It’s incredibly early days in the 2015/16 Premier League campaign but there have already been some noticeable trends that have shifted from seasons gone by. WhoScored.com highlight five statistical changes from the opening weeks of the season…
The Benteke effect
When Liverpool signed Christian Benteke, many suggested that it would be a terrible fit, and in the Reds’ system from last season they might have been right. The idea that Rodgers might adapt a style of play that simply didn’t work last season was written off by some, but the Ulsterman deserves credit for the successful integration of the Belgian so far.
Despite the fact that they have still attempted fewer crosses than any other team this season – and the third-fewest long balls – Benteke has proven to be an effective outlet, even if he should have more than one goal to his name so far. Against Arsenal he won 16 aerial duels, with no player managing more in a single game over the last two seasons. That took his individual tally to a league high of 34 – 11 more than any other player. In turn Liverpool have gone from winning the second-fewest aerial duels per game last season (15), to the most so far this time around (24.3), which has relieved pressure on the back four now that possession is only really being surrendered further upfield.
Chelsea all at sea
They may have picked up their first win of the season at the weekend but Chelsea were again far from convincing defensively. That they have played for long periods with ten men has had an impact but the fact that two players have already been sent off for denying clear goalscoring opportunities only emphasises the Blues’ struggles. Said red cards have both come courtesy of defence-splitting passes against a back four that seemed impossible to split last season.
Jose Mourinho’s side have conceded 24 shots on target already this season, which is the highest tally in the league and one ahead of a Sunderland side whose backline have been slaughtered thus far. John Terry and Gary Cahill’s places in the side no longer look assured, and of all players to start all three league games for their club this season, only Lee Cattermole has a lower WhoScored.com rating than the Chelsea captain (5.95). The protection from Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic has been a concern, and Palace, Everton and Arsenal are not easy opponents to rectify their problems against in the next three matches.
Though Swansea were largely lauded for their approach to top-flight football following promotion in 2011, many felt that their passing football was, at times, lacking purpose. It’s something that Garry Monk has looked to change having replaced Michael Laudrup in 2013 and he certainly seems to be striking a balance this time around. Jefferson Montero is in inspired form, Andre Ayew is already proving to be the excellent addition many predicted and Jonjo Shelvey is shining in an influential role in midfield, earning the highest WhoScored rating for the Welsh outfit (7.81).
With Shelvey pulling the strings and able to call on the pace and quality of the wide men in the side, Swansea are causing teams all sorts of problems. It may come as a surprise that only three teams had fewer shots last season than the Swans, with an average of 11.2 per game now up to 18.7 thus far. That’s enough to rank second to league leaders City this time around, though they are ahead of Pellegrini’s men, and the rest for that matter, when it comes to shots on target after three rounds of fixtures (25).
Southampton losing patience
Two seasons ago Southampton, under Mauricio Pochettino, were renowned for their possession-based approach and high press. Saints averaged more possession than any other team in the top flight in 2013/14, with 58.4%. Following his predecessor’s departure for Spurs, Ronald Koeman was rightly lauded for sticking with the principles that had made the south coast side a success under the Argentine, though subtle changes were made.
Last season Southampton’s possession had dropped to 53%, the eighth-highest average in the league, and there has been a further decline this time around. Koeman’s side are looking to play on the counter more often and have held just 48.4% of possession thus far this season, despite facing modest opponents. Forced to adapt following the departures of key players ahead of the Dutchman’s appointment – and indeed during his reign – a shift in approach certainly seems apparent.
Poor little Stoke
Previously under Tony Pulis, Stoke were considered the bullies of the Premier League. Enter the land of the giants at the Britannia Stadium at your peril. Since Mark Hughes took the helm, however, drastic changes have been made to impressive effect and the Potters can no longer be labelled the brutes that they once were, having perhaps been a little harshly tarred with that brush in the past.
Indeed, this season only Everton have conceded fewer fouls to date than Stoke (25), with almost half the tally of Crystal Palace, who head the table with 46. Moreover, no side have been fouled more times than Hughes’ men after three matches (45), who can for now play the victim card up against the top-flight’s bigger boys.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download app.