Fewer flair players, more statistics and fewer goals in LaLiga

It's a fact, fewer goals are being scored in LaLiga. Not so long ago we were seeing an average of 3 goals per game in Spain's top flight and now we have the lowest average of the top five European leagues with 2.41 goals being scored per game. We're on track to match the figure of 2.33 that we witnessed in the 1968-69 season when Amancio and Gárate were top scorers in the competition with 14 goals a-piece. This was a particular low ebb and previously in the 1950s, it was not uncommon to see four goals per game with the number of goals dropping through to the late 1960s with much of this attributed to the influence of ‘catenaccio’, when the game focused heavily on defence. Back in that era, referees were also somewhat permissive allowing reckless tackles. Today, cards are readily brandished and VAR has led to more and more penalties being awarded with the average goal-per-game ratio in Italy at 3.17.

Pontevedra-CádizDavid Gil

Cancel out the opposition

We did lose an average of a goal-per-game in LaLiga when Cristiano moved to Juventus and over recent time Messi has been less prolific in front of the target but the main source in this drop-off of goals is routed in tactics. Clubs in Spain (and indeed in other major leagues) now spend hours pouring over videos and statistics dealing with their rivals with the objective to deprive teams of playing to their strengths. The modern day coach is augmented by a team of statisticians who feed data and a vast range of stats through to the coaching staff with the likes of Bordalás now ensuing that rival teams are not permitted to play out from the back with Cadiz's Cervera happy to let the other side dominate possession. But the key focus for many modern day managers is to cancel out the opposition side. 

Serie A - Juventus v UdineseSoccer Football - Serie A - Juventus v Udinese - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - January 3, 2021 Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo reacts REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

The rise of the database

This version of football played on the 'blackboard' has now been a key element the way we consume the game. In live broadcasts and highlights packages, we're now being offered a series of statistical information and tactical details that were never used in the past and were very much the terrain of the head coach. A combination of Cristiano's departure, Messi's drop-off as a marksman and the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Casillas and the rest hanging up their boots, the balance of power has swung to the team who sit in the dug-out. If we do see a future where the game depends less on mercurial talents and more on information sourced from a series of analytical databases, then it appears inevitable that we'll see fewer goals scored per match.