The 2020-21 Premier League season was the season like no other. Or was it?
Certainly, it differed from the norm in many aspects. The ongoing global effects of the coronavirus pandemic meant that for the majority of the campaign fans were still not allowed to attend inside stadiums.
The delay to last season also had a knock-on effect and meant the fixtures came thick and fast, causing a congested schedule and little chance to pause and reflect.
But just how different were things? Well, using some key metrics from the good folks at Opta, we have taken a look back at the comparative data going back to the 2003-04 season to look at things from a statistical standpoint.
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
There were certainly plenty of games with a high volume of goals and some unusual results, too. Remember Aston Villa beating Liverpool 7-2? And the Reds routing Crystal Palace 7-0?.
But in our time period, there have been nine occasions when there have been more goals tallied than the 1,024 this term. Indeed, you only have to go back to 2018-19 for the most celebrated – a whopping 1,072.
However, this term comfortably produced the highest number of penalties taken at 125, an average of 0.33 spot-kicks per game.
Players this season have statistically been more accurate as well. An average shot-conversion rate of 11.14 and shooting accuracy of 48.87 are both the highest since 2003-04.
On the flip side, this campaign produced the fewest number of shots (including blocked shots, 9,194 – an average of 24.2 per game). For context, there were 11,050 in 2010-11 – an average of 29.1 per game.
Last season saw the fewest amount of headed goals at 138. It was up to 170 in 2020-21, but that is 35 fewer than in 2010-11 – the highest on record since 2003-04.
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 24, 2021
YOU’VE GOT TO HOLD AND GIVE BUT DO IT AT THE RIGHT TIME…
No, that header is not just a popular lyric from the John Barnes rap in ‘World In Motion’ but a sense of the evolution of possession football and patient approach play in England’s top flight, reflected by the increasing number of passes accumulated in Premier League seasons.
Back in 2003-04 there were 284,243 (748.01 per match), while the fewest over an entire term was 272,290 (716.55 per game) in the 2007-08 campaign.
This season produced the most passes ever recorded with a staggering 359,160, equating to 945.16 per game. Moreover, the 81.5 per cent passing accuracy is also the highest in our data.
Continuing a trend of the changing times, this term marked the fewest passes in the final third (98,770) and the lowest percentage of passes into the final third (27.5 – data for these metrics began in 2006-07). The most passes in the final third occurred in 2016-17 when there were 106,993.
The 25.1 crosses per match was down slightly on last term (26.5) but still up on the fewest recorded of 24.2 in 2018-19. The highest average was back at the start of our data in 2003-04, when there were 42 crosses per game.
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 23, 2021
In perhaps another sign of how the game has evolved, this season saw comfortably the fewest number of tackles (11,800 – 31.1 per game) recorded. In comparison, the most in a campaign in the same metrics saw 18,050 and 47.5 in 2006-07 (when tackling data was first taken).
That would go some way to explaining why there were only 1,095 yellow cards dished out – the second fewest in our timespan (an average of 2.88 per match). The least amount shown was back in 2004-05 (1,015, 2.67 per game), while the most in a single campaign was the 1,392 in 2016-17 (3.66 per game).
Red cards were up from the 44 dished out last term, with 48 shown. That number is higher than the 39 dismissals of 2017-18 but way down on the 73 of 2005-06.
However, fouls conceded were up for the second consecutive season (8,283) from a low of 7,768 in 2018-19. That number is still much lower than the high of 10,886 in 2005-06, though.
Overall, there can be no doubt this season was completely different to any other we have known in the Premier League and, fingers crossed, more and more fans will return to stadiums from next season.
In purely statistical terms, the data seems to suggest a continuation of certain trends (more passes, fewer tackles, fewer crosses, penalties on the rise) than any sort of mind-boggling anamoly. So, from that sense, perhaps it wasn’t quite as different as we thought.