Stat, Viz, Quiz is the weekly Opta Analyst newsletter. Our latest edition includes numbers on Sheffield United, Leicester City, Ipswich Town and goalkeepers.
There were so many goals in the Premier League at the weekend. Not even VAR and uncharacteristically poor finishing from Erling Haaland could stop that.
Unfortunately for Sheffield United, 13% of the 38 scored went into their goal as they were thrashed 5-0 by the only team that had previously been below them in the table, Burnley. We’ve taken a glance at why it led to the sacking of manager Paul Heckingbottom.
Like someone getting bad irritation when they shave, Leicester City and Ipswich Town are eager to replace the Blades. Their performances in the Championship this season really have been ‘the best a fan can get’, and we’ve looked at just how good the pair have been.
Don’t forget to take our weekly quiz, while we also have an Ask Opta question that allows us to point out how Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is clearly an avid reader of Opta Analyst.
If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe below and receive Stat, Viz, Quiz direct to your inbox every week.
STAT: Blunt Blades Bashed by Burnley
On paper, it was a six-pointer. In reality, it simply showed a chasm between the two teams, which as far as Sheffield United were concerned, was quite alarming considering they were facing opposition who were bottom of the table and had lost their first seven home games this season.
Jay Rodriguez’s goal in the opening seconds for Burnley on Saturday made him the first player in Premier League history to score in the first 16 seconds of a game on two separate occasions, even if he admitted on Match of the Day that he didn’t remember his strike against Chelsea for Southampton almost 10 years ago to the day.
It set the tone as the Clarets went on to win 5-0 at Turf Moor, the joint-largest margin of victory in Premier League history by a team starting the day bottom of the table, and the biggest since Sheffield Wednesday’s 5-0 win against Bolton Wanderers in November 1997.
After 14 league games, Sheffield United have won just once, amassed five points (the second-worst start to a Premier League campaign since themselves in 2020-21) and are also bottom for all kinds of metrics.
They have scored the fewest goals (11), conceded the most (39), have the lowest expected goals (xG) for (10.85), the highest xG against (31.25), have had the fewest shots (121), and faced the most (266).
Paul Heckingbottom was relieved of his duties on Tuesday afternoon, and replaced by Chris Wilder. It means that 25% of current managers in the Premier League are former Watford bosses, but then aren’t we all?
Their next test is at home to Liverpool on Wednesday. They then host Brentford ahead of trips to Chelsea and Aston Villa before Christmas.
Blades fans will just have to hope Wilder can have the same galvanising effect he did in his previous stint, otherwise they could be hearing the dreaded end of a sentence “… since Derby County.”
VIZ: Can Anyone Catch Leicester and Ipswich?
The Championship is the most exciting league in the world, everyone knows that. The unpredictability, anyone can beat anyone, etc. Yes, the Championship is always great value entertainment.
Having said that, while the point about entertainment remains true, the unpredictability might be taking a season off.
Leicester City and Ipswich Town first forced their way into the top two after Matchday 3 this season, were back as a pair again after MD 8, and they have both stayed there ever since.
After 19 games, they sit first and second respectively, with Ipswich seven points ahead of third-place Leeds United. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though; Leeds actually have 38 points from their 19 games, which is the same amount as runaway champions Burnley had at the same stage last season, showing just how well the top two are doing.
In fact, only four teams have had as many as Ipswich’s 45 points from their first 19 games of a Championship season since the turn of the millennium, and only two had as many as Leicester’s 46 (Fulham – 48 in 2000-01, Wolves – 46 in 2008-09).
The Opta supercomputer thinks both are likelier than not to be playing in the top flight next season. Leicester are judged to have a whopping 96.4% chance of automatic promotion (84.1% chance of winning the title) while Ipswich are handed a 53.3% likelihood of making it back-to-back promotions by finishing in the top two (10.1% chance of the title). Leeds have just a 31.4% probability of forcing their way into the automatic spots.
Enzo Maresca’s Foxes further showcased their credentials for an immediate return to the Premier League at the weekend as they overcame a late Josh Maja equaliser at West Brom to snatch all three points when Harry Winks found a 94th-minute winner, while Ipswich also won 2-1 at home to Coventry City, including a wonder-goal from Wes Burns.
Kieran McKenna’s side were a little fortunate that Matt Godden hit the bar with a second-half penalty for the visitors but secured another win, making it 11 victories from 11 in games in which they have been leading at half-time this season.
So, Leicester and Ipswich are in prime position to get promoted.
Then again, never underestimate the unpredictability of the Championship…
QUIZ: Saka Secures Century, as Enzo Ends Goal Drought
There were plenty more interesting numbers spewing out of the weekend’s Premier League action, and we’ve sifted through some of the best Opta facts in order to tease your brain. Answers at the bottom of the page.
1. Bukayo Saka’s goal for Arsenal in their 2-1 win over Wolves was the Gunners’ 100th of 2023, making them just the fifth team from one of the top five European leagues to reach a century of goals in all competitions this calendar year. Name the other four.
2. Manchester United’s 1-0 loss at Newcastle means they still haven’t won a Premier League away game against a team starting the day in the top eight of the table since October 2021. Who was the last such team they beat?
3. Mohamed Salah was unable to net his 200th Liverpool goal in their dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham, but he did provide an assist for Wataru Endo. How many consecutive Premier League games at Anfield has the Egyptian either produced a goal or assist in?
4. Chelsea’s Enzo Fernández (22y 320d) became the second-youngest South American player to score a brace for the Blues in the Premier League, after who? Clue: It happened in March 2014
5. There were just 137 seconds between Son Heung-min putting Tottenham 1-0 up at Manchester City and then scoring an own goal to make it 1-1. He became only the second player in Premier League history to score a goal and own goal in the opening 10 minutes of a game. Which former Man City midfielder is the only other player to do so, prior to his move to the Etihad?
This week’s question came to us via email from Tom Grange, who asks: “What do you think is the best way to evaluate a keeper’s performance with stats? Seems to be hard enough to work out shot stopping ability from xG conceded, and then you have to think about distribution, crosses claimed etc.”
As Tom suggests, it’s somewhat of a subjective question. A metric one person puts a lot of faith in for a goalkeeper might not be that important to others. For example, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag seemed very enthusiastic about expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded last week as it meant he could suggest André Onana is the second-best goalkeeper in the Premier League “based on stats”. It was almost as if he’d just read our detailed piece on the Cameroonian goalkeeper.
What Ten Hag didn’t mention was that Luton’s Thomas Kaminski is way out in front of everyone else in the same metric, so by the same reasoning, the Belgian is – by some distance – the best goalkeeper in England’s top flight. With the greatest of respect, we’re not entirely sure about that.
While it might seem like sitting on the fence (because we are), it really depends on what you want from your goalkeeper. If it’s simply keeping the ball out of the net, xGOT conceded is a helpful metric as it measures the likelihood of an on-target shot resulting in a goal, based on the combination of the underlying chance quality (xG) and the end location of the shot. It gives more credit to shots that end up in the corners than shots that go straight down the middle of the goal.
xGOT is measured on a scale between zero and one, where zero represents a shot that will never result in a goal and one represents a shot that is expected to be scored every single time. The model is only for on-target shots given that, if you don’t get your shot on target, there’s a 0% chance that it will result in a goal.
Then you have the more basic save percentage measurement. In the Premier League this season (prior to this week’s midweek games), Sheffield United’s Wes Foderingham has made the most saves (67), while of goalkeepers to have made more than three stops, Alisson has the best save percentage (79.3% – 44 saves from 53 shots on target faced).
We all know that goalkeepers are expected to use their feet more these days, though, and so passing accuracy must be thrown in there, taking into account how many are long or short, while passing under pressure is increasingly becoming an important metric for goalies.
Interestingly, of those to have played at least two games, Brighton pair Jason Steele (87.0%) and Bart Verbruggen (85.8%) are the top two in the league for passing accuracy, suggesting the extent to which Roberto De Zerbi wants his goalkeepers to be proficient with their feet. Less surprisingly, Ederson is top of the list for passing accuracy in his own half (95.9%).
Former Man City youth player James Trafford is clearly being asked to tempt attacking players onto him by Vincent Kompany for Burnley as he heads the Premier League for passes under pressure (91) and passes under challenge from two metres (40).
Different managers will want different things from their goalkeepers, so ultimately, one person’s useful measurement is of little use to another. Whether it’s xGOT, passing accuracy, save percentage or whatever else, we’ll all probably still yell at them unfairly when they concede a goal.
What Are We up to at Opta Analyst?
Here’s some of the latest data-driven offerings you can find on our website:
Opta Player Ratings & Games
Opta is excited to bring you two fresh new and FREE weekly football challenges, with Opta Max and Opta Five.
Both of these 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 Martin Ødegaard (98.4/100) who scored Arsenal’s second in a 2-1 win over Wolves at the Emirates Stadium at the end of a delightful 18-pass move. The Arsenal captain also created six chances to go with his goal, the most any Gunners player has created in a game this season, and the most for Ødegaard since he tallied seven against Aston Villa in February this year.
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 City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen
2. A 3-0 win at Tottenham. Since then, Man Utd have drawn three and lost 10 of their 13 such games.
3. 16 games (17 goals, 4 assists)
4. Oscar (22y 194d) vs Arsenal
5. Gareth Barry for Aston Villa vs Charlton in May 1999
Before you go…
Enjoying Stat, Viz, Quiz? Think it needs improvement? Send us your feedback to email@example.com.