I’m not the sharpest at Mathematics — ask my teachers, or my classmates, or my parents — but it hasn’t taken me too long to realize that the ongoing Ghana Premier League (GPL) season is already heavily saturated with goals, despite being barely halfway through.
Quite a few games have finished in sixes and sevens, with another even ending as a nine-goal thriller, and such instances — not exactly the norm, but hardly rare this term — got me thinking. And that got me digging, crunching the numbers (kindly refer to the first few words of this article and widen my margin of error accordingly) to make some sense of it all.
It does turn out that my suspicions are actually backed by the data — gathered from the current season and the one just before it (both contested by 18 clubs) and, for perspective, the last two seasons in the league’s now-defunct 16-team format.
TOTAL HIGH-SCORING GAMES
GOALS IN HIGH-SCORING GAMES
AVG. GOALS IN HIGH-SCORING GAMES
% OF HIGH-SCORING GAMES
*Numbers are rounded off to one decimal place
As seen in the table right below, there has been a significant increase in goals scored since the league’s expansion from 2019/20 onward. But if one is inclined to attribute that to the greater number of games these days, well, that’s just where the current campaign flies in the face of that argument.
2020/21 has had fewer games (108) than 2017 (120) and 2018 (116), yet packs in more goals (245 to 241). Further evidence that this season is truly an outlier in more ways than one — proving that more games don’t necessarily produce more goals — is seen in the fact that it has had a higher average of goals scored (2.3) than the previous term (2.1).
At this point, the comparison narrows to a showdown between those two seasons — 2019/20 and 2020/21 — but the contest is only tight with respect to the number of high-scoring games (defined as games producing five goals or more, for the purposes of this analysis); both have had ten of those. Even so, there is a tie-breaker, as that number (10) represents a greater percentage of this season’s games (9.3%) than last’s (7.5%).
Now, here’s where 2020/21 really stands out and stands tall: it has reached that 10-game mark in fewer game-weeks and has yielded considerably more goals (64 to last season’s 58). It could, in fact, record many more goals than 2019/20 — by the same 15-game stage at which the latter ended — going by an average of a little over 20 goals per game-week.
There is a season-on-season rise in GPL goals, clearly, and the latest edition has brought the most bountiful harvest yet. Doing the math, though, is the easy bit (not so easy for me, of course, for reasons already confessed); what isn’t nearly as simple to work out is why such a spike — this season’s, but also last season’s — is being experienced.
Are teams attacking better? Defending worse? Or is it all raw energy — bottled up during the lengthy post-Number 12 hiatus, perhaps — exploding?
Well, that’s not mine to figure out. The math was draining enough.