Stat, Viz, Quiz is the weekly Opta Analyst newsletter. Our latest edition includes numbers on a lack of managerial departures, France’s 14-0 win against Gibraltar, and the magic dribbling of a Brazilian legend.
There have been some very important games taking place in this final international break of the year as the race to Euro 2024 concludes, while World Cup qualifying has begun on other continents.
Few will have found the international break as much of a slog as poor Gibraltar, though. A chance to play against World Cup finalists France should have been a dream. It might be a tad melodramatic to say it was a nightmare, but their players may well wake up in cold sweats after their experience in Nice on Saturday.
We begin this week’s SVQ by looking at the fact we are yet to see something in the Premier League this season that we had become accustomed to, for better or worse.
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STAT: The Longest Sack Race
It’s less than five weeks until Christmas and every Premier League side still has the same manager in charge that they started the season with. Great news for the 20 bosses. Bad news for the agents of those looking for work in England’s top flight.
Yes, despite being 12 games into the league season, everyone in the dugout is still holding on, with former Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui still the last Premier League manager to exit stage left.
Are we approaching a record for the longest stretch into a season before the first managerial departure? Not quite, but it’s still interesting to see the change in trend.
The latest first managerial change of a Premier League season was way back in the inaugural campaign of 1992-93, when Chelsea’s Ian Porterfield left Stamford Bridge on 15 February 1993, also giving him the distinction of being the first manager sacked in the Premier League era.
Porterfield was actually the only manager dismissed that season, with six going in 1993-94, and nine in 1994-95 as chairmen became far more trigger happy.
Then they went all gun-shy again, with Bolton’s Roy McFarland the only manager to go in the 1995-96 campaign, just two days into the new year.
That was the last time it took until the turn of the year for the first managerial casualty, while three seasons have seen all managers cling on until at least December. But given the sacking habits of recent years, it remains a surprise that we are yet to have our first one in 2023-24.
There were 24 managerial changes across the previous two seasons (2021-22 and 2022-23), with last term’s total of 14 being the most in a single Premier League campaign. Perhaps that’s why clubs have given more time to their managers this season; just sacking head coaches over and over again didn’t seem to be working too well.
There’s also the fact that previously underperforming teams such as Chelsea and Bournemouth only recently appointed their current managers, while Manchester United always seem to find a win just as the pressure is ramping up on Erik ten Hag.
Of the teams in the relegation scrap, Burnley appear to have unwavering belief in Vincent Kompany, while the kudos of getting Sheffield United and Luton Town into the Premier League in the first place is probably enough to keep Paul Heckingbottom and Rob Edwards in employment for a good while yet.
Where and when will the sword of Damocles fall? At the moment, it’s anyone’s guess.
VIZ: Shock of Gibraltar
It was a case of “sans pitié” from France as they just about edged their encounter with Gibraltar on Saturday, scraping a 14-0 win.
An Ethan Santos own goal got Didier Deschamps’ side up and running, with further strikes from Marcus Thuram, Warren Zaïre-Emery, Kylian Mbappé (3), Jonathan Clauss, Kingsley Coman (2), Youssouf Fofana, Adrien Rabiot, Ousmane Dembélé and Olivier Giroud (2).
As the above xG race graphic shows, France were particularly ruthless in their finishing (though 14 goals probably tells you that anyway), but the 6.98 xG racked up by the hosts is still particularly high. In fact, it was one of several records set for France matches recorded by Opta (since 2006).
They had their most shots inside the area in a game (31), the most shots on target (20) and the most big chances (12), while they also didn’t face a single shot in a game for the first time. In fact, goalkeeper Mike Maignan only touched the ball eight times, the lowest amount in a game for a France goalkeeper who played the whole 90 minutes since 2006.
It was a bittersweet night for Zaïre-Emery, who at 17 years and 255 days became the third-youngest player in history to feature for the French senior team after Félix Vial in 1911 (17y 76d) and Maurice Gastiger in 1914 (17y 128d). He lasted just 20 minutes though, suffering an injury as he scored his goal, with Santos catching the PSG teenager on the ankle as he tried to stop the shot. Santos was sent off, making the visitors’ task even tougher. Zaïre-Emery did manage to complete the most passes (21) of anyone in his short time on the field, though.
The 14-0 victory was the third-biggest win in the history of a European nation, behind Denmark 17-1 France at the 1908 Olympic Games and Germany 16-0 Russia at the 1912 Olympics.
As for Gibraltar, erm… better luck next time?
QUIZ: Big Wins, Big Questions
With big international wins on the brain, we feel like using that as inspiration for this week’s quiz. Here’s five questions related to some of the biggest victories during Euro 2024 qualifying. Answers at the bottom of the page.
1. Gibraltar’s 14-0 loss to France was chastening to say the least, but what was the score when they hosted the French in June?
2. England could only draw 1-1 in North Macedonia in their final qualifier on Monday, but they did win the reverse fixture 7-0 at Old Trafford in June. Who scored a hat-trick for Gareth Southgate’s men that night?
3. Who became the youngest scorer in Euros qualifying history when he netted for Spain in their 7-1 win in Georgia in September?
4. Portugal walloped Luxembourg 9-0 in September, but how many of those goals did Bruno Fernandes record either a goal or assist for?
5. Sweden won two games 5-0 in Group F (vs Azerbaijan and Estonia) but failed to qualify after finishing on just 10 points from their eight games. How many goals did they score in total? A) 10, B) 14, or C) 18?
This week’s question came to us via X from Isaías Serafim, who asks: “How many dribbles did Ronaldinho complete in La Liga in 2005-06?”
Ronaldinho was very good at football. When he had the ball at his feet, as a defender, you just looked down and prepared to be quite dizzy… We assume; we never actually played against him.
In the 2005-06 season, the Barcelona star attempted 137 dribbles in La Liga, and completed 84 at a success rate of 61.3%. In terms of dribbles completed, he was only behind his Brazil compatriot Robinho (95) in Spain’s top flight, though he had a better completion percentage than the Real Madrid man’s 57.2%. Ronaldinho was at the top of the game that season, winning several individual awards, including the prestigious Ballon d’Or, while Barcelona won the league and Champions League double.
Interestingly, the following season, Ronaldinho attempted almost exactly the same number of dribbles in La Liga as he had the previous campaign (135), completing 70 at a success rate of 51.9%. He then completed 27 of 54 (50%) in an injury-hit 2007-08 campaign before leaving for Milan in the summer of 2008.
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1. Gibraltar 0-3 France
2. Bukayo Saka
3. Lamine Yamal
4. Four (one goal, three assists)
5. B) 14
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