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The Best of 2017 Stats and What They Mean for 2018

As the 2018 season is upon us no doubt the same question is on all our lips – will the worldwide (predominantly on twitter or in the pub) infatuation with stats play a part in this season’s K League?

K League and Stats

Most likely the answer to this is no, but I for one will be bitterly disappointed if there is no mention of expected goals (xG). The stat to end all stats, the stat that tells us what the score really should have been if the strikers didn’t miss sitters or if the world was deprived of worldies. Sounds like an alternative universe that may in fact be worse that the one which has VAR.

This is a league quite notorious for not having the richest amount of data/stats on their games, particularly on our beloved corner stats. Case in point being the delicious stat on Naver called ‘foul,’ which I can’t entirely say I understand but assume it’s a combination of fouls for and fouls against. For what it’s worth, Jeonbuk topped the 2017 table in this stat with 542, presumably part of the reason why they won the league.

Whether this a consequence of the decidedly inward approach taken by the officials at the K League, which, unlike other leagues in the region, haven’t made noticeable moves to expand their base around Asia through player recruitment or internationally through deals like the one made by the Perform Group for the J League that sees the games and stats streamed live worldwide on platforms like Bet365 and Flashscores.

This despite, according to a Perform Group insider, negotiations being ongoing for a number of years and breaking down over the financials not matching that of the aforementioned deal with the J League.

The Best of 2017 - The Goals

Nevertheless, the 2017 K League 1 season did provide some pretty interesting stats and trends on the whole. The continual improvement in terms of average amount of goals scored is a welcome one as the league produced an average of 2.75 goals per game last season. It's a marginal increase from the 2.71 of the 2016 season, but the highest mark since the dizzying heights of 2010 that saw 2.88 goals per game. Who doesn’t enjoy marginally more goals in a game?

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Gangwon FC, and Pohang Steelers topped the charts in terms of most goals in the games they played with the Champs netting 73 times and Gangwon and Pohang with 63 each. Interestingly, Gangwon failed to score in just one of their away games all season while successfully (though they wouldn't see it this way) conceding in every single one of them. Perhaps the latter is something they will aim to improve on this coming season, but I would prefer they didn’t as it made for some entertaining games like their 3-2 victories away to FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings. On the other hand, Pohang might struggle to top said charts this time out as they have to replace some 36 goals due to several players exiting the club this window.

The Best of 2017 - The Discipline

Along with nearly topping the scoring charts, Pohang also take home the "honour" of being part of the season’s dirtiest game. In terms of card points anyway. Their September 10th game away to Daegu FC saw three reds. Two were straight reds, the other from yellow card accumulation. And that wasn't it. There were an addition four bookings on top of the reds handed out.

Aside from being part of the most carded game of 2017, Daegu FC also had the worst disciplined player in Cesinha, who was the only player in the league to be sent off three times. Daegu also had four other players sent off during the season, so discipline is something the club will hope to improve on this season both individually and as a team.

FC Seoul can claim to be the cleanest team before the championship split anyway. Stats show that they averaged just 1.27 yellows a game and only 0.09 reds. Post split games included a red and feisty derby with Suwon, which saw four cards for Seoul, but not enough to change their status as the "clean" team.

The Best of 2017 - The Draws and again the Discipline and once again the Goals

Finishing with the fewest cards could be seen as a lack of bite, and may have contributed to FC Seoul finishing with the most draws (13) in the top half. A mark they jointly shared with rivals Suwon. The overall highest tally for most draws, and most red cards, in K League 1 last season both went to the same team: Incheon United. They had quite and impressive 11 red cards for the season and equally impressive 18 draws, which may in fact be a consequence of one another. On top of this, Incheon managed just nine goals in the first half of games last season. Netting a distressing four times at home in the season before half-time. At least there’s no need to worry about missing the start of games for home supporters.

The Best of 2017 - Best Away Team, Hat-Tricks and Corner Stats

Although being a bit draw-heavy overall, Suwon Bluewings can boast having the best away record in the league having lost only twice away from home. A mark good enough to finish the season having actually won more away from home than at home (nine to eight if you were wondering).

When it comes to scoring in bunches, Jeonnam Dragons were involved in five of 2017's seven games involving hat-tricks. Only two of the five were in Jeonnam's favor, and unsurprisingly they conceded hat tricks twice in the closing weeks of the season as they limped across the finish line. Perhaps tighter marking is required this year.

A stat that may have contributed to the happy hat-trick hunters of the league is that illusive corner stat. The team with the most corners per game was indeed Jeonnam Dragons with a healthy 9.7 corners per game. Unfortunately for the Dragons, the majority (6.03) were against them rather than for, meaning lots of opportunities to practise that tight marking.

Best of the Rest

Other stats to note in the season were Sangju Sangmu defeating Jeonbuk Motors away for the first time in their history. A 19 game history which included four draws and 14 defeats before breaking the trend. Alongside Sangju's first away win vs Jeonbuk was Joo Min-kyu’s record-tying act of scoring in seven consecutive games.

There was also Ulsan Hyundai winning the FA Cup for the first time in their history, and Jeju United tying their highest ever finish of 2nd place.

If your stat thirst has been quenched or even just your fancy tickled stay tuned for more throughout the season.

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