Welcome to The Data Day, our rolling football stats blog for 2021-22, where we try and make sense of what just happened.

September 2

International Love

Yesterday saw the return of the European World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022 after a six-month hiatus, but what happened? Luckily for you, we’re here to pick out the key moments with statistical significance so you can pass the knowledge off as your own.

NHS 111

NHS: Notorious Heading Skill.
111: The total goals that Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored in senior international football.

Admittedly this title only works if you’re from the UK or have a familiarity of British healthcare, but it worked for me.

The Republic of Ireland were just moments away from a famous win in the Algarve, but a late, late show from Ronaldo saw them come away empty handed. Ronaldo’s first strike saw him overtake Ali Daei’s tally of 109 goals for Iran to become the all-time leading goalscorer in men’s international football. Ronaldo’s second goal in the fifth minute of injury time extended that lead over the Iranian to two goals and meant heartbreak for Ireland. 28 of his 11 goals for Portugal have come from headers (25%), with Ronaldo further confirming that he’s one of the best players ever seen in the air.

Ronaldo had seen a first half penalty brilliantly saved by 19-year-old Irish goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, and it looked like he would have to wait until his next appearance to match Ali Daei’s world record. However, two smashing headers won the game for Portugal and moved them top of their group with 10 points from four games.

The Portuguese had the lion’s share of chances in the game but couldn’t find a way through until the 89th minute. 29 shots to Ireland’s six across the whole match, in what you have to say was a deserved win based on the stats.

Portugal 2-1 Ireland

Snore Draw in Strasbourg

It’s official. France’s 1-1 draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina last night was the most boring match seen in the European World Cup qualifiers for 2022 so far.

With goalscoring chances accumulating to just 0.75 xG across the whole match, this game saw the lowest quality shots in the qualifying campaign for the tournament, but somehow still produced two goals.

The last World Cup qualifying match in the UEFA zone to produce a lower quality of shots was Greece 0-0 Croatia in November 2017 – an absolute classic encounter featuring 14 shots totalling 0.56 xG. Shoutout to the Greeks for their staunch belief in playing dull qualifiers that year, as only 73 days prior to that draw, they also drew 0-0 with Estonia in a game that had only 0.43 xG in total.

There were 15 shots overall, which is actually more than in five qualifiers in this campaign so far, but the quality of those shots left much to be desired. Only six of them came from inside the penalty area, which is another low for this qualification campaign.


Altheides. Marcos Baghdatis. Theo Paphitis. Peter Andre. Tulisa from N-Dubz. Your boys took one hell of a beating.

Congratulations to Malta for their great 3-0 home victory over Cyprus last night – their first ever World Cup qualifying victory at home. Defender Cain Attard was the hero with a brace – his first two goals for his country, with him now only three goals away from entering the top 10 leading goalscorers in the history of Maltese international football.

This was only the third time that Malta have won a World Cup qualifier overall, adding to 1-0 away wins against Estonia in May 1993 and Armenia in June 2013. They already won four points in the 2022 qualifiers, making this their joint-most in a World Cup qualifying campaign – level with their attempts to reach the 1994 World Cup.

– MF

September 1

What Did You Learn from MD3?

Following matchday three of the 2021-22 Premier League season, we’ve devised a quick 10 question quiz to test your knowledge. How much attention did you really pay to the action this weekend?

– MF

August 30

Standout Stars

Saturday saw both Robert Lewandowski and Ciro Immobile score hat-tricks in league action, but we’ve already covered those performances (scroll down this page). Which other players put in a great shift across the big five European leagues this weekend? We throw some names in the hat.

Luis Alberto (Lazio)

Luis Alberto enjoyed himself in Lazio’s emphatic 6-1 win over Spezia in Serie A on Saturday evening. The Spaniard assisted three goals in the performance, which was more than his entire 2020-21 assist tally (2) set in 34 appearances and the first time that he’s ever assisted three times in his 142-game Serie A career.

He attempted 89 passes overall in this win – a tally that he’s only bettered once in his entire Serie A career, nearly two years ago against Parma in September 2019 (101).

To top off his night, Alberto scored the final goal on the match in the 85th minute with a brilliant strike from outside the box – his 32nd in the competition.

Jack Grealish (Manchester City)

Jack Grealish arrived at Manchester City this summer with a huge price tag above his head, bringing pressure unlike he’d been subjected to before his transfer from Aston Villa. So far, the England international has lived up to the hype and he put in another accomplished display against Arsenal in City’s 5-0 win.

Grealish picked up his first assist in a Man City shirt adding to his first goal in last week’s win over Norwich City, while creating six goalscoring chances for his teammates overall. Overall, only Wolves’ Raúl Jiménez (10) has created more chances from open play than Grealish this season, with the former Villa star having the fifth-highest expected assists total (1).

Jack Grealish vs Arsenal

In his 90-minute appearance, he misplaced just five of his 68 passes and completed 93% – a rare feat for such a creative player who takes risks with his passes.

Grealish will have much harder afternoons in a Manchester City shirt than this one, but it’s been a very encouraging start to his career at the Etihad Stadium.

Mohamed Ali-Cho (Angers)

Remember this name.

Mohamed Ali-Cho has been impressing many with his bright start to the 2021-22 Ligue 1 campaign following his breakthrough last season at Angers, in which he made 16 appearances in the top-flight.

This weekend saw him notch his first goal in top-flight league football in an impressive victory over Rennes and in doing so becoming the youngest player to score in Ligue 1 (17y 222d old) since Eduardo Camavinga in December 2019. Kylian Mbappé had only scored one Ligue 1 goal at this age, so no mean feat by Ali-Cho.

Ali-Cho was a constant menace in this match, attempting a game-high six shots and being involved in the opening goal by tackling Rennes’ goalkeeper Alfred Gomis following a comical error. His 88th minute strike arrived after he accelerated past Nayef Aguerd and finished at the second attempt to wrap up the 2-0 win.

Ali-Cho was born in Paris but has represented England at youth level. The Three Lions will be hoping he picks them at international level if he keeps these performances up.

Mohamed Ali-Cho Carries

Ali-Cho was a constant menace in this match, attempting a game-high six shots and being involved in the opening goal by tackling Rennes’ goalkeeper Alfred Gomis following a comical error. His 88th minute strike arrived after he accelerated past Nayef Aguerd and finished at the second attempt to wrap up the 2-0 win.

Ali-Cho was born in Paris but has represented England at youth level. The Three Lions will be hoping he picks them at international level if he keeps these performances up.

Gregor Kobel (Borussia Dortmund)

Ahead of 2021-22, we asked our pool of Opta data editors across the world to give us some players they thought would make an impact this season. Germany’s Donat Roduner picked out Gregor Kobel following his transfer to Borussia Dortmund from VfB Stuttgart – so far, this looks like a brilliant pick.

Kobel was in fantastic form as Dortmund picked up a 3-2 win versus Kobel’s former club Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Friday night. Despite conceding two goals (which he could have done little about), the Swiss shot-stopper made three important saves to prevent more, and this eventually helped Erling Haaland’s injury time goal prove to be the winner.

Gregor Kobel vs Hoffenheim

Based on our expected goals on target model, the shots that Kobel faced on target in the game against Hoffenheim should have seen the average goalkeeper concede nearly four goals (3.7), but the Dortmund goalkeeper prevented 1.7 with his saves.

His performance rightly earned praise at full-time, and it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of 2021-22 shapes up for the 23-year-old.

– MF

August 29

Ligue Messi

It has begun. At 22:09 local time, Paris Saint-Germain made the substitution of substitutions, bringing on Lionel Messi to replace Neymar. The match situation was calm, as PSG had just doubled their lead at Reims thanks to a second goal on the night from Kylian Mbappe. Were these Mbappe’s final goals for the club on the same night that Messi began his new footballing life in France? We will find that out in the next 48 hours but whatever happens we will at least seen these two generational talents team up together at least once. In Reims.

Messi’s cameo was neat and tidy; he barely needed to break into a run for the first 10 minutes or so. On 77 minutes he drove directly towards goal for the first time, playing a pass to Mbappe and almost getting it back but getting a whack in the ear instead. Messi completed 19 of his 20 passes and won four of the five duels he contested, but perhaps the most telling statistic was that no player in the game was fouled more times than PSG’s newest star. In a second half littered with late tackles by both sides, Messi and Mbappe were both seen as legitimate targets by the Reims defence, and Messi will already understand that he is a big prize to any defender up and down France who can tame him, by fair means or not.

Messi passes vs Reims
neat and tidy
Messi carries vs Reims
Messi operating in Messi territory on French soil

So in conclusion, PSG are not going to make much money selling DVDs of Lionel Messi’s debut, but, as expected, he looked completely at ease after he came on. Less at ease, though, was the PSG defence, which was fortunate to collect a clean sheet. And as Barcelona can verify, having Lionel Messi in your team doesn’t guarantee you glory if other members of the team are not performing as they should. Sergio Ramos, it’s over to you.


August 28

The Matrix: Unloaded

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Manchester City (the blue pill) can believe in a sixth Premier League title with this hugely impressive and controlled display. Arsenal (the red pill) are far from in wonderland and will be musing how deep this rabbit hole can possibly go; it seems to get deeper and deeper each week.

Today marked the 10-year anniversary of Arsenal’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat away at Manchester United. The good news for Arsenal? They lost by only a margin of five goals this time around. The bad news? Well….

Today’s result means Arsenal have lost their opening three games to a top-flight league season for only the fourth time and for the first campaign since 1954-55. It also meant that the Gunners created some history today. Not for the right reasons, of course, as they lost for a ninth successive Premier League game against Man City, setting a new longest-ever run of consecutive defeats against a specific opponent in their league history. The records didn’t end there:

Scoring goals would be easier if shots were attempted. Arsenal attempted just one in this match – their fewest in a Premier League game on record since 2003-04. That shot was the first in the game on 5:01 from Bukayo Saka, and that was as good as it got.

Manchester City 5-0 Arsenal

True, Arsenal were 2-0 down and the game was already probably won by City when Granit Xhaka was sent off in the 35th minute of this defeat. But it made the remaining 55 minutes impossible for the Gunners. Since Arsène Wenger left the club at the end of 2017-18, Arsenal have been given 13 red cards in the Premier League, more than any other club. Xhaka himself has been given four in his Premier League career, with no player in the competition having received more since his debut in August 2016 (level with Fernandinho and David Luiz).

Most Premier League Red Cards

Since Mikel Arteta’s first game on Boxing Day 2019, Arsenal have won 94 points in the Premier League. That’s the sixth-most and 39 points fewer than the best in this period: Manchester City (135). By the end of this matchday, that tally of points could be overtaken by Leicester City and Everton and equalled by West Ham United. It was clear that Arteta’s brief was to rebuild the club on the pitch, but how long is that project going to be allowed to take? On this evidence, it could take a lot of time, and time isn’t generally something football managers are given a lot of. The international break looms.

– MF

Immobile: Roaming Free

Where would Lazio be without Ciro Immobile? The Italian international scored his sixth Serie A hat-trick in their 6-1 thrashing of Spezia at the Olimpico to take his league goal tally to 127 for I Biancocelesti. His goals have contributed 35% of Lazio’s Serie A total since 2016-17, proving his importance to the club.

Yes, he’s scored a lot of penalties in that total for Lazio – 36 to be precise, but even without these he’d top the scoring charts by 10.

All three of his goals in this game versus Spezia came in the first half – and he could even afford to miss a penalty. That spot-kick gave him the chance to complete his treble before the half-time break within injury time, but it was saved by Spezia goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet. Immobile needn’t have worried, as he only had to wait another 28 seconds before nodding in a back-post header from the resulting corner. The last player to score three goals in the first half of a Serie A match was Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus vs Cagliari in March 2021.

Immobile now has eight goals in his last 10 Serie A appearances and has started the 2021-22 campaign with a goal in both matches. He’s finished at top scorer in the competition on three occasions – most recently in 2019-20, and with Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo now out of the picture in Serie A, there’s every chance he’ll go on to pick up his fourth this season.

– MF

Five Alive for Bayern

Ciro Immobile wasn’t the only hat-trick scorer across Europe today, with Robert Lewandowski (who else) netting a treble in Bayern Munich’s emphatic 5-0 win over Hertha BSC.

Lewandowski’s hat-trick was his 15th in the German top-flight across his 12 seasons in the competition, but he’s still not even halfway to replicating the feats of the legendary Gerd Müller, who netted 32 (THIRTY-TWO!!) in the Bundesliga. These goals also meant that Lewandowski surpassed 300 goals for Bayern in all competitions, with his third of the match taking him to 301 but still miles off Müller’s 563 for the record German champions.

His five goals in three Bundesliga appearances this season equals his record at the same stage in his record-breaking 2020-21 campaign, in which he broke the single season goal record (41). There’s every chance he could break it again before his contract expires at the club next summer. Despite being 33 years old – 34 at the start of next season – Lewandowski’s talents will stull surely peak the interests of many of Europe’s top clubs.

Since the start of last season, Lewandowski’s 46 goals have come from an expected goals total of 37.1, with the Pole outperforming his xG by more than any other player in the competition (+8.9).

Lewandowski since 2020-21

Jamal Musiala scored his seventh Bundesliga goal and the first of the season in this rout. Only one player has scored his seventh goal in the competition at an earlier age than Musiala (18y 183d), and that also happened in the Bundesliga today – Floran Wirtz (18y 117d) scoring his seventh German top-flight goal in Bayer Leverkusen’s 4-1 win at Augsburg.

This weekend has already seen five goals scored by teenagers in the competition, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham (18y 59d) and Giovanni Reyna (18y 287d) both scoring, as well as Tim Lemperle (19y 204d) of Köln. It’s a good time to be a young player in the Bundesliga, it seems.

– MF

Predicting the Premier League

There are five teams remaining on 100% records in the Premier League as we head in to matchday three, with that total certainly being reduced to a maximum of four following this weekend as Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield.

Both sides have started well defensively, with no goals conceded between the pair, but a 0-0 draw here feels unlikely. Liverpool have fired in the most shots so far in the Premier League this season (46) and have the joint-second highest expected goals total along with Manchester City (4.3), while we all saw the threat that Romelu Lukaku poses following his exceptional second debut for Chelsea at Arsenal last Sunday. Our match predictor thinks Liverpool have the best chance of victory here (48.6%), with home advantage and a raucous Anfield crowd helping play a part.

Premier League Predictions

Arsenal kick off the matchday in the early kick off with a daunting away trip to Manchester City. The Gunners have lost each of their last eight league matches against City – their joint-longest run of consecutive defeats against a specific opponent in their league history. Our match predictor gives Man City a higher chance of victory than any other side this weekend, with a 64.6% chance. Arsenal are given just a 13.5% chance of picking up their first Premier League victory over City since December 2015.

Brighton have won both of their league matches so far in 2021-22 – they’ve won their first three league games in just three of their previous 94 seasons in the Football League, doing so in 1951-52, 1953-54 and 2011-12. We give them a 34.4% chance of doing it this weekend, but that’s a shade lower than Everton’s chance of an away victory (35.4%) – but with the chances so tight, a draw might prove to be the most likely result in this game.

Elsewhere, our match predictor thinks there will be likely wins for Spurs, West Ham and Aston Villa, while Leeds and Manchester United are tipped to pick up away wins on Sunday by the match predictor.

Make sure you watch our pre-matchday show: The Analyst Hat-Trick, where we pit our AI match predictions against both the public and the esteemed knowledge of our team.

– MF

August 27

I Don’t Dance Now, I Make Money Moves

The clock is ticking down in the 2021 transfer window and we could be set to see some monumental money moves in the market.

If Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona wasn’t enough of a shock to the system, the thought of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé making moves in the same month would have been mind-blowing in the pre-covid football era.

We’ve already covered the possibilities for Cristiano Ronaldo in our blog two weeks ago, but that was when we thought a move to Paris Saint-Germain to link up with long-time rival Lionel Messi was most likely. Now it seems like the former Manchester United starlet is to make a heel turn and sign for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

If a computer simulation of events in 2011 had revealed that exactly 10 years later, you’d see Ronaldo lining up for a City side led by Pep Guardiola against the French champions containing Lionel Messi then you’d have been forgiven for thinking that there had been a huge glitch in the system – but there’s every possibility that this will happen following their pairing in the Champions League group draw yesterday. Our Qwinn-powered Stats Perform Transfer Portal tool gave us some predicted outputs for Ronaldo should he move clubs this summer, and the move to City didn’t seem to help the Portuguese star’s quest for goal dominance.

Ronaldo Manchester City

The simulated metric comparison for 2021-22 league data predicted that he would get much better chances at Juventus (and Paris Saint-Germain) than he would at Manchester City in the Premier League, with Ronaldo’s expected goals per 90 average falling to 0.68 compared to 0.80 in Turin.

Ronaldo and Messi are nearing the end of their careers, but two players who look set to at least emulate their goalscoring achievements in years to come are Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland.

Mbappé looks very likely to leave Paris in the next 12 months, with no desire to extend his contract that runs out next summer. If rumours are believed to be true then this exit could come quicker than expected, with Real Madrid willing to pay a mammoth fee to bring the French international to the Bernabéu a year earlier.

Ronaldo Messi Mbappe Haaland league
MPG: Mins per Goal

His top-flight record is quite frankly ridiculous, with 108 goals at an average of a strike every 97 minute so far in his career.

At the same age that Mbappé is today (22 years, 251 days), neither Messi or Ronaldo had got close to scoring as many goals in top-tier league matches, but admittedly the two world football behemoths were playing in deeper-lying roles – more so the case with Ronaldo.

Haaland is still a full season and some more away from Mbappé’s current age but still has 73 goals in top-flight league football across Norway, Austria and Germany. There’s every chance he could surpass the French striker’s current goal tally at the same age, having already beaten Messi and Ronaldo’s records – but again, with a caveat of having played some games in weaker leagues than the Premier League and La Liga.

Ronaldo Messi Mbappe Haaland champions league
MPG: Mins per Goal

Ronaldo (134) and Messi (120) are the only two players with over 100 UEFA Champions League goals, but those tallies look set to be challenged by both Haaland and Mbappé.

As the two youngest players to reach 20 goals in Champions League history, both the Norwegian and the French forward are well placed to eventually reach the century – leading UCL goalscorer Ronaldo didn’t reach 20 goals in the competition until he was two months shy of his 25th birthday, after all.

Haaland hit 20 goals in just 14 appearances in the Champions League, absolutely smashing the previous record by 10 games. Mbappé has the advantage of experience under his belt, with 45 appearances in Europe’s premiere competition – only Iker Casillas reached his 45th appearance in the competition at a younger age than the wonderkid.

It’s all change at the top of the world football pyramid and we’re keeping a close eye on the records set to be broken.

– MF