The Analyst Diary – December 13
Plenty Plenty Penalty
There were plenty of penalties in the Premier League this weekend, at points it seemed like there was little else, with Saturday being the first day in Premier League history (with five or more games) to see more than 50% of its goals come from the classic in-box direct free-kick from 12 yards.
And because the division’s Champions League entrants, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, all won games this weekend with goals struck home from the penalty spot, discourse immediately pivoted to wondering whether the big clubs get more penalties than others.
It’s not an easy question to answer. Of teams to play 100+ games, the two Premier League clubs with the highest penalties-per-game rates are Brighton and Bournemouth, suggesting, perhaps, that referees are adversely affected by the scent of the English channel. Or perhaps, as teams who have played in the Premier League only recently, they are beneficiaries of modern referees just handing out more spot-kicks than their 1990s ancestors.
Next in the list are Crystal Palace, perhaps deep down the most penalty-based club in Premier League history, from the mid-2000s Andrew Johnson paradigm through to the Luka Milivojevic era. Yet it remains rare, whenever Palace are awarded a spot-kick, for anyone to say “well now, this is classic Crystal Palace”.
Then we come to the big guns, Manchester United and Liverpool, who lead the competition in all-time penalties while being fourth and fifth for penalties per game. That may tally with your expectations but think about this: both clubs have collected more penalties in eras when they were rarely challenging for the Premier League title. This is a category that Liverpool led for long time, only to be hunted down by United in the past few seasons. In the world of penalties there are no certainties, it’s a 0.78 chance at best.
Joao Cancelo is in with a great chance of winning Manchester City’s player of the year award and possibly even the Premier League equivalent too, but think how much more of a chance he might have if one – just one – of his long range shots went in. He had three more shots from distance against Wolves at the weekend, taking him to 28 for the season (plus eight inside the box), meaning he has had more shots from outside the box this season without scoring than any other player in Europe’s big five leagues.
A one game suspension this midweek at least gives Cancelo time to hone his skills on the training pitch. Or do some background reading about xG.
Delight spread across the nation on Saturday as it became apparent that Oldham and Forest Green were going to draw 5-5. Any tied game where the teams have scored five or more goals is officially “feelgood”. It is only the 32nd time in English league history that a game has ended 5-5, a spell that stretches from the Blackburn’s first ever game in the first ever league season in 1888-89 (5-5 vs Accrington and Ben Brereton Diaz didn’t even score) all the way through to December 2021.
Only two English league matches have ended 6-6, Leicester vs. Arsenal in April 1930 and Charlton vs. Middlesbrough in October 1960, just four years after the London club had come from 5-1 down at home to Huddersfield to win 7-6. That’s a stupid scoreline, though, because it wasn’t a draw.
If Messi Had Done This
And talking of the number five, add five to five and then multiply that by five and you get 50, which is the number of league goals Adebayo Akinfenwa has now scored for Wycombe. The 39-year-old scored against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, and after 49 for the club from very much inside the area, his half century was reached with a beautifully cushioned lob from the edge of the D. Joao Cancelo, look and learn.