With lots of transfers happening across borders these days, it's hard to know exactly how the leagues compare. Numbers can help with that sort of thing, but they have their limits. We know that some leagues are better than others, and we know that leagues differ in other ways like parity as well. Tactical styles differ, too, and so does the demographic composition of leagues. All of these are things that analysts have tried to measure and compare across leagues.
So far, so good. What's perhaps easy to overlook when we're searching for differences between La Liga and the Bundesliga, for example, is that teams in the top leagues of football are actually quite similar in some of the basic outputs they produce. Perhaps the most basic and easily comparably outputs are shots and goals produced (and allowed, of course). Take a look at some of the basic numbers from last season, starting with shots and followed by goals.
As it turns out, teams in the top five European leagues (Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premiership, and Serie A) produced similar numbers of shots and goals last year. Sure, they're not completely identical, but the range is fairly narrow - last season, supporters in Italy on average saw their teams produce the most shots at 13.7, while Ligue 1 saw the fewest at 12.4. So the range in shots teams produce is roughly between 12 and 14, and 1.5 shots per team and match on average across the five leagues.
Similar but not quite the same when it comes to goals. In 2010/11 teams produced between 1.16 (Ligue 1) and 1.44 (Bundesliga) goals per match. As I've noted before, the three leagues in the middle of the distribution (La Liga, Premier League, and Serie A) appear more similar to one another when it comes to goal production, while the other two appear slightly different (with the Bundesliga seeing slightly more and Ligue 1 slightly fewer goals).
So what about another common offensive performance statistic - the ratio of goals to shots, which historically has been right around .111 or 1 goal per 9 shots? The leagues cluster around that mark - but Ligue 1 shooters are clearly less efficient. They need to take slightly more attempts to eventually score (roughly 1 in 9.5 shots go in). Compare this to the Premier League at the high end where 1 in 8.25 shots find the net.
The upshot: sure, we can find differences across leagues if we look for them (and Ligue 1 really does seem to be different in that it's low-shooting, low-scoring, and less efficient in converting shots to goals), but it's also easy to forget that the production of football at the top level has some basic and shared statistical properties. Enjoy the season, whichever league you follow.