Partnerships are good but what happens when they break up? Something fans of Torvill & Dean had to wrestle with in the early 2000s and something Tottenham supporters now have to deal with in the aftermath of last night’s defeat to Liverpool. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son have been superb for Spurs in 2020-21 but the team has relied on the pair so much that it was always going to spell disaster if one, or both, of them got injured. So when Kane went down with an ankle injury towards the end of the first half and didn’t return after the break, gloom levels rose considerably.
Not just one ankle problem, according to Mourinho but two. Something a centipede might be able to shake off but infinitely difficult for a human footballer. “Both ankles getting big,” the Spurs boss said. So are Tottenham’s problems. The raw numbers are these: Kane has 12 goals this season, as does Son. Kane has 11 assists this season, Son has six. They have combined for 13 goals already, equalling the Premier League duo record for a single season, and that would have risen to 14 had Son’s first half goal against Liverpool not been ruled out by VAR. It’s a partnership for the ages, it’s a dream combo, it’s out of action for at least a few weeks.
71% of Tottenham’s league goals this season have come from Kane and Son. That sounds like a lot and we can reveal here that it IS a lot. In fact, as the table below shows, only one team in Premier League history has seen its top two scorers provide a higher proportion of its goals, and that was the Sunderland team of Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn in 1999-2000 who scored 30 and 14 goals respectively, with Gavin McCann next highest on… four. Historians of the game may notice that none of the other teams up with Tottenham in this list were what you could call title contenders. Yes, that Arsenal team in 1993-94 came fourth but that was an era when fourth didn’t really mean that much and it was a season when only five of their players scored more than one league goal.
There was brief hope of a more varied future early in the second half against Liverpool when Steven Bergwijn assisted Pierre-Emile Højbjerg for what turned out to be a consolation goal, but that was Tottenham’s last shot of the entire game. Without Kane and Son in tandem any hopes for the game faded away, and there must be fear that the same could apply to the club’s season during the as-yet-unspecified period Kane is out for.
Ben Mee had a higher xG than Tottenham in the PL this week
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) January 28, 2021
Blades of Glory
Only yesterday did we assess Manchester United’s title credentials at the halfway point and just 10 hours after publication they managed to lose at home to bottom side Sheffield United.
2 – Manchester United have lost two of their last four @premierleague home games against the side starting the day bottom of the table (also 0-1 v West Brom, April 2018), one more loss than in their other 21 such matches in the competition (W16 D4 L1). Complacency. pic.twitter.com/UTkbtaWRnP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 27, 2021
The last time that Manchester United lost a Premier League home match against the bottom club was back in April 2018 against West Bromwich Albion (0-1). Oliver Burke was on the bench for the Baggies that day, but he made an impact last night with his first-ever Premier League goal.
January’s been a brilliant month for Burke. Following the Blades’ defeat to Burnley in their final game of 2020, Burke’s been on the winning side in two of his three Premier League appearances. This ended a run of 25 Premier League appearances without ending on the winning side: a record in the competition. Two wins and one goal since December 29th – both more than Liverpool have managed in their four games over that period.
The defeat last night means that Manchester United have now been leading for just 26% of in play time in the top-flight in 2020-21 – lower than 10 other Premier League teams.
They’ve secured results the hard way this season, coming from behind to win a quite ridiculous 21 points. Their defeat to Chris Wilder’s side is proof that putting yourself in a losing position probably isn’t the most solid tactic to win a game, however.
New Era at the Bridge
Thomas Tuchel took charge of his first game as Chelsea manager, just over 24 hours after being handed the job. The Blues could only manage a 0-0 home draw with Wolves, but we already saw signs of the German manager’s ethos in the Chelsea performance.
They completed 832 passes, which was 120 more than they managed in any Premier League game under Frank Lampard, with 586 of these coming in the opposition half – 181 more than in a game under their previous boss. 181 is more than the total that seven of the 10 teams to play in this midweek round of Premier League fixtures completed in the opposition half during the whole game.
So, a lot of passes.
Create any good chances? No, not really.
Tuchel’s side posted an Expected Goals total of just 0.68 – the last time that they had lower quality goalscoring chances in a Premier League home game was back in December 2018 versus Manchester City (0.62) under Maurizio Sarri.
One Chelsea side showed how it should be done, last night. Chelsea Women stretched their unbeaten WSL run to 32 games, which is a new competition record.
Fittingly, they broke the record two years to the day from their last defeat in the competition and have since racked up 25 wins and seven draws to overtake Manchester City’s previous record of 31 unbeaten matches between May 2015 and May 2017.
The 2019-20 champions put themselves back in pole position on goal difference this season with a 4-0 victory against Aston Villa.
So far this has not been a good week for a certain branch of the football management community. On Tuesday, Steve Bruce’s Newcastle lost to Marcelo Bielsa and his belief in philosophy for the second time this season and later that evening Sam Allardyce’s West Brom lost 5-0 at home to new Premier League leaders Manchester City. Slaven Bilic’s last game in charge of Albion was a 1-1 draw away at City, but Big Sam was brought in to shore up their defence for the long relegation ahead battle ahead.
4.5% goals in PL history have been scored against teams managed by Steve Bruce or Sam Allardyce
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) January 26, 2021
But West Brom’s defence has just got worse. Historically worse. Yes, Allardyce masterminded a 1-1 draw at Anfield but they remain the last defence to concede to the struggling champions. A 3-2 win at Wolves was welcome but is emitting strong vibes of “name the one game you really enjoyed in the dismal 2020-21 season” when WBA fans quietly reminisce in years to come. At the Hawthorns, Allardyce has lost all four games he’s taken charge of, 3-0 to Aston Villa, 5-0 to Leeds, 4-0 to Arsenal and now 5-0 to City. Add in the 5-1 defeat to Palace that Bilic suffered in his final game there and it’s the leakiest run across five top-flight home games by any club since the 1930s.
Overall, West Brom have conceded 22 goals in seven games under Allardyce which puts him on course to be the first manager in Premier League history to concede at a rate of more than three goals per game in a single season. Over a 38-game season Allardyce’s team would concede 119 goals, shattering the Premier League record set by Swindon Town when they let in 100 goals (in 42 games) in 1993-94. “A few home truths needed to be said, it had to be done now because there’s a short period of time before the next game,” Allardyce said when explaining why he locked the players in the dressing room at full-time. As it stands the only home truths are the ones being added to the league table every time the Baggies play at The Hawthorns. If your home is the highest league ground in England, the fall to earth is only going to hurt more.
It’s been widely reported that Arsenal will be welcoming Real Madrid’s attacking midfielder Martin Ødegaard on loan in the coming days, so what could he bring to the Gunners?
He had a very productive loan spell at Real Sociedad last season, helping them to a sixth placed finish with seven goals and nine assists in all competitions. In league competition alone, he led the rankings at Sociedad in 2019-20 for chances created/90 (2.2), successful passes in the opposition half/90 (30) and expected assists/90 (0.24).
Looking at players’ attacking contribution when aged 21 or younger in the top five European leagues in 2019-20, Ødegaard was among the most impressive.
Ødegaard created 62 chances in LaLiga in 2019-20; a tally that only four players of his age group managed more than across the top five European leagues. When it came to Expected Assists, he was the joint-fourth best in these leagues (6.8), behind only three of the World’s top young talents in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kylian Mbappé and Jadon Sancho.
Stats Perform’s Possession Value (PV) framework measures the probability that the team in possession will score during the next 10 seconds and can assign credit to individual players based on their positive and negative contributions on the ball.
Ødegaard was the most impressive Sociedad player in 2019-20 with regards to net PV. As Stats Perform AI Innovation manager Tom Reynolds explains:
Expected Possession Value (xPV) looks at each action a player makes and measures the likelihood that their team will score within the next 10 seconds, without needing a shot to be taken. We look at the next 10 seconds instead of at the end of each possession as it allows us to get a better handle on a player’s influence on what happens next. We are looking at a per90 value too, so per game his actions helped create a third of a goal for Sociedad last season.
He created a lot of danger whilst also limiting his negative contribution, this is Net PV. His net PV was 0.32 in 2019-20 and his biggest contributor was his passing (0.27) which saw him top Real Sociedad’s ranking last season in LaLiga.
The Norwegian is also a proficient player at carrying the ball, with 5751m of ball carries in LaLiga 2019-20 – the eighth most in the competition and the highest at Real Sociedad.
The 22-year-old embarked on 40 ball carries overall with a shot involvement (21 shots, 19 chances created) – only six players in LaLiga had more in 2019-20.
If Ødegaard does indeed arrive at the Emirates, it gives them a very decent option in midfield and should improve the service to players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Talk to Frank: Done.
After 84 competitive games as manager, Frank Lampard’s tenure at Chelsea has come to an end.
Currently ninth in the Premier League table, following a fourth-placed finish in 2019-20, the Chelsea board decided that Lampard’s time as manager was up following a spell of five defeats in 10 competitive games.
Overall, Lampard won fewer points per game in the Premier League than André Villas-Boas at Chelsea – a man who was given less than half the time to build his legacy at Stamford Bridge. Most alarmingly for the Blues under Lampard was their propensity to gift goals to the opposition. With him in charge, Chelsea conceded 1.35 goals per game in the league – more than any other permanent manager at the club in the Premier League era.
Since his first game in August 2019, Chelsea have won the fifth-most points in the Premier League (95) but fewer than Leicester City (100) from 57 matches, lost as many league games as Wolves (18) and conceded five more goals than Burnley (77 v 72).
Whilst some of those statistics are alarming for a club the size of Chelsea, it could be said that their record against other title-chasing teams was more worrying. Against the teams to finish in the top six of the Premier League last season (the “new big six” – why not), Chelsea managed just three wins and 13 points.
A common theme during Lampard’s tenure was Chelsea’s huge under-performance in preventing opposition goals. They have conceded 77 goals from an xG total of just 57.3 in the Premier League since the start of last season; a difference of 19.7 which was 12.5 more than any other club in this period. The main culprit for that was Kepa Arrizabalaga, who conceded 12 more goals from shots that he faced on target than you would expect from his post-shot xG faced (excluding own goals and penalties).
When he was appointed, Chelsea were under a transfer ban so the brief was to use the talent that the club already had at their disposal. It must be said that he stuck to this brief and did bring through exciting young players in to the first team at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard gave 12,545 minutes of playing time to players aged 21 or younger in the Premier League during his spell as manager, more than any other club. At 21-years-old at the start of 2019-20, Tammy Abraham had never made a league start at Chelsea and had only played 53 minutes before Lampard’s appointment – he went on to score 10 more goals than any other player at the club under him (29). Mason Mount was another success story, with the most appearances (80) and assists (10) as well as 11 goals under Lampard despite only turning 22 earlier this month and never having played top-flight English football before his arrival. 21-year-old Reece James went on to play 55 times for Chelsea under Lampard, a tally only six players could better with Lampard in charge.
With the transfer ban only lasting one window in the end and bringing in a host of expensive talent since January 2020, that’s where Chelsea faltered under Lampard. Attacking players Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were all purchased for high fees but have struggled to adapt to Premier League football. The German pair have found goals hard to come by against fellow top-flight opposition, in particular – something we covered last week.
Looking at the style of play Frank Lampard tried to bring to Chelsea, it seems that they were playing slower and more intricate football this season in the Premier League and closer to that of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City (looking at the GIF above). This was a complete departure to the style that gave Timo Werner such success at RB Leipzig, with their direct, counter-attacking football in the Bundesliga last season and the 24-year-old being the best player in the top five European leagues at carrying the ball in moves that led to goals (nine goals, seven assists following carries).
It’s been reported that Thomas Tuchel is being lined up to become the next Chelsea manager. A fellow German might bring some comfort to Havertz and Werner, and he certainly has the record to excite Blues’ fans. He won 74.8% of games as manager or Paris Saint-Germain and successive Ligue 1 titles in 2018-19 and 2019-20. In fact, 2019-20 saw a domestic quadruple for PSG and Tuchel, with only a defeat in the UEFA Champions League final to Bayern Munich spoiling his season.
Lampard leaves Chelsea with them in ninth position in the Premier League table and five points from the all-important top four places. Our prediction model gives them a 13% chance of a top-four finish, with their most likely placing in sixth (21.5%). Whoever comes in at Stamford Bridge now has their work cut out to achieve the pre-season aims of the Chelsea board.
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