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Doing the double: European leagues compared

16 October 2011

Borussia Dortmund achieved the double seven times en route to winning the Bundesliga last season

Here’s a question: is a league that consistently sees teams ‘doing the double’ over opponents – beating them home and away in a single season – a strong or a weak league? Or does it tell us nothing?

That’s the basis of this post; I’ll provide a few numbers, and you can suggest some conclusions.


Over the last three completed seasons in England, Germany, Italy and Spain, there have been 2169 pairs of matches, with 653 of those pairs resulting in doubles. That equates to approximately 30% of match pairs exhibiting single-team dominance, for instance Manchester United beating Wigan both home and away last season.

Needless to say, there’s variation across the ‘big four’ leagues.

For two seasons, the Premier League saw the most doubles as a percentage of match pairs; a drop to nearly 1 in 4 pairs last season perhaps supports arguments the league has increased in competition.

Elsewhere, Germany has stayed around the 30% mark, whilst the Serie A has seen an increase over three seasons.

The dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona and their extraordinary haul of doubles has kept La Liga well over the 30% mark of three years. Real Madrid’s 13 doubles in 2009/10 is a record across the four leagues during this time span.

There’s no doubt the numbers require a little context and interpretation. What may help is looking at which teams are doing doubles; a monopoly of top teams suggests inequality, an even spread unpredictability.

The Bundesliga exhibits perhaps the most even spread of doubles across the league, but as before the numbers are open to interpretation.

Doubles require victories both home and away, and therefore a relatively positive strategy on the road. In Italy and Spain, such tactics seem to exist primarily amongst the very top teams. Without wishing to play on stereotypes, the Serie A’s relatively low levels of doubles may be symptomatic of many teams seeking draws and not victories away from home.

The fact that 17% of all doubles achieved in the Premier League in the past three seasons have come from teams placed 11th-15th is somewhat encouraging. Regardless of which teams these doubles came against, it suggests a certain positivity and strength to the league. At 16%, the Bundesliga shows similar strength in depth (adjusted for an 18-team league).

Numbers on which teams were being ‘doubled’ may help the interpretation of the charts, but sadly that’s a task beyond my resources at the moment.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 October 2011 1:20 pm

    Really nice data but also really hard to draw conclusions from. So good to see you didn’t try to do that ;). Maybe as an addition it might be interesting to look at the same data for Champions League and EuroLeague performances of clubs from certain countries. From what countries would the clubs come that have the biggest amounts of doubles? Maybe that might show some gaps between strenght of teams from certain countries compared to other, although also than the data requires very careful interpretation and it for sure will be a little biased. Btw, maybe it’s worth taking a looks at Chris Anderson’s Soccer by the Numbers to combine data here with his comparisons between leagues.

    • 16 October 2011 1:36 pm

      Haha cheers! Thanks for the suggestions, might have a look. Chris’ stuff is fantastic, DecTech have done a comparison recently too: http://dectech.org/blog/football/2011/10/is-spanish-football-broken/

      Just trying to find a new angle/set of statistics!

      • 16 October 2011 7:56 pm

        Well I could give you the data of all these leagues on total amount of money spent on transfer fees for the last 10 seasons. We could look if there’s a relationship between that and doubles? Not sure if anything usefull would come up though…

      • 16 October 2011 10:02 pm

        Would probably need to look at more leagues to form a meaningful analysis, but I’ll let you know if I think of anything 🙂

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