If you like hat-tricks, this Premier League weekend was certainly for you… unless of course you support Burnley, Fulham or Newcastle.
There was a hat-trick of hat-tricks in England’s top-flight, while West Ham maintained their title challenge with another win. Yes, it is far too early to be calling it that, but who isn’t dreaming of an open-top bus parade in May involving a drunk Ray Winstone dancing with Michail Antonio and Hammerhead round the streets of Newham?
The main event in the Premier League came at the Emirates Stadium though, and that’s where we’re going to start this week. We also have a viz and a quiz to come of course, while we’ll try and answer a reader’s question.
Put your number hat on and come with us as we do more statting, vizzing and quizzing.
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STAT – Erik ten-tative Hag?
For large parts of Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal on Sunday, things seemed to be going pretty well for the visitors. A shaky start to the season had already seen them lose in north London to Tottenham, while their two home wins against Wolves and Nottingham Forest were both laboured at best.
Marcus Rashford’s opener was quickly snuffed out by Martin Ødegaard, but Erik ten Hag’s men were well in the game. Arsenal understandably had more of the ball and the chances, but United had a gameplan and it nearly worked, had substitute Alejandro Garnacho not gone a smidge too early before slotting an eventually ruled out goal with just a few minutes left.
Then the sucker punches. Declan Rice and Gabriel Jesus both scored in stoppage time to give Arsenal a 3-1 win, which at the time, felt a little harsh on United.
However, when we looked at the numbers after the game, we realised that perhaps the problem was not so much with bad luck or Arsenal being ruthless. United were just oddly negative for a team who already had points to catch up on others.
Only 12.2% of Man Utd’s successful passes ended in the final third of the pitch (47 of 392) – the second lowest proportion by a United side in a Premier League match on record (since 2006-07). The only time it has been lower in that time was in their 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City in 2020-21, when just 44 of their 427 completed passes ended in the final third (10.3%).
United also only attempted 79 passes into Arsenal’s final third, at an accuracy of just 64%. By comparison, the hosts attempted 209, with 80% accuracy.
It was at least a better performance from United than we’ve seen recently, and their fans will have been encouraged by Rasmus Højlund’s energetic showing off the bench, but they will be glad they don’t have to visit north London again in the Premier League this season.
VIZ – Don’t Expect the Expected (Goals)
This week saw hat-tricks aplenty in the Premier League, with Erling Haaland (faints in astonishment), Son Heung-min and Evan Ferguson all coming away with trebles.
Those three had no problem finding the net, but some players are struggling so far this season, and we would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Ollie Watkins in advance for somewhat singling him out.
The Aston Villa striker had a superb 2022-23 campaign, scoring 15 Premier League goals from 86 shots, with an overall expected goals (xG) value of 16.48. However, from 323 minutes so far this season, he has totalled 10 shots at goal with an overall xG of 1.77, but is yet to register his first goal, again drawing a blank in Villa’s 3-0 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday.
It is wholly unfair to compare him to one of the best players in the world, but we’re famously mischievous here at SVQ so not only will we do so, but we’ll do so with a lad who is Birmingham City born and bred.
Jude Bellingham has been having a whale of a time in La Liga since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund, and funnily enough, has also taken 10 shots this season, and has amassed an overall xG of 1.8, only 0.03 more than Watkins. The main difference is that Bellingham has scored five times for Real Madrid, with only Radamel Falcao (three games) reaching five La Liga goals in fewer games than Bellingham’s four in the 21st century.
It will come for Watkins, but he has logged the highest xG value in the Premier League so far this season without finding the net. In second place is Neal Maupay, who managed to amass 1.45 xG in just two appearances for Everton before heading back to Brentford on loan, while £106.8 million man Enzo Fernández has an xG of 1.44 for Chelsea with no reward. Jordan Ayew is yet to score from 12 shots for Crystal Palace this season, the most shots without a goal from one player in the league, but he has only built up an xG of 0.91 from them.
As far as Europe’s top five leagues are concerned, Mallorca’s Vedat Muriqi leads the way, having not scored despite recording an xG of 2.07 from nine shots, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is narrowly behind, having not scored for Marseille yet despite his 12 shots and xG of 2.06.
Perhaps most notable though is Mainz’s Ludovic Ajorque, who hasn’t played since the opening weekend of the Bundesliga season. Maybe because he racked up four shots at an overall xG of 1.84 without scoring in the 4-1 defeat at Union Berlin.
They can’t all be as ruthless as Bellingham, and as the old saying goes: ‘If you don’t shoot, you don’t score.’
Maybe shoot a bit better, though.
QUIZ – Answer Me These Questions (About) Three
As the theme of this week’s Premier League action was hat-tricks, there’s no prizes for guessing what this week’s quiz is about (or indeed, for even getting the questions right!)
We think it’ll be even more fun than going out and enjoying the September sun. Answers are at the bottom of the page.
1. Who holds the record for the Premier League’s fastest hat-trick?
2. How many hat-tricks did Erling Haaland score in all competitions for Manchester City last season?
3. Who has scored the most hat-tricks in Premier League history?
4. Who are the oldest and youngest players to score a Premier League hat-trick?
5. The final question comes from this week’s The Data Day podcast, so this shouldn’t be a problem if you listened to Graham and Ollie’s tense penalty shoot-out. Twenty-three players have scored a Premier League hat-trick while aged 21 or under. How many can you name? (A point for each one)
The Data Day
On this week’s podcast, Graham Bell, Matt Furniss and Ollie Hopkins review the weekend’s Premier League action, while Graham takes on Ollie in our weekly Pauline Quirke quiz.
This week’s question was sent to us on X by Paul Caffrey, who asks: “Which team has scored the fewest goals in a Premier League season without getting relegated?”
Answer: It’s a shared record between two Yorkshire sides. Leeds United hit just 28 goals in the 1996-97 season but still managed to finish 11th, largely thanks to a defence that only conceded 38 times. Leeds were the lowest scoring side in the league that season, recording three fewer than bottom-placed Nottingham Forest and an incredible 23 fewer than 19th-placed Middlesbrough.
It took 21 years for anyone to be as impressively resilient despite struggling to score goals, and that was Huddersfield Town in the 2017-18 campaign. David Wagner’s side also scored just 28 times but still managed to finish 16th. However, unlike Leeds, who went on to finish fifth the year after their low goal haul, Huddersfield very much went the other way, finishing bottom in 2018-19, scoring just 22 goals.
Only 10 teams have ever scored fewer than 28 goals in a Premier League season, and all of them were relegated.
The lowest-scoring seasons ever in the competition unsurprisingly involved two teams who finished bottom. That was Derby County in 2007-08 and Sheffield United in 2020-21 (20 goals).
What Are We up to at Opta Analyst?
Here’s some of the latest data-driven offerings you can find on our website:
4. Oldest = Terry Sheringham (aged 37 years and 146 days for Portsmouth vs. Bolton Wanderers on 26 August 2003)
Youngest = Michael Owen (aged 18 years and 62 days for Liverpool vs. Sheffield Wednesday on 14 February 1998)
5. Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler (both five), Yakubu, Chris Sutton (both two), Chris Bart-Williams, Evan Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Ferran Torres, Nicolas Anelka, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Raheem Sterling, Michael Bridges, Jermaine Pennant, Steffen Iversen, Luke Moore, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Tammy Abraham, Mario Balotelli, David Bentley, Andy Carroll and Christian Pulisic (all one).
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