Stat, Viz, Quiz is the weekly Opta Analyst football newsletter. Our latest edition includes numbers on Liverpool without Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s success from corners.
We had the other half of Matchday 21 in the Premier League at the weekend, and it threw up plenty more stories in just five games.
Arsenal and Liverpool walloped Crystal Palace and Bournemouth respectively, Ivan Toney returned with a goal as Brentford beat Nottingham Forest, Oli McBurnie scored the latest goal in Premier League history to rescue a point for Sheffield United against West Ham, while James Milner became the outright second-highest appearance maker in Premier League history in Brighton’s goalless draw with Wolves.
The Gunners kicked things off with a routine thrashing of a beleaguered Palace, including two more goals from corners. We’ve analysed just how good Arsenal are at getting the ball in the net from such situations.
We start by looking at Premier League leaders Liverpool, though, who are coping just fine without their star man.
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STAT – Mo Salah or Less Salah, Liverpool Do Just Fine
There is no denying that Mohamed Salah is a key player for Liverpool. The Egypt international has scored goals left, right and centre for the Reds in recent years, and had 18 to his name in all competitions this season before he left for the Africa Cup of Nations.
While away at the tournament, Salah sustained a muscle injury that his club confirmed on Monday is “worse than first feared”, with his agent suggesting he could be out for up to a month.
Disaster, right? Well, maybe not because so far, Liverpool have been absolutely fine without him.
Three games in three competitions sans Salah this season have produced three wins – 2-0 away to Arsenal in the FA Cup, a 2-1 first-leg victory against Fulham in the EFL Cup semi-final, and now Sunday’s 4-0 triumph at Bournemouth in the Premier League.
So, is Salah just massively overrated and a gigantic fraud? (We hear rival fans crossing their fingers and toes.)
No, of course not, but it is testament to Jürgen Klopp’s side and their ability to find ways to win without their talisman. Diogo Jota and Darwin Núñez stepped up on Sunday with two goals apiece at Bournemouth.
Salah doesn’t miss many games through injury, though a muscle issue suffered at AFCON will see him return to his club in the interim to undergo rehab.
Since Salah arrived at Anfield in 2017, he has featured in 332 of their 366 games in all competitions. Liverpool have won 209 of the 332 games Salah has played a part in (D69 L54), a win percentage of 63%. Without him, they have won 24 of 34 (D7 L3), a win percentage of 70.6%.
Surely they score more goals with him, though? Well, no. They average 2.2 goals per game whether with or without the former Chelsea man.
Obviously given the small sample size, these are not defining numbers, and several of the games he missed were cup games against lesser opposition. It would be a safe bet that if Liverpool played another 298 games without Salah, their win percentage would be unlikely to stay as high.
Sunday’s victory at the Vitality Stadium was the first Premier League game Salah has missed since a 2-1 win at Southampton in May 2022. Liverpool have lost none of their 11 Premier League games without him (W8 D3) since he arrived from Roma in 2017, winning each of the last five.
Klopp’s men have proven they aren’t a one-man team, though will still be a lot happier when they have the Egyptian King back in action. Whenever that may be.
VIZ – Arsenal the Corner Kings
There has been a lot of talk recently about Arsenal’s lack of goals this season. Ahead of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace, the Gunners had scored 37 times in 20 games.
Their 5-0 hammering of Palace helped give their goal difference a much-needed boost in the race for the Premier League title, and it all began with a familiar route to goal.
Of Arsenal’s 42 league goals this season, almost a quarter (10) have come from corners, with no team having scored from as many in England’s top flight in 2023-24.
The trick to their success could be consistency. Mikel Arteta’s men like to take in-swinging corners. In fact, they really like it. They have had more corners than any other Premier League team this season (164) and have crossed the ball straight into the penalty area from 136 of those.
Of those 136, 135 have been in-swingers, with just one solitary out-swinger (which presumably was a mis-hit or got caught by the wind).
It’s not just the direction of the swing, but where the ball ends up. As you can see from the below bonus viz, a significant number of their corners are aimed at the near post.
And as you can see below from another bonus viz (we’re being very generous this week, aren’t we?) just 15% of their corners have been sent to the back-post zone close to goal. However, their first two goals against Palace came from corners sent into that area, with Gabriel getting on the end of both, even though the second ultimately went down as a Dean Henderson own goal.
Much has been said about the impact of set-piece coach Nicolas Jover, and whatever he is doing seems to be working.
As well as scoring the most goals from corners in the Premier League this season, Arsenal have had the most successful crosses from corners (40). Perhaps unsurprisingly, they have the highest expected assists (xA) from corners (3.05), ahead of second-placed West Ham (2.35).
The lesson to be learned? Try not to concede corners against Arsenal.
QUIZ – Toney Time, McBurnie’s Record, and Milner’s Milestone
Last week, we had a quiz based on half a Premier League matchday. This week, we have the other half, but hopefully it’s twice as good. Answers at the bottom of the page.
1. The first of Gabriel Martinelli’s two goals against Crystal Palace was the 200th scored by a substitute for Arsenal in Premier League history. The Gunners became just the third side to hit this milestone in the competition after which two other teams?
2. Ivan Toney marked his return with a goal from a free-kick against Nottingham Forest. It was his third direct free-kick goal in the Premier League since the start of last season – the joint-most of any player in this period alongside who?
3. Oli McBurnie’s equalising penalty for Sheffield United against West Ham (102:07) was the latest goal scored on record in the Premier League (since 2006-07), eclipsing who?
4. Aged 20 years and 196 days, Conor Bradley was the third-youngest player to assist a goal on his Premier League debut for Liverpool, after Jordon Ibe in May 2013 (17y 162d) and which other player, who also started for the Reds at Bournemouth on Sunday?
5. Brighton midfielder James Milner became the outright second-highest appearance maker in Premier League history (633) when he played against Wolves on Monday. He is just 20 games short of record holder Gareth Barry (653), but who did he leapfrog into second place?
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Opta Player Ratings & Games
If you haven’t done so yet, check out and play Opta’s FREE weekly football challenges, Opta Max and Opta Five.
Both games are powered by the Opta Player Ratings, a measure that takes into account over 100 different metrics to provide an accurate performance score (out of 100) for every player in a single match.
The weekend’s top-performing player was Gabriel Martinelli (98.5/100), made all the more impressive as he came off the bench. He managed to score two late goals in Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
In Opta Max and Opta Five you can compare players’ latest players ratings and stats. Then put your player ratings knowledge to the test for a chance to win big prizes each week of the football season.
1. Manchester United (215) and Chelsea (206)
2. James Ward-Prowse
3. Dirk Kuyt, who scored a 102nd-minute penalty for Liverpool against Arsenal in April 2011
4. Joe Gomez in August 2015 (18y 78d)
5. Ryan Giggs (632 appearances)
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