At the beginning of the season, The EFL announced a new approach to try and clamp down on time-wasting during games. They have now adopted a style similar to that seen at last year's World Cup in Qatar, with games having astonishing amounts of injury time. This was done to try and increase the amount of time the ball is in play for, and to try and sway the players away from wasting game time when either drawing or winning. This is mostly done with substitutions, throw-ins and goal kicks. As a result, games are going on for longer, and because of this, there is a greater chance that more goals will be scored late on. But is there maths to back up the notion that more injury time goals are being scored because of this new approach by EFL officials?
In terms of the amount of time the ball has been in play for in EFL matches so far this season is up, on average, in all three divisions. There has been an increase of 3.2% in the Championship, 4.2% in League One and 6.2% in League Two. As a by product, there is now a higher chance of late drama, with teams having more time to find a late winner or equaliser, due to increased added time and the amount of time the ball is in play. After just over a quarter of the season being done, the Championship alone has seen an astounding 144.4% increase in total goals in added time compared to this point last season. League One and Two have also seen increases in this statistic at 53.8% and 18.8% respectively. The Championship has seen 44 stoppage time goals in both halves so far this season compared to just 18 at this time a year ago.
Whilst it benefits the losing team in this scenario, it obviously has a more negative effect on teams winning, as they have to see the game out for longer in order to hold onto their lead. But it works both ways, it is an attempt to stop teams from time wasting. Whereas, last season, sides were getting way with clear time-wasting techniques in order to lessen the amount of time the other team has to score. In addition to this, the EFL, as well as the Premier League, is clamping down on dissent and acts of time-wasting, so players are booked by referees much more efficiently than ever before. The hope is that if players are booked straight away for their first offence of dissent or time wasting then they will gradually stop doing it. There have already been numerous instances this season of players receiving yellows and reds for time wasting or dissent. Dan Neil was shown a second yellow at home to Middlesbrough as his Sunderland Team lost 4-0 that day. This was after he shouted at the referee for a previous decision even though his team had just been given a goal kick. This is just one example of referees clamping down on this kind of behaviour in an attempt to eradicate it from the game altogether.
One thing coaches are picking up on however is that the increased game length is leading to more injuries to players. The prolonged strain from a physical perspective, means that injuries are more likely, especially with the congested schedule. In the Premier League, Guardiola has already complained about this with this star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne sidelined for a few months.
But, all in all, the stats back up that the ball is in play for longer, with match lengths rocketing, and this leads to a more entertaining product, with room for late drama and late goals, with the added sprinkle of enhanced sending offs for dissent and time wasting.