3 fun looks at home advantage

How much has lockdown impacted home advantage? And other things...

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Mark Thompson

Jun 30 2020

6 mins read

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Welcome to Get Goalside!, it’s good to see you. Nice face covering.

This week’s charity is FND Action. FND stands for Functional Neurological Disorder, which FND Action raises awareness for.

The first few matches post-lockdown created an excitement about the lack of home victories. It had all started with the Bundesliga, whose low opening home win percentage led to #takes and #claims.

And though it started off looking the same in the Premier League — amusingly with the only two home wins in the first eight games both coming against Arsenal — things have rebalanced.

At time of writing, there have been 25 matches post-restart, and ten home wins. If we take games in bunches of 25, that’s not far off the average home win percentage.

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Even when the only home wins were coming against the Gunners (a period with a home win rate of 25%) that wouldn’t be the lowest rate in English men’s top tier history. There was a run of 25 matches in December 1994 where there were only three home victories (12%), and a run as recent as 2015 where there were only four (16%):

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So, while the absence of crowds might affect home advantage (I’m not ruling it out!) I wouldn’t be using these matches as evidence of it.

But while I’m looking at home advantage data for the English First Division/Premier League… Which team has the longest streak of consecutive home wins? Current Liverpool! (since February 2019)

But prior to them?

Also Liverpool! (I promise that we’ll get away from Liverpool next week, although hello to all the Reds fans who subscribed after last week’s newsletter)

Read last week’s post on putting this title-winning 2019/20 team into some (impressive) historical context. Or if you’ve already read it, share this one!

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The Reds had 21 straight home wins from January to December 1972. Funnily enough, considering jinxes of recent years, both the match that started the run and the final win in it were against Crystal Palace. They finished 3rd in the 1971/72 section of this streak, just one point behind winners Derby County in an incredible four-horse race; but in 1972/73, as like now, they finished on top.

Both Manchester clubs came close to matching that 70s record from in the past decade, but Manchester City fell one short (20 wins, March 2011 to March 2012) and United fell two short (19 wins, October 2010 to October 2011).

Here are the dates of the longest league winning streaks at home for the other teams who’ve managed one of 10 or more [and the league positions in the seasons the streaks covered]:

  • Everton (14): November 1967 - August 1968 [5th | 3rd]
  • Newcastle (14): May 1995 - February 1996 [6th | 2nd]
  • Tottenham (14): January 1987 - October 1987 [3rd | 13th]
  • Wolves (14): March 1953 - November 1953 [3rd | 1st]
  • Arsenal (13): February 2005 - November 2005 [2nd | 4th]
  • Aston Villa (13): February 1983 - October 1983 [6th | 10th]
  • Blackburn (13): October 1993 - April 1994 [2nd]
  • Chelsea (13): April 2005 - December 2005 [1st | 1st]
  • Leeds (13): November 1968 - August 1969 [1st | 2nd]
  • Derby (12): October 1971 - April 1972 [1st]
  • Nottingham Forest (12): February 1980 - September 1980 [5th | 7th]
  • Blackpool (11): November 1951 - April 1952 [9th]
  • Ipswich Town (11): October 1961 - March 1962 [1st]
  • Portsmouth (10): December 1948 - April 1949 [1st]
  • Preston North End (10): November 1952 - March 1953 [2nd]
  • West Ham (10): October 1985 - April 1986 [3rd]

If your team has been in the top-flight, and/or you’d like to know the longest home win streak in another English division, leave a comment and I’ll respond with the answer.

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A brief mention on Blackpool though, because being on this list and only finishing 9th seemed unusual and I was intrigued enough to look it up. The 1951/52 season was very tight in the upper-midtable, with Blackpool finishing just 3 points behind 4th. But the Seasiders also only managed one victory at home outside of this 11-match long streak.

A slightly different take on ‘home advantage’ is to look at the share of a team’s points that they won in front of their own fans. It’s more of an amusing measure than a useful one, though, because the extremes (at both ends) are taken up by teams who had weird seasons and picked up not-very-many points at all.

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It’s quite interesting to see the gradual sweep in direction of the swarm of datapoints towards 50%. While the pandemic-induced empty stands might not have gone studs-up on home advantage, is something about modern football hacking away at it?

Maybe it’s simpler than that.

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The 1981/82 season was the first in England to award three points for a win. If we draw a trendline over those datapoints, the change in direction is eerily close to that campaign.

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While the median percentage of points a team wins at home hasn’t shifted that much (63% to 61% pre- and post-change), we can see from the chart the effect it’s had on that 50-50 mark.

In the post-war, two-points-for-a-win era, only 8 teams finished a top-flight men’s league season having won less than half of their points at home. Since 1981, it’s 44. That’s still a small share of the total teams who’ve been playing (5.6%), but pre-1981 that figure was only 1%.

What could be the cause of this?

It could be that the added incentive of an extra point worked. The carrot dangling in front of away teams is larger now than before, so the benefit of sitting back for a draw is smaller.

But you could also suggest that the increasing professionalisation of the game might be a factor. With the money that the Premier League now has, the off-pitch differences between playing at home and away (e.g., travel, hotels) are presumably a lot smaller than before 1981.

Who knows. But it was interesting asking the question.

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Shout-out corner

I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I feel I have some minor authority to say that the guys on The Beautiful Game podcast and Joe Devine on the Tifo football podcast are some of my favourite interviewers at the moment. Their guests always seem incredibly at ease and in long, conversational interviews they don’t over-insert themselves.

Also, @VenkyReddevil is doing some daily visualisations which I’m enjoying seeing. I’ve been learning things from them, in the choices taken and the way they aid the reader or control the pace of reading the chart.

Finally, to share another new newsletter, Kim McCauley has a newsletter on women’s football called the Gegen Press for All for XI. Also follow Kim on twitter.

Once again: this week’s charity is FND Action. There’s a page on what FND is here.

Donate to FND Action

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