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Dec 2011
19:52 Comments (29)

At this time of year, towards the end of December, it is usually time to reflect, to analyse what has happened during the year. So I don't think we should miss the chance to analyse the data in different big leagues in the world.

Opta give us an enormous amount of technical data from which we can make some interesting conclusions when comparing the figures. In other articles that we have published on our website, Is La Liga better than the Premier League?, we analysed the strongest European leagues and now we have the chance to include the MLS (the US league) in the comparison. We will try to analyse what we consider to be the most interesting data, where there is an appreciable difference and where the data has credible criteria.

It should be noted that this is not a scientific study but is an evaluation of the data collected accurately by Opta, trying to quantify different aspects of the game.

The analysis consists of 4 sections: attack, passing, general play and disciplinary aspects. We will use this format to facilitate the analysis, although the format is only significant in presenting the information.


The most significant aspect of the attacking analysis is the difference in average goals per game between England (2.89) and Italy (2.39).

In other aspects of attack, such as shooting accuracy, chances created and headed goals, Italy is behind the others. However the percentage of saves by goalkeepers (72.03%) is the best. It should be noted, for example, that the Premier League has the lowest percentage (69%) of all the leagues.

Does this mean that Italian football is poor in accuracy? Or is it that the goalies are better?

As for the average number of shots, the English league is the best, with 21.4 per game and the worst is the MLS with 19.6 per match.


2011-2012 EnglandFranceGermanyItalySpainMLS
Average goals per game 2,892,552,862,392,652,56

Set Pieces

With regard to efficacy in set pieces, the best, without doubt, is the French league, with 37.50% of goals scored coming from set plays and surprisingly the worst is the Spanish league with 32.10% of goals from set pieces.


2011-2012 EnglandFranceGermanyItalySpainMLS
% Set Piece goals 32,40%37,50%33,80%34,10%32,10%33,90%

Does this mean they score more goals in open play or that the spanish league is simply worse in taking set pieces?


When we analyse the data of the matches, possession and passing, we notice that the data shows that the American league has the lowest number of passes per game (775.9), passing accuracy (76%), accuracy in the opposition half (67.7%), passes in the final third (232) and passing accuracy in the final third (58.7%).

A strange detail is that Italy, with the poor data we noted regarding efficacy and conversion, has the best data in the following: passing accuracy (79.2%), passes in the opposition half (503.8), passing accuracy in the opposition half (72.6%), passing accuracy in the final third (65.6%) and crosses per game (37.3).

We also notice a strange detail in long passes. The American league (MLS) has the highest percentage of long passes (15.8%) and the Italian league has the least (13.1%).



2011-2012 EnglandFranceGermanyItalySpainMLS
% Long passes 13,30%13,40%14,40%13,10%13,2015,80%
Final third accuracy 64,90%59,40%60,90%65,60%64,60%58,70%

Why does the Italian league have such poor accuracy in front of goal but in build up it has the best figures of all the leagues in many aspects? Is the game slower and therefore more precise but at the same time allows the opposition to drop off and organise?

Does the distribution data of the MLS show a lack of technical quality compared to the other leagues?

Aspects of the game

With regard to the general aspects of the game, dribbles per match, success rate of the dribbles and challenges per game....there is a discrepancy between the leagues as to the definition of what constitutes a dribble, a successful dribble or a challenge, so we cannot compare the data with objectivity. The only thing we can point out is that the Premier League with one of the lowest for dribble attempts but with a high percentage of successful dribbles. Strange? Or true?

Regarding what Opta call disciplinary aspects, the Bundesliga stands out as having more fouls than the others (31.1) but nevertheless is slower to issue yellow cards (7.67 fouls committed per card shown).

England, with 22.6 fouls per match, is the country with the fewest fouls given and Spain, with 4.71 fouls per card shown, is where cards are shown more easily.


2011-2012 EnglandFranceGermanyItalySpainMLS
Fouls per game 22,631,833,130,629,324,1

Is the German league more 'physical' even than the English league?

We have left a lot of questions dangling, why? It's simply because we believe the data, the figures, show us many things but they cannot be absolutely categorical, and they do not necessarily show an indisputable truth if they are not submitted to deeper investigation. The important thing is to know how to analyse them, with more depth, to use them properly.

So we are open to your interpretations on our website. It will be a pleasure to see your points of view and ideas.

29 Comments Send us your opinions
29/12/11 at 18:08:33 #21
The other reason why the english league has a higher scoring ratio per game is that the transition-play from defence to attack is quicker.
30/12/11 at 07:33:50 #22
At what level do you compare the Scottish league to the other leagues discussed? and do you have any statistical information on the Scottish premier league? 


Hello Simon, It is vey difficult to compare, we don't have this information that is provided for a company. You will need the technology (8 cameras in the stadium) and is very expensive. The only way is to compare when the teams play in Europe. Good luck and best wishes.

30/12/11 at 07:35:11 #23
With all these questions and hypotheses about speed of play, transition, etc., are there any stats on the time of possession leading up to a goal? Would think this might reveal differences in style and whether certain leagues or teams have particular tendencies. For a team like Barca that dominates possession I think you might see somewhat of a bimodal distribution, with many goals generated from long stretches of possession, but also many quick goals from regaining possession high up the pitch near the opposition goal.

Hope you're back managing soon, Rafa, and with a good project. Happy New Year!


Hello Kam, there were analysis about the number of passes to score a goal. Normally, between 3-6 passes the teams were scoring more goals. Barcelona has changed these figures, but still to regain the possession high up the pitch is the most dangerous situation for the defenders. Happy New Year.
30/12/11 at 09:51:32 #24
Hi Rafa
Really been thinking about your questions. there is always a good reason to analyze closer.
Would it be that perhaps "Key Passes" would be an important factor, in that Leagues with a bigger attempt at key passes would perhaps show themselves as more riskier, with perhaps more goals, but also a lower completed pass percentage. For instance a league with a holding style may have more completed passes, but because of their less risky nature, less attempts and less goals.
All the best
08/01/12 at 09:04:45 #25
Well I believe the reason why Italy has such good final third passing stats might be because while they tend to have very organised defending,this also allows longer possesion on the opponents half without actually giving very direct balls wich results in better %.

As for the set pieces,it might be explained by the fact that Spanish teams have a higher tendency than most to play quick and short free-kicks while the other 4 mostly having strong and tall centre-backs,making it more difficult to win aeriel duels.

As for france central defenders seem to be more technical but also more lacking in positional sense(in my opinion) wich could be the reason why they have better scoring chances out of set pieces

YNWA Rafa,hope you had a nice festive period :D


Thank you and the same for you.Good analysis.
09/01/12 at 08:40:46 #26
Hello Rafa,

Massive respect to you for everything you have achieved in football, especially at our beloved L.F.C. Genuine thanks.

I understand the importance of tactics and collective performance on the pitch, but I have become very interested in the performance of the individual recently - I recall from playing (at amateur level) how variable performance could be. Of course, these days, even at the amateur level, preparation is much better understood.

But I wondered what aspects you thought truly make a successful performer. What I mean is, what makes a player be able to perform at their peak? Is it 50% talent, 20% physical fitness, 10% metal strength etc or is the structure of the team on the field of play more important these days?

It strikes me these days that players have so much more clearly defined roles on the pitch, and so I almost tend to think that their 'talent' is less important than perhaps it once was. But then logically I think "I must be wrong!"...?



Hello Gareth, you have to give freedom to talented players and there are not too many. Techincal abilty is not talent, to understand the game and to know what to do is the key. So, a lot of them will need guidance and a clear role.
10/01/12 at 12:26:43 #27
Thanks Rafa.

That's very interesting to separate talent and technical ability - game intelligence seems vital and it frustrates me how so many players seem slow to develop it.

I am very interested in the use of space on the pitch - simple logic says that where there is pressure (2 or 3 players) on the man with the ball, there must hence be space (and free players) for him to exploit, if only he can find the right pass and have colleagues who also understand this. So few seem able to do so. Why is this?

15/01/12 at 15:01:09 #28
hello Benitez dear...
please come back to liverpool
we need to you


Hello, thank you for your support but it is time to stay behind the team. Thanks.
24/01/12 at 18:57:23 #29
anupam dutta
my dear rafa
i think premier league is toughest league of all.i have nothing much more 2 say coz you are a pure tactical genius.GOD BLESS YOU RAFA.hope you will manage Liverpool one day.i respect you like my father.i love you rafa.

my email id: danupam1988@gmail.com
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