Recently an enquiry was made to the Twitterverse as to how crossing in the Aleague compared to other similar standard leagues around the world. Comparing leagues is nothing new but many comparisons are based on preconceived notions that relate to the football history and culture of a league or country. For example, Spanish football is seen as possession-focused, Italian football is associated with defensive organisation, English football is quick and direct, and even Australian football has reputation for using physical advantages and competitive mentality.
Football though has become more and more globalised and the make up of many leagues around the world are less homogenised than when these stereotypes were conceived. Now statistics are more freely available and not just to the inner sanctum but also the public, we can use them, in conjunction with the eye test, to contextualise leagues and understand traits and trends as they evolve.
So how does the Aleague stack up against various leagues of similar standard around the world? The question of “similar standard” itself will no doubt create debate. However, the question will be attempted to be answered by using over 20 statistical categories across thirteen leagues. The other leagues are; Brazil’s Serie B, Croatia’s 1.HNL, England’s League One, Germany’s 3.Liga, Italy’s Serie B, Japan’s J2, South Korea’s K League 2, Netherland’s Eerste Divisie, Scotland’s SPL, Spain‘s Segunda Divisio, USA’s MLS and UAE’s Arabian Gulf League.
Much is made of a league’s propensity for developing talent and bringing through younger players. Most leagues have connected tiers so there’s always the added challenge of trying to win promotion or avoid relegation which could play a factor in what risks teams are willing to take when choosing their squads.
At 27.79 years of age, the Aleague is the second oldest competition behind Korea’s K League 2 at 27.84. Brazil’s Serie B (27.24), J2 (27.75), Segunda Division (27.29), UAE (27.41) and the MLS (27.33) are the other leagues with average ages over 27.
The Dutch Eerste Divisie (23.14) and Croatia’s 1.HNL (24.36) have the two youngest average ages and are the only two below 25.
Brazil is the only country of the leagues in the 27 and over range where the divison above has a higher average age. It’s close in all cases but the top flights in Japan, Korea, and Spain all have younger average ages than their second divisions. In Holland, the Eredivisie has an average age of 24.85 which is still younger than most of the leagues looked at here but it is higher than their second division.
In the other leagues, League One (25.92), 3.Liga (25.94), Italy’s Serie B (26.73), SPL (26.2) are all between 25 and 27 years.
The philosophies change country to country but there are some take aways from the numbers. Dutch and Croatian players are highly-rated which combined with being in the EU and coming from leagues without the resources or reputation of surrounding leagues, their players are more likely to move. This contributes to the much lower ages in their leagues.
Promotion and relegation doesn’t seem to be detrimental to giving young players a chance. In England, the average age goes up slightly the higher up the tiers you go. For example, the average age in the Championship is 26.43 while in the EPL it is 26.76. It isn’t as common for young British players to move abroad but the lower leagues are often used to give emerging players senior experience on-loan, or if released they often move down the tiers.
Yet when you look at Germany, the Bundesliga average age (25.82) is slightly less then in their third division. It is relatively low across the board which showcases the German commitment to developing their young players but also players do move abroad more than their English counterparts.
Italy, like England, sees a slight increase as you move up the tiers. The Serie A (26.83) and Serie C (25.56) bookend the Serie B. Italian football also uses it‘s league system to blood their younger players as we see in England.
Japan and Korea have high average ages like the MLS and Aleague but this could be a combination of reluctance to move abroad as well as difficulty in getting permits. For these players, they can make more in their own leagues then they could in lower tier leagues abroad especially within their region. Clubs in Germany have shown a willingness to take a chance on Japanese and Korean players so this could see a decrease in average age in the future.
The Aleague is the fourth highest scoring league at 1.44 goals per 90 minutes. The Gulf League at 1.66 is the highest scoring with K2 (1.54) and MLS (1.46) rounding off the top three. Brazil’s Serie B (1.04) and the Segunda Division (1.08) are the two lowest scoring leagues.
Most of the leagues average between 10 to 12 shots per team per game with League One (12.06), 3.Liga (12.05) and the Eerste Divisie (12.09) averaging the highest with all over 12. At 11.03, the Aleague sits in the 10th spot. The Segunda Division (10.13), J2 (10.79), and the SPL (10.92) make up the bottom three.
As for shot accuracy, the Aleague is once again fourth on 36.97%. This is behind the Eerste Divisie (39.98%), MLS (37.79%) and 1.HNL (37.09%). Brazil’s Serie B (32.11%), J2 (33.06%), and Italy’s Serie B (33.37%) have the three lowest shot accuracies.
The Aleague and MLS are known to recruit their imports in more attacking roles which could account for their high-scoring and accuracy because of an ability or experience gap between defenders and forwards. It is no surprise the Croatian and Dutch leagues feature at the top of these categories, given the style of players they produce and the youthfulness of their leagues.
The Aleague teams play an average of 386.63 passes per game which is the third most behind the MLS (397.21) and the Eerste Divisie (392.07). League One (312.97), the Arabian Gulf League (333.03), and 3.Liga (337.45) make up the lowest passing leagues per team per game.
At 80.47% passing accuracy, the Aleague is the fifth most accurate with the MLS (83.25%), Brazil’s Serie B (81.49%), Arabian Gulf League (81.17%), and Italy’s Serie B (80.68%) making up the top five. League One (74.48%), SPL (77.27%), and 3.Liga (77.7%) had the three lowest total pass accuracies.
The type of passes played can give context to the above stats so; crosses, long passes, progressive passes, key passes and through passes have been looked at so we can get a better understanding of how each league stacks up.
Crossing – Aleague sides cross the ball 15.4 times a game at an accuracy of 30.46%. This would have them fourth in number of crosses but thirteenth in accuracy. Italy’s Serie B cross the ball the most at 17.07 with League One (15.76) and the Eerste Divisie (15.5) rounding out the top three. The Arabian Gulf League Cross the ball the least at 12.76 per team per game, just below K League 2 (13.83) and the MLS (13.92).
The most accurate crossing leagues reviewed were J2 (34.71%), SPL (33.67%), and 3.Liga (33.05%). Just above the Aleague were 1.HNL (31.31%), Segunda Division (31.62%), and Brazil’s Serie B (31.6%).
Long Passes – Aleague sides play the fourth least amount of long passes at 40.27. This is more than only the MLS (40.01), Brazil’s Serie B (39.12) and the Arabian Gulf League (36.99) which would explain why these four leagues are also in the top five for overall passing accuracy.
League One sides play the most long passes at 53.76 with the Eerste Divisie second (49.88), and the SPL tied with 3.Liga on 49.03.
With an accuracy of 52.34%, the Aleague is only ahead of J2 (50.81%) and just behind the UAE league (53.61%). Spain’s Segunda Division is the most accurate league with their 45.24 long passes per team (55.95%) followed by the MLS with 55.84% and the Eerste Divisie on 55.68%.
Progressivve Passes – Passes that advance the ball 10 or more yards or enter the 18-yard box are progressive passes. At 73.05 per team per game, the Aleague plays the eighth most progressive passes of the thirteen competitions. An accuracy of 72.94% puts it twelfth for accuracy.
The Eerste Divisie plays the most progressive passes at 80.95 while Brazil’s Serie B is the most accurate at 77.52%. As for the lowest number of progressive passes per team, the Gulf League plays only 64.05. At 72.46%, League One is the least accurate league.
Key Passes – These are passes that could’ve been assists but the opportunity wasn’t taken. The Aleague is ninth in key passes, playing 2.04 per team. The Eerste Divisie has the highest amount of key passes per team at 2.38 while Brazil’s Serie B has the lowest at 1.75.
Through Passes – Through passes are passes played beyond the defenders into open space and out of reach of the goalkeeper. The Aleague is sixth in through passes with 6.83 per team and fifth in terms of accuracy at 29.85%. The Gulf League play the most with 8.2nper team while the Eerste Divisie is the most accurate at 31.93%.
Scotland’s SPL play the least amount of through balls with 4.7, and Croatia’s 1.HNL is the least accurate with 26%.
Build Up Play
Dribbling/1V1 – Attempting 22.7 dribbles per team, puts the Aleague twelfth on the list, only ahead of J2 on 20.93. However they are sixth for percenatge of successful dribbles with 68.61%. Italy’s Serie B have the most success with their dribbling at 70.04%. Once more the Eerste Divisie tops a category with the most attempted dribbles per team with 28.3. Korea’s K League 2 has the least success with their dribbling at 65.45%.
Progressive Runs- Like the progressive pass, the progressive run advances the ball forward or moves the ball into the 18-yard box. The Aleague is tenth in the list for progressive runs per team on 9.32. Korea’s second division has the least per team with 7.5 but again the Dutch lead the way with the most on 12.55 per team.
Shot Creation Efficiency – This looks at how many passes it takes per shot at goal. The Aleague has the second worst efficiency with it taking 35.05 passes to create one shot. Only Japan’s J2 has a worst efficiency with a shot being created every 35.54 passes.
England’s League One had the best efficiency, taking only 25.95 passes per shot. There are only three other leagues that take less than 30 passes per shot, 3.Liga (28:1), Gulf League (28.81:1), and Brazil’s Serie B (29.45:1). Most of the leagues were between 31 and 33 passes per shot.
Fouls can give us a good idea of how games in the league are officiated as well as the pressure offensive players are put under. Some things can be waved on in some leagues that will be whistled in others and this will play a big part in how both defenders and attackers approach a game.
In the Aleague, 13.56 fouls are committed per team which is the sixth highest. Brazil’s Serie B has the most fouls per team at 15.61 while the MLS at 10.81 has the least fouls per team.
Challenge intensity is the number of duels, tackles, and interceptions per minute of opposition possession. The Aleague has a CI of 4.58 which is eighth amongst the leagues. League One has the highest CI with 5.3 while the lowest CI belongs to the MLS with 4.
In the Aleague each team has 60.74 defensive duels per game with a success rate of 21.03% which puts it at ninth and twelfth respectively. Croatia’s 1.HNL has the most defensive duels (67.76) while the K League 2 has the least (55.96). Despite having the least defensive duels, the K League 2 is the most successful, winning 24.26% of their duels. Italy’s Serie B is the least successful, winning only 20.62% of their 60.91 duels.
*All data other than defensive duels was taken from the current or most recent season as of January 7th, 2019. Defensive Duels data from January 18th, 2019.
** The full results will be available shortly.