On The Road
Other than a handful of games just before Christmas, the entirety of the 2020-21 Premier League has been played behind closed doors, so a noticeable impact on home and away form was always expected. We are just over halfway through the campaign and there have been 87 away wins, which is only four short of the lowest total recorded in a complete Premier League campaign, the 91 we saw in 2009-10. 41% of games in the English top-flight this season have seen the visitors take advantage of the strange atmosphere and leave with the three points. Before this season the highest away win rate was 34% in 2018-19.
And the fact that 2018-19 was the high watermark before this season is important because it tells us that all these away wins aren’t *just* down to the ongoing pandemic, rather that modern managers have moved away from the “draw on the road and win at home” model that used to work fine when teams didn’t need to average around 2.5 points per game to win titles as they have in recent campaign. Ironically, two points per game this season probably will get you close to the title, but adventure in away games is now hard-wired into the modern player’s mindset.
On Wednesday night we saw another Premier League first, as all five games ended as victories for the away team, the first day in the competition’s history that that there had been five or more games and all of them had ended in away wins. There was variety too, with comfortable 2-0 cruises for Manchester City and Leicester, an end-to-end classic between Leeds and Everton, a Jesse Lingard inspired dream performance by West Ham at Aston Villa and a season-defining win for Brighton at Anfield. Something for everyone, as long as you supported one of the away teams.
Liverpool certainly know about the difference between home and away performances at the moment. After two season-saving wins away at Tottenham and West Ham they have now lost their second game at Anfield in succession, their long unbeaten run there as distant as their hopes of retaining the title now seem. 348 minutes without a goal at Anfield is their driest spell since 1984 and whether scientifically sound or not, plays into the idea that a team so reliant on the atmosphere created by their home supporters are suffering more than most from the absence of fans. Alternatively they could just be in bad form due to a lot of injuries.
1984 – Liverpool have failed to score in three consecutive home league games for the first time since October 1984, with the Reds’ goalless run at Anfield currently standing at 348 minutes. Bereft. pic.twitter.com/10UTHWSqfa
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 3, 2021
After 99 years without conceding nine goals in an English football league fixture, Southampton have now been on the receiving end of two 9-0 defeats in the space of 15 months.
Saints fans would have feared the worst after Alexandre Jankewitz was sent off just one minute and 22 seconds in to his first-ever English top-flight start. The Swiss youngster has only been on the pitch for a total of 10 minutes and 11 seconds in his Premier League career so far and his red card was one of only four in Premier League history to be sent off within two minutes of a match.
He didn’t manage a single touch of the ball before his attempted tackle on Scott McTominay and he didn’t manage a single touch of the ball after the tackle.
For United, this equalled their record margin of victory in a league game and was the second time that they have won a Premier League match 9-0. The only other 9-0 in Premier League history was Southampton’s emphatic home defeat to Leicester City in October 2019. Spare a thought for James Ward-Prowse, who was the only player to be on the pitch for the entirety of the two defeats.
The Red Devils saw seven of their players score last night – another record-equalling feat in the Premier League. The only other time that this has happened in the competition was back in December 2012 by Chelsea against Aston Villa, as detailed here.
Including the own goal, it broke a club record of players to score a goal for Manchester United in a competitive fixture:
Eight different scorers in the same game for the first time in @manutd history tonight. 1892’s 10-1 win over Wolves, with a paltry seven, skulks away into insignificance.
— Steve Bartram (@stevebartram1) February 2, 2021
Spare a thought for Southampton’s Jan Bednarek. The Polish defender scored an own goal to make it 3-0 and then was sent off for a challenge that gave a penalty away in the 86th minute. As a result, he’s the first player in Premier League history to be sent off, concede a penalty and score an own goal in a single match.
Things looked to be going well for Arsenal. Seven Premier League games unbeaten and with a 1-0 lead at Molineux heading into half-time, the Gunners looked set to make it eight. But old habits die hard.
David Luiz saw red for a professional foul and also gave away a penalty, which Ruben Neves duly dispatched to level the scores going into the break. Luiz improving his own personal numbers in both categories with one single action. Impressive.
3 & 6 – Since making his @PremierLeague debut for Arsenal in August 2019, David Luiz has received more red cards (3) and conceded more penalties (6) than any other player in the competition. Calamity pic.twitter.com/TLmGdvKP4w
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 2, 2021
Joao Moutinho scored the winner just four minutes into the second half, meaning that England hold a slender 46-45 lead over Portugal in the game of ‘which nationality have scored the most goals for Wolves in the Premier League.’
Bernd Leno went on to see red for handling outside the area, to compound Arsenal’s misery – the first Gunners’ goalkeeper to be sent off in league action since David Seaman in November 1993.
Since Mikel Arteta took charge of Arsenal on Boxing Day 2019, they have been given nine red cards – five more than any other side. Not that nine is a real landmark, but still…
Mikel Arteta’s seen Arsenal pick up nine red cards in his 42 Premier League games in charge, which is the fewest to nine reds in PL history ahead of David Moyes (43 games), Marco Silva (45), Sam Allardyce (49) & Gordon Strachan (49).
— Matt Furniss (@Matt_Furniss) February 2, 2021
No Bounce for Baggies
After beating fellow relegation threatened West Bromwich Albion last night, Sheffield United find themselves only one point below their opponents in 19th – the smallest gap they’ve had to the team above them since November 22nd.
For West Brom, the appointment of Sam Allardyce looked to be a tried and tested formula for a team in the relegation zone. In 16 previous seasons as a top-flight boss, ‘Big Sam’ has never been relegated, despite taking over many a relegation-threatened side.
The luck looks like it could have run out, however. Since he took over at West Bromwich Albion on December 16th, they have won just five points from eight matches and have a goal difference of minus 18 – the worst record in the Premier League.
They were two points from safety when Slaven Bilic was dismissed, but that target is now nine points plus a game more played than Brighton in 17th.
Sheffield United have won nine points in 2021 so far; more than Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea (7). The great escape might be beyond their capabilities, but they are giving it a good fight.
Before United’s first Premier League win of the year on January 12th against Newcastle United, they were given a 4.7% chance of survival in our prediction model. This is now 9.4%.
Bamford for England?
Patrick Bamford put in a brilliant display for Leeds United in their 3-1 away win at Leicester City on Sunday, with the 27-year-old netting once from a superb strike inside the box and assisting the other two goals for the Whites.
Naturally, there’s been talk of a possible England call-up following a strong start to the season for the Leeds striker. But does he have the attributes to offer something a little different?
Bamford has scored 11 times so far in the Premier League this season, with only one of these coming from the penalty spot. The only English player with more Premier League goals this season is Harry Kane, but with the England captain expected to spend some time out through injury, there’s every chance Bamford will overtake him in the upcoming weeks.
His shot conversion rate of 16% is below that of Jamie Vardy and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who also have 11 Premier League goals this season. If there’s one criticism of Bamford, it could be that he fails to convert chances that you’d expect a top-quality player to score with more regularity than he does.
Of the 10 players to have had 15+ Opta-defined ‘Big Chances’ this season in the English top-flight, Bamford has the worst conversion rate (31.6% – 6/19).
His non-penalty xG total of 10.8 is the highest of any player in the Premier League this season, proving that he’s apt at getting in positions to score. Whilst he’s converted at about the expected rate (10 open play goals), it’s evident from his xG map that he misses good quality chances in central areas of the box.
In some ways he mirrors Jamie Vardy for style. Of forwards to play 1000+ minutes in the Premier League this season, the Leicester City striker – now retired from international football – has the highest proportion of touches in the opposition box (24%) and the lowest touches per 90 minutes (24). The next in both categories? Bamford with 22% of touches in the opposition box and 25 touches per 90. In fact, Bamford has attempted a shot with 14% of his touches in the league this season, followed by Jamie Vardy (12%).
With Vardy ruling himself out of an England place at Euro 2020, maybe Patrick Bamford could be the closest option Gareth Southgate has to the Leicester City star?
Manchester City defeated Sheffield United 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon, therefore avoiding the same feat as rivals United in midweek – losing to the bottom of the league side at home.
By winning this game, Pep Guardiola’s side picked up a club record 12th successive win in all competitions. This is the longest competitive winning run by a Premier League side since October 2007, when Arsenal also won 12 in succession.
However, arguably the most impressive record set this weekend was City securing their ninth win from nine games in January. Never before has a side within the top four tiers of English club football won as many as nine matches in a single month since the Football League began in 1888.
Much of their success this season has come from a mean defence. City have now kept 20 clean sheets in 2020-21 across all competitions – five more than any other Premier League side – and have conceded just 0.53 goals per game in 32 matches, another best by an English top-flight club this season.
Following his dominant run, City find themselves three points ahead of United in the table and with a game in hand and our prediction model gives them an 87.5% chance of winning the Premier League title in 2020-21, now.
Pain Without Kane
As we revealed here last week, Tottenham have been overly reliant on both Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min for goals in the Premier League this season. 71% of their league goals in 2020-21 have come from the pair, which is only below Sunderland’s reliance on Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn in 1999-00 (77% of goals).
Since Mourinho came into the club as manager in November 2019, Spurs have had the fifth-best goal average in the Premier League. On the face of it, that’s not too bad – probably the expected ranking by many fans. However, the underlying numbers don’t paint such a positive picture.
They’ve averaged just 11 shots per game (13th best) and have had lower quality chances on average than seven different clubs. If you take away penalties, Spurs have averaged 1.23 xG per game under Mourinho – that’s lower than nine clubs, including Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham (all 1.26).
The Portuguese boss has been fortunate that he’s got two of the best finishers in the Premier League within the Spurs ranks. Harry Kane (24) and Son Heung-Min (20) are two of just six players to have scored 20+ goals in the Premier League since Mourinho arrived at White Hart Lane.
Both of these forwards are premium finishers – and Mourinho has relied on that. Since taking the job in November 2019, Son (+7.1) and Kane (+6.2) are two of the four players to have outperformed their xG total by six or more goals. Now, with Kane injured and Son’s supply seemingly dried up, it looks like that reliance will come back to haunt their boss.
To compound a bad weekend for Tottenham, Opta UK editor Tom Ede added the finisher:
Tottenham have lost more games on the same day as the #RoyalRumble than any other side in English football (9)
— Tom Ede (@TomEde1) January 31, 2021
New Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel picked up his first win in the Premier League thanks to a 2-0 victory over Burnley on Sunday.
It’s now two clean sheets for the Blues under the German and he’s the first Chelsea boss to keep a clean sheet in each of his first two Premier League games in charge since Rafael Benitez in November 2012.
Burnley’s first shot of the game didn’t arrive until the 94th minute of this match. Over 180 minutes of his managerial career in the competition so far, Chelsea have allowed their opponents just five shots with an xG total of 0.7 and none of these have been on target – all Premier League lows in the last two matchdays.
Up next for Chelsea? A shot-shy Tottenham Hotspur team without Harry Kane against an under pressure former manager, on Thursday. A fair chance of a third successive clean sheet, it seems.
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