring comeback, they'll resort to trying to foul or injure anyone scoring or making a scoring run.

Honestly, I'd love for someone out there with the time to extrapolate the numbers back for several seasons to see if this is a trend or something more recent, or if it's even confined to certain teams. For example, Chelsea and Arsenal won a lot of games last year, so typically, they did not foul often. Many of their games were 2 or 3pt games, so that could possibly skew the numbers a little.

All in all, based on my limited research, I'll be looking for my teams to maintain that 2 goal lead for my best chances to win and minimize injuries.

1 comment:

  1. Good read. Taking the time to score a goal seems like a good way not to push yourself to the limit and end up injured. Thanks for sharing.


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