Late goals and drama have been a constant theme in the Premier League, and that has most certainly been the case once again this season: 73 of the 446 goals that have been netted in the top flight have been scored after the clock has passed the 80-minute mark - that's 16.4% of the goals scored in a time period which makes up just 11% of the play.
It's hardly surprising given the pressure that builds up as games wear on, with teams desperate for points and opposing teams more likely to commit mistakes. What is surprising is who exactly has profited - and suffered - the most in the final ten minutes of matches.
Comebacks have been commonplace in the Premier League this season, with Manchester rivals United and City showing the rest how to win late on against the odds. The top two in the Premier League have won respective points tallies of 21 and 15 from losing positions this season, and have both become masters of piling on the pressure when required. Both have scored six goals in the last ten minutes this season, but those tallies make up 20% of City's total goals, and only 15% of United's. Both clearly prosper late on, but they do not show as marked an improvement in this timeframe as others.
Arsenal, Fulham, Swansea and West Ham have all netted as many goals in the closing stages of their games this season, and for each of these teams, their late goals make up more than 22% of their total tallies, with the Hammers' 28.6% the highest proportion. West Ham have also only conceded one goal after 80 minutes, which is fewer than any other side in the Premier League, giving them an impressive goal difference of +5 in that last ten minutes alone. Sam Allardyce has got his team fighting to the bitter end, but interestingly, only two of his side's goals have actually affected the outcome of the game, with the other four goals all either consolations or adding to an already winning scoreline.
Robin van Persie has been an instant hit at Old Trafford and his goals have been some of the most important United have scored all season, including his injury-time winner at the Etihad this weekend. A look at his WhoScored player page shows when his goals have come and exactly how important they have been. The former Arsenal man has scored more goals in the last ten minutes of games this season than any other Premier League player, with four. Joint second in the late goal rankings, with three each, are City's super-sub Edin Dzeko, Newcastle's Demba Ba, Michu at Swansea and - a surprising inclusion - Fulham's Steve Sidwell. While those players have flourished late on, many more have floundered, while whole teams have all but ground to a halt with ten minutes to go, and van Persie's tally is in fact more than 9 of the 20 Premier League sides have managed overall.
Of those teams that have struggled to score as matches draw to a close, Tottenham and Liverpool have been the worst in front of goal, with neither team netting a single goal in this timeframe. On the defensive side of things, while Liverpool have only let in two goals, Spurs have conceded nine in the last ten minutes of their league games. They have thrown away countless wins, letting in late goals when they would have been expected to take three points, such as against Norwich and West Brom at home, while they conceded two injury-time goals against Everton this weekend to surrender yet another lead. 36% of the goals the north London club have conceded have come after the 80th minute and, quite unbelievably, they would actually have nine more points this season if they had been able to hold out for that final period. Whether it is fitness, or a problem with the mindset that Andre Villas-Boas has instilled in them, something needs to be done at White Hart Lane to solve a quite obvious problem.
Performance in the final period of games is key to the final outcome in the Premier League, and this can be seen quite clearly from how teams did late on last season. Eventual champions Manchester City scored 19 goals in the final ten minutes of their games, conceding just seven, giving them by far the best late record in the league. At the other end of the scale, by far the worst record was held by Blackburn, who, of course, were relegated come the end of the season; they conceded 13 more goals than they scored late on. West Ham and Spurs are unlikely to share the same fate as City and Blackburn last season, but, interestingly, Chelsea had the second worst Premier League scoring record after the 80th minute last season (-5 goal difference) so maybe it is something in what Villas-Boas is doing, while Allardyce seems to have that aspect spot on.
City and United have a winning mentality which is, quite simply, what champions need. They are the kings of winning even when they haven't performed all that well, and will continue to do so throughout the season. The gap that they have already built up at the top of the table is in no small part down to the late shows they have put on so far this campaign, and late goals will continue to benefit them and the likes of West Ham, while others need to up their 'late game' if they are to succeed.
All stats courtesy of whoscored.com
Alistair Tweedale (you can catch him on the Twitter)