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SPORT Matchday 2


Welcome to SPORT [Stats Perform’s Overall Review of Things] where we look underneath football’s gleaming exterior to unearth the lesser spotted side of the game and wallow in joyful minutiae.

By: Duncan Alexander

There Will Be Goals

There’s a fine line when it comes to whether a record is worth breaking. One day someone will play the most through balls seen in an early kick-off in January, but there’s limited interest in such specialist content (yes, I am that content seeker). Goals though, are different. Everyone loves goals. First goal, fastest goal, latest goal, 10,000th goal, 25,000th goal, longest goal, I could go on.

For a long time in what we call the 20-team Premier League era (it began in 1995, like Hollyoaks) 43 goals was the record in a single round of games, a marker set on February 5-6 2011, a round of matches most famous for Arsenal’s 4-4 draw away at Newcastle, the only time a team has led by four goals in a Premier League game and not won. That 43-goal ceiling lasted until late on Monday evening at Molineux when Gabriel Jesus, the man who scored the goal that ensured Manchester City would reach 100 points in 2018/19, scored the 44th of the weekend. A new frontier. In Wolverhampton.

This weekend there were three games with seven goals (Everton 5-2 WBA, Southampton 2-5 Tottenham and Leeds 4-3 Fulham) and six goals in the Leicester v Burnley game. Other than that, it was a fairly normal looking set of scorelines, with three teams, Chelsea, Newcastle and Sheffield United failing to even score once. 44 is a new high, but we could yet go higher especially when you consider that it was a weekend when three of the last four players to win (or share) the Golden Boot, Jamie Vardy, Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, all failed to score.

The New Normal

Talking of upward trends, this Premier League season is already showing signs of being a paradigm-buster. Goals per game is up at 3.72 (the record for a complete season is 2.82 in 2018/19 and no English top-flight season has averaged more than three per game since the 1960s). This will come down as the season progresses but perhaps not as much as normal, given that penalties are being handed out at a rate of 0.72 per game as it stands (13 in 18 games so far). This is way, way above the usual rate (the seasonal high is 0.29 per game) and so far is partly due to a stricter adherence to the handball law by VAR

Red cards are also up, with 0.22 per game, which would also be a seasonal record although a less dramatic one than goals and penalties. “Will nothing ever be the same again?” you cry. Well, despite the arrival of James Rodriguez to Everton, a man who opened his Premier League account this weekend with a goal from range, strikes from outside the box are running at the same low level as last season, at just 0.33 per game. It’s satisfying to discover that the wise teachings of expected goals (xG) are immune to trends.

If You Know Your History

Sometimes stuff happens which seems like it must have happened before but then it turns out that no, no it hasn’t. Take Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool winning their opening two games of a top-flight season, like they have in 2020/21. Three of the most historical clubs in England, with 41 league titles between them, this is something that must surely have occurred in the past? But no, it never actually has. This is the first time. 2020 has done it again. Of course, starting with a pair of victories has been a regular occurrence more recently for Arsenal and Liverpool but Everton are enjoying themselves under Carlo Ancelotti and rightly so. Further positive news from the omen department is that the last time an English season started in September, admittedly back in 1914/15, Everton ended as champions and Manchester United finished in the bottom three. So far, so good.

Kane & Son

Kane & Son sounds like a family-run removals company that doesn’t have a website but who you’d probably trust to deliver a piano, but thankfully for Jose Mourinho his Kane and Son concentrate on delivering to his team possibly-slightly-undeserved wins in the Premier League. Disallowed attempts aside, Tottenham hadn’t had a shot in the first half at Southampton until Son’s smash and grab equaliser on the stroke of half-time, assisted by Harry Kane.

What followed was perhaps the most singular spell of play in Premier League history, with Kane setting up Son for three more goals before scoring himself. Never before had four goals in a single Premier League match had the same scorer/assister combination, and that output from the two in barely one half of football makes up 17% of the assists Kane has ever provided in the top-flight and 15% of the away goals Son has ever scored in the Premier League.

A pessimist might point out that Spurs scored with five of their six shots on target, but optimists will counter with “five goals and Gareth Bale to come.” For now, it’s a glass half full sort of week at Tottenham Hotspur.

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