There was a time in Ghana football, when a home victory counted for two points and an away victory counted for three.
In the 1984/85 season, Elias Teye’s Ghana Football Association (GFA) introduced the bonus point for away victories making clubs eager to pick up all three points on the road.
Historically, away games have always proven to provide a much sterner test. From the hassle of travel, the absence of majority of fans and a new terrain have all contributed to making away games difficult.
Over the years, the playing field has levelled as home and away victories are now equally worth three points.
However, occurrences from the 2020/21 Ghana Premier League (GPL) have suggested that the playing field might not be that level.
For the first time in the Premier League era, there have been no away wins after matchday 3. Although, there have been a few rescheduled matches, the league had never witnessed zero away wins after matchday 2.
So far, there have been 24 matches in the season out of an expected 306 matches and the closest an away team came to victory was when Asante Kotoko were seconds from victory at the Golden City park.
In the 10 seasons prior to this campaign, the league has witnessed 389 away wins out of a total of 2,400 games.
This represents 16.2% win success for away matches in the last 10 seasons in the league.
The 2012/13 season saw 52 away wins, the most during that period, with the lowest coming in 2014/15 when just 25 away wins were recorded.
The remaining 83.8% is distributed among home wins and draws. Over the period there have been a staggering 1,344 home wins and 667 draws representing 56% and 27.8%.
These 389 away wins have been spread amongst quite a number of teams with Asante Kotoko registering 52 away wins – the most in the past 10 seasons.
The highest number of away wins in a single campaign is also by Kotoko who won seven games on the road in 2007/08 and 2012/13.
Out of the 10 seasons, five of them saw the team with the highest number of away wins go on and win the league title (Aduana – 2017, Kotoko – 2007/08, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14).
The problem this season
What is happening in the league this season is unprecedented and it’s due to a number of factors.
To begin with, there is a global pandemic and the circumstances and surroundings have not been friendly to the players.
The commencement of the season was preceded by just 6 weeks of pre-season after missing more than seven months of action.
The suspicion was that players would lack match sharpness and fitness especially at the beginning of the season. That was highlighted on matchday one as there were seven draws out of the eight games played, demonstrating how uniform teams were in terms of readiness.
Usually, the big teams have players who are fitter and sharper due to the resources available to help tailor a good pre-season regime.
This time, resources were not available due to outbreak of Covid-19 as various clubs were scrambling to pay players and staff.
Players had to train at home for the most part which can prove to be largely ineffective because football is a team sport.
Also, there has been a fair spread of the quality of players across the league this season. With teams such Legon Cities, Dreams, Berekum Chelsea and Olympics signing talented players such as Asamoah Gyan, Joseph Esso, Emmanuel Clottey and Razak Karsim respectively.
The quality isn’t just spread amongst players but also coaches. Dreams FC have the combination of Karim Zito and Winfred Dormon, Legon Cities have two-time Premier League winner Bashir Hayford and Ignatius Osei-Fosu is also starting to get the best out of his Eleven Wonders players.
There’s also been the case of home grounds not serving the purpose of home grounds. Perhaps, the largest contributing factor to the lack of away wins. The Accra Sports stadium for instance is used by five different teams in the league (Hearts of Oak, Asante Kotoko, Great Olympics, Legon Cities and Inter Allies).
This means that Inter Allies playing away against any of the four other sides they share the stadium with would still feel like a home game, hence nullifying the effect of playing away.
Also, teams like Asante Kotoko, Inter Allies and Legon Cities who recently adopted the Accra Sports stadium will not have the added advantage of knowing their pitches inside out.
King Faisal also fall into this boat as they have now adopted the Nana Ameyaw park in Techiman as their home ground due to renovations of the Baba Yara sports stadium.
As a result, when King Faisal play at home against Eleven Wonders, the latter would know the environs even more than the former because that has been their home ground for years.
Furthermore, the absence of fans could perhaps play in the way of home teams. Home fans in the league can be very hostile especially when results aren’t going their way. Their absence could ease the pressure on home teams allowing them to play more freely and as a result, decreasing the number of away wins.
The precedence hasn’t been good for away sides as this season has found its way into the history books becoming the first season in the Premier League era with no away wins after matchday 3.
In the new Premier League format, there are a total of 306 games with every match involving an away team.
So far, there have been 24 matches with zero away wins. With 282 games left to play, what’s the maximum number of away wins that can be attained using data from the last 10 seasons?
On the average, there have 38.9 away victories per season since 2007/08. However, taking into account the fact that the number of teams have been increased by two, using away win percentages per season will provide a more realistic projection.
Across the 10 seasons, there has been average of 16.2% when it comes to away win rate. Currently, the average for this season sits at 0%. However, applying the average of 16.2% on the rest of the games this season results in 45.7 away wins.
Usually, the first few rounds in the league tends to produce more draws and home games but as the season wears on, teams start to pick points on the road.
That is expected to happen this season as the big clubs will establish their prowess sooner than later.
If the projection of 45.7 away wins is attained, it will be the third highest number in a season for the last 10 seasons. It’s important to note that the addition of two teams means there will be more away games to be played.
There is also unforeseen and uncalculated dynamics that come in the form of teams playing behind closed doors. The impact is yet to be fully measured as to how this situation affects teams and hence wasn’t factored in calculations.
So far, the story is that of the unprecedented when it comes to away wins, but history is on the side of teams on the road.
Expect more away wins when teams finally settle down.
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