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Is 31% of games ending in a draw high or low in a league? (Pt. 1)

(from on.ig.com.br)
In July, after Seoul lost at home to Pohang 3-1, I was going to write something scathing about Choi Yong-soo.  I saw this on rokfootball.com and it made me think about the quality of the league and Choi Yong-soo as a manager.  Here is the quote from Gas 1883:


How are Seoul 3rd???? Hmmm no idea. Is 31% of games ending a draw high or low in a leagye? (21x12 = 251 games divided by 80 (number of draws)

He had a good point.  Here was Choi’s record after the 21st game, before they lost to Pohang:

              Choi Yong-soo’s 2015 Record Until July 11th
Year
Played
Wins
Draws
Losses
Points
GF
GA
2015
21
8 (38%)
7 (33%)
6 (29%)
32
23 
22

I thought this was an interesting question, so I started to look at Choi’s record since 2011.  In his first two years, his winning percentage was quite high.  After 2012 though, his winning percentage declined while the number of draws and losses increased.  I thought the poster Gas 1883 asked a great question about the league, so I wondered about Choi’s record against the league pre- and post-split.  From there, I began to wonder how the K-League compared to the J-League and the Chinese Super League.  What began as simple question was beginning to turn into a major project, so I decided to scrap the whole damn thing and maybe return to it when I had a lot more time on my hands. 

I am really glad that I chose to do so in the end.  Choi’s record improved significantly after the Pohang game.  How much of that is down to the team clicking at the right time or the arrival of Adriano is subject to debate for another time.  Now that the season is over and it is really cold out, I do have some time, so I have decided to go back to come back to my project. 

Gas 1883 asked whether or not drawing 31% of your games in the league was high or low.  I thought that was quite a high number of draws for a team in third place and that the K-League had more draws than normal, so maybe Seoul's record was a byproduct of the tie being more common league wide.  I also thought that not many goals were being scored in the K-League as in years past.  However, I was not sure if this was true or not, what is normal as far as wins and draws in a league, and what the average amount of goals per game is.  

Therefore, I decided to see how the K-League Classic compared to other leagues in the rest of the world.  I initially chose to compare the K-League to the J-League and the Chinese Super League since they seem to be similar in status and even a bit more prestigious at this point.  However, I decided that three teams were not enough.  It was too narrow and I needed to expand my criteria.

Methodology

At university, I used to hate reading the methodology section in research journals.  I thought it was boring and I usually use to skim through that part, but I can see the importance of listing how and why you chose the variables to use.  Therefore, I am going to list which leagues I chose and why I selected them.

To do so, I looked at who the participants in the AFC Champions League are for 2016 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_AFC_Champions_League).  I chose the top four participant countries in the East Zone (Korea, Australia, Japan, and China) and the top five from the West Zone (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, UAE, and Qatar).  The reason I chose Qatar is because Al-Sadd were winners in 2011. 

After that, I chose other leagues out of either curiosity or because I thought they might match up with the K-League.  Here they are as follows:
  •  The Scottish Professional Football League since that is what the K-League Classic is modeled on. 
  • Major League Soccer (MLS) because I have heard people remark that the talent level is similar.  As an American, I was curious to see how the K-League and MLS would compare.
  • I wanted to see if there what might be the most defensive league, so I chose the Argentine Premiera Division per Bleacher Report
  • The Bundesliga 2 and the Segunda Division because Steve Price said that the top K-League teams could compete in them.  
  • The English Premier League, the Championship, La Liga, and the Bundesliga were chosen out of curiosity. 
I compiled a listing of the league tables for the last five year.  Because it is so big, I have made a separate listing, so if you want to see that, click on the link.  Whenever possible, I tried to round up to the nearest hundredth for each percent.  Sometimes, because it did not come out to 100, I left the number as a decimal.  Finally, as with the AFC Champions League, the table information was collected from Wikipedia since that was the easiest site to go to. 

By no means am I saying which league is the best or worst.  In my opinion, I think the K-League is better than most Asian Leagues, bar the J-League and the Chinese Super League.  I think the K-League is similar to some of the lower European leagues such as the Scottish PFL, the Bundesliga 2, and the Segunda Division.   

I am not trying to figure out which league is the best or strongest or how strong the K-League is against that.  Instead, I am just going to rank the leagues based on winning percentage and goal average versus draw percentage and goal average.  I am curious to see what the average percentage is for wins, draws, and goals and whether or not the K-League was above or fell below that.  Before hand though, I will list the K-League table and include some general remarks at the end.  In the next post, I will look at the last two years. 

Results

K-League Classic League Table 2011-2015
Year
Played
Wins
Draws
Losses
Goals
Avg.
2011
480
175 (36.45%)
130 (27.08%)
175 (36.45%)
655
1.36
2012
704
259 (37%)
186 (26%)
259 (37%)
869
1.23
2013
532
190 (35.71%)
152 (28.57%)
190 (35.71%)
677
1.27
2014
456
156 (34%)
144 (32%)
156 (34%)
506
1.1
2015
456
162 (35.5%)
132 (28.9%)
162 (35.5%)
546
1.2
Total
2628
942 (36%)
744 (28%)
942 (36%)
3253
1.24

I think what jumps out at me the most is how the goal average decreased, one could say drastically, once a split system was instituted.  It is understandable why the K-League wants to change the criteria from goal differential to goals scored.  To have an average of 1.1 or 1.2 seems quite low and, in my opinion, is evidence of how the football on display in the K-League Classic can be viewed by the casual fan as being too defensive, i.e., boring.  

Also, over the last five years, the average number of wins and losses in the league is 36% and the number of draws is 28%.  So, to answer Gas 1883’s question, if we compare FC Seoul’s draw rate of 31% in July to the league average over the last five years, then FC Seoul was drawing more games than the norm.  In turn, this leads to the follow up question of how Seoul were in 3rd place if they were drawing around a 3rd 

Obviously, playing in the K-League has something to do with Seoul drawing so many games.  Looking at 2014, one can say that was a dire year.  Teams were just as likely to draw as win a game and the average was barely a goal a game.  

Statistically, 2015 was closer to the norm, but the average number of goals was still down.  This is why I feel like 2015 was closer to 2014 than the five year average.  I think Adriano's switch from Daejeon to Seoul helped push up the wins/losses numbers and made the number of draws drop.  If Adriano had not made the switch and Seoul had continued to plod along rather than get hot, I think the 2015 figures would mirror the 2014 ones more closely.  

Anyways, that made me wonder if it was the K-League in general or if other leagues were similar.  So, after compiling the data on the other 17 leagues, I made two tables.  The first is a table of the results for the last five years of 18 leagues.  

League
Played
Wins (Pct.)
Draws (Pct.)
Losses (Pct.)
Goals (avg.)
K-League
2628
942 (36%)
744 (28%)
942 (36%)
3253 (1.24)
Chinese SL
2400
852 (35.5%)
696 (29%)
852 (35.5%)
3157 (1.32)
J-League
3060
1159 (38%)
742 (24%)
1159 (38%)
4197 (1.37)
A-League
1410
530 (37.58%)
350 (24.82%)
530 (37.58%)
1941 (1.38)
Saudi PFL
1820
674 (37%)
472 (26%)
674 (37%)
2645 (1.45)
Persian Gulf PL
2796
920 (32.90%)
956 (34.19%)
920 (32.90%)
3177 (1.14)
Arabian Gulf League (UAE)
1620
618 (38%)
384 (24%)
618 (38%)
2661 (1.64)
Uzbekistan PFL
1936
786 (40.59%)
364 (18.80%)
786 (40.59%)
2610 (1.35)
Qatar SL
1520
570 (37.5%)
380 (25%)
570 (37.5%)
2300 (1.51)
MLS
3230
1189 (37%)
852 (26%)
1189 (37%)
4351 (1.35)
Scottish PFL
2280
867 (38%)
546 (24%)
867 (38%)
3057 (1.34)
English PL
3800
1417 (37.28%)
966 (25.42%)
1417 (37.28%)
5219 (1.37)
FL Championship
5520
2004 (36.30%)
1512 (27.39%)
2004 (36.30%)
7331 (1.33)
Bundesliga
3060
1164 (38%)
732 (24%)
1164 (38%)
4477 (1.46)
Bundesliga 2
3060
1095 (36%)
870 (28%)
1095 (36%)
4028 (1.32)
La Liga
3800
1466 (38.57%)
868 (22.84%)
1466 (38.57%)
5237 (1.38)
Segunda Div.
4620
1680 (36%)
1260 (28%)
1680 (36%)
5855 (1.28)
Argentina PD
3560
1222 (34.32%)
1116 (31.34%)
1222 (34.32%)
3962 (1.11)
Total
52120
19155 (37%)
13810 (26%)
19155 (37%)
69458 (1.33)

So, based on these 18 leagues chose, the average winning percentage in the last five years is 37%, the average percentage of draws is 26%, and the average number of goals scored is 1.33.  Comparing the K-League Classic's win percentage (36%) and draw percentage (28%) to that, I think we can say that the K-League wins slightly less and draws a bit more frequently than normal.  Of course, to be absolutely sure, more leagues (if not all) would have to be selected and the results tallied.  This is an undertaking I have no desire to do, since it would be much too labor intensive and time consuming.

What stands out to me though is the difference in average goals (1.33 vs. 1.24).  I feel as though this is why the K-League is looking to change from goal differential to goal scored as the metric to rank teams.  Because the rate is so low, they think it will serve as an incentive to increase attacking play.

Next, here is the table ranking the win percentage of the league and draw percentage of the league and next to that is the average number of goals for each league.  

Year Comparison of Win Pct. And Draw Pct. Versus Avg. Goals
League
Win Pct.
Avg. Goals
League
Draw Pct.
Avg. Goals

Uzbekistan PFL
40.59%
1.35
Persian Gulf
34.19%
1.14
La Liga
38.57%
1.38
Argentine PD
31.34%
1.11
Arabian Gulf
38%
1.64
Chinese SL
29%
1.32
Bundesliga
38%
1.46
K-League
28%
1.24
Scottish PFL
38%
1.34
Segunda Div.
28%
1.28
J-League
38%
1.37
Bundesliga 2
28%
1.32
A-League
37.58%
1.38
FL Championship
27.39%
1.33
Qatar SL
37.50%
1.51
MLS
26%
1.35
English PL
37.28%
1.37
Saudi PFL
26%
1.45
Saudi PFL
37%
1.45
English PL
25.42%
1.37
MLS
37%
1.35
Qatar SL
25%
1.51
FL Championship
36.30%
1.33
A-League
24.82%
1.38
Bundesliga 2
36%
1.32
J-League
24%
1.37
Segunda Div.
36%
1.28
Scottish PFL
24%
1.34
K-League
36%
1.24
Bundesliga
24%
1.46
Chinese SL
35.50%
1.32
Arabian Gulf
24%
1.64
Argentine PD
34.32%
1.11
La Liga
22.84%
1.38
Persian Gulf
32.90%
1.14
Uzbekistan PFL
18.80%
1.35

Looking at the results, what stands out here is the correlation between the result and number of goals a league averages.  Leagues with higher win averages usually have a higher number of average goals scored.  Conversely, there also seems to be a correlation between draws and low scores.  

The K-League is in the upper third of the table in the percentage of draws in the last five years.  They are in fourth, but have the third worst goal average at 1.24 per game.  The top six teams average less than 1.33 goals per game, with the Bundesliga 2 and the Chinese Super League at 1.32.  

By no means am I saying that draws equal low scores, but it seems to be that if a team draws, then there is less likelihood that of a goal being scored.  Of course, this is obvious since so many games finish 0-0 and wins can be be a blow outs.  Real Madrid beating Rayo Vallecano 10-2 is a good example of this.  Still, I think that if a league has a high number of draws, then it is to be expected that the average number of goals scored will be much lower.  

Therefore, I understand the K-League's rationale behind switching from goal differential to goals scored, but I do not think this will really change things.  I think that the tactics of most, if not all, K-League Classic managers are too conservative and that they (including Choi Yong-soo) look to minimize mistakes rather than take chances.  This is what results in the high number of draws that the K-League averages, which is why the scoring is so low.  As long as the "safety first" philosophy is the norm (if I was a coach, I would probably adopt the same tactic since I wouldn't want to be fired) in the K-League, then expect there to be lots of draws and low scoring games.  Goals don't need to be scored for there to be excitement, but it sure as hell helps draw fans.  

Next, I will look at the results of these 18 teams over the last two years.  I am curious to see how the K-League has compared since deciding to go with just 12 teams.  Also, I am curious to see how much has changed with the Chinese Super League after the influx of high priced foreigners.  

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