The Analyst Diary – September 20
Take a chance on me
The last three full seasons are the only ones in recorded Premier League history to see a shot conversion rate of 11% or higher (2018-19: 11.13%, 2019-20: 11.0%, 2020-21: 11.14%) but so far this season that figure is down to 9.85%. Fans are back in stadiums; has this made the football wilder? The last four complete seasons also have the lowest shots-per-game numbers but so far the current campaign has seen 26.8 per match, which puts it stylistically, along with the conversion rate, along the lines of a season like 2013-14. That would be no bad thing, as that edition is arguably the finest Premier League campaign of them all, with a three-to-four team title race and some of the most memorable matches in the competition’s history.
- Looking at individual teams, again with the proviso that we are only 13% of the way through the season, there are some interesting outliers:
- Manchester United’s 16.46% conversion rate is the highest ever seen in the Premier League. Useful when you’ve added the top scoring player in Top Five European League history.
- But Chelsea are only fractionally behind on 16.44%, and their jump of 6.01 percentage points from last season is the biggest increase ever seen. Like United, they added a notable striking option to their team this summer.
- The highest recorded conversion rate across an entire Premier League season is the 15.94% posted by Manchester City in 2017-18. And similarities between that side and this season’s Chelsea team have been noted.
- Brighton’s confirmation of the underlying goodness they showed last season is powered by an increase of 4.07 percentage points in their conversion. Their first four Premier League seasons had remarkably similar conversion rates between eight and nine per cent but that’s now above 12% and, well, look at the difference it makes.
- Wolves, as it stands, have the lowest conversion rate in recorded Premier League history at 2.44% with Arsenal just ahead of them on 2.78%. They will both improve in the coming weeks but have some work to do to catch and overtake Derby in 2007-08 who scored with only 5.32% of their shots, the lowest recorded rate in a complete Premier League campaign.
Norwich have now lost 15 Premier League games in a row. 22 and a half hours of consecutive defeat is not much fun, especially as the latest loss came against Watford, a team they were promoted with last season. It’s starting to feel like Norwich should be eternal champions of a secret ghost division halfway between the Championship and the Premier League but instead they have to face up to what could be a long cold winter. That 22-and-a-half-hour figure is also interesting because if you walked at a classic pace of just below five miles per hour, it would take almost exactly that long to walk from Norwich to Watford (using the definitive Thetford/Mildenhall/Royston/St Albans route). For some Canaries fans this Anglian pilgrimage might be a nicer prospect than yet another top-flight defeat.
The mysterious prophecy that one day a hundred players called Sam would appear in the top four English divisions on the same day doesn’t look like happening any time soon but, to be fair, 28 players called Sam have appeared this season, which is a hearty amount of Sams. Star Sam this weekend was surely Northampton’s Sam Hoskins who created eight goalscoring chances for his team, including the assist for the late equaliser against Swindon. It meant that eight of his 22 passes set up shots, which, whether you’re called Sam or not, is a fine ratio.
Bees: wax lyrical
Brentford are busy showing people who didn’t watch Brentford in the Championship what Brentford are all about. Eight points from their opening five games can be filed under: PRETTY, PRETTY GOOD FOR A PROMOTED TEAM.
In fact, the last promoted team to get more than that from their opening five games were Newcastle with nine in 2017-18. And that doesn’t really count because they were really a Premier League club who had bounced back from a relegation. So we have to go back to Reading in 2006-07 who also took nine from their opening five matches. They ended that season in a fine eighth place and with Brentford having allowed their opponents just 3.92 expected goals, the second lowest figure in the division behind defending champions Manchester City, it doesn’t seem outlandish to imagine the Bees doing similar. Just don’t tell them where Reading then finished the following season. (It was 18th).
Time: gentleman please
Aston Villa’s home win against Everton was only the second Premier League game this season to see less than 45 minutes of ball in play time, following Aston Villa’s home win against Newcastle in August. Given they won both games without conceding there’ll be no-one complaining about this relative lack of action, but it does make you wonder how low supporters would go if they could be guaranteed three points each time? If I told you your team would win every game this season but would see the ball in play for a combined six minutes of action, would you take it? It’s a results business after all.