Domestic football is back after the international break, and so are some interesting club-based stats. That’s what you’re here for, right? Not our witty remarks and outdated pop culture references?
Most teams in the Premier League seemed to pick up where they left off. Manchester City won again, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool kept themselves within touching distance with victories, while Manchester United and Chelsea stuttered once more. In particular, we’re going to look at City’s 100% start and how it historically compares.
We also have kick-off for the UEFA Champions League group stage this week, and what better way to mark it than with a quiz? Five questions about the biggest European club competition in football. You might not get to lift the trophy, but should you get all five right you could maybe reward yourself with some tea or coffee and raise your mug in jubilation. Careful not to burn yourself, though.
Anyway, let’s get going with our stat of the week.
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STAT – How Good Has Manchester City’s Start Been?
When defending Premier League champions Manchester City trailed West Ham 1-0 at half-time on Saturday, there may have been a rare sense of optimism from the rest of the league that Pep Guardiola’s men could finally come unstuck. When Jérémy Doku equalised after just 43 seconds of the second half, the writing felt like it was on the wall.
That proved to be the case at the London Stadium as City went on to win 3-1, and yes, Erling Haaland got on the scoresheet again as the league leaders made it five wins from five in 2023-24.
As starts go, Guardiola could not have asked for more. But how far away are they from the best win streaks to kick off a campaign in England?
In the Premier League era, the best start ever came from Chelsea in 2005-06, when they won their first nine games, conceding just three goals in the process. In 2019-20, Liverpool almost matched it when they won their first eight, before a 1-1 draw at Manchester United halted their progress. Albeit only briefly as they went on to win another 18 on the bounce, making it 26 wins from their first 27 games. Unsurprisingly, both Chelsea and Liverpool went on to lift the title in those seasons, but that hasn’t always been the case with great starts in England’s top flight.
The best start ever came from Tottenham in 1960-61 when they won their opening 11 games, and they did go on to win the old First Division, but Manchester United were not so ruthless in 1985-86, despite winning their first 10 games. They ended up in fourth, with Liverpool winning the league, Everton in second and West Ham third.
Everton (1894-95) and Liverpool (1990-91) had both won their first eight games before, but both finished second behind Sunderland and Arsenal respectively.
Sheffield United also began with eight wins in 1903-04, only to finish seventh as they won just seven of their remaining 26 games. Painfully, rivals Sheffield Wednesday (then just known as ‘The Wednesday’) took the title.
As for the best winning start in the whole English Football League, that honour remains with Reading. They may not be having the happiest of times in League One right now, but in tier three when it was known as the Third Division back in 1985-86, the Royals began with 13 straight wins, of course going on to win the title and promotion.
In the second tier, the records sit with Newcastle United (1992-93) and Fulham (2000-01), who both started with 11 wins and eventually secured the title and promotion to the Premier League.
Can Man City threaten those records? Much like most of their opponents at the moment, you would struggle to put it past them.
VIZ – Brighton Pass Their Way to Glory at Old Trafford, Again
The above viz shows Brighton’s overall pass map from their 3-1 win at Manchester United. As you can see, it looks like one of those Rorschach inkblot tests psychologists use to make you question everything about yourself. Some United players might see that and do the same.
We hope United fans don’t think we’re picking on them, but it’s difficult not to mention each time they come unstuck as it is happening rather a lot already this season.
Erik ten Hag’s men were bested at Old Trafford by Brighton on Saturday, which was their first league defeat on home soil in over a year. In fact, since they played Brighton on the opening weekend of last season, bringing a 20-game unbeaten home run to an end (W17 D3).
It was perhaps not much of a surprise, though, as Brighton appear to have United’s number of late. This was their fourth-consecutive win over them, becoming only the third side to win four Premier League games in a row against Manchester United, after Liverpool (Dec 2000 – Jan 2002) and Manchester City (Apr 2013 – Nov 2014).
It was no fluke either. Brighton were excellent at Old Trafford, ending the game with 1.70 expected goals (xG) compared to United’s 0.96, hitting the target with eight of their 10 shots, and enjoying 56% possession, while completing 602 passes to the hosts’ 425.
Thirty of those passes led to their second goal, which even United fans in the cold light of day might admit was a beauty. Brighton passed their way from back to front before Tariq Lamptey teed up Pascal Groß to finish well. It was the longest sequence of passes leading to a goal in the Premier League this season, ahead of another Brighton goal in Evan Ferguson’s strike against Luton Town on the opening day (23 passes). The only other Premier League goal to come after at least 20 passes this season was Erling Haaland’s hat-trick goal against Fulham.
As a bonus, we also have the pass sequence map leading to Gross’ goal for you.
Groß has now scored seven Premier League goals against Man Utd, which make up a quarter of his overall total in the competition (28). Four of those have come at Old Trafford, with only Mohamed Salah and Steven Gerrard (both five) scoring more as a visiting player at United’s home in Premier League’s history.
The Data Day
The latest edition of our weekly Premier League review podcast. Graham Bell hosts Matt Furniss and David Segar to discuss the weekend’s action, including late goals, Tottenham and Liverpool joy, and Manchester United and Chelsea misery.
QUIZ – The Champions League is Here
You’ve got the music in your head. We know you’ve got the music in your head.
The UEFA Champions League group stage begins this week, so here’s some questions about Europe’s premier club competition. Answers can be found at the bottom of the page and let us know on X how you got on.
1. Newcastle United are back in the Champions League for the first time in a while. In what season did they last participate?
2. Erling Haaland was the top scorer in last season’s competition with 12 goals. Who was second?
3. Along similar lines, Kevin De Bruyne made the most assists in the Champions League last season with six, but which Inter player was second with five?
4. Manchester United have lost four times against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Who are the only team to beat the Red Devils more often in the competition?
5. Real Madrid have played the most Champions League games (304) in the competition’s history, have recorded the most wins and scored the most goals (641). They also boast the highest win rate, but is it A) 50%, B) 60%, or C) 70%?
Do you have a stat-based question you’d like Opta to answer for you (and everyone else) in a future edition of Stat, Viz, Quiz?
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2. Mohamed Salah (eight)
3. Federico Dimarco
4. Barcelona (five)
5. B) 60%
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