Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's better...?

I'll get straight to the point and I won’t ramble on about this. It’s a pretty straightforward question. What do you prefer in a league title, or in group stages, or just in general, when the points are tied: goal difference or head-to-head?

In La Liga, when both teams are tied at the top of the league with the same amount of points at the end of the season, they look at the head-to-head matches to decide the winner. In the Premier League, when both teams are tied with the same points, they look at the goal difference, and the team with the superior goal difference wins.

Personally I prefer the goal difference for 2 reasons.

Firstly, let’s take a hypothetical example in the Premier League. Let’s say that Arsenal and Manchester United were challenging for the league title this season and that they were level on points on the final day of the season. During the season, United had beaten Arsenal 8-2 at home and, again, hypothetically, Arsenal beat United 2-0 at their ground (I know that didn’t happen, I’m asking you to just imagine the scenario). Do you think it would be fair that Arsenal’s fate will then be decided by their 8-2 loss to United? Arsenal might have been 18th at the time of their 8-2 loss but are in top spot at the end of the season level on points with United. It’s a bit unfair because normally title challengers change throughout a season. A team might be in the top 2 positions until December and then fade away, and vice versa, a team might be struggling until Christmas and then suddenly bounce back.

Secondly, when it depends on goal difference with the teams level on points (and sometimes goals), it means both teams have to go for goals, making it more entertaining. Refer back to the final day of the 2009-2010 Premier League season when both Chelsea and Manchester United had to beat their opponents by high margins, in case either one of the teams slipped up (despite Chelsea having a 1 point advantage). That didn’t happen, but both teams attacked in full force resulting in an 8-0 win for Chelsea vs Wigan and a 4-0 win for United vs Stoke - making it a simple case of outscoring the opponents by the highest margin.

That's my personal preference, but it's a question that will differ between all of your answers and is pretty subjective. So what do you prefer: goal difference or head-to-head?


  1. I Totally Agree... When It's About Goal Difference That Means A Team Who's Battling For The Title Should Give All It's Best At All Games .. Trying To Score As Much As They Can, That Reflects Positively On The League It Self & On The Team's Spirit, Which Makes Us Enjoy Football Even More ....
    In Addition Imagine A Team That Wins All His Games 1-0, 2-1 etc And He's Competing With A Team Who's Winning 5-0, 6-0, etc It's Not Fair That The Title Could Go To The First Team While The Second Team Is Obviously Stronger & Better !!
    In Conclusion Yes I Do Agree With You, Your Absolutely Right !!
    GOAL DIFFERENCE Is Way Better !!

  2. head to head. this encourages big teams to try to beat other big teams. I understand the argument goal differential causes teams to try to score more goals, but think about match fixing too (10-0 for Bahrain anyone?) so match fixing isn't very realistic in England but still we all know the games we care most about are the derby's and rivalries. If my team wins the title but loses twice to Man Utd its just not as good, even if we have more points.

  3. Head to head in groups of 4... CL, Euros, World Cup.

    Goal difference for a league of 12 or more. Makes teams keep pushing for goals when they're already a couple of goals up.

  4. Totally agree with Hayth!

  5. Head to head - this puts more emphasis on the games that the team will play against other title challengers. Well, if Arsenal finally made a run to tie it up with MU at the top. My view is that they should be penalized for having lost 8-2 to MU, more than being rewarded for having beaten Wigan and similars by a margin of +5 each time.

    The impact of making a late season run is conveyed through the points that you gain during that span, which will help you position better in the standings.
    However, were you in a tie with another team, it's the head to head that should matter, first and foremost (putting even more importance on big games).

    Consider this, what about a team such as MU for example, which at the start of the season is playing four different competitions (EPL, FA, CL, League Cup) and another (let's assume Arsenal) which wasn't qualified for any European competition on that year and which was eliminated pretty quickly from the FA and League Cups.
    Question: Why should Arsenal be favored (in case of a tie) over MU, were you to take goal difference as the tie-breaker?

    We all know that serious team management is required when a club is stretched over different competitions (hence not always having your 'A' team on the field due to fitness and injury). MU might satisfy itself with a small 1-goal margin victory against other teams while Arsenal might be going all out, to score as many goals as it can with a fresh team of players (each time it plays).

    Now when MU is playing Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, or any of the big ones (yeah M.City, you still have to win your stripes...), it is going to play the game with its 'A' team anyways - both teams will be playing at their 'A' level regardless, which should be in itself the tie-breaker in case of a tie at the top.

    Can you imagine the amount of excitement that this adds to a particular league - it actually adds a second layer of complexity:
    1) So it's not only about winning the maximum number of points in any given season, but it's also about
    2) Making sure that you manage big-clashes in a season very well. For e.g., MU won 2-1 against Arsenal at OT, now in the return game if Arsenal is up 2-0, you'd be praying that MU scores at least one goal, to make it a tie even if they end up loosing...

    Head2Head !