An Analyses Of Penalty Taking Trends In The Champions League

Here at TSZ, we have decided to explore the data surrounding penalties taken in the Champions League since the 2005/06 season, up to and including matchday 4 in 2016/17. We shall investigate trends such as penalties scored/missed, success rates of left and right footed players, placement tendencies and height of penalties to see if any patterns emerge.

Our starting base will be to look at the outcomes of all penalties taken since 2005/06:

  • Since 2005, 70.8% (247 of 349) of penalties have been scored in the UEFA Champions League; whereas 21.2% (74 of 349) of penalties have been saved. Just 4.3% (15 of 349) of penalties have hit the woodwork in the UEFA Champions League, whilst 3.7% (13 of 349) have been off target.
  • Of the 349 penalties taken, 276 (79.1%) have been by right footed players and 201 of those 276 (72.8%) have been scored. Left footed players have taken the other 73 penalties and 46 of those 276 (63.0%) penalties have been scored; therefore, we can see that right footed players have had the greater success rate.

We shall now look at where these penalties have been placed. First we shall look at height; a high penalty is defined as above the centre point of the goal frame, whereas low is defined as below the centre point of the goal frame:

  • The preference of penalty takers is to shoot low with 246 out of the 349 penalties (70.5%) being aimed below the centre point of the goal frame; 172 of those 246 penalties (69.9%) were scored. The other 103 penalties (29.5%) were placed high towards goal and of those 103 penalties, 75 were scored (72.8%). This shows that despite players aiming high less often they are better rewarded when doing so.

Our next step will be to investigate the placement of penalties, be this aimed towards the left, centre or right:

  • The majority of penalties – 158 out of 349 (45.3%) – are aimed towards the left side of goal with 112 of those 158 penalties (70.9%) being scored. However, the greatest success rate of penalties is when they are placed to the right side of the goal; 124 out of 349 penalties (35.5%) have been aimed to the right with 96 out of those 124 penalties (80.7%) being scored.
  • When looking specifically at left footed players we can see that they have preferred to aim to the right with 33 out of the 73 penalties (45.2%) aimed that way. Right footed players show a tendency to aim the other side with 133 out of 276 (48.2%) penalties aimed to the left.

Next, we have decided to look at the group stages of the Champions League to see which round of games has produced the highest/lowest percentage of penalties awarded. The data sample used is from the 2007/08 season:

  • A quick look at the graph shows that matchday 2 has, on average, seen the most amount of penalties awarded with 5.30 since 2007.
  • On average, matchday 5 – which we are now approaching this season – has seen the fewest amount of penalties awarded with 3.33.

Next up is a breakdown of penalties, season by season, since 2005/06:

  • The 2008/09 season saw the highest percentage of penalties scored, with 89.47% (17 out of 19 penalties) finding the net. Only one penalty was saved in this season, with the other off target. The greatest season for goalkeepers saving penalties has been the current season; so far in the Champions League, goalkeepers have saved 36.00% (9 out of 25 penalties).
  • If we split the 12 seasons in half, the data tells us that the last six seasons have seen a decrease in the percentage of penalties scored; from 2005/06 – 2010/11, 100 out of 133 penalties were scored (75.19%) compared to 148 out of 217 penalties (68.20%) scored in the last six seasons. Interestingly, these numbers also reveal the increased number of penalties awarded in the last six years compared to the previous six years.

Finally, we look at the proportion of penalties awarded to home and away teams, whilst also including those given at a neutral venue:

Clearly, there is a significantly higher chance of home teams being awarded penalties, with almost two-thirds (64.8%) going in their favour. It would be expected that home teams would receive more penalties purely because they are likely be on the attack more than the away team, but this is still a significant disparity.

A round up of the findings shows that 70.8% of penalties since 2005 have been scored, with 70.5% of the 349 penalties placed below the centre point of the goal. Left footed players have a preference to aim to the right side of the goal, whereas right footed players have a preference to aim to the left side of the goal. Since 2007, matchday 2 has on average seen the greatest amount of penalties awarded and match day 5 has on average seen the fewest. In the last six years the amount of penalties awarded has significantly increased but the percentage of penalties scored has decreased when compared to the previous six years. Despite this season’s Champions League only reaching match day 4 so far, the goalkeepers have performed admirably, having their best season in terms of saving penalties with 9 out of 25 penalties saved. Finally, the Champions League has seen far more penalties awarded to home teams since the 2005/06 season, with just 34.1% of penalties being given to away teams.