Aerial duels in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain
I took a look at the excellent site whoscored.com last night and decided to study the column of average aerial duels won per game (which I abbreviate AADW here) for the teams in the English Premier League (EPL) and other top European leagues. This is a metric that I haven’t thought of much, but I think that it could be used as a measure of the style of play in the league. More high and long balls should imply more aerial duels and hence more aerial duels won for each team in the league. I made the hypothesis that the number of aerial duels in EPL was higher than in most other leagues in the past but that this number has levelled out the last seasons. Unfortunately I could only find statistics of this metric the last three seasons in the top five Europe league, which makes inference hard. However, some interesting and surprising numbers were observed. The figure below shows the sample mean of the AADW for the teams in the five top European leagues the last three seasons. Perhaps the median is a better measure than the mean in this situation, but the graphs for the medians look very similar to the figure below.
As hypothesised the numbers levelled out significantly between the leagues last season, but a few things surprised me. First of all, last season the number of aerial duels in the EPL seems to decreased very much compared to the two previous years. The main reason for this is probably that the new teams in the league played a more passing game than an average English team. In fact Swansea only had 5.9 AADW last season (compared to the league mean of 10.55 and league median 10.75). Furthermore, the graphs for the other four leagues seem to increase, especially so for Italian Serie A. Moreover, I was surprised by the high numbers from Spanish La Liga, last season La Liga actually had the largest mean of the AADW for the five leagues. I was also surprised by the low numbers from German Bundesliga 2009/2010 and 2010/2011.
More metrics and more seasons should of course be analysed to draw general conclusions, but this figure alone says at least something about the style of play in the different leagues.