Today I wanted to share with you one of the interesting observations I have made when researching European goal data from the last ~20 seasons regarding goal statistics. As some of you might know, the average number of scored goals in the last rounds of the season increases dramatically for just about every major European football league (which is probably true for all leagues in general, although I don’t have data to confirm it). Have a look at the average number of goals per country for the last 15 rounds of the season, calculated over the last 22 seasons using the available data at football-data.co.uk.
You see there is a clear upward slope towards the end of the season. The increase is less pronounced for England and Scotland and more for the continental leagues. For Italy, Germany, France, Spain, the increase seems to start 9-10 rounds before the last one, to peak in the very last round of the season when the most goals are being scored. There might be different explanations for this phenomenon (tired players, teams lacking motivation resulting in a less tactically sound game), but it’s certainly there.
I got pretty excited when I found out about this anomaly. As it is known that on average more goals are scored in the second half of a football game than in the first, it seems to be another universal rule that more goals are scored in the last weeks of a season than in the rest of it. Of course after finding out about it the first thing on my mind was to see if a profitable strategy might be built around it.
Do the markets know about it?
I decided to omit England and Scotland from the test since the increase in goal scoring at the end of the season for those leagues was less profound then for the others. Moreover, as I noticed the increase starts around 10 rounds before the end of the season, I only tested a strategy backing the >2.5 goals at the maximum available odds for the respective league in the last 10 rounds of the season. I have calculated the averages from the last 11 seasons (as this is the current span of odds data at football-data.co.uk). Here are the results:
The first letter stands for the country (Spain, Italy, Germany and France) and the number for the tier of the league, first or second. One can clearly see that from the 8 tested leagues the strategy would have been profitable only for Segunda, Ligue 1 and somewhat for Serie A. Moreover, it is striking how low the returns for the German leagues go in the last round(s) considering that Germany is the country with the most profound increase in goals and the most goals in general as could be seen in the first graph. On the other hand, although France appears to be the league with the least goals among the tested, the profit backing overs there seems to be one of the higher ones.
Despite the fact that for Segunda and Ligue 1 one can see a nice steady increase in profit, the strategy for all leagues combined seems to be a losing one. Whether it is worthy to try it for those two leagues alone you can decide for yourself. In any case, I think it is a good example for how a trend in the stats is already incorporated in the bookmaker’s price before we even know about it. Therefore stats alone don’t tell us anything in the betting world unless they are viewed from the perspective of the implied probabilities as represented by the betting odds.
I am planning to publish a few more articles on interesting football stats so if this is what you are looking for make sure to follow me on Twitter or Facebook in order to be notified for new blog posts. Thanks for reading and see you around!