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Statistical analysis of top teams in Europe - Goals breakdown

Real Madrid v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

As the 2012-13 season comes to an end, while many of the European leagues have become a foregone conclusion with the leaders taking an insurmountable lead, I decided to take a look at the goalscoring break-up for teams (between forwards, midfielders and defenders) in order to identify anything peculiar or surprising.

While the study reveals some facts that are known to everybody and are quite evident, some surprising numbers have also sprung up, which might change one’s perspective with respect to a team/player.

So, here is the data table which has been compiled. It consists of:

1. Total goals scored by the team (TG)
2. Total goals scored by Forwards and as a % of TG
3. Total goals scored by Midfielders and as a % of TG
4. Total goals scored by Defenders and as a % of TG
5. Total goals scored by the team’s top-scorer so far, and as a % of TG

This has been done for the top teams in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga. Have a look:

*Click on the picture for enlarged image

Chart showing the breakup of goals for Top European teams

Chart showing the breakup of goals for top European teams. Click on the table for enlarged image.

(% in Red indicates the Top-3 in that category)

So, first, let us look at the facts that are not so surprising, and were expected beforehand:

1. 60% of Chelsea’s goals this season have come from midfielders. This is obvious because of Torres and Ba’s continued struggles to find form, and also due to the fact that Chelsea play only with one striker upfront. On the other hand, when we look at Manchester United, who always play 2 strikers upfront, their percentage of goals scored by the forwards (61%) naturally becomes high. Add to that Mata and Hazard’s scintillating form, and the 60% for the Blues’ midfielders is not surprising at all.

2. The same applies to Tottenham. 57% of goals from midfield is largely due to Gareth Bale’s high-flying form, as well as vital contributions from the likes of Dempsey, Dembele and Lennon. Also, the percentage of goals scored by their defenders stands at 16%, which is second best amongst the top teams, and is due to Vertonghen and Caulker’s physical presence in the box during set-pieces.

3. 43% of Barcelona’s goals have come from their top scorer, Lionel Messi. This clearly goes to show how over-reliant they are on the Argentine international. David Villa’s return from injury couldn’t have come at a better time for Barcelona.

Real Betis Balompie v FC Barcelona - La Liga

3. All three German teams have a very high percentage of goals scored by midfielders, despite the fact that their top scorer is their striker. This only shows how the German clubs play football, with the entire team being involved during attacks (more like Total Football).

Now, let us turn our attentions to some surprising facts that have come out of this study:

1. Only 25% of Manchester United’s goals have been scored by van Persie, the team’s top goalscorer. This is completely contradictory to claims made by some that Manchester United are a one-man team.

2. The percentage of goals scored by defenders of the English teams (14%, 11%, 19%, 16%) is among the highest when compared to those of other leagues. This clearly shows the physicality of the English game, when compared to other leagues.

3. 19% of the goals scored by Chelsea in the season have come from defenders, which is pretty impressive.

4. Napoli are hugely dependent on Edinson Cavani, with 45% of their goals coming from the Uruguayan hitman. If they are to play in Europe next season, Cavani cannot be their only source of goals.


What clubs can look to learn from these stats:

1. Manchester United and Manchester City need to improve on their goal contribution from midfield, which currently stands at 25% and 31%, respectively.

2. Tottenham and Chelsea have a disappointing 27% and 21% of their goals scored by forwards, which is certainly a cause for concern.

3. The % of goals scored by defenders for Italian teams (9%, 5%, 3%) is disappointingly low, and is something that the Italian clubs can improve on. Perhaps, more tactical work is needed on their attacking set-pieces.

4. Spanish teams have a high percentage of goals scored by their top-scorer, which clearly highlights their over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao.

This hopefully was an eye-opener for many!

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