Stat, Viz, Quiz is the weekly Opta Analyst football newsletter. Our latest edition includes numbers on Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Only seven more sleeps. OK, there’s six until Christmas, but seven until Boxing Day football, which is the real time of the season to be jolly… unless your team lose.
In the meantime, there’s another edition of SVQ to be read.
Manchester United are hoovering up shots like your suggestible colleague at the work Christmas party. However, unlike Steve, the Red Devils are avoiding too much damage right now. We take a look at how many shots United are facing and why it doesn’t yet matter too much.
Aston Villa are right there in the Premier League title race, but are also rising up the Opta Power Rankings (did somebody say “real quiz”?).
Speaking of real quizzes, we have another selection of brain teasers for you, and someone has chosen to Ask Opta about Manchester City’s steep drop to, erm, fourth.
So, grab a coffee, pop on some Slade and let’s get down to business. Merry Stat, Viz, Quizmas all… sorry, that’s dreadful, isn’t it?
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STAT – Manchester United: Shot Magnets
It has been a very odd season so far for Manchester United. In fact, prior to Sunday’s trip to Anfield they had either won or lost all their first 16 Premier League games in 2023-24 (W9 L7).
Liverpool had 34 shots but were unable to find a way past André Onana, with the 0-0 draw certainly feeling like a better result for the visitors, who were coming off the back of a 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth as well as their group-stage exit from the UEFA Champions League.
It came just a few weeks after United’s 3-0 win at Everton, a game in which the hosts had 24 shots. That means in two games on Merseyside this season, the Red Devils have faced 58 shots without conceding a single goal.
It’s not just in trips down the East Lancs Road that this happens, though. In the Premier League this season, only Sheffield United and Luton Town have faced more shots than Man Utd (271), while only those two teams along with Fulham and West Ham have a higher expected goals against (xGA) than United’s 29.4.
Despite that, Erik ten Hag’s side actually have the joint-fifth best defensive record in the league, conceding just 21 goals, meaning they are outperforming their xGA by more than eight goals, while only Newcastle United and Arsenal (both seven) have more than their six clean sheets.
There’s two ways of looking at this. Either United are simply allowing themselves to play so openly and just showing immense faith in Onana – only Bernd Leno (73) and Wes Foderingham (81) have made more saves in the Premier League this season than the former Inter man (65) – or it is something that will eventually catch up with them.
United fans will hope it’s the former, and being the first team to stop Liverpool scoring this season will give Ten Hag hope it’s something substantial.
VIZ – Aston Villa on the Rise
Another weekend, another win for Aston Villa. At 1-0 down to Brentford on Sunday, one wondered if we might be approaching the end of this spirited Villa title charge. Not at all. A Ben Mee red card allowed them to turn things around and leave the Gtech Community Stadium with a 2-1 win, even if Boubacar Kamara was also given his marching orders late on.
The victory was Villa’s 25th of 2023 in the Premier League, their most top-flight wins in a calendar year in their entire history. They have now won 12 of their last 16 in all competitions (D3 L1), and sit in third place in the league, just a point behind leaders Arsenal.
More importantly (arguably, ahem!) they have shot up the Opta Power Rankings this year. You might not get prize money or European qualification, but you can’t put a value on the kudos.
As the viz above shows, it has been quite a climb since the end of July 2019, when Villa sat in 120th spot. Promotion back to the Premier League a year later helped, but even as recently as 1 January 2023, Villa were 50th in the Global Power Rankings, behind the likes of Brentford (46th), Lille (47th) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (48th).
Following victory at Brentford, they are 11th, ahead of Napoli (16th), Juventus (13th) and even Barcelona (12th).
Villa have actually dropped a place since last week despite winning, purely because Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig received more ranking points for their respective wins, while Villa were cost some by their Europa Conference League draw at Zrinjski. However, the Midlands club still find themselves ahead of Barça in the OPR after they drew 1-1 at Valencia, having lost to Girona and Royal Antwerp last week, causing the Catalans to slip from ninth to 12th.
It is the latest achievement for Emery’s side, who will be looking to cement themselves in the title race and continue this form into 2024.
Do that and they can dare to dream… of moving further up the Opta Power Rankings.
QUIZ – Palace’s Comeback and Everton’s Road Riches
There was more stat-based mayhem in the Premier League this week, and we’ve selected some of the best for this week’s quiz. Answers at the bottom of the page.
1. Crystal Palace were the first team to trail by 2+ goals away to Manchester City in the Premier League and avoid defeat since who did so in April 2018?
2. Everton’s 2-0 win at Burnley made it 16 points on the road for Sean Dyche’s men this season, already more than they won away from home in the whole of last season (15). Who are the only team to have won more points than Everton from away games in the Premier League so far in 2023-24?
3. Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 13 home matches across all competitions (W11 D2) after beating Brighton on Sunday, their longest such run under Mikel Arteta, and longest overall since December 2018 (also 13 games). Who was the last team to beat them at the Emirates?
4. Aston Villa pair Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey are now two of four Premier League players to record at least five goals and five assists this season. Who are the other two?
5. Manchester United have gone more than eight hours since they last scored at Anfield. Who was the last United player to find the net at the home of their fierce rivals?
This week’s question came to us via email from Mark Allaway, who asks: “I was looking at the PL table and thinking how weird it was to see Man City in fourth. When was the last time they were even outside the top two (apart from opening day alphabetical order)?”
Yes, it is rather strange looking at a Premier League table and not immediately staring straight at Manchester City’s name when you look from the top down.
The relentless consistency of Pep Guardiola’s team has meant it has almost always been them and one other in the top two of the Premier League. They currently sit in fourth place after 17 games, though. Practically unheard of in recent years.
As far as the last time they were not in the top two, that was almost a year ago. On 27 December 2022, they were in third place, though it should be mentioned they had two games in hand on Newcastle, who were a point ahead in second. Arsenal had also played a game more but did have an eight-point advantage.
You have to go much further back to find the last time Man City ended a day as low as fourth place having played at least 17 games. That was all the way back on 15 May 2017, when they were fourth with two games remaining of the season, and even then they eventually finished third in what was Guardiola’s first campaign at the club.
Given their participation this week in the FIFA Club World Cup, meaning they will not take part in Matchday 18 of the Premier League next week, there is a decent chance they will slip even further down the table. The last time they ended a day lower than fourth was 12 February 2017 (fifth).
For those pleased to see some variation at the top, our advice would be to enjoy it while it lasts. City are notoriously excellent in the second half of the season.
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
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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 Mohammed Kudus (99.6/100) who scored twice in West Ham’s 3-0 victory against Wolves.
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, who came back to win 3-2. Man City had won 68 consecutive home league matches from such a position since then.
2. Tottenham (18 points)
3. Brighton (3-0 in May)
4. Mohamed Salah and Bukayo Saka
5. Jesse Lingard in December 2018
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