A clampdown on shirt-pulling has left Premier League striker Peter Crouch fearing the number of penalties given away could turn the game into a “farce”.
It is too early to tell whether there will be an unusually high number of penalties this year, but evidence from the last four years suggests any increase in the number of penalties awarded on average each gameweek is marginal at best.
The first chart shows the number of penalties given away each week this season and in the previous four seasons has ranged from none to nine, but most weeks cluster between one to three.
A looking at the average number of penalties per week for each season shows the number number hovers just over two. The exception is this year, but the sample size for that is far too small to draw any meaningful conclusions. For example, the average number of penalties in 2012-13 after two gameweeks was 4.5 and in 2013-14 it was four, but by the end of season the average had dropped back close to two.
It’s fair to raise the question about whether shirt-pulling will lead to a rise in the number of penalties given, but we can’t tell from two weeks of data if that will translate into a long-term increase. Fantasy Premier League managers making an extra effort to stock up on penalty takers might find it doesn’t deliver substantially greater long-term returns.
The difference in the 2012-13 average and the 2015-16 average amounts to an extra seven penalties across a whole season, but knowing which of the more than twenty Premier League penalty takers will benefit and when is almost impossible to know. The best an FPL manager can probably do is look for evidence of which teams are proving more adept at winning penalties, which teams give them away more frequently and which referees, if any, tend to be more inclined to point to the spot than others.