Breaking down goal difference

Soccer analysts have borrowed and created many ways of measuring the game, but they have yet to come up with the sort of unified theory that relates these metrics to each other. Points and positions can indeed be complicated to decompose, but there is a fairly straightforward way to break down goal difference. Doing so reveals which metrics fit together… and which don’t. Goal difference – the difference between goals scored and conceded – is highly correlated with positions at the end of the season, and arguably a bit less idiosyncratic. It can also be broken down into four simple components. One of these…
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Does the Europa League hurt Premier League clubs?

Ah, the Europa League: bimonthly trips to the freezing climes of Eastern Europe, small midweek crowds at home, meager prize money, the chance to sell a third jersey… these are the trappings of UEFA’s second-class continental competition. Fans of English clubs love their European nights, but the endless rounds of the Europa League can take their toll on squads already stretched by two domestic cups. Is it worth all the trouble? I decided to do a simple exercise to find out. I looked at Premier League standings going back to the 1999-2000 season, which was the first one in which…
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How likely is a second yellow?

Recently I read a short blog post by Stephen Kattner about yellow cards. He used a quick calculation to estimate that players in Europe who were carrying yellow cards were 14 times more likely to be sent off than players who weren’t. It turns out the calculation of this statistic is rather more complex, so I asked my colleague Jimmy Coverdale for some data and began crunching the numbers. There were 1,193 first yellows cards issued in the English Premier League during the 2012-13 season. With 380 games, that’s an average of about 3.1 first yellows per game. Overall, the…
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