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Win Probability Added in Soccer

Ford Bohrmann

Everyone hears it all the time: A 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer. But is it really? Thinking about the led me to wonder how exactly dangerous leads were in soccer. In fact, I wanted to find out what win, loss and draw percentages a team had in all situations. The best way to find this out is to analyze a lot of games and calculate the win, loss, and draw percentages in every possible game situation. To do this, I took in to account the venue of the game (home versus away), the goal differential between the teams (team is up by 2, team is up by 1, game is tied, team is down 1, team is down by 2 etc) and the minute of the game. I took goal differentials of -5 to 5 and minutes 1-90. I thought these were probably really the most important factors. You could maybe take in to account cards too, but this is hard and makes it pretty complicated. Overall, there are 2*11*90 = 1980 combinations of game situations.

The idea relates to WPA in baseball. Basically, WPA is a measurement of how much a play adds to the chance the team wins a game. For example, how much does a 2 run home run help the team's chances in the 6th inning? In soccer, a question would be how much does a goal at home to give you a 2 goal lead in the 67th minute change your winning percentage in the game? Pretty simple concept.

To get the percentages for all of these situations I imported game data from the past 10 years of the EPL in to Excel. My Excel skills are not the best but with some help I was able to eventually get these to convert in to percentages for each game situation mentioned above. The basic idea is this: how often do teams with a 1 goal lead in the 40th minute at home win? How often do they draw? How often do they lose? This was done for every minute and every goal differential both home and away. The results truly tell us how dangerous a variety of leads are.

Here's an example: The team is away, the game is tied, and it's the 67th minute. Any guesses on the win, draw and loss percentages? Well turns out the team has about a 19% chance of winning, a 51% chance of drawing, and a 30% chance of losing.

We can also test the "2 goal leads are the most dangerous leads theory". Let's say the team is home and it's the 35th minute. Here are the percentages for 1 and 2 goal leads:

1 goal lead: win: 78%, draw: 16%, loss: 6%
2 goal lead: win: 96%, draw: 2%, loss: 2%

The same holds true for all minutes and both home and away teams. A 2 goal lead is in fact not the most dangerous lead in soccer.

I'm also in the process of making a Java Applet to post here that lets you input the goal differential, venue, and minute, and spits out the win, loss and draw percentages. Again, my Java programming talents are not the best, so no promises on anything getting finished or uploaded soon. I uploaded the actual excel files to a google sites page though if you're curious to look at other percentages. If you want to download the files click here and type in the search bar ".htm" without the quotes to find the files.

Next, I'm planning on relating this more to how WPA is used in baseball by using it to analyze specific players by calculating how much percentage they add to their team winning by scoring goals. Not sure how useful this statistic will actually be, but it's worth a shot.