PREMIER LEAGUE

Premier League: how does crazy start compare to other 'big five' divisions?

The Premier League has often traded on its entertainment value and a goal-laden start to 2020-21 has set new standards.

Talking Point: How does crazy Premier League start compare to other 'big five' divisions?

A pause for October's international break did nothing to check the riotous start to the Premier League season.

From the action-packed and controversy-laden 2-2 draw between table-topping Everton and champions Liverpool at Goodison Park to West Ham's late comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Tottenham, last weekend was another to baffle and excite.

England's top flight has long trumpeted a reputation for being the most exciting league in the world.

Right now, it seems difficult to argue against that viewpoint, but how does the Premier League compare to its other major counterparts in Europe at this unusual time for elite football?

Goals, goals, goals

As you might expect from a season that has already seen the champions beaten 7-2 by a team that only escaped relegation on the final day last term and their expected main challengers lose 5-2 at home, the Premier League stands above the other "big five" leagues in terms of goals per game.

There have been 172 goals in 48 Premier League matches so far, an average of 3.6 every 90 minutes.

That outstrips the returns so far from LaLiga (2.2), the Bundesliga (3.1) and Ligue 1 (2.8) fairly comfortably, although Serie A runs its English counterpart close with 136 goals in 39 matches for 3.5 per game. We'll take a closer look at Italy's great entertainers later.

The Premier League is averaging almost a goal more per game than over the entirety of last season, when 1,034 in 380 matches amounted to 2.7 per ninety minutes.

That edged slightly ahead of Ligue 1 and LaLiga (both 2.5), with Serie A (3.0) and the Bundesliga (3.2) weighing in with more goals, pound for pound.

Paying the penalty

One notable feature over the opening weeks of the season has been VAR-emboldened referees pointing at the penalty spot as if it's going out of fashion. Leicester City won and converted three in their 5-2 rout of Manchester City.

The 29 spot-kicks awarded amounts to 0.6 per game and leads the way among the big five leagues, as does the average of 0.5 penalty goals after 25 found the back of the net.

Last season, there were only 92 awarded and 72 scored in the Premier League – each an average 0.2 per game.

Should the current trend continue, the division will far outstrip those numbers and might end up somewhere close to Serie A in 2019-20, where 187 awards and 152 goals amounted to 0.5 and 0.4 per game respectively.

Errors are fun!

Of course, the Gunfight at the O.K Corral nature of some Premier League games this season has left a handful of purists bemoaning a lack of quality sometimes underpinning the soaring entertainment.

There have been more errors leading to shots per game (0.8) in the Premier League than any of the other major divisions this season. However, it's not just defenders getting things wrong. Those mistakes have only yielded 0.3 goals from errors per match – the same as Ligue 1.

But hang on, before you start to dismiss the Premier League's finest as uncultured, gaffe-prone oafs, consider Opta's numbers on build-up attacks.

Build-up attacks are open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either end in a shot or a touch in the opposition box.

There have been 208 of these in the Premier League so far this season, averaging 4.3 every 90 minutes. All the other divisions are below four.

This adeptness when it comes to crafting patiently built attacks also comes with a risk. Teams doing so will generally play out from the back, where any errors have more chance of hitting those shots and goals against numbers.

Serie A? The defensive masters? Not really

That's right, the land of Catenaccio is completely giddy on Golazos. Atalanta scored four, four and five in their opening three wins, before shipping four at Napoli. They've netted 14 times overall and sit third.

Second-placed Sassuolo are only one goal behind Gian Piero Gasperini's freewheelers with 13 goals.

In terms of shots (25.7), shots on target (9.2), big chances (4.6), big chances scored (2.1) and errors leading to goals (0.4) per game, Serie A comes out on top of the pile in the early days of this raucous, surreal season.