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Dec 2011

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.