A football game is all about attacking and defending. Therefore, keeping a clean sheet is as important as scoring goals. A team scoring a goal doesn’t guarantee any point but keeping a clean sheet guarantee at least one point and potentially getting three points. In this post, the defensive performance of League 2 teams would be discussed by analysing the clean sheets of League 2. Updated to January 28, there were 338 matches had been played, that means there were 676 team performances. Of these 676 team performances, 189 ended up with a clean sheet (28%). The teams produced 7.88 clean sheets on average. In these 7.88 clean sheets, 5.38 clean sheets led to wins and 2.50 clean sheets led to draws. On the other hand, clean sheets produced about 2.35 points per team and match on average.
The frequency of clean sheets is shown in the following chart.
As shown in the chart, there is a huge range in abilities to keep clean sheets (from 2 to 13). Fleetwood and Cheltenham performed much better than other team, producing 13 and 12 clean sheets. Part of their ability to generate points has been their ability to produce good defence. In the top 4 clean sheet producers (10 teams), only Accrington, Morecambe and Aldershot are in the bottom half of the table. It indicates two results. Firstly, good at keeping clean sheets can lead to good league positions. Secondly, it suggests that defence is not the main issue of the above 3 teams. In order to improve their league positions, they should focus on improving their attacking. Moreover, the bottom 2 clean sheet producers are Bristol Rover, Plymouth and Wimbledon. They are the bottom 3 teams in the League 2 table as well which indicates the importance of keeping clean sheet. On the other hand, it shows how strong Port Vale’s goal scoring was. Port Vale only produced 7 clean sheets which are below average. However, they are at the top of the table which means the high number of goal scored can overcome the weakness of their defence.
Clean sheets were of different value for different teams. This is shown in the following chart.
Clean sheets had enormous value (3 points) for Exeter and Wimbledon. For every single match they held clean sheet, they won the game and got 3 points. Note that Wimbledon is at the bottom of the league table. That means the biggest problem of Wimbledon right now is the defence, not attack. On the other hand, Plymouth had the worst performance in the above chart. It shows that even Plymouth had kept clean sheet, they only managed to 1.5 points on average. Considering both charts, it means that Plymouth is having problems in both attack and defence. In the top 5 teams in this chart, 4 of them are in the top 6 of the league table. In other words, it’s not only keeping clean sheets that’s important, but also how the team managed to get points from clean sheets.
By combining both charts together, the teams can be analysed from another perspective which is shown in the following diagram.
In this chart, the two axes are the two average numbers (2.35 points gained and 7.88 frequencies of clean sheets). The objective of using two average numbers as the axes is to divide 24 teams into four quadrants showing different abilities. Firstly, Bristol Rovers, Plymouth, Torquay and Rochdale are at the bottom left corner. The characteristic of the teams in this quadrant is that they are both weak at producing clean sheets and getting points from clean sheets. The opposite quadrant is the top right quadrant which means the teams were good at producing clean sheets and got points from clean sheets as well. Gillingham was the best performer in this quadrant which means Gillingham had a good balance of attack and defence. On the other hand, the top two performers of keeping clean sheets were in the bottom right quadrant, they should focus on improving their attacking because it was the main issue hindering both teams from getting points from clean sheets. The same argument could be applied to Aldershot and Morecambe as well since they are at the bottom half of the league table. Port Vale didn’t show why they can be the top of league table in this chart because they were weak in producing clean sheets. However, their efficiency is better than Gillingham by getting more points per clean sheet game.
To conclude, keeping clean sheets is a strong indicator of a team’s defending ability. However, it’s not only keeping clean sheets that’s important, but also how the team managed to get points from clean sheets. Therefore, by dividing 24 teams into four quadrants showing different characteristics, we can understand why some teams are doing better than others and which aspects (attacking or defending) should be the main focus point for team improvement.
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).
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.
Last time, I wrote about the importance of the first goal (here). We know how important the first goal is, so the next question is “How can we score it?” Therefore, we will look at how the league 2 teams score their first goals. If you search in the internet, it is not difficult to find some findings about the general goal statistics. However, most of the goals were scored in different backgrounds and situations. Only the first goals are scored under the same circumstances: 0 – 0. Therefore, I think it is meaningful to look at the first goal statistics because it reflects the ability of teams to break the 0 – 0 situation. Please note that all the data of goals and league positions were updated to 22/10/2012.
All First Goals
The following chart shows how the teams scored all their first goals:
The goals were divided into five categories: open play, corner, free kick, penalty and throw-in. Here are the key findings:
- At least 50% of first goals were scored in open play in most teams except Aldershot, Bradford and Gillingham. Only 20% of first goals of Bradford were came from open play.
- Gillingham, which is leading the league, shows how strong they are in this chart. Not only they scored more first goals than the rest of the league, the more important point is they showed that they can score first goal in different ways (the only team which scored first goals in all five categories). They get both quantity and variety of first goals.
- Cheltenham is the second best. They scored 9 first goals in four categories.
- AFC Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers and York City scored all their first goals in open play. If you are play against them, it may be a good idea to be more aggressive in tackling to interrupt their open play because they are weak at scoring the first goal in set piece.
- If we look at the best 4 teams in this chart (Gillingham, Cheltenham, Chesterfield and Rochdale). Their league positions are 1st, 4th, 13th and 8th. I argue that strong at scoring first goal will bring teams to the top half of the table. However, it also depends on how good the team can retain their winning position. This topic was discussed last time.
Open Play First Goals
Then we focus on the open play goals first. The following chart shows how the teams scored the first goals in open play.
The goals were divided into four categories: right foot, left foot, header and other. Here are the key findings:
- Aldershot and Bradford are struggling in scoring open play first goal by scoring just once. However, it is worthy to note that Aldershot is in 23th and Bradford City is in 5th position.
- Barnet and Southend are the second worst by scoring 2 open play first goals. Barnet is in 24th and Southend is in 11th position. I argue that weak at scoring open play first goal will bring the teams to bottom zone but it is interesting to find out what Bradford and Southend did to bring them a decent league position.
- AFC Wimbledon and York City scored the most open play first goal by left foot.
- If we look at the best 5 teams in this chart (Chesterfield, York City, Fleetwood, Morecambe and Port Vale). Their positions are 13th, 12th, 3nd, 14th and 2nd). Only 2 out of 5 teams are in the first 7 positions which is playoff zone. I argue that strong at scoring open play first goal will bring the team to a mid table position at least but not enough to be the top 7 positions.
- Only 8 teams had scored open play first goals by header. 6 out of 8 teams are in the top half of the table. Gillingham and Fleetwood are the best and they are in the top 3 position in the league table. I argue that there is a relationship between them.
Set Piece First Goals
The following chart shows how the teams scored the first goals in set piece.
The goals were divided into four categories: right foot, left foot, header and penalty. Here are the key findings:
- Most of the teams scored 1 or 2 set piece first goal.
- Gillingham is overwhelming in this chart, performing much better than the rest of the league. Interestingly, there is no header and left foot goal within those 7 goals. Scoring set piece first goal is a strong weapon of Gillingham to be the leader of the league.
- Bradford is the strongest team in scoring by headers in set piece first goal.
- If we look at the best 4 teams in this chart (Gillingham, Bradford, Cheltenham and Rochdale). Their league positions are 1st, 5th, 4nd and 8nd). All of them are in top half of the table. 3 out of 4 teams are in the top 7 positions which is playoff zone. I argue that strong at scoring set piece first goal will bring the team to the top 7 positions.
- At least 50% of first goals were scored in open play in most teams except Aldershot, Bradford and Gillingham
- Gillingham and Cheltenham can score first goals through different ways and they are the two best team of scoring first goal
- Strong at scoring first goal will bring teams to the top half of the table
- AFC Wimbledon and York City scored the most open play first goal by left foot
- Only 8 teams had scored open play first goals by header. 6 out of 8 teams are in the top half of the table
- Weak at scoring open play first goal will bring the teams to bottom zone. Aldershot and Barnet are the examples
- Most of the teams scored 1 or 2 set piece first goal
- Gillingham is overwhelming in scoring set piece first goal
- Bradford is the strongest team in scoring by headers in set piece first goal
- Strong at scoring set piece first goal will bring the team to the top 7 positions
Scoring first goal is not everything, it is also important to retain the winning position which was discussed in the last article (here).