This Week So Far: The Business End
Welcome to The Analysis, our rolling football blog where we try and make sense of everything that just happened.
They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To
John Burridge set a Premier League record on this day in 1995 – a record that still stands 26 years later. Aged 43 years and 162 days old, he played in goal for Manchester City in their 3-2 defeat to QPR at Maine Road to bring the curtain down on the 1994-95 league season, in doing so becoming the oldest Premier League player of all-time.
In the late stages of a long career, Burridge was now known as a ‘gun for hire’ and was drafted in a few months earlier to cover for City’s three goalkeepers Tony Coton, Andy Dibble and Martyn Margetson. By April, Brian Horton’s decision to recruit the veteran as cover proved to be a wise one, with injuries & suspension meaning Burridge was given an unlikely chance.
Following an injury to Tony Coton in City’s home game with Newcastle at the end of April 1995, Burridge made an appearance as a half-time substitute and kept his former club at bay in a 0-0 draw. He would start the next three games, including that defeat to QPR on May 14.
Of the top 10 oldest players to play in the Premier League, it’s perhaps unsurprising that nine of them have been goalkeepers. The exception to this was Teddy Sheringham, who is one of only four players to play past their 40th birthday in the competition alongside Ryan Giggs (40y 158d), Kevin Phillips (40y 88d) and Gordon Strachan (40y 83d).
To put John Burridge’s achievement into perspective, it would be like Petr Cech coming out of retirement in late October 2025 to play a Premier League game, or Frank Lampard returning to the pitch and make a Premier League appearance in late November next season. Burridge didn’t end his playing career then. He would go on to spend time at nine other clubs lower down the pyramid, before ending his goalkeeping days as player-manager of Blyth Spartans in 1997. He’s still as strong as a bull, too.
I’m as strong as bull . Have very good . Good Friday I’m back pic.twitter.com/4tbwiBt5Mw— John Burridge (@TheBudgieTweets) April 2, 2021
Predicting the Race for Europe
Manchester City have wrapped up the title and the three relegated sides are confirmed at the earliest point of any Premier League season. This leaves us mooting the battle for European football in 2021-22, but luckily, we have our trusted predictor to give us an indication of the likely ending.
Manchester United already have a top four place wrapped up, despite two Premier League defeats in three days to fellow Champions League chasers Leicester City and Liverpool, but the two sides to join them and Manchester City in the group stage next season is still undecided.
It looks to be any two of three clubs, with West Ham United’s run of three losses in four league games denting their dreams of a first Champions League appearance – they now have just an outside 2.1% chance.
Our model rates Leicester City at 69.3% – but this doesn’t factor in the distraction of the FA Cup final against Chelsea this weekend. Before the midweek fixtures and their victory at Old Trafford against United on Tuesday, we gave them a 49.6% chance of a top four finish. A huge victory for the Foxes has now put them in pole position for third place.
Their FA Cup final opponents Chelsea had a bad week. On Monday, we gave them 93.6% chance of a top four finish but following wins for Leicester and Liverpool at Manchester United and a 1-0 home defeat against Arsenal it has now fallen to 69.5%.
They meet in the FA Cup final tomorrow, but just as important is their league meeting on Tuesday evening at Stamford Bridge. With Liverpool’s game in hand coming against already relegated West Brom on Sunday, both sides could have the Reds breathing down their neck should they pick up all three points from Sam Allardyce’s team.
Liverpool are still the outside bet of the three to get a Champions League spot, at 58.9%. But this has improved following their 4-2 midweek win at Old Trafford against United – on Monday, our model gave them a 45.6% chance.
Looking further down, Spurs look set to be busy on Thursday nights once again next season – either in the Europa League or the new Europa Conference League, while Everton could seal European football for the first time since 2017-18. West Ham have the edge for a 5th or 6th place finish that would see them qualify for the Europa League group stage (54.8%), but Spurs are still in with a shout (30.4%), with Everton less likely (11.1%).
Arsenal last spent a season without European football in 1995-96, but a run of 24 seasons of either Champions League or Europa League/UEFA Cup football could come to an end. Our model gives them just a 3.1% chance of a 6th place finish and Europa League qualification, and a 15.6% chance of finishing 7th for a Europa Conference League playoff spot. Ouch.
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The Meravellosa Minoría Are Back
Espanyol’s goalless draw with Real Zaragoza this weekend secured a return to La Liga after a one-year absence. Their Segunda División campaign has provided some much-needed joy to their absent fans, and the Spanish top-flight will have one of their most iconic teams back for 2021-22.
Only Real Madrid, Barcelona, Athletic Club (90) and Valencia CF (86) have appeared in more La Liga seasons than the Blanquiazules (85), and they made their return in style. Vicente Moreno has led his side to the most wins (23), suffered the fewest defeats (6) and done so while scoring the most goals (66) and conceding the fewest (23).
At the time 2018-19 felt like a dream for Espanyol. They finished seventh and qualified for European competition for the first time in 12 years. That dream turned sour the following season, as their successful campaign had highlighted the talents at their disposal and other clubs acted fast. Out went their coach Rubi after only one season in Barcelona, as he departed to Real Betis – taking top scorer and most creative player Borja Iglesias with him – while Mario Hermoso left to join Atlético Madrid. Poor recruitment and even worse managerial appointments turned 2019-20 into a disaster.
They secured just one more win (five) than they had managers (four) in a campaign that saw them secure their worst-ever points tally in a La Liga season (25) and finish bottom of the league to suffer their first relegation in 27 years.
Their first season in the second tier got off to a solid start, dropping only seven points from their opening 11 games (W8 D2 L1) but a mid-season slump threatened to derail their automatic promotion hopes. With just one win and four points collected in a five-game spell to start 2021, Espanyol trailed league-leaders Mallorca by five points coming into their vital meeting on February 14. Landry Dimata – a signing in the winter transfer window – scored the winning goal in a 2-1 away victory at their promotion rivals and Espanyol never looked back. That victory at Mallorca started a 14-game unbeaten run in the Segunda División (W9 D5) with the 32 points won in this period more than any other side in the competition. This fantastic run has helped ensure that Espanyol have kept up their impeccable record of being promoted back to La Liga at the first attempt following relegation. They’ve successfully done this on each of the five occasions they’ve been relegated.
Raúl de Tomás has been the one of the main protagonists in the successful season. The striker, who was playing Champions League football for Benfica just last season, leads the second-tier scoring charts with 22 goals while their 29-year-old winger Adrián Embarba leads the way in the Segunda División for assists (14) with a further nine goals stressing his importance in Espanyol’s successful campaign.
Moreno has made history with this promotion as Espanyol coach. It’s the sixth he’s been involved in – two as a player and four as a coach – and those four in the dugout have come in just eight seasons as a manager.
All that’s left to do now is to confirm themselves as champions, which looks likely with only four games remaining and a six-point gap between themselves and second-placed Mallorca. La Liga will prove to be a hard task for Espanyol next season, there’s no doubt about that, but Meravellosa Minoría are back.
Lewandowski Chasing Down Müller
Yet another hat-trick from Robert Lewandowski this weekend helped FC Bayern Munich to their 30th Bundesliga title victory. It was the 14th Bundesliga hat-trick of Lewandowski’s career with only Gerd Müller (32) having scored more in the competition.
“Only Gerd Müller” is a common phrase for Bundesliga facts and stats. The legendary German striker leads the way with 365 goals in the competition – a record that never looked under threat until Lewandowski entered the scene at Borussia Dortmund in August 2010. Following four seasons and 74 goals in Dortmund, the striker has enjoyed a phenomenal seven years at Bayern.
This weekend saw him surpass the 200-goal tally at the club in league football, and with 201 goals he is now one of two players to score a double-century of Bundesliga goals for a single club, behind only Gerd Müller (365).
Once again, only Gerd Müller has scored more goals in a single Bundesliga campaign than Lewandowski’s 39 goals in 2020-21. The Pole has two more games this season to overtake this record, with an away meeting with SC Freiburg followed by the final game of the season at home to FC Augsburg.
The smart money is on Lewandowski to beat Müller’s seasonal goal record, with the former Bayern star possibly being made to pay for missing all three penalties he attempted in his record-breaking season.
Müller went on to make 427 Bundesliga appearances overall, 79 more than Lewandowski’s current tally (348). At no point so far has Lewandowski been ahead of Müller’s goal rate in the Bundesliga, but 2020-21 has seen the current star of German football catch up with a rate of 1.44 goals per game.
With Lewandowski turning 33 years old in August, time isn’t on his side to make up the 90-goal deficit he currently has on Müller, but if 2020-21 is anything to go by, he isn’t slowing down any time soon.
What Is It About Manchester City and Penalties?
On the stroke of half-time against Chelsea, Sergio Agüero had a golden opportunity to seal the Premier League title for Manchester City. With City leading 1-0, Gabriel Jesus was fouled in the area, giving Agüero the chance to put City two goals ahead. The club’s record-scorer stood confidently over the ball, stepped up and…
Missed. Missed in the worst possible way. A failed Panenka.
Had he scored, Agüero would have equalled Wayne Rooney’s record for the most Premier League goals for a single club (183) and would have surely wrapped up the league title for his side.
The Argentine’s miss is not an isolated incident for Manchester City. Since Pep Guardiola took over in August 2016, his side have missed the most penalties in the Premier League (14).
And of the 16 teams to have taken at least 10 in this period, City have the worst success rate from the spot (65.9%).
Agüero’s miss on Saturday means City have had more players miss a penalty (four) than any other side this season. He joins Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gündogan on that unwanted list.
During Pep’s time at Man City, Agüero has been his go-to penalty man, scoring 13 of the 16 he’s taken in the Premier League. Indeed, before Saturday, he’d missed just one of his last five in all competitions:
Looking at his penalty map before the weekend – available through Stats Perform’s new PressBox Live tool – shows Agüero’s favoured a similar spot of late. Maybe the Panenka was an attempt to mix things up.
It’s clear that Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had done his homework. He dived to his right initially, but, wary that Agüero’s penalties don’t historically go right into the corner, did not overcommit, and was able to adjust his body to make an easy save.
Ironically for Guardiola, a former player of his, Yaya Touré, holds the best penalty record in Premier League history, scoring with all 11 of his efforts.
On the flip side, it’s Juan Pablo Angel who holds the honour of the worst penalty success rate in history (minimum of 10 penalties taken). Looking down the list Man City fans will be hoping Riyad Mahrez stays off penalty duties for the foreseeable future.
Despite City’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, it remains a case of when, not if, that Guardiola’s side win the league.
Come Back to What You Know
It was a familiar scene at Villa Park on Sunday, as Manchester United recovered from a slow start to win from a losing position. Theorists say this isn’t the most sustainable method to win football matches over a long period, but you tell United that.
It’s now 31 points won from losing positions for United in 2020-21, beating their previous tally in a Premier League season and only three points away from Newcastle United’s all-time Premier League record of 34 in 2001-02.
In winning this match at Villa Park on Sunday, United overtook another of Newcastle United’s records from that season. It was the 10th time that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side have conceded first but still gone on to win in 2020-21. Overall, they have conceded the first goal more often than they’ve scored it (13) and won the same number of matches in both scenarios (10) this season.
Ridiculously, 28 of those 31 points recovered from behind have come in away games, which is nearly three times the tally of any other side and has absolutely smashed the previous record in the competition shared by Newcastle’s class of 2001-02 and Aston Villa in the 42-game season of 1993-94 (17 points).
The player to score the match-winning second goal for the Red Devils on Sunday afternoon was Mason Greenwood. The 19-year-old has certainly given Gareth Southgate food for thought ahead of his Euro 2020 selection following a recent burst of seven goals in 10 competitive appearances for United and surely has a chance following the announcement of three extra spaces in the Three Lions’ squad.
Still five months away from turning 20, Greenwood’s goal yesterday broke the club record for most goals by a teenager in the Premier League. His current tally of 16 should almost certainly be improved between now and his birthday in October, but is unlikely to reach the heights of the Premier League record holder for most goals as a teenager, held by Michael Owen with 40.