A quick look at multiple goalscorers

I was copied into the tweets below while I was away: a sharp-eyed fan had spotted a high number of players scoring braces at the weekend – 13 over the weekend plus four from the five Tuesday night EFL Cup games and another in Newport v Barnet – and wondered how unusual this was.

Faced with a long train journey I’ve had a stab at providing an answer to this, although I’ve had to navigate a bit of self-imposed pedantry in order to do so. I had a couple of seasons’ worth of data immediately to hand – back to the start of 2014/15 – that included over 100 rounds of matches and felt like enough to give us a handle on how often braces are typically scored.

The aforementioned pedantry (feel free to skip)

While Tom was initially right to say that there were 13 doubles scored in the latest round of EFL matches, the 14th – John Akinde’s double for Barnet at Newport last night – was actually in a fixture rearranged from an earlier round. Both teams had already played on Saturday, so I don’t think it’s fair to count this as part of the same round.

However 13 in the 36 matches that makes up a full round of EFL fixtures still sounds pretty impressive. I’m going to ignore the cup games as they aren’t really my forte, plus the standard of opposition is a lot more variable than in the league (depending on how the draw pans out) so that doesn’t feel like an “apples with apples” comparison.

Defining a round of league fixtures itself is also a bit of a pain. At the start of the season the fixture calendar is sufficiently orderly for me to be able to build things like this, but various rearrangements and the three divisions following slightly different schedules (like the midweek games last week when only the top two divisions were in action) means that a lot of rounds contain fewer than the full complement of 36 games.

Even if I had the inclination to retrospectively reassemble each round of matches I think it would undermine the spirit of the question, which was about braces being scored at around the same time. Therefore I’ve grouped matches into rounds where they were played in the same “window”: usually the standard weekend stretch centred around a Saturday (which with TV games can spread from Friday through to Monday) or the midweek one that occurs mostly on a Tuesday.

The last thing I have to do is to work out how to handle players scoring more than twice. The most obvious example of this is hat tricks, but we also have a couple of four-goal hauls in our sample: Joe Garner’s for Preston and Odion Ighalo’s for Watford. To keep things simple, I’ll count the number of times a player has scored “multiple goals” (i.e. two or more) in a game which, given the relative rarity of numbers above two, shouldn’t skew things too much.

Results

It turns out that there have been 799 incidents of a player scoring multiple goals, spread across 734 of the 3,822 EFL matches to have been played since the start of 2014/15 (i.e. 799 – 734 = 61 games saw more than one player score multiple goals). 726 of these were actual braces, 71 were hat tricks and there were the two four-goal hauls I mentioned above.

This allows us to set some initial expectations: 3,822 divided by five is 764, which falls roughly halfway between the 734 and 799 numbers above, so on average we can expect one game in every five to feature someone getting on the scoresheet more than once. Therefore in a full-sized round of 36 games, we’d expect around seven of them to contain at least a brace on average (36 divided by 5 gives 7.2).

That’s more than I was initially expecting, but 13 is a lot higher than 7 – not far off twice as big in fact – so it’s still reasonable to expect that 13 braces will be pretty unusual.

As it turns out, the tally from the weekend is the joint-highest since the start of 2014/15. It’s happened twice before in this period, most recently last month: there were 13 multiple goalscorers on 10th September, including a brace for each team in the 2-2 draw between Peterborough and Port Vale.

The time before was back in a midweek round of games on 16-17 September 2014, and this was arguably the most impressive of the three. There were three hat tricks and one match saw two players net a brace while the most recent two 13s were made up entirely of braces, with one game in each seeing two braces scored. Full details of all three rounds are in the notes at the bottom of this post.

There have been 63 complete rounds of fixtures – i.e. when all 36 matches have been played together – since the start of the 2014/15 season and 14 of these saw the number of multiple goalscorers reach double figures, as per the graph below:

brace-graph

Therefore the answer to my mangled version of Tom’s original question is “pretty unusual but not earth-shatteringly so”. Three occurrences in two-and-a-bit seasons suggests that it should happen at least once per season.

As I’ve ignored all of the rounds where the full complement of 36 games doesn’t get played, perhaps we’d find a few more that matched or even topped 13 if we painstakingly reassembled these. For example, there was one round of 34 games which saw 12 multiple goalscorers and one diminished round of 19 games which featured 8, which would scale up to around 15 multiple scorers over 36 matches.

Sticking with the 63 above, what’s also clear is that you’re likely to see several braces even in a lean week. None of the complete rounds I looked at saw fewer than three multiple goalscorers, which suggests that quite a few teams have a dominant goalscorer in their ranks and therefore those “Player X to score two or more goals” bets that some bookies offer aren’t as optimistic as I’d previously suspected.

It looks like the average of 7.2 we derived at the start holds up pretty well here: 30 of the complete rounds (just under half) have seen 8 or more multiple goalscorers and 33 have seen 7 or fewer.

Notes

While I was pulling the data together I spotted one game that saw FOUR braces: Bristol City’s 8-2 win over Walsall at the back end of the 2014/15 season included a hat trick and two doubles for the hosts plus a brace for the visitors. There were also a couple with three braces in: Accrington 3-4 Wimbledon and Chesterfield 7-1 Shrewsbury (which also included a hat trick).

 

Finally, here’s the full list of multiple goalscorers for the three 13s above if anyone was interested in checking. All are single braces except stated otherwise in brackets:

 

16-17 September 2014

Bolton 3-2 Rotherham (hat trick)

Brentford 0-3 Norwich

Reading 3-2 Millwall

Colchester 2-3 Sheff Utd

Gillingham 2-1 Peterborough

Port Vale 0-3 Bristol City

Preston 3-3 Chesterfield (hat trick)

Wimbledon 3-0 Burton

Northampton 5-1 Hartlepool (two braces)

Nottingham Forest 5-3 Fulham (hat trick)

Blackburn 2-3 Derby

 

10 September 2016

Brighton 0-2 Brentford

Norwich 3-2 Cardiff

Bristol Rovers 2-2 Rochdale

Bury 2-1 Shrewsbury

Oxford 2-0 Swindon

Peterborough 2-2 Port Vale (two braces)

Colchester 3-2 Blackpool

Luton 1-2 Grimsby

Morecambe 1-5 Doncaster

Newport 2-2 Cheltenham

Portsmouth 4-2 Wycombe

Yeovil 1-2 Hartlepool

 

22-23 October 2016

Newcastle 3-0 Ipswich

Bradford 3-3 Sheff Utd

Millwall 2-1 Fleetwood

MK Dons 0-3 Southend

Shrewsbury 2-4 Northampton (two braces)

Swindon 0-2 Walsall

Blackpool 4-2 Doncaster

Colchester 2-2 Morecambe

Hartlepool 1-3 Leyton Orient

Newport 1-3 Plymouth

Portsmouth 1-2 Notts County

Bury 0-2 Bolton