124 Days of Hurt
So, in the end, Nuno Espírito Santo got 124 days in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, equal with Alan Pardew’s time at West Brom in 2017-18, if you can remember that joyous period. Of course, a lot of those 124 days came before the season started because the erstwhile Spurs boss was appointed at the end of June, so in disastrous-starts-to-a-Premier-League-season terms (as opposed to mid-season managerial replacement that quickly revealed itself as a mistake, aka your Les Reeds), Nuno is up there with Frank De Boer at Crystal Palace in 2017, also appointed in June but given only 77 days. In pure Tottenham Premier League terms, Nuno lasted one game fewer than Jacques Santini, 12 fewer than Tim Sherwood and 16 fewer than Christian Gross, the latter a name you feel will forever be spiritually linked with Nuno’s time at the club. The raw facts are these: no team has had fewer shots than Spurs in the PL this season, and only three sides have a lower expected goals figure. Something had to change, and now it has.
Crazy Gang mk II
If the white half of north London is in turmoil, then the red half is quietly growing in confidence and hope. Arsenal started the Premier League season with three defeats (while Spurs topped the table with nine points at the same stage) but have since recovered to climb to sixth place, after an unbeaten run of seven matches. It brings to mind the incredibly ordered Wimbledon campaign of 1996-97 because they were the last team to start a Premier League season with three defeats and then remain unbeaten in the next seven games. In Wimbledon’s case they won all seven to rocket up the standings. Then, having seemingly realised that it’s possible to draw football matches as well, the Dons proceeded to take a point from each of their next four games, before adding three successive wins to the mix. That’s a 14 game unbeaten run that left them handily in the top four at the halfway point of the season, before a bleak April saw them finish in eighth. On current form Arsenal will be dreaming of a higher final position than that, but 1990s Wimbledon are a direct reminder from history that’s league season remain a marathon and not a sprint.
Case For The Defence
And if north London is in varying states of excitement and despair, over in west London Chelsea are cementing their title aspirations with a defence that may give up chances on occasion but hardly ever gives up goals. At the current rate they’ll end this season having let in only 11 goals, beating their own Premier League record of 15 in the process.
It turns out that Thomas Tuchel is only the seventh manager in English top-flight history to see his team concede three goals or fewer in their opening 10 games. Interestingly, maybe, is the fact that of the seven previous instances (Alex Ferguson having done so twice), only three of those teams actually went on to win the title that year. The Manchester United paor of Ron Atkinson in 1985-86 and Alex Ferguson in 1991-92 should have done so, but pretty much blew it in both cases. John Gregory’s Aston Villa in 1998-99 were very much an outlier, while Carlo Ancelotti in 2010-11 had to suffer the ignominy of the bullet in May 2011 despite guiding Chelsea to the league and cup double a year earlier and being named Premier League manager of the month in both March and April 2011. A decade on and Tuchel seems on much firmer ground than that at Stamford Bridge, for now at least.
Goals Goals Goals
Just as Norwich City are once again proving that getting promoted from the Championship to the Premier League can be an exercise in ennui, Fulham and Aleksandar Mitrović are demonstrating the reverse is true. In the unlikely event you’ve missed just how prolific Mitrovic has been in the second tier this season, the xG map below might blow your mind. The Serb has had 67 shots so far, scoring with 18 of them, and that goal total means that he has personally scored more than 42 of the 92 clubs in the four English divisions this season. If he keeps up this rate for the rest of the campaign he is on track for 55 league goals, which is decent, but still no Dixie Dean.
Meanwhile we should also dole out much praise to Morecambe’s Cole Stockton, who scored his 11th of the season away at Oxford on Saturday with a lovely volley. Of all players in the top four English tiers this season, Stockton is overperforming his xG by the highest figure, helped by two outrageous long-range goals. League One player of the month in both August and September so far this season, Stockton looks to have hit the sort of vein of form most players can only dream about.