Do early kick offs produce fewer goals?
There’s a belief that early Premier League kick offs tend to be cagey affairs, often decided by the odd goal.
The reasoning is two-fold: early matches tend to be high-profile encounters between rivals or closely-matched teams, and perhaps players are also aware of the public focus on such televised games.
However, in the last five completed seasons, matches that kicked off earlier than the traditional 3pm start appear to have produced more goals:
The key reason though is that typically stronger teams tend to play earlier kick offs; controlling for this means goals do not depend on kick off times at all. Matches involving at least one team from the original big four are more likely to produce more than 2.5 goals than matches excluding these teams.
It’s a similar story last season, where matches before 3pm produced an impressive 3.13 goals per game, with a 62% chance of having more than 2.5 goals. Again though, this number was not significantly different from matches kicking off at later times.
Managers often complain about kicking off early, particularly after European games, and whilst I haven’t looked at whether this affects results, there’s nothing to suggest that these games are particularly different goal-wise to other encounters.
Equally, there’s no evidence of increased likelihood of red cards in early kick offs
What may throw up a few more questions is the number of goals scored in the opening 15 or 30 minutes of early kick offs. A low average may again be due to high-profile teams sitting back in the early stages of important games.