EFL “game states”, 2018/19

Here’s another quick end-of-season round-up that I always find quite interesting. What I’ve done below for each of the three 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 because I include added time, which means that every club will have a slightly different total number of minutes played. I’ve then ranked clubs by the difference between the share of time they’ve spent winning versus losing, which feels like the fairest way to do it (and also gives you the nice smooth graphs below).


Sheffield United really stand out here – not only were they the only team to spend more than a third of their time in a winning position this season but also spent the least time losing by far: less than 10%. Bramall Lane was an absolute fortress for them: they were behind for less than an hour there in total (55 minutes spread across four late defeats).

Interestingly Birmingham are sitting pretty high up here, even though they’d be a few places higher without their 9-point deduction – I had a quick look into this and they’ve dropped 29 points from winning positions, more than anyone except Rotherham’s horrible 35.

I was also surprised to see Bristol City near the bottom of the list despite them finishing 8th this season. It looks like they spent a lot of time drawing and they also netted 54.2% of their goals in the last 30 minutes of matches (the highest share in the division).

At the bottom, it’s no surprise to find Ipswich and Bolton after their dire seasons: only one in nine of the Trotters’ minutes on the pitch was spent in a winning position while the Tractor Boys were the only EFL club to spend over half of their away minutes in a losing position (51.1%).

League 1

This graph’s a lot more boring unfortunately. The top two here are the teams who secured automatic promotion in the actual league table – both Luton and Barnsley spent over 40% of their time on the pitch this season in a winning position – and the rest of the top seven is the actual top seven in order. Three of the four relegated teams are at the foot of this list too – Plymouth are the exception and can therefore feel a little hard done by – so the league table conforms unusually well to the share of time each team has spent winning versus losing. Southend only avoided relegation on the final day but their balance of time spent winning and losing wasn’t all that unhealthy, so perhaps they’ll fare better next season.

League 2

This division is a bit more jumbled up, although hardly chaotic: while champions Lincoln are in the best shape overall and 3rd-placed MK Dons are 3rd, runners-up Bury are quite a way down the list.

Oldham finished the season just inside the bottom half despite spending comfortably more time winning than losing, which may have something to do with them dropping a joint-highest 27 points after scoring first.

It’s a bit worrying for Port Vale and Morecambe to have spent the most time losing – both over one minute in every three – while Forest Green can go into the play-offs with the encouragement of having spent the division’s smallest share of time in a losing position.