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Does The Best 'Offence' Or The 'Best Defence' Win The Title?

Man United in 2012/13 lead the league in goals scored with 60. They have also conceded an alarming 31 goals, a high total indeed for a team who are in 1st place in the Premier League. Is there any correlation between winning the Premier League and scoring the most goals, or conceding the least goals?

There is a saying in North American sports that goes a little like: Offence wins games, defence wins championships

This sparked me into thinking about Man United, and specifically the current 2012/13 season. United are a scoring powerhouse, yet are incredibly open at the back. So, does the best defence always win the title? Or is the best offence, or neither, or both?

I have trawled over the last 20 years of Premier League final standings in an attempt to answer this question?

Goals For and Goals Against


92/93 68 31
93/94 82 28
94/95 80 28
95/96 73 32
96/97 76 32
97/98 73 26
98/99 80 17
99/00 97 30
00/01 79 31
01/02 87 30
02/03 85 34
03/04 73 26
04/05 87 15
05/06 72 22
06/07 83 24
07/08 80 22
08/09 77 24
09/10 103 28
10/11 78 33
11/12 93 29

Average 77.9 27.1

Here we see the final totals for the teams who recorded the highest number of goals scored and lowest number of goals conceded. That team didn't necessarily go on to win the title, though.

The average number of goals scored by the best offence in the 20 years of the Premier League is 78 goals, and the best defence is 27.

It may be worth remembering that Man United have already conceded 31 goals with 13 games still left to be played. Man United will likely finish with the best offence this year and as the team who conceded the most goals but still went onto win the title. Quite the achievement considering we are looking at a 20 year sample.

Did The Best Offence Or The Best Defence Win The Title?


92/93 no no
93/94 no no
94/95 no no
95/96 yes no
96/97 yes no
97/98 no no
98/99 yes no
99/00 yes no
00/01 yes yes
01/02 no no
02/03 no yes
03/04 yes yes
04/05 no yes
05/06 yes yes
06/07 yes no
07/08 yes yes
08/09 no yes
09/10 yes no
10/11 yes no
11/12 yes yes

In only 5 seasons in the history of the Premier League did the team who won the title possess both the best offence and the best defence. So is it offence or defence?

Offense Defense
Yes 12 8
No 8 12

There we have it!

In 20 years of the Premier League so far the team who scores the most goals in that league season won the title on 12 of 20 occasions. The team with the best defence on just 8 occasions.

Obviously we only have 20 seasons worth of data and thus we are susceptible to small sample sizes, but it is what it is.

Going over some of the trends from the more recent years, we see that 6 of the last 7 titles have been won by the best offence, and it's worth noting how the cream of the crop (best offence or defence) have begun to win more titles in the last ten years compared to the previous ten years. God knows what was happening in the first 6 or 7 years of the Premier League, where it was rare that the best offensive team, and even more rare that the best defensive team ended up winning the title.

The power and dominance of the best offence and best defence and winning the league seems to be a recent trend. Over the last 10 seasons the team with best offence has won the league 7 times and the team with best defence has won the league 7 times, on four occasions the title winner has had both the best offense and defense. Anyone have any thoughts on why that may be so? Has the league got weaker thus tilting the balance of power heavily toward the best (and richest) teams?

To conclude and despite the numbers being fairly close, having the best offence in the league and not the best defence, has a stronger correlation to winning the Premier League title.

Of course all this may just be 'noise' but it seems goals win games, and, so far, scoring the most goals helps win titles.