Monthly Archives: December 2012

Analysis of top 4 strikers in League 2 (1)

Different strikers have their own characteristics in scoring goals. They can somehow reflect their teams’ goal scoring characteristics as well. We will focus on the top 4 goal scorers in League 2. The analysis is quite long so I divide it into two posts. The second part will be continued next week. The following table shows who they are, their team and the position in league table. Please note that all the data is updated to 28/12/2012.


No. of goals


Team league position

T Pope


Port Vale


J Cureton




A Akinfenwa




N Wells




 It seems that being a top team does not necessarily need a top goal scorer as only 2 of the top 4 strikers are playing for a team in the top 7 of the table which is the promotion playoff line. The other 2 strikers are playing for the teams in the mid-table position. However, I agree that a high quality striker can bring an average team into a top team.

no. of goals and percentage of team goals

Although T Pope is the top goal scorer, he doesn’t have the highest percentage of team goals. J Cureton is the striker whom the team relies on the most because he scored 47% of the team goals. It is worthy to note that all 4 strikers scored more than one-third of the team goals.

Apart from looking at the number of goals, we should analyse by looking at the starting appearance as well in order to understand the efficiency of the strikers.

goals per starting appearance

As the top league goal scorer, T Pope is the most efficient striker as well. He scored 0.87 goals per starting appearance. Note that J Cureton scored more goals than A Akinfenwa but A Akinfenwa is more efficient because he scored slight more goals than J Cureton in terms of goals per starting appearance.

We discussed how important the first goal before (here) so it is worthy to analyse the strikers’ ability to scored the first goal in the match.

first goal percentage

A Akinfenwa performed much better than other strikers in terms of first goal. 46% of his goals were first goal, which is obviously higher than that of T Pope (30%) and J Cureton (31%). His percentage of first goal is almost double the percentage of N Wells (25%). This is A Akinfenwa’s strength and people may ignore it if we don’t analyse the strikers from this perspective.

Then we move on to analyse the relationship between open play and set play goals. 

open play vs set play

T Pope (85%) and J Cureton (88%) scored most of their goals in open play, obviously higher than the percentage of other two strikers. N Wells struck a balance by scoring 50% open play goals. However, 25% of his goals were come from penalties. A Akinfenwa is particularly strong at scoring set play goals as 62% of his goals were from set play. Note than 31% of his goals were from throw-in which is much higher than other strikers. Moreover, he scored the highest percentage of goals in corner (15%) as well. He is a good example showing that the team top goal scorer can reflect the goal scoring characteristic of the team. Northampton scored more goals in set play (53%) than open play (47%). In all 18 set play goals, 50% of them were came from throw-in. The goal scoring pattern of Northampton and A Akinfenwa is almost the same even he scored only 35% of team goals.

Then we will analyse how the strikers scored the goals. 

goal type

Note that I have excluded the goals from penalty in this chart. T Pope shows he is an all-round striker and this may explain why he is leading goal scoring table. The goals he scored by using his right foot (35%), left foot (30%) and head (35%) were almost evenly distributed. J Cureton is particularly strong at scoring goals by right foot (80%). However, it can be treated as a weakness as well because it is easier for the defender to mark him. N Wells is weak at header as he hasn’t scored any goal by header. However, he is strong at scoring goals by using both feet. A Akinfenwa is strong in air as he scored 58% of his goals by head. It fits what we find that he scored the highest percentage of goals from set play (62%) among 4 strikers, particularly in throw-in (31%) and corner (15%). In short, scoring goals by header in set play is the strongest weapon of A Akinfenwa.

The analysis will be continued next week by analysing these 4 strikers from different perspectives including where they scored, when they scored, where assist came from, assist types, shots total and shots on target.


League 2 result analysis: how hard to hold the leads?

If a team scored the first goal in the first half and hold it until the end of first half, what does that mean? How big is the chance to win that game? Or is there any chance for the opposition team to win it back? How big is that chance? What are the differences in holding 1 goal and 2 goal differences in terms of the percentage of chance to win the game finally? Are 2 goal differences safe enough to win a game? The follow analysis will answer all the questions above by analysing the league 2 result this season (updated to 20/12/2012).

I have compared the half time results with full time results and built a connection between half time leads and full time results by using the goal difference.

0 goal difference at half time When the game was tied at half, there was a 42% chance to have a draw at the end of the game. In other words, there was a 29% chance that one of the two teams won the game finally.

1 goal difference at half time

However, if a team is leading by 1 goal at half time, the chance of winning the game increased significantly from 29% to 68% which is a pretty high chance. It is worthy to note that it still had a 8% chance to lose the game even the team had a 1-goal lead at half time. That’s why so many people claimed that the team need a “two-goal cushion” to get the three points. Is “two-goal cushion” a three-point guarantee in league 2? We are going to find out.

2 goal difference at half time

When a team was leading by 2 goals at half time, the chance of winning the game increased from 68% to 91%. In other words, it was not a 100% guarantee yet because 6% of teams managed to get a draw finally. Surprisingly, there was still a 3% chance that the leading team eventually lost the game. In short, there was 1 out of 10 chances that the leading team can’t get the three points at the end of the game. The “two-goal cushion” may not be as safe as people thought in League 2.

3 goal difference at half time

However, once a team was leading 3 goals at half time, the match is over. No team could manage to get a draw or win it back if they are losing at a 3-goal margin at half time.

4 goal difference at half time

Similarly, there were two occasions that a team was leading 4 goals at half time and they all won it eventually.

To summarise, going from a tie to a lead by 1 goal, 2 goals and then 3 goals or more, the chance of winning the game increased from 29% to 68% to 91% and then to 100% eventually. “Three-goal cushion” was a guarantee of the three points instead of two-goal.

In terms of analysis, this analysis could go further in depth by separating the home and away game results to see whether it is easier to hold the lead in home.

Time Analysis of League 2 teams

There are 690 league 2 goals (updated to 13/12/2012). There are many perspectives of analysis of goal scoring. This article will focus on the time at which goals are scored during match play. The analysis would be useful for coaches because the relationship between goal scoring and time would appear to be linked to physical conditioning and characteristics of different teams.

I divided the 90 minutes into six 15-min periods. The following chart shows that there is a systematic and significant upward trend in the number of goals scored as time progressed. This is a support to previous research suggesting an increase in the frequency of goals scored as a match progresses (Jinshan et al., 1993; Reilly, 1996).

Time analysis

Then we move on from the genearl perspective to the team perspective to analyse the goals. The following table shows the number of goals scored in six periods of different teams. The data were shown in a Red-Yellow-Green colour scale. That means, the higher number would be highlighted by red and the lower number would be highlighted by green for better visualisation of the data.


Generally, most of the teams scored more goals in the second half which fit the general trend. However, Aldershot is an exception as they scored the least goals in the last 30-min period among League 2. On the other hand, Fleetwood is expertised in scoring late goal in the last 15-min period. The 12 goals they scored is remarkably higher than the goals they scored in other periods. Northampton and Port Vale are strong in the last 30-min period as well.

However, if we just count the goals scored, it is not showing the whole picture of analysis because stronger teams scored more goals. If we want to find the characteristics of the teams, we have to convert these data into percentage. For example, in the first 15-min of the game, Bristol Rovers scored 7 goals, same as Oxford United but less than Gillingham. A different table will show you a different picture. The following table shows the same set of data in percentage form.


Bristol Rovers become the best team to score early goals which is obviously a characteristic of this team. Even Gillingham scored the most goals in this period, it is only 21% of their total number of goals. This percentage is less than Oxford United and Wycombe.

The result of Fleetwood becomes more obvious. It seems that they tried to save energy in the 46-75 minutes by scoring only 11% of goals and then dominate the final 15 minutes in scoring 43% of their total goals.

Wycombe shows the same trend in both halves that they scored most of their goals in the first 30 minutes. They are particularly weak in the last 15 minutes of the half.  The possible explanation is the deterioration in physical condition of players is more serious in Wycombe. Accrington, Bradford and Southend have a similar characteristic because they all scored less than 20% of their goals in the first 30 minutes of the game. It would be a good strategy to start attacking early when other teams play against these three teams.


Jinshan et al., 1993. Analysis of the goals in the 14th World Cup. In: J. C. a. A. S. T. Reilly, ed. Science and Football II. London: E. and F.N. Spon, pp. 203-205.

Reilly, T., 1996. Motion analysis and physiological demands. In: T. Reilly, ed. Science and Soccer. London: E. and F.N.Spon, pp. 65-81.

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