A quick look at “game states”, 5 Nov 2017

It’s taking a bit longer than anticipated to switch all of last season’s graphics back on, but there’s a relatively simple one that I wanted to run as I’d spotted a few interesting bits and pieces in the data.

What I’ve done below for each of the top four English divisions is to measure how long each club has spent in each of the three main “game states” – i.e. winning, drawing and losing. I’ve then converted these into percentages and ranked them by the difference between the percentage of time they’ve spent winning versus losing.

Premier League

It’s probably no surprise to learn that Man City have spent over half their time leading this season and barely any time trailing (just 58 minutes in fact). No other team in the top four divisions has spent most of their playing minutes in a winning position so far.

Interestingly Arsenal have spent the fifth longest proportion of time in the lead but also a greater share losing than all but five other top flight clubs. Today’s defeat to Man City was the fifth time this season that the Gunners have conceded a first half opener.

After their atrocious start, it’s also not a shock to learn that Crystal Palace have spent over half of their season in a losing position and just 59 minutes in the lead. Swansea have spent the next smallest proportion of time leading, but also a large number of minutes with the scores tied, so their fans haven’t had to endure them trailing too often.

However they’re some way behind Newcastle in the drawing stakes, with almost two thirds of the Magpies’ time on the pitch this season with the scores level. In fact, no club in the top four divisions has spent a greater share of time neither winning nor losing.


The first thing to notice is just how dominant Wolves have been, with by far the largest proportion of time spent in the lead. While there’s one EFL team who have spent an even greater share of their minutes ahead, the tiny sliver of time they’ve spent trailing (just 7%, or 109 minutes) is comfortably the smallest in all three divisions.

Surprise package Sheff Utd aren’t far behind in terms of minutes spent leading, but they’ve also been trailing for just over a quarter of the time so far. The Blades have also spend the smallest share drawing of any club in the top four divisions. Despite their recent nosedive, Leeds have also spent over 40% of their minutes in a winning position overall thanks to their hugely impressive start.

Both Preston and Millwall have been looking good this season but are spending a lot of time drawing – and more worryingly, fewer minutes ahead than behind. Matches involving the aforementioned Blades, plus the likes of Hull and Nottingham Forest have been tied far less frequently.

Both Burton and Birmingham have struggled to get their noses in front this season, with the Brewers having already led for 600 fewer minutes than leaders Wolves.

League 1

The team to have led for the greatest share of their minutes in the whole EFL are Bradford, although the two teams currently above them in the table – Shrewsbury and Wigan – have spent a smaller percentage of time trailing.

To say that it’s been a frustrating season for Bury is an understatement, but it’s also been rather dull, with the scores in their matches deadlocked for a larger share of time than those of any other EFL side. Rochdale also stand out as a side who have spent a huge amount of time with the scores level.

It’s not been a happy return to the third tier for Plymouth so far, as they’ve spent less than 10% of their time in the lead and the largest share of it losing. However, mid-table Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth have also spent a worrying amount of minutes chasing the game.

League 2

Mansfield and Cheltenham have both looked better than their bottom half league positions this season and this graphic shows both spending more time in the lead than behind. Surprise package Newport meanwhile have been trailing for more minutes than they’ve led and have been winning for less than a quarter of the time.

Both Lincoln and Grimsby have spent over 60% of their playing time drawing so far: comfortably the most in the division, while the balance has tipped far more frequently in favour of one team or the other when Yeovil and Port Vale have been in action.

While Forest Green have been in a winning position for over twice as long as bottom side Morecambe, they’ve actually spent more time behind.