Investigating which of Europe’s four major leagues is most exciting

In Depth

The Premier League sells itself on being the most exciting and entertaining league in the world. But is there any truth behind the sales patter? While we all tune in every week, how does it compare to the continent’s other big leagues?

Competitiveness

Serie A is supposedly a one-team league; La Liga is the old SPL with sunshine; and similar is true of the Bundesliga.

Those are some common perceptions of the European leagues from some of the more parochial fans of the Premier League, who point to the fact that the destiny of the title is usually far more unpredictable than it might be on the continent.

Be that as it may, the big leagues in Europe are getting tighter than they have been for a while. Whether that is a result of the usual big-hitters slipping or new rivals emerging, the jury is still out.

In Italy, Napoli have played some of the best football in Europe this season on their way to the Serie A summit, with Juventus’s dominance under real threat. Less than a fortnight ago, any one of three teams could have finished matchday 10 on top of Bundesliga, while in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona are being kept apart by Valencia.

Across the tables, the top and bottom of La Liga and the Premier League are both spread 27 points apart, while 32 points separates Napoli from the foot of the table, though that is because rock-bottom Benevento have yet to record a point in 12 matches. The 18-team Bundesliga has fewest points – 24 – between top and bottom.

Looking beyond the teams fighting for Europe, the Premier League has been held up recently as the most competitive.

Ex-Bayern Munich, Chelsea and PSG assistant and now Swansea City boss Paul Clement said that the relegation battle starts from Burnley in seventh place, with 10 points between sixth place and 17th. But the Bundesliga is even tighter.

Only eight points separates the team below the European spots – Eintracht Frankfurt – from the relegation zone. The difference in La Liga and Serie A is 11 points.

Entertainment

Football supporters get their kicks in a variety of ways, but if it’s goals you want, then Serie A is the place to be, with 345 scored so far this season. That’s an average of 2.92 goals per game.

In contrast, the Premier League has offered the lowest number of goals per game so far this term, with 283 goals in 110 matches offering an average of 2.57. La Liga follows Serie A with 2.74 goals per game on average, while Bundesliga fans have seen an average of 2.6 goals per game.

How skewed is that to the top teams? The big hitters might be scoring freely most weeks, but how big is their slice of the overall goals scored?

The top six in the Premier League have scored 49.8 per cent of the division’s goals, which is the highest share of the four big leagues. The teams outside the European spots have netted an average of 10.14 goals so far, while their counterparts in Spain and Italy have scored on average two more goals.

Despite La Liga’s reputation as a two-team competition, the best of the Spanish competition offers the smallest slice, with their top six contributing 42.3 per cent of the total goals.

With the fewest goals per game, it will come as no surprise that the Premier League leads the way for 0-0 draws, though not by a big margin. Of all the games so far this season in England’s top tier, 8.18 per cent have finished 0-0. La Liga has the fewest goalless stalemates, with 6.36 per cent of its matches ending in deadlock.

In what is perhaps a damning indictment of the quality of finishing in the Premier League, while the league contributes fewest goals, it does offer most shots. The Premier League has seen an average of 17.6 shots per game this season – five more than the Bundesliga, while La Liga offers even fewer, with 12.43 per game.

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Quality

This is a highly subjective argument, and people can draw their own conclusions. But at the highest levels, the fact is that Spain have contributed the most teams to the Champions League quarter-finals in the last two years, with Real Madrid winning it on both occasions. Indeed, the last four winners have come from Spain.

While seven of the 16 most recent quarter-finalists are Spanish, five have come from the Bundesliga, with the Premier League contributing only Leicester City and Manchester City. Last season’s beaten finalists Juventus are the only Italian side to make the last eight in the two most recent competitions.

Of course, a team is the sum of its parts, so it’s no surprise that the most of the 30 players shortlisted for this year’s Ballon d’Or ply their trade in Spain. La Liga makes up 36.6 per cent of the shortlist, with a fifth coming from the Premier League. Then comes Serie A with five players and the Bundesliga with three out of the 30.

READ: The 30 Ballon d’Or nominees by club, position, nationality and age

Total goals

Serie A: 345 – 2.92 per game
La Liga: 302 – 2.74 per game
Bundesliga: 264 – 2.6 per game
Premier League: 283 – 2.57 per game

Percentage of total goals scored by top six

Premier League: 49.8%
Serie A: 48.1%
Bundesliga: 46.2%
La Liga: 42.3%

Goals per team – top six

Serie A: 27.66
Premier League: 23.5
La Liga: 21.33
Bundesliga: 20.53

Goals per team – the rest

Serie A: 12.78
La Liga: 12.42
Bundesliga: 11.83
Premier League: 10.14

Shots per game

Premier League: 17.6
Serie A: 13.3
Bundesliga: 12.6
La Liga: 12.43


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