The statistic that sums up your club’s season so far…

Date published: Thursday 11th January 2018 8:12

As we turn decisively into the second half of the season, it’s time for another statistical update, with one significant stat for each club. One thing first, though. In the process of calculating some pass completion percentages, I added all the passes made in all the games in the league so far. It came to two hundred thousand. EXACTLY two hundred thousand. 200,000. Stats are fun.

 

Arsenal – We’ll start with one of the more remarkable stats outside Manchester. In the last few years the Gunners have honed one particular skill above all others: heading the ball in the net. Last year they were top in headed goals, with 17, despite being only sixth in number of headed shots. This year they’re tied for second in headed goals, behind Chelsea – but only tied for eighteenth in headed shots. Seven different players have nodded one in, no player more than twice.

Bournemouth – As has been mentioned here before, Bournemouth are known for their passivity in defence. They’re taking it to unusual extremes this year, averaging only 20.3 tackles per match, which if it holds up would be the lowest ever recorded for a full season.

Brighton & Hove Albion – When you talk blocked shots, you talk Burnley, but this year Brighton as well. The Seagulls have blocked 120 shots this season, only one fewer than the Clarets. But they may be overemphasising this side of the game: they’re also last by some distance in successful tackle percentage, at only 56.7%.

Burnley – There are plenty of good defensive statistics for the Clarets, so let’s throw in an attacking stat. Last season Burnley were last in dribbles attempted, and 16th in successful dribble percentage. This year they’re again last in dribbles attempted, but all the way up to sixth in dribble percentage, behind only Southampton, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Keep hold of Sean Dyche.

Chelsea – The Blues are taking more shots per game this year than last, 16.5 to 15.3, but scoring significantly fewer goals per game, 1.86 to 2.24. Last year they rode an excellent 14.7% conversion rate to the title, but this year it’s a fairly ordinary 11.3%.

Crystal Palace – Because Palace have been getting decent shot opportunities, expected goals have been predicting their rise for a good part of the season. One of the reasons it’s taken so long is that their conversion rate is down at 7.1%, better only than Swansea City.

Everton – The Toffees are committing the most fouls in the league, at 12.6/game. I guessed the number had gone up under Sam Allardyce, but just the opposite. Under Koeman and Unsworth it was at 13.3, under Allardyce 11.4. More defensive discipline.

Huddersfield – As they have all season, those relentless Terriers are leading the league in tackles/game by a wide margin, 19.8 to Crystal Palace’s 18.3. They’re only tied for seventh in fouls committed, which suggests they’re being fairly precise as well.

Leicester City – A steady feature of Leicester’s title-winning side was dribbling skill: with Riyad Mahrez leading the pack, they finished fifth in successful dribbles. Last year, the disaster year, they dropped all the way to 18th. Now they’re back in reasonable form, and sit in sixth, behind only Crystal Palace (think Zaha and Townsend) and four members of the big six.

Liverpool – Despite being a high-possession side, Liverpool are 19th in fouls suffered, ahead only of Brighton. Intriguing, because the two sides are poles apart in approach. Where the Reds are concerned, the stat suggests opponents 1) are playing very passively and also 2) can’t catch up with them when they’re in flow.  For comparison, Man City have been fouled  11th most in the league, Man United third.

Manchester City – You can take your pick of amazing stats here, but my current favourite is that City have completed 622.9 short passes per game, which is 122.8 more per game than second-placed Arsenal. In fact, Arsenal are the only other team to have even attempted 622.9 passes per game in total.

Manchester United – No doubt the attack has been static at times. Still, it’s a surprise that United have had a greater percentage of shots blocked than any other team at 32.1%. That’s well up from last year’s 26.1%. Spurs are second this year at 30.1%, but since they shoot so often from distance, that’s normal for them. For comparison, Man City have had 22.2% blocked, Liverpool 27.0%, Chelsea 27.1%, Arsenal 29.4%.

Newcastle United – The Magpies are struggling to put the ball in the net, and one reason is that 45.3% of their shots have come from outside the area, tops in the league. (Watford, incidentally, are the best here, at only 34.7%.)

Southampton – Speaking of sides struggling to score, there’s Southampton. A stat that backs it up: 47.4% of Saints’ shots have been off target, second-worst in the league, just .01 ahead of Watford. (Hmm…so Watford are taking plenty of shots from inside the penalty area, but still not getting them on target.)

Stoke City – Sparky’s gone, and there are plenty of stats showing why. But perhaps the biggest is opposition conversion rate, at 15.3% worst in the league. Injuries in defence haven’t helped, and to be fair, Jack Butland’s form has been erratic, but among central defenders only Kurt Zouma has been anywhere near a consistent performer.

Swansea City – Although they’re gradually improving, the Swans are still on pace to post the lowest shot numbers ever recorded. They’re at 8.5/game, below Middlesbrough’s record 9.3 last year. In order to surpass Boro’s figures, they’ll have to average a little more than 10 shots/game the rest of the way, about the level of Leicester City so far. (Oh, and they’re also last in aerial duel percentage.)

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs’ shots/game have been remarkably consistent the past two-and-a-half seasons, at 17.3, 17.6 and this year 17.5. The previous two seasons that’s been good enough to lead the league, but now they’re third behind Man City’s 18.0 and Liverpool’s 17.9.

Watford – With Richarlison playing mostly from the left, Watford have taken 25% of their shots from that wing. If it holds up, that would be tied for the largest percentage of shots ever taken from one wing over the course of a season.

West Bromwich Albion – Last year the side Pulised to the max, with 10 assists from corners. This year? Zero. But they have more assists from through balls so far this year (3) than they did all last year (2).

West Ham United – One doesn’t think of West Ham as a particularly aggressive side, but they have a clear lead in yellow cards, with 51, five more than second-placed West Brom. At this rate they’ll post the second-highest total ever recorded for a full season. And if you were wondering, the cards have increased from 2.18/game under Slaven Bilic to 2.45 under David Moyes.

 

Peter Goldstein


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