Skip to Main Content
Audience Engagement, Fan Engagement, Industry Analysis Articles, Media & Tech

S.P.O.R.T 4


Welcome to SPORT [Stats Perform’s Overall Review of Things] where we look underneath football’s gleaming exterior to try and work out why what happened, happened and why that other thing didn’t. Or maybe it did and you didn’t notice.

By: Duncan Alexander



Matchweek 34 of the Premier League was dominated by penalty kicks, some awarded, some not, some scored, some not. Everyone has an opinion about the humble penalty, the 12-yard justice-giver, but too much of it can be influenced by rural hearsay and conspiracy theory. It’s time the facts were laid out once and for all, so here’s a complete Stats Perform FAQ on PENs.

So what record did Manchester United match on Thursday night at Aston Villa?

They equalled the record number of penalties won by a team in a single season. The slightly fortunate/highly dubious [delete as applicable] spot-kick won and despatched by Bruno Fernandes was United’s 13th of 2019/20, meaning they go level with Crystal Palace 2004/05 and Leicester City 2015/16 with four games remaining. The record: is it on? Yes it is on.

That’s classic Manchester United, right? They always get penalties.

You think so? Well, in 2013 when Alex Ferguson retired, they were only third in the list, behind Liverpool and Arsenal. And they swapped third place back and forth with Chelsea in the Moyes/LVG/Mourinho era. So yeah, United got penalties but not dramatically more than their rivals. Something has changed in the past couple of seasons, though, with 12 in 2018/19 followed by the 13 so far in this campaign. That’s 16% of their entire collection of Premier League spot-kicks in just under two seasons. That’s escalation.

Ok fine, but there have been loads of penalties in general this season haven’t there?

Not particularly. VAR has probably had an influence on this, ruling out some borderline decisions but there’s been 79 so far, or 0.23 per game. That puts 2019/20 just inside the top 10 and unless the game descends into scenes last seen in Speedball 2, we’re unlikely to threaten the Premier League record of 112 penalties in 2006/07, 111 in 2009/10 and 106 in 2016/17.

I like this information. Tell me who’s scored the most penalties in the Premier League and who’s scored the most goals without ever scoring a penalty?

Unsurprisingly the player with the most penalties is Alan Shearer who scored 56 of them. This is only 10 fewer than Sunderland have scored in total and, of course, Shearer’s final ever Premier League goal was a penalty… against Sunderland. Proportionally, the player most reliant on penalties is Jan Molby, whose seven goals in the early years of the Premier League all came from the spot. He also scored a hat-trick of penalties for Liverpool in a League Cup game against Coventry in November 1986.

Of players to score 10+ goals in the Premier League it’s Luka Milivojevic with 21 of his efforts coming from the penalty spot. The reverse-Milivojevic is Les Ferdinand who scored 149 Premier League goals but none of them from a spot-kick. Does he occasionally wish he’d scored just one penalty so he had reached 150? I’m not sure but he can fly a helicopter so that probably evens it out.

You mentioned Milivojevic and that reminds me: Crystal Palace… they do okay with pens don’t they?

They do. Of teams to play 100+ Premier League games Palace’s record of 68 penalties in 422 games (0.161 per game) is higher than any other team, ahead of Bournemouth 0.151, Liverpool 0.148 and new penalty monsters Manchester United on 0.144. At the other end of the scale are Wimbledon who only ever took 15 penalties in 316 games and Norwich who have been given 23 in 350 games.

What about converting them? Still Palace?

No, Palace are a bang average 78% when it comes to slotting them past the goalkeeper. Swansea City remain the finest exponents, scoring with 20 of the 21 they’ve taken in the Premier League. Just behind them are Burnley who have only taken 19 penalties in six seasons but have scored 17 of them. The least effective sides are Sheffield United (58%), QPR (63%) and WBA (63%). Clearly having a name that can be abbreviated into three letters is no good for penalty accuracy.

Nice one, thanks for the info. Got any other stuff on penalties while I’m here?

[Deep breath] Michael Owen remains the only non-adult (i.e someone younger than 18) to take a Premier League penalty (vs. Wimbledon in August 1997). He scored it too. More than 6% of all penalties in Premier League history have been awarded by Mike Dean. Kasper Schmeichel (1) has saved more penalties at Old Trafford than his dad (0). Raheem Sterling has won more penalties (18) than any other player in Premier League history. David James has saved more penalties than any other goalkeeper (13), oh and the top scoring player with all the letters of ‘penalty’ in his name never to score a penalty is, of course, Stiliyan Petrov with nine goals.

Enjoy this? Subscribe to The Analyst to receive five stories each Friday from Stats Perform. It’s free.