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SPORT Matchday 7


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

Efficiency Savings

On Sunday, Arsenal ended a famously long run without a win at Old Trafford and a famously long run without a win at a Big Six™ rival too. It was very much a nu-Arsenal win, constructed by Mikel Arteta and his staff in their Colney lair and then carried out precisely at the Theatre of Dreams. Arsenal only had seven shots (two on target) in the whole game, but rarely looked out of control against United’s tarnished diamond. Only Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United have had fewer shots than Arsenal this season but the London club are in ninth place, only four points off the top of the table.

Here’s the thing: Arsenal’s shots to points ratio (is that a thing? It is now) is 5.0 this season, the lowest figure recorded for them in a Premier League season. The wastefulness of the late-Wenger era can be seen by rates of 9.38 shots per point in 2006/07, 9.62 in 2010/11 and 9.43 in 2017/18. In fact, the last season that Arsenal had a rate of fewer than six shots per point was in 2003/04 when they had a figure of 5.99 and, more importantly, won their 13th and most recent league title. Efficiency: it can be useful.

Concession Time

Until West Brom let in two at Fulham on Monday night, the Premier League’s worst defence this season was also the team with the highest number of points – reigning champions Liverpool. A team who have already let in as many goals this season as Chelsea did in the whole of 2004/05. You might flippantly point out that with 31 games to go, Jürgen Klopp’s team can still technically match this record. Technically, yes. League table enthusiasts rushed to find the last time a team topped the pile having conceded more than everyone else and it turns out, of course, to be that Norwich City team from 1992/93 who did so in the second week of November, having lost 7-1 at Blackburn and 4-1 at Liverpool in October but who bounced back like their county’s most famous export. Norwich ended that campaign in third place with a goal difference of minus four, the only time that has happened in top-flight history.

The lowest goal difference by an English league champion is the +15 “recorded” by Sunderland in 1902, although goal difference was not used as a measurement until 1976/77 so turn-of-the-century Rokerites almost certainly didn’t care less. Could Liverpool win the title this season with a goal difference of +14 or less? Once again: technically yes. It won’t happen though.

Six Appeal

After a drab total of 19 goals in matchweek six, matchweek seven returned to something approaching the madness of 2020/21 with a cool 30. There were five on Monday night in the final game of the round at Leeds (more on Leicester below) and Aston Villa and Southampton “shared” seven goals on Sunday in a 4-3 win for Saints at Villa Park. Of course, the scoring pattern was that Southampton went 4-0 up and then were pointlessly (in all senses) pegged back by the home side. It was 12th Premier League game this season to contain six or more goals, which incredibly is one more than in the whole of last season. That’s around 17.6% of games this season, which absolutely towers over the previous record of 8.6% set in 1992/93.

Fox Appeal

Talking of Leicester, their 4-1 win at Leeds on Monday night took the 2015/16 Premier League champions up to second and was another example of how Brendan Rodgers is the hipster’s choice for the most effective away manager in the division’s history. Already the only man in football history to lead an English top division club to a 9-0 away win (you know the one), the Leeds game elevated Rodgers’ goals per game rate on the road with Leicester to 1.93. That is better than all but two managers at a single club in the division’s 28-year history, with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City leading the way on 2.21 and Frank Lampard at Chelsea with 2.09.

Lampard also enjoyed a comprehensive win in the north this weekend but what Rodgers has going for him is that he is in the top five for this category twice, also recording 1.79 goals per away game as Liverpool manager. He is also doing it at Leicester, a club who have an entry at the very bottom of this category too, with Peter Taylor’s 14 goals in 23 Premier League games (0.61 per game) a reminder of a very different time in the city.

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