The number of Spanish players in major European competitions increased threefold in the last decade

Cesc Fábregas, Ander Herrera, César Azpilicueta, Santi Cazorla…English squads are full of Spanish names!

This trend increased significantly during the last 10 years, probably the best decade for Spanish football in history. In this period, the national team won two European Championships (2008 and 2012) and one World Cup (2010).

Until 2008, most Spanish footballers playing abroad were in the Premier League, but after the international successes, other leagues joined this trend, particularly Italian Serie A. Still, Premier League kept its position as main destination.

Spanish players in major leagues

As you can see in the chart above, back in season 2005/2006 there were 20 Spaniards playing in other major European leagues and last season, the figure reached 65. That’s a 225% increase!

But what are the reasons behind this increase? Is it just a general improvement in the quality of footballers or is there something else? Spanish sports journalist, Jorge Lema, suggested me that in the Spanish league there are just a few teams investing a high amount of money in transfers, and in other European competitions it’s a little bit more balanced.

I checked the data for both La Liga and the Premier League and he is quite right. If we analyse the 10% teams (that’s 2 teams) that spent the most in each season, we see that in Spain they represent a higher proportion of the total expenditure than in the Premier League.

In practical terms, this means that in Spain there are less teams willing to invest big amounts of money in top players (basically Real Madrid and Barcelona and sometimes Atlético or Valencia). In comparison, there are more squads with expensive players in England (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City…). This might be a reason why so many Spaniards are looking for alternatives in other competitions. What do you think?

Percentage of the total expenditure in transfers made by the top 2 teams


Only a third of Premier League players are English

Last week I wrote a post saying that there are only 4 English footballers playing in the big 5 European leagues. But there are not many playing in England either!

I had a look to the percentage of nationals in each major competition and the Premier League performs really bad. In season 2014/2015 only 35% of footballers in England were actually English. This is a very low percentage compared to other countries like Spain, Germany or France.

National players in the big 5 leagues

This is not something new. At the beginning of the season, BBC Sport made a great analysis about the number of foreign players in Premier League and changes in the FA home-grown rules are trying to push forward players from the Premier League academies.

My question is, does this low percentage of national players damage England’s chances in international competitions? I will crunch some numbers and try to answer myself in a few days. Stay tuned!


English footballers overseas: only 4 players in majors European leagues

There are not many English footballers playing overseas. If we consider the other 4 major European leagues (La Liga, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and Serie A) there are only 4 players with English nationality. Well, to be fair there are 6, but the other two have other main nationalities.

So, who are they?

Ashley Cole

Age: 34
Nationality: England / Barbados
Current team: AS Roma
Previous teams: Chelsea FC, Arsenal FC, Crystal Palace

He signed for Roma last season after playing in the Premier League since 1999.

Micah Richards

Age: 26
Nationality: England
Current team: AC Fiorentina (loan)
Previous teams: Manchester City

He was loaned to AC Fiorentina from Manchester City. Last week Manchester City included him in the released list.

Myles Anderson

Age: 25
Nationality: England
Current team: Chievo Verona
Previous teams: Monza, Pro Patria, Exeter City, Blackburn, Aldershot, Aberdeen FC, Leyton Orient.

He played consistently for the Italian team Pro Patria in Lega Pro (Italian third category) but he didn’t play a single minute in Serie A.

Taylor Moore

Age: 18
Current team: RC Lens
Previous teams:

He was born in England but he moved to France when he was 7.

As you can see, 3 of them play for Serie A and the other one for Ligue 1. But are there more Italian and French players in the Premier League? Short answer: yes. There are 5 Italians and a whopping 33 Frenchs playing in England.

There are some countries that export more footballers than others. For example, there are 54 Spaniards playing for the other major European competitions, almost half of them in England. But French are the most international. There are 68 players spread among the biggest leagues. Have a look to the graphic!


Players nationalities in the Premier league and other major competitions

It’s summer time! The Premier League is over, Barcelona is the new European Champion and sports pages are full of transfer rumours. I’m more interested in facts than rumours, so I’m not going to write about transfers.

Last week I downloaded a spreadsheet with the nationality of every single player in the 5 major European leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A) and started looking for patterns. Do English teams sign more Spanish players than French? Which league has more players from outside Europe? Are there more Asians in Bundesliga than in any other competition?

I have found some interesting stuff that I will publish it in the following days. But, if you want to analyse the data yourself, have a look to this Tableau visualisation. If you find something interesting, let me know.

Champions League Final

Barcelona won most of the Champions League finals. Juventus didn’t

Champions League finals are usually played by the same handful of teams. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and…Barcelona and Juventus. Sadly for Juventus, Barcelona really makes the most of their chances and they have won 4 out of 7 Champions League finals. Juventus also played 7 but they have only won 2. Anyway, good luck tomorrow.


is ospina that short.jpg

Is David Ospina’s height enough for Arsenal?

Arsenal’s goalkeeper, David Ospina, is 1.83m (about 6 feet) tall, but is this enough for the Premier League? Well, according to the media it’s not.

Last week, The Guardian published an article summarising some mentions of Ospina’s height in British media. It’s called ‘In praise of short(er) goalkeepers”, and it is worth a read.

But is he that short?

Well…yes, a little bit.

The average height for a Premier League goalie is 1.91m (6.3 feet), and Ospina is 8 cm shorter than that.

percentage shorter ospina
To be fair, the Premier League and the Bundesliga have the tallest keepers among the 5 major European competitions. Compared to other leagues he performs a little bit better. For example, in Spain there is a tradition of short goalkeepers. The average is just 1.86m (still, 3cm more than Ospina) and the keepers of the 4 main teams are not particularly tall.  In fact, Claudio Bravo, from Barcelona, and Iker Casillas, from Real Madrid, are both below the average height! And, as you can see in the chart below, keepers of Atlético and Valencia are not much taller.

The shortest first-choice goalie in La Liga and in all 5 major leagues*  is Sergio Álvarez, from Celta de Vigo (La Liga) and he is only 1.77. I’m taller than that!


goalkeepers in la liga are all quite short

Does it really matter?

Well, height might be considered a good quality for a goalie, but it’s not essential. In the chart below I have put together the top 10 goalkeepers in the 5 major leagues with the lowest number of goals conceded per game and their height. As you can see, David Ospina is between them and he is not the only short one. Yann Sommer, who plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach, is the exactly same height. Claudio Bravo, the keeper with the lowest number of goals conceded per match, is just 1 cm taller.

do tall goalies condede fewer goals per game

Most keepers are tall, but you don’t need to be a giant to be among the best.

*5 major leagues are Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1

Infographic distances

[Infographic] The longest distances travelled for a Champions League final

Not many Champions League finals required contender teams to travel such a short distance as last year. There are only 500 km between Lisbon and Madrid, home city of both Atlético and Real Madrid.

But what are the longest distances travelled in the history of the competition? Actually, English teams take the top of the table. I have created an infographic with the 5 longest distances travelled by any team in Champions League History. 4 out of 5 are English teams.

Infographic distances


Best and worst performances in the second half of the season

Last week I wrote a blog post using Premier League historical data. It took me a while to create the Tableau visualisation so I promised myself that I would reuse it in other entries. And that’s what I did today!

The following chart shows the biggest improvements (and disasters) that English teams experienced in the second half  of a season. And there are some interesting examples

Team: Norwich

Season: 1994-1995

Manager: John Deehan

What happened?:  Norwich had a very good start and at the end of the first half of the season they were holding the 7th position. Nevertheless, the rest of the competition was a total disaster. They end up 20th and they were relegated to First Division.


Team: Fulham

Season: 2010-2011

Manager: Mark Hughes

What happened?: The beginning of the season wasn’t good for Fulham. They finished the first half in the 18th place and the risk of being relegated was pretty serious. But, the second half of the season was much better for the London team. They end up 8th and they even qualified for the UEFA Europa League!

Arsenal playing the FA cup

Can Arsenal win the Premier League?

Arsenal’s Theo Walcott believes that they “can compete for anything this season”. I read this yesterday on ESPN but it’s not the first time in the last few weeks that one of the Gunners claim that they can win any title. Just after defeating Manchester City 10 days ago, Aaron Ramsay said that they still can win the Premier League.

It’s good to see such optimism, but the truth is that they are 5th and they are 15 points away from Chelsea. I had a look to the Premier League historical data to find out if any team in the last few years won the competition having such a big gap at this point of the season. The answer is no…but some got pretty damn close.

In the season 1997-1998, after 22 games played, Manchester United was leading and Arsenal was 11 point away from the top. At the end of the season, Gunners won the League.

Two years earlier, in 1995-1996, a similar situation happened involving Manchester United and Newcastle, but this time the results was favourable for the Red Devils.

If you want to take a look to the data, I’ve put together a Tableau visualisation. I got the data from SoccerStats.com but I had some problems to order it. As not all the teams play at the same time, you will notice that the “matchday” table may have some variations in the number of matches. This happens because it only shows when the local team reaches the number of games played that you selected.

Joe Hart

Who is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League?

Who is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League? Thibaut Courtois conceded fewer goals than any other stopper in the competition, but does that mean that he is the best or is it just that Chelsea’s defence is exceptional?

There are several metrics we could use to assess the performance of a stopper. The percentage of shots saved, the number of clean sheets, how many minutes it takes to score and  the goals allowed per game.

Different indicators show different results. If we consider the percentage of shots saved, Sunderland’s ‘keeper, Costel Pantilimon, gets the highest score. He only played the last 11 games because the main goalkeeper at the beginning of the season was Vito Mannone. Given that Mannone only stopped 68% of the shots and Pantilimon 80%, clearly it was a change for the better.

Pantilimon and Fraser Forster (Southampton) share the lead for the percentage of clean sheets. In 45% of their games, they finished unbeaten.

But, if we take a look to other metrics, particularly those that refer to the number of goals conceded, the results differ. Fraser Forster is the keeper with the most number of minutes between goals. It takes 120 minutes to beat him. He is followed by Joe Hart from Manchester City (108 minutes) and David De Gea from Manchester United (90 minutes). Pantilimon is some distance from that as he concedes a goal every 76 minutes.

Who is the best goalkeeper for you?


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