The 2016 season saw a restructuring of the SWPL league format where one league of twelve teams became two leagues of eight teams. This was done to improve the competitiveness. Is it working?
Now, before we begin, it has to be said that it is far too early to draw any conclusions. This is the first entry in a series where I will look at the statistics to see if it is working.
To do this, I will compare the 2016 SWPL 1 and 2 seasons to the 2015 SWPL season. Another couple of points before we start. I will be looking at results up to the 17th April, and obviously due to the differing calendars, the number of games will be different in each case. Secondly, until each team has played each other at least once, patterns are quite hard to pick out. But let’s try.
Apart from a couple of outliers in both the SWPL 1 and 2, there is a fairly even distribution of goals scored between the teams. The interesting stat from the SWPL 1 is that Glasgow City is one of the lowest-scoring clubs. Now, this could be down to the stop-start nature of the season, as well as a new attacking line-up requiring to gel, but you normally associate City with high-scoring.
If we compare that to the 2015 SWPL season, there were five high-scoring sides whereas the rest were stuck on four goals or less.
Interestingly, you can tell that Forfar is struggling as they’ve conceded the most, but you can’t really tell much else. Again, this is mainly down to the lack of games played as one freak result makes a large difference. And then, you have a team like Aberdeen who are second bottom, but have only lost by one-goal margins. In the SWPL 2, you notice immediately that Inverness City and Queen’s Park are struggling. However, when you compare the SWPL 1 to the 2015 SWPL season, you don’t see a side like Hamilton who had conceded 16 goals after three games.
But neither of these statistics tell you much. As I say, freak results can distort a club’s season. So, let’s look at something that can give us a better idea.
First of all, let us compare the SWPL 1 and the 2015 SWPL. The most common score in both was 1-0 wins, but due to the fact 13 games have been played in the SWPL 1 compared to 17 in the 2015 season, it is significant that there has been more 1-0 wins in the SWPL 1. What you can also see is that the majority of wins have been narrow (two goals or less), whereas in the 2015 SWPL, you see a distribution that spreads out to 8-1 wins.
The SWPL 2 is a different manner, where the only scorelines to have been repeated have been 3-1 and 5-0 wins. From this, it seems that the top tier has become more competitive whilst the SWPL 2 have become one-sided. This is not particularly true or fair, and it is not a surprise that the top scorers (Hamilton and Hearts) were relegated from the SWPL, and were the pre-season title favourites. Also, there are issues to do with confidence and luck that can impact any division. Firm conclusions will have to take a while.
But, there is one interesting pattern that is developing.
Home Or Away?
How big of an advantage is it to play at home?
In the SWPL 1, it seems it is crucial. Of the 12 wins, 10 have been at home and the only two away victories were for Glasgow City and Hibernian.
And it is not just with results where it seems to be the case. The home teams have scored 27 times, whilst the away side has only found the back of the net ten times. Now with three rounds of games, meaning sides play clubs either twice at home or away – it will be interesting to track this pattern to see if it continues.
This pattern does not happen in the SWPL 2 where it currently stands at seven home wins to six away wins, and 40 home goals to 31 away. In the 2015 SWPL, it was six home wins with nine away victories with both home and away goals scored being 32.
I can’t really draw many conclusions, simply due to the lack of data. But, looking at the results, it seems there are a few facts emerging. The SWPL 1 is more competitive and in that league, you want to be playing at home. If you were going to say anything about the SWPL 2, it seems as this league could be more lopsided than the SWPL 1.
But I will track this over the season, with the next part probably coming in May or early June.
What do you think about the new league structure? Do you think it has made the season more competitive or do you think things will still be lopsided?