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The Best Defense in the Land

And also, the most consistent

Newcastle United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

There are 16 teams in the top four leagues of England that have allowed fewer “goals against” than matches they’ve played. Of those sixteen teams, six come from League 2, four each from League 1 and the Championship, and only two come from the Premier League.

4,748 total goals (Ed: data as of Friday, April 28) have been scored to date in league games this season. 905 goals have been scored in the EPL, 1,278 in the Championship, 1,334 in League 1, and 1,231 in League 2. When you divide each of the numbers above by the number of teams in the league, one derives the average goals scored per team in the league. Divide this number by the number of matches played to date and you derive the average goals scored by a team in a match. I used 33 for the EPL as that is the most common. League 2 comes in with 1.166 goals, League 1 at 1.263, the Championship at 1.210 and the Premier League at 1.371 goals per team per game. As the few make-up games occur, this number will only go up.

All of this mind-numbing math to say that more goals are scored on average in an EPL match than in the other leagues. This explains directionally why fewer squads from the EPL are on the list. The best players on the best teams score more goals—statistically more.

So which squad has the best statistical defense in England? Leyton Orient boasts the best goals against per match at 0.68. The top five is completed with Ipswich (0.75), Vincent Company’s Burnley (0.77), Bolton (0.77), and then Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United (0.81). Manchester City come in 15th at 0.94 just above Milwall at an even 1.00. These numbers are on the chart above in the third to last column.

It is certainly great to have the lowest GA in the land but it is arguably more important to be consistently good defensively. If a squad has numerous shutouts but then collapses once scored upon, that would not be quite so good.

So if you set aside the number of shutouts and divide the goals against the remaining match total, one derives the goals against in non-shutout matches.

As an example, Newcastle have played 32 matches and kept a clean sheet in 13. That means the 26 “goals against” they have given up were scored in 19 matches. This is a 1.37 goals-against average... and it goes down as the most consistently good defense in the land.

Northampton has had 15 clean sheets and thus a 1.379 goals against and Manchester City, with their 10 clean sheets, comes in at 1.381 as the second and third most consistent defenses in the land. These are found in the final column in the chart above.

Eddie Howe manages the best defense in the EPL and, statistically, the most consistently good defense in all of England at any level.

Howay the lads!