Penalty awards are back to a typical level this season in an indication the Premier League is getting to grips with VAR.
After 70 games of the current campaign there have been 17 spot-kicks awarded, compared to a record 36 at the same stage last season.
VAR was not the sole reason for that spike, and had also been in operation for the previous season, with a new wording of the handball law responsible for a lot of the incidents reviewed and penalties awarded – a subsequent change of emphasis helped to lower the rate from one every two games early on to one in three across the entire season.
But this term’s average of 0.24 penalties per game – essentially one every four matches – is exactly in line with the average in the Premier League going all the way back to the turn of the 21st century.
The trend began from the opening weekend of the season, with only two penalties awarded, Danny Ings scoring for Aston Villa while Michail Antonio’s effort for West Ham was saved for Tomas Soucek to follow up and score.
Last season, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy each matched that tally on their own when they scored twice each from the spot on opening day, with Jorginho also on target for Chelsea.
Everton lead the way with three penalties awarded this season, with two successfully converted by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and one by Andros Townsend.
Southampton and Crystal Palace join Villa and the Hammers with two apiece while nine clubs have yet to be given a spot-kick, including Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea of the traditional ‘big six’ as well as the previously fortunate Foxes. Of the teams currently in the relegation zone, meanwhile, only Norwich have had a penalty so far.
Seventeen penalties at this precise stage of the season is slightly below the average of previous seasons, 18.91, with the lowest total since 2000 being 10 in the early stages of the 2005-06 season.
Last season’s 36 was well clear of the previous high water mark, 29 in 2003-04. There were 89 in the remaining 310 games, matching 2006-07 and surpassed only by 91 in that section of the 2009-10 season, to comfortably establish a record for a full season of 125.