How Often Do Games Produce Over or Under 2.5 Goals In Football?

football pitch with scoreboard aboveAll major bookmakers operating in the United Kingdom now offer odds on there to be either over or under 2.5 goals in a football match. This market has proven to be a very popular selection for punters betting on football in recent years, especially in the professional domestic leagues (Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two).

This piece will offer you the numbers on goals per game in each league, and how many games see over 2.5 goals scored or under 2.5, as well as a comprehensive run through the odds available at major bookmakers, culminating in an analysis of whether the odds are good value considering the frequency of goals in the various leagues.

English Premier League

2020/212019/202018/192017/182016/17
Games played164380380380380
Goals scored4611034107210181064
Goals per game2.812.722.822.682.80
Games over 2.5 goals50.0%52.1%53.7%51.1%54.2%
Games under 2.5 goals50.0%47.9%46.3%48.9%45.8%

The English Premier League is widely regarded as the best domestic football league in the world in terms of the standard of football played, the competitiveness between the teams, and the amount of support the league attracts from fans.

The table above outlines a range of statistics regarded the amount of goals scored per game across the last five seasons, including the current season.

As you can see from the table, there has historically been a reasonably even split between games with over 2.5 goals and games with under 2.5 goals.

The only season which has a moderately noticeable gulf between the two was 2016/17, when roughly 10% more games had over 2.5 goals scored in them than under 2.5. Even with this being the most extreme gap between the two percentages, it is not a particularly significant margin.

Given that the average goals per game in the Premier League has consistently been over 2.5 per game (ranging from 2.68 to 2.82 in the last five years) it does come as a slight surprise that the percentage of games with over 2.5 goals scored has never been more than 54.2% in a single season.

The odds on over/under 2.5 goals in the Premier League can vary quite a bit. Obviously to a certain extent the odds you get depend on the bookmaker and the goalscoring records of the respective teams involved in any one fixture, and another factor to take into consideration is whether the fixture in question is expected to be a tightly fought affair, or a complete thrashing. The former would reduce the chance of there being over 2.5 goals, whereas the latter would increase the chances of over 2.5 goals.

The odds on over 2.5 goals to happen in any one Premier League match typically range from 1/2 at their shortest, to 7/4 at their longest. Short odds on this market will occur when a Premier League giant is playing against a minnow. Examples of such a fixture would be Manchester City v Sheffield United, or Liverpool v Fulham.

On the other hand the longer odds will occur when two teams meet who have decent defensive records and poor attacking records. The teams involved in these fixtures tend to be mid-table at best, and are often involved in relegation battles early on in the season. A couple of good examples based on the 2020/21 Premier League season would be West Bromwich Albion v Fulham, or Sheffield United v Burnley.

There are exceptions to this rule of thumb however… for example seeing Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester United 6-1 in the first half of the 2020/21 season. This was expected to be a fixture full of quality, but tightly fought and not necessarily many goals scored.

Similarly, Liverpool were expected to run riot against West Bromwich Albion in their mid-winter fixture, and most punters would have predicted over 2.5 goals for Liverpool alone, yet the fixture was very scrappy and finished a 1-1 draw.

EFL Championship

2020/212019/202018/192017/182016/17
Games played269552552552552
Goals scored5961457147314091441
Goals per game2.222.642.672.552.61
Games over 2.5 goals39.0%49.5%49.8%47.6%49.3%
Games under 2.5 goals61.0%50.5%50.2%52.4%50.7%

The EFL Championship is widely regarded as one of the most competitive leagues in the world – even though the standard is not regarded as one of the best around.

Nobody is safe in this league – there are times when teams comfortably at the top of the league lose to a side in the relegation places, and some of the least likely thrashings amongst teams which are even on paper can occur in this league. A phrase commonly used to describe the style of the Championship is ‘anybody can beat anybody’.

The table above details the various statistics on how many goals are scored per game in the Championship over the last five season, as well as what proportion of games have over/under 2.5 goals.

What is interesting for the EFL Championship is that there is typically a relatively even balance between over 2.5 and under 2.5 goals per game in the first four seasons in the table – there is never more than a 5% discrepancy between the figures.

However in the 2020/21 season you will see a remarkable drop in the percentage of games which see over 2.5 goals scored. There is a case to be made for this figure balancing itself out by the end of the season to be in line with the previous four seasons, and as such it is worth looking at the odds available on Championship matches.

Looking at the odds available on the upcoming Championship games, on average they are noticeably longer than the same market for the Premier League. The Championship odds for over 2.5 goals generally linger around 1/1 (evens). They do not go any shorter than 4/6, and tend not to be any longer than 7/4.

If the law of averages is to hold any sway, then in the second half of the EFL Championship season there will be an influx of games with over 2.5 goals in them, to increase the percentage of games with over 2.5 goals so that it is back in line with previous seasons.

EFL League One

2020/212019/202018/192017/182016/17
Games played233400552552552
Goals scored6151044146214011417
Goals per game2.642.612.652.542.57
Games over 2.5 goals44.6%49.3%51.6%47.3%48.4%
Games under 2.5 goals55.4%50.7%48.4%52.7%51.6%

The standard of football in the EFL League One is widely regarded as a significant drop-off from the Championship. Teams that are promoted out of this league often find themselves relegated back into League One not too long after their promotion – prime examples of this in recent years are Charlton, Wigan and Bolton Wanderers – albeit there have been financial issues clouding some of the named clubs which have also contributed to their relegations.

Likewise, teams which are relegated from the Championship often find themselves promoted out of League One fairly quickly – some prime examples of this in recent years being Leeds, Barnsley and Rotheram.

The above table outlines the numbers on how many goals are scored per game in the EFL League One, as well as the percentage of games which have over/under 2.5 goals.

As you can see from the table, the amount of games which have over 2.5 goals in League One has sat just either side of 50% for the previous 4 seasons – with the current season being a notably lower rate of games with over 2.5 goals – 44.6% to be precise.

The average goals per game in League One has consistently been over 2.5, but only by a small margin each year – never being more than 2.65 goals per game in the last five seasons. It fits, therefore, that the amount of games with over 2.5 goals lingers around the 50% mark year on year.

The odds on over/under 2.5 goals in League One matches are fairly similar to those of the Premier League. The shortest odds on over 2.5 goals to be scored are typically around 1/2, and will be roughly 6/4 at their longest. Typical odds for an average game are 4/5 to 1/1. Given that most games are just shorter than evens, but given that in the first half of the 2020/21 season only 44.6% of games have had over 2.5 goals scored, these odds do not make for particularly good value.

EFL League Two

2020/212019/202018/192017/182016/17
Games played250440552552552
Goals scored6431108140914581465
Goals per game2.572.522.552.642.65
Games over 2.5 goals48.0%48.6%46.4%49.3%50.4%
Games under 2.5 goals52.0%51.4%53.6%50.7%49.6%

The EFL League Two is the lowest tier of English professional football, and it has a reputation as such. The quality of football in this league generally does not compare to anything on offer in the higher leagues. From the standard of play, to the quality of pitches, to the size of crowds, to the calibre of training facilities and changing rooms, League Two falls a long way short of the higher leagues.

But does such a drop-off in quality contribute to a difference in the percentage of games in which there are over or under 2.5 goals per game, in comparison to the higher leagues? The table above provides all of the information in regards to goals per game:

You can quite easily see that across the last five seasons, only one has there been more than half of games in any one season with over 2.5 goals. This was 2016/17 and the figure was only just over half at 50.4%. Every season since has been short of 50%.

The odds available on upcoming EFL League 2 fixtures suggest that there is more value in betting on over 2.5 goals in any one game than there is in any of the leagues above. Fixtures are between 1/1 at shortest to 23/20 at longest – tightly grouped odds but they represent decent value given that League 2 is an unpredictable league with 48% of games in the 2020/21 season having over 2.5 goals.

Final thoughts

football cartoon with question markBased on all of the available statistics and betting odds, the only rule of thumb to be concluded is to follow what seems to be good value. We know that there is a good strike rate of games with over or under 2.5 goals – almost always between 46% and 54%, so around half of games.

Accumulator betting would represent good value for the over/under 2.5 goals markets as it does not matter what the result of the game is, only the amount of goals.

My suggestion would be to go for good-value selections on over 2.5 goals per game based on the statistics – it might not always offer the longest odds, but it offers more leeway in terms of goalfests and if you were to bet on under 2.5 goals per game a particularly early/late goal or a couple of goals in quick succession would have the potential to ruin your bet.

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