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Showing posts from September, 2016

English Hares and Italian Tortoises: When do Goal-scorers peak?

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Yesterday, I walked into a New York bar just in time to see Francesco Totti wheel away in celebration. He had just sent Torino's goalkeeper Joe Hart the wrong way from the penalty spot to score his 250th Serie A goal. Totti has scored more Serie A goals than any other player in the last sixty years. He has also now scored in 23 consecutive Serie A seasons.  He turns 40 on Wednesday.

An interesting feature of Totti’s career is that he scored nearly half of his goals since he turned thirty. He didn’t even really get going until his late twenties, a slow burner. Contrast this with Wayne Rooney: 173 EPL goals so far, half of which were achieved by the age of 24. A fixture in the Man Utd team since the age of 18, he is now, at 30, perceived to be much a diminished force.

So when do strikers normally reach their goal scoring peak, and how rapidly do they decline thereafter? Do the hares that establish themselves early in their career tend to burn out faster than the tortoises that have …

The Decline of English Players Abroad

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The English national team hit an all-time low in 2016. After being humiliated by the mighty Iceland in Euro 2016, England fans must look back wistfully on the days when pundits would forecast that they would be “knocked-out by the first decent team that they meet”; it seems that these days England struggle to progress far enough to meet a decent team. You have to go back to 2002 to find the last time England beat one of the world’s top ten teams in a major international tournament.

A lot has been written about the impact of the EPL, in particular the proliferation of foreign players and the resulting difficulties faced by talented young English players to get playing time. On average, less than a third of the players starting games are English; 25 years ago, in the first year of the EPL, it was more than two thirds. However, while England certainly has the lowest fraction of home-grown players in Europe’s top-5 leagues, Italy and Germany (both around a half) are not much further ahea…

Who are the EPL's most injury-prone teams? And why?

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So Arsene Wenger has finally decided that there is no room for Jack Wilshere in the Arsenal midfield this season and sent him off to Bournemouth on loan. Or maybe he just wanted to free up space in another Arsenal department: their treatment room. With Wilshere having missed more games than he has played in the last few years, Arsenal’s over-burdened medical staff probably feel like they are due a break. 
Many Arsenal fans that feel that their team have suffered more than their fair share of injuries, but is it really just a few unlucky seasons – and a few particularly fragile players – that stick in the mind? Or is it true that some EPL teams are really more injury prone than others? And if so, why?
The Treatment Table
To investigate this I looked at the total number of injuries suffered by EPL teams each year since the 2004/5 season (taken from here), providing me with 12 years of data encompassing 37 teams. In this dataset, an injury is defined as any condition that put a player o…

Are referees harsher to the away team?

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One of the most frequently cited explanations for home advantage is referee bias: referees being influenced by their surroundings, such as a raucous home crowd, to favour the home team. During a match, a referee must make frequent split-second decisions; could it be that, despite their best efforts to remain impartial, they have a tendency towards appeasing (or avoiding abuse from) the home crowd?
As you might expect, referee bias in football has been the subject of numerous studies. In a well-known experiment, forty professional referees were asked to watch highlights of the Liverpool vs Leicester match at Anfield in the 1998/99 season. Half watched the game with sound, the other half without. The authors found that the group that watched the game with sound was less likely to call fouls against the home team than the group that watched it without sound. Other studies have taken more empirical approaches, appearing to find evidence for a home-team bias when referees award penalties …