Now, at the risk of a fine from the FA, the issue of handball in the Premier League has gotten, well, completely out of hand.
Poor Roy Hodgson has already faced the misery of two VAR-awarded handball penalties against his team this season, and according to our research, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon.
Crystal Palace have more chance of giving away a penalty for handball than any other Premier League team, according to our new analysis. With one in ten games so far this season featuring a penalty awarded for handball, we decided fans deserved to know which team was most at risk whenever the ball was in their own box.
After figuring out which Premier League teams had the largest hands and made the most clearances each game, the data revealed that Crystal Palace came top of the table with 0.055 xHBP per match. This meant that Hodgson’s men were 55% more likely to give away a penalty for handball than the historic league average of 0.037 xHBP per match.
Manchester United’s squad of burly lads led by Harry Maguire was found to have the league’s biggest hands – 1.46% bigger than the average – moving them into seventh place with 0.046 xHBP. Champions Liverpool continued to leave no competitive edge to chance, ranking seventeenth overall after recording just 0.023 xHBP.
They’re beaten to the bottom by Brighton (0.023 xHBP); fierce rivals Man City, who rated just 0.017 xHBP; and Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, who are bottom of the table with 0.014 xHBP.
How Expected Handball Penalties (xHBP) is calculated
Since the 2015/16 season there have been 72 penalties given for handball in 1968 games, meaning that the average chance of a penalty for handball to be given is 0.037 xHBP per-match (3.7%). We divided this by the average number of clearances (18.03) made by a Premier League team during a game in the 20/21 season and gave each clearance an xHBP value of 0.002 per-clearance (0.2%).
Using each Premier League team’s average for number of clearances, we calculated the volume of xHBP they incurred each game. Players with bigger hands and arms have a greater chance of giving away a handball penalty.
So, to work out which team in the Premier League had the biggest hands, we used player heights as it has been proven to be an accurate indicator of hand size. We found the average height per active playing squad in the Premier League was 180.3cm.
Each Premier League team was then awarded a risk value based on the % of much higher or lower the average height of the active playing squad was. By adding the risk caused by bigger hand sizes with their total for xHBP clearances, we created the final xHBP table!
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