Welcome to the first edition of the new Opta Analyst newsletter: Stat, Viz, Quiz.
We felt like changing things up a bit, so not only will your favourite data-driven weekly newsletter now arrive on a Tuesday – three whole days earlier than it used to – but it will have a brand-new format, including at least one interesting stat that grabbed our attention from the week, at least one lovely shiny viz, and a quiz to get your football brain cogs whirring. We’re sure you’d never have been able to guess that from the title.
Before we get cracking, if you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe below and receive Stat, Viz, Quiz direct to your inbox every week:
STAT – Is Erling Haaland a Massive Fraud?
It’s safe to say that Erling Haaland had an underwhelming game on Sunday as Manchester City were beaten in the Community Shield by Arsenal. Leandro Trossard’s late equaliser at Wembley Stadium cancelled out Cole Palmer’s opener and forced a penalty shootout, which Mikel Arteta’s men won with ease.
But we’ve been here before, haven’t we?
Twelve months ago, Haaland also struggled in City’s 3-1 Community Shield defeat to Liverpool, before going on to score 52 goals in his first season in England. It’s almost as if reading too much into one game is a bit silly.
The former Borussia Dortmund striker was remarkably ineffective against Arsenal, though. He had just 13 touches and attempted only nine passes, without having a single shot or even a touch in the opposition box, before being taken off in the 64th minute.
It was only the second time since arriving at City last year that Haaland failed to have a shot in a game (also failing to do so against Tottenham in February).
However, his low number of touches should not be cause for concern, given how few he usually needs to find the net.
Haaland averaged a goal every 23.1 touches in the Premier League last season. By comparison, Harry Kane scored every 49.2 touches, Marcus Rashford every 78.3 and Mohamed Salah every 94.3.
No one would be daft enough to write Haaland off heading into the 2023-24 campaign, even though he has now failed to score in his last six competitive appearances for City, having previously never gone more than three games without netting for the club.
It surely won’t be long before we’re frantically flipping through record books again once he gets going.
BONUS STAT – Living in A-Messi-ca
As it’s the first ever edition of SVQ, we’ll treat you to an extra stat this week, and it also involves a player you may have heard of.
Lionel Messi scored six goals in 26 games in Ligue 1 in his first season at Paris Saint-Germain. After just four games for Inter Miami, he has already beaten that total.
Another two goals for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in Miami’s dramatic victory over FC Dallas on Sunday took him to seven goals in the Leagues Cup. A trademark free-kick made it 4-4 in the 85th minute, before Miami clinched their place in the quarter-finals on penalties.
Perhaps more remarkable than outscoring his debut campaign in France inside a month, Messi has also managed to go level with Josef Martínez as Miami’s top scorer in all competitions this season. The key difference being that Martínez has seven goals in 28 games, 24 more appearances than Messi, who will likely stand alone at the top of his new team’s scoring charts before long.
Keep an eye on this Messi lad. He looks pretty good.
VIZ – Which is the Most Predictable League?
With the new season set to get under way, it means it’s that time of year when we release our predictors, and as usual, they’ve thrown up some interesting numbers.
There were some cracking title races in Europe’s top five leagues in 2022-23, and the coming season will hopefully provide some more.
Certain leagues often feel like a bit of a formality, though. Bayern Munich have won 11 Bundesliga titles in a row, while Paris Saint-Germain have lifted nine of the last 11 Ligue 1 championships.
However, both of those title races were pretty competitive last season. PSG finished just a point ahead of Lens, while Bayern only beat Borussia Dortmund on goal difference on a dramatic final day.
If you’re looking for the league with the heaviest favourites out of the big five – according to Opta’s supercomputer – look no further than the Premier League (we can almost hear the French and Germans shouting “farmer’s league!” from here). As you can see from the viz above, England’s top flight stands out from the rest.
Man City’s triumph last season made it four out of five Premier League titles for Pep Guardiola’s men, who went on to win the treble after also securing the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
Their relentless ability to win in recent years makes it very difficult to see how anyone can stop them, and the Opta supercomputer agrees, giving Guardiola’s men a 90.2% chance of becoming the first team in English football top-flight history to win four league titles in a row. That, of course, means the rest of the league combined has less than a 10% probability of stopping them.
As the viz shows, Bayern have been given a 69.3% chance of making it 12 Bundesliga titles in a row, while PSG have a 57.3% likelihood of leading the way again in France.
Despite finishing 10 points behind champions Barcelona last season, Real Madrid are favourites to win La Liga with a 48.4% possibility of success, while Champions League finalists Inter are perhaps surprise favourites to win Serie A with a 43.6% chance, despite finishing 18 points behind last season’s runaway Scudetto winners Napoli.
Luckily for those who like surprises, the only thing that’s certain in football is that nothing is certain… apart from pundits inevitably moaning about extended stoppage time.
QUIZ – The Premier League is Almost Upon Us
With the opening weekend of the Premier League season just a few short days away, this week’s quiz is related to those who have done well and those who have done less well on Matchday 1. Scroll to the bottom for the answers.
1. Which two teams have jointly won the most games on the opening weekend of the season since the Premier League launched in 1992?
2. Which team has lost the most opening games?
3. Four players jointly hold the record for most opening-day Premier League goals (eight). Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer are three of them, but which current PL player is the fourth?
4. You would like to think teams would keep it calm in their first outing of a campaign, but one side has amassed six red cards in opening weekend fixtures, the most in Premier League history. Who?
5. One team has been unlucky enough to have scored three own goals on PL opening weekends, the most in the league’s history. Who?
Do you have an interesting stat question you’d like us to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on X (or I Can’t Believe it’s Not Twitter, or whatever it’s called these days) @OptaAnalyst with #AskOpta and we’ll answer the best one in next week’s SVQ.
What Are We up to at Opta Analyst?
We’ve been busy as beavers getting ready for the new season, particularly beavers who write data-driven football articles. Among our latest pieces are:
📈 Premier League 2023-24 Season Predictions. The Opta supercomputer has made its calculations to try and decipher where each team will finish in the coming season’s Premier League campaign.
🔵 Why Chelsea Went for Axel Disasi. The former Monaco defender had been linked with several Premier League clubs before Chelsea made their move. Following confirmation of his transfer, we looked at what he’ll bring to Stamford Bridge.
❓ Five Key Questions: Season Previews. We’ve put forward five key questions for some teams heading into 2023-24, including Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
💪 The Strongest Leagues in World Football: How the Opta Power Rankings Can Help. We used our updated Power Rankings to answer some key questions in football, including the latest ‘Ronaldo vs. Messi’ debate.
👀 Players to Watch in 2023-24: The Analyst 50. If you haven’t seen it yet, we recently released this year’s Analyst 50, with Opta data experts offering up 50 players to look out for in the coming season, and why.
1. Chelsea and Manchester United (20 wins each)
2. West Ham United (15 losses)
3. Mohamed Salah
Before you go…
What did you think about the first edition of Stat, Viz, Quiz? Let us know if you enjoyed it and if there’s anything else you’d like to see/we could improve on? Just email email@example.com.