Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
An international break is often time for the domestic club game to stop, pause and reflect. Managers will be taking those players not meeting up with their national setups on now-traditional warm weather training breaks in the sunshine, and trigger-happy owners of struggling clubs might be considering if now isn’t the best time to get a new manager in.
Those of us not directly involved can take stock in a different way. During the international break in October, we took a look at the Premier League statistics to see if the stats told a different story from the accepted narrative at the time.
Now, with the season hurtling towards its conclusion, are there any unexpected surprise lurking among the numbers and percentages?
Premier League stats – the season so far
In October, Liverpool lead the Premier League goals table and it’s still the same now. The main surprise back then was Watford, with the same number of open play goals as Arsenal and Chelsea. Since then Antonio Conte’s side have stormed to the top of the league, and second place in the goalscoring table (just two behind Liverpool).
Watford, meanwhile, have dropped like a stone. They now lie fifth-bottom of the table for goals.
Previously Stoke City (off to a disastrous start in the league) and Burnley were bringing up the rear in terms of finding the net. It will be no surprise to find Middlesbrough now the lowest goalscorers in the league, with the Jermain Defoe-reliant Sunderland not far ahead. It’s a good indication that the Championship surely beckons for both clubs.
Manchester City, previously somewhat off the pace in the best passing stakes, are now the best in the league with a pass completion rate of 85%, ahead of their city rivals Manchester United, as well as Chelsea and Arsenal. Proof, perhaps, that Pep Guardiola is getting his philosophy through to his players.
Last time, West Bromwich Albion were the league’s worst passers, with Pulis-ball in full effect in the early season. They haven’t improved much – they’re still the third-worst team at keeping the ball, with a pass success rate of 69.9% – but Sean Dyche’s Burnley (with 67.3%) have fallen down the passing league table. Such problems have not stopped them being safe from relegation, though, so it’s hard to imagine their manager will care.
Champions (though not for much longer) Leicester City are just ahead of Burnley with a 69.4% pass success rate. It makes sense for two reasons. One, they were having a bad season (before the Craig Shakespeare-inspired renaissance) and two, their gameplan is based upon letting their opponents have the ball and pouncing on the counter attack.
Most wasteful in front of goal
24% – Zlatan Ibrahimovic has attempted nearly a quarter of Manchester United’s shots in the Premier League this season (109 – 24%). Missing. pic.twitter.com/gUVovahExK
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 19, 2017
Perhaps a surprise here (or perhaps not). The team guilty of missing the most “big chances” (according whatever the Premier League’s definition of that is) is Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho’s team have missed 39 in total, and one wonders if they would be finding it so tricky to crack the top four had they scored just a few of those. Close behind are Manchester City, having missed 35.
In fact, it makes sense that Arsenal and Liverpool (both 28) are next on the list. The so-called “bigger clubs” are more likely to dominate games, create more chances, and therefore miss them. Although, it must be said, Chelsea are resolutely mid-table here, having missed only 22 big chances.
The theory follows, with the least profligate teams in the league being strugglers like Hull City (11) and Sunderland (12). It’s not that they are particularly deadly – though maybe Jermain Defoe is – but that they simply create less chances to miss. Meanwhile, which player has missed most big chances? Why, that’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede has 15 goals, but has missed a further 17 big chances to increase his tally. He’s followed by Bournemouth’s Benik Afobe with 11 misses (and only 4 goals). Perhaps surprisingly, Sergio Aguero is behind him with 9 big chances squandered. It seems his manager has noticed, given that he prefers Gabriel Jesus (when fit) to the Argentine.
OK, so “unlucky” is pretty hard to quantify, I’ll grant you. But I’m sure Manchester City, who have hit the woodwork 16 times, will feel that way. They are joint top of that particular leaderboard, along with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Bournemouth are perhaps a surprise, in 4th place, having hit the woodwork 15 times. Jack Wilshere, amazingly, is responsible for five of those efforts. That’s the same number as Paul Pogba. upwards of £89m can’t buy you luck, it seems.
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