Penalties are normally a significant moment in a match and sometimes one of the most controversial. It can be as big decision for the referee who has pointed to the spot as it is for the team given the penalty, an incorrect judgement and the ref is berated by players, pundits and managers as well as fans. So far this season we have seen inconsistences when a spot kick has been given, referees differing on awarding a penalty when a player is being held by an opposition defender in the penalty box, or whether it’s a deliberate hand ball or not. Never has the action in the 18-yard box been under so much scrutiny.
Referees can rarely be one hundred percent certain when pointing to the spot. On many occasions we see a referee’s view is blocked by other players, a sliding tackle takes place inside the penalty box, players scream for a penalty, the crowd roar and the whistle is blown for a foul. Penalty. Rightly or wrongly, a total of 1887 spot kicks have been given in the history of the Premier League, 1591 have been converted and 296 have either missed the target or have been saved by the keeper.
Out of those 1887 18-yard kicks, an incredible 1185 were given to the home team. It is sometimes said referee decisions can favour the team playing on their own turf, but can the roar of 45,000 plus fans really influence a spot kick ruling? We’ve all heard of sport psychology, and the statistic is there for all to see, or is this fact just pure coincidence? If you are contemplating siding with the latter, another note to bear in mind is since the Premier League began, every season apart from one, home teams have been awarded more penalties than the away side. That one season was 2001/02, when 27 spot kicks were given to away teams over 25 to the home, it’s not a significant margin, but oddly enough that season also holds the record for the least amount of penalties given in total, in the history of the Premier League to date.
Whenever a penalty is awarded against your team, you hope your goal keeper can save it, guess the right way, and he’s in with a chance of keeping it out – but only 11% of penalties have ever been saved in the top flight of English football, which doesn’t fill you with hope the next time the opposition wins a penalty. However, if you thought there was a better possibility that a player may blaze over the bar or hit the post, think again, only 3.8% of penalties have been missed in this way since the Premier League began.
The facts and figures make interesting reading, but when penalties are discussed between supporters there tends to be only one question asked – which team has been given the most penalties? Fans may think referees favour certain sides, the big teams are awarded the most, or again, the roar of the crowd from a big capacity ground will make the difference when there is a penalty shout. The majority would say one of the Manchester clubs must be top of this list, or one of the big London teams, but it is in fact Liverpool that head the table of the most penalties awarded in the Premier League. 137 spot kicks have been given to them, with Arsenal second with 129. Perhaps surprisingly Man United are 3rd with Newcastle close behind in 4th place. More expected is who has taken and scored the most penalties; Alan Shearer took 66 spots kicks in his time playing in the top flight of English football, converting 55.
Whether it’s a penalty shoot-out, a spot kick scored in the last minute of a match, or an 18-yard strike saved superbly by the keeper, awarding and taking penalties takes skill, precision and the ability to stay in control under an array of pressures. The odds may well be with the home side and the penalty taker, but scored, missed or saved, rightly or wrongly given, there will always be points to be made when the 115-year-old penalty spot is discussed.