The Data Day No. 3: Our Rolling Football Blog
Welcome to The Data Day, our rolling football stats blog for 2021-22, where we try and make sense of what just happened.
The Striker Merry-Go-Round
Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham has completed a medical ahead of joining Roma for £34m. It comes after Roma announced the departure of Edin Džeko, who is set to join Internazionale to replace Romelu Lukaku who in turn joined Chelsea last week. It’s a symbiotic circle that benefits everyone, but you do feel that Chelsea and Roma have got the better ends of this three-way deal. We’ve got more on Džeko down below.
But first, Tammy.
On the face of it, Abraham is a great signing. At 23 years old, he’s very young and, despite struggling for consistent minutes at Chelsea, he has regularly scored goals when on the pitch. Abraham fell out of favour at Chelsea once Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard, despite finishing last season as the club’s joint-top scorer in all competitions with 12 goals. In fact, only Olivier Giroud (109 minutes per goal) scored more frequently than Abraham (128) while on the pitch for the Blues. The arrival of Lukaku further buries Abraham in the depth chart, and a move away from Stamford Bridge for more playing time is a wise decision.
Extremely adept at finding space inside the box, Abraham has consistently posted fantastic numbers for Chelsea. Since he returned to Stamford Bridge permanently at the start of 2019-20, he’s tied with Sergio Aguero and Michael Antonio at the top of the list for non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes. That’s mighty impressive and makes it even more bemusing that he’s not been given more playing time in west London.
The English forward has fantastic anticipation and movement that gets him into positions where he can convert from close range or pounce on loose balls in the box. Being able to get into those dangerous positions means that his shots are extremely high value. Again, looking at all Premier League players since Abraham’s recent spell at Chelsea, only Antonio (0.20) can surpass his non-penalty xG per shot of 0.19.
Chelsea will have a €80m buyback option for the outgoing striker, which can be triggered in the summer of 2023. That’s a lot of money, but given Abraham’s clear underlying talents, it’s a right they might want to exercise, especially if Timo Werner doesn’t come good for them.
Roma have acquired Abraham to replace Džeko who joined Inter, as the Serie A champions have moved quickly to replace Lukaku.
Inter sold Lukaku to Chelsea for a reported £97.5million last week – we broke down the qualities of the Belgian here — and a deal was swiftly completed to bring in Džeko with the 35-year-old signing a two-year contract with Inter.
Džeko is one of those players you feel like has been underappreciated his whole career. Since joining Roma in 2015, he’s netted 85 times in Italy’s top flight, which puts his fourth on the club’s all-time list.
And since he joined Roma, only four players have more Serie A goals to their name, while only Ciro Immobile has registered more expected goals (109.7) than Džeko’s 108.6.
During Džeko’s time at the club, their next-highest goalscorer has been Stephan El Shaarawy with just 35 strikes, highlighting the importance of the Bosnian to Roma’s goal output.
The highlight of his career in the capital will be the 2016-17 season where he topped the scoring charts with 29 goals. No player has ever scored more for Roma in a top-flight campaign.
The Ronaldo Return?
Recent reports suggest that Cristiano Ronaldo could be on the verge of a dramatic return to Real Madrid before the transfer window shuts later this month.
Ronaldo scored 451 goals during his time at the club, breaking the all-time scoring record across his nine-season spell in Madrid and netting more than 30 goals in every single season there. Ronaldo is the second-highest scoring player in Spanish top-flight history with his 311 goals, behind only Lionel Messi (474) – with Messi now departed to France, there surely wouldn’t be time for the Portuguese legend to make up the 163-goal deficit, would there?
Luckily, we have the Qwinn-powered Stats Perform Transfer Portal tool to give us some predicted outputs for Ronaldo should he choose to move clubs.
The simulations suggest that moving back to Real Madrid might not be the best idea for Ronaldo’s goal return – with his predicted expected goals per 90 average dropping from 0.80 should he stay at Juventus to 0.72 if he transferred back to Spain, while his shot frequency would also drop slightly.
Another player linked to Madrid is Kylian Mbappé, and should that transfer happen then maybe, just maybe we could witness the coming together of two superpowers in Paris. The Transfer Portal suggests that this would mean a slight drop in xG/90 from staying in Turin, but nothing like the drop that would come about should be make a shock move back to England with either Manchester club.
Of all the potential suitors listed above, a move to Manchester United seems like the worst idea as his xG/90 would drop to just 0.61 and he’d average nearly a shot less per 90 minutes.
With 674 club goals to his name already, whether Ronaldo chooses to stay with Juventus or make a move to one of the other European super clubs, there’s little doubt that he’d surpass the 700 total in 2021-22 barring injury.
Whilst Ligue 1 began a week ago, this weekend saw the top divisions in England, Spain and Germany kick off. We’ve already mentioned Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Michail Antonio below in our blog, so we look at some of the other standout performances from players across those four leagues this weekend, below.
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Haaland opened his 2021-22 Bundesliga account in style, with two goals and two assists during Borussia Dortmund’s 5-2 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt this weekend. Overall, with six shots and three chances created, he was involved in 69% of his side’s 13 shots during the match and now has a frankly ridiculous record of 62 goals in 61 competitive appearances for BVB.
What makes Haaland so clinical? Well, his shot selection definitely helps. Since his Bundesliga debut, no player has a higher non-penalty xG per shot than he does (0.24). Put another way, that number means you would expect the average player to score with close to a quarter of these chances. Of course, Haaland is quite clearly better than average, so he actually converts 31% of these non-penalty shots.
Borna Sosa (VfB Stuttgart)
Stuttgart’s Borna Sosa was in phenomenal form this weekend during their 5-1 victory over newly promoted SpVgg Greuther Fürth. He created seven goalscoring chances – more than any other player in the top five European leagues this weekend, with three of these assisting VfB’s third, fourth and fifth goals of the afternoon. His pinpoint crossing caused issues all game, with seven accurate crosses overall being the most by any player in a top five European league game so far this season.
Sosa also posted the highest expected assists total seen in a single game across these leagues so far in 2021-22 (1.39), which was also his highest ever in a Bundesliga match. The 23-year-old is one to look out for in the rest of the campaign.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mohamed Salah has played on the opening weekend of a Premier League season on five occasions for Liverpool…and he’s scored in every single one of them. No player has managed this feat in the Premier League.
Overall, he’s scored seven goals in matches on the opening weekend of a league season for Liverpool, which is a club record and overtakes Ian Rush’s total of six in top-flight history.
Not only did he score in this match, but Salah also assisted the other two goals for Liverpool. Since his Liverpool debut in the competition in August 2017, not only has Salah scored the most goals (96) and attempted the most shots (544), he’s assisted the second-most goals (35) and created the second-most open play chances (227) behind only Kevin De Bruyne. He is simply a world class player.
Loïc Badé (Rennes)
Rennes splashed the cash this summer to recruit Loïc Badé from Lens for a reported €20m, with the 21-year-old enjoying his first top-flight campaign in 2020-21. Badé is almost certainly going to be on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs in the future, with his assured defensive performances belying his young age. One of his best attributes is the ability to carry the ball out of defence and progress play for his side. This weekend, he tallied 27 progressive carries with 299m travelled following a display on MD1 against his former side Lens in which he carried the ball from defence on 20 occasions (199m upfield). These tallies are the third and 10th highest by central defenders within a game across the top five European leagues so far in 2021-22.
Unfortunately for Badé and his Rennes side, an injury-time goal from Brest’s Jérémy Le Douaron means that it’s just two points from two for them in Ligue 1 this season but they’ll be hopeful of victory on MD3 at home against Nantes.
Nice One, Son
This didn’t go as expected. Spurs endured a summer of disarray, with a new (and somewhat undesired) managerial appointment coupled with their star player reportedly going AWOL. Manchester City lost a legend but replenished their ranks with a £100m player. The majority expected a comfortable City win here.
But Spurs used their joker in the pack: Son Heung-Min.
The Korean forward scored the only goal of the game, as a brisk counter-attack was finished off with a low shot past a stranded Ederson in the Manchester City goal. That was Son’s seventh goal against City in all competitions, with only Jamie Vardy (nine) scoring more often against them since Pep Guardiola’s appointment in the summer of 2016.
We all know Son doesn’t need Harry Kane to perform. The last seven Premier League matches that Kane’s missed for Spurs have seen Son score six goals overall and only failing to convert in two of those games – that goal tally is the same as in his last 20 Premier League appearances alongside Kane.
Manchester City looked strangely sluggish and attempted just one shot on target in the opening 74 minutes of the match, with the first coming in minute 49. Spurs looked well drilled and organised in their first Premier League game under Nuno Espírito Santo, but this shouldn’t come as a shock – he’s become an expert at winning points against the so-called big six in the top flight. Across three seasons between 2018-19 and 2020-21, his Wolves side won 39 points from 36 games against those clubs, more than any of the other outsiders from the six big clubs in the competition.
For Jack Grealish, his Premier League debut for Manchester City didn’t go as he’d planned. It was business as usual on the pitch, with the former Aston Villa favourite being fouled more often (five) and beating more players with a dribble (four) than any other City player in the match.
His 26 ball carries were more than any other attacking player in the Premier League during the opening weekend, but England’s new favourite was possibly overshadowed by the Three Lions’ forgotten man. Dele Alli put in a fine, hardworking display that saw him cover more ground than every other player (11.1km) and post the highest average speed (6.9 km/hr).
Manchester City have now lost three successive matches in all competitions by a 1-0 scoreline – the first time that they have suffered this with the same score since April 1970. It was also the first time since 2010-11 that they have failed to win their opening game of the Premier League season – that came away at Spurs in a 0-0 draw. For Guardiola, he suffered his first defeat in the opening game of a league campaign since 2008-09, when his Barcelona side were beaten by Numancia but went on to win the league by nine points.
Harry Kane will have watched this game knowing that he’ll be playing his football for one of these sides in 2021-22. On 90 minutes of evidence, he might want to be part of the Nuno project in North London.
Just like last season, Callum Wilson scored the first goal of Newcastle’s Premier League campaign with a strike against West Ham. Unlike last season, this didn’t lead to a victory for the Magpies.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and Callum Wilson scoring against West Ham United in the Premier League. Wilson took his Premier League goal tally against the Hammers to nine in just 11 appearances with his header, a total that’s three more than versus any other club.
But despite falling behind twice in the first half, West Ham turned it around in style. In 2020-21, West Ham won 14 points from losing positions away from home in the Premier League – only Manchester United (28) recovered more. It was more of the same in this trip to St James’ Park.
Michail Antonio may have missed a chance to put the Hammers into the lead from the penalty spot before Tomáš Souček spared his blushes from the rebound, but just 181 seconds later he sealed the win. Antonio’s goal was his 47th in the Premier League for West Ham, equalling Paolo Di Canio’s club record in the competition. That strike also meant that the London club had four different scorers in a league game for the first time since December 2016 against Swansea City (Andy Carroll, Winston Reid, André Ayew and Antonio).
No game has seen more goals during the opening weekend of 2021-22 Premier League action, which comes as no surprise when this saw the most shots (35), shots on target (12) and the highest expected goal total (4.78) on matchday one. Newcastle posted 1.48 xG in the first half, more than any other side in the Premier League this weekend, but unfortunately for their returning fans, they ran out of puff after half-time and posted just 0.31 in the second 45 minutes. Conversely, West Ham’s 2.08 xG in the second half was more than any other Premier League team this weekend.
Special mention goes to Declan Rice for an impressive, composed performance for the Hammers to follow his great Euro 2020 campaign with England. Rice won possession back before starting the move that led to Saïd Benrahma’s goal and misplaced just one of his 50 passes across the 90 minutes.
West Ham have been notoriously slow starters in recent years, having lost their opening Premier League match in each of the previous five seasons. No such worries today, as they look to improve on their sixth-place finish in the top-flight last season – their best Premier League finish in 22 years.
Paying the Penalty
I’ll keep saying it, but how is a service like OptaJoe free?
2,000 penalties scored in Premier League history. But who get the most and who are the most penalised?
Manchester United lead the way with 166 penalties taken, one ahead of Liverpool (165). However, it’s Liverpool (131) that lead the way in terms of penalties scored, with United only converting 126 of theirs.
Tottenham Hotspur have both given away (135) and conceded (109) the most goals from the penalty spot, with Aston Villa (102) the only other team to have conceded more than 100 goals from the spot in the history of the competition.
Of teams to have taken 20+ penalties in the Premier League, it’s Swansea City (95.2%) that have the best ratio in the competition history. Ipswich Town only scored 14 of their 21 penalties in the Premier League (66.7%), the lowest ratio for teams to have attempted at least 20. Queens Park Rangers have a lower conversion rate (63.2%) but have taken only 19 so miss out on the criteria by one penalty in this instance.
QPR have been the best at keeping them out after giving them away, however. They have conceded just 15 of their 26 penalties faced in the Premier League (57.7%), while Birmingham City have the worst success rate at stopping the opposition from scoring them (91.4%) as they have saved just three in the history of the competition.
The Double Treble
It had been 44 years, but the wait finally came to an end for Manchester United fans in their opening Premier League game of the 2021-22 season. Not since Lou Macari’s hat trick versus Birmingham City in 1977 had a United player scored a treble on the opening day of a league season, but Bruno Fernandes decided it was time to end that drought.
Fernandes’ treble was just the 10th in Premier League history on the opening matchday to a season and guess what, haters – none of them came from the penalty spot. Since his competition debut in February 2020, Fernandes has been directly involved in 48 goals in 52 Premier League appearances (29 goals, 19 assists), four more than any other player in this time.
It might not have happened without Paul Pogba, who helped himself to more than a hat trick of assists in the 5-1 win over Leeds United. The Frenchman already has more Premier League assists than in both 2020-21 and 2019-20 (three in each) and became just the seventh player in Premier League history to assist four goals in a single game in the competition, after Dennis Bergkamp, José Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fàbregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Santi Cazorla and Harry Kane. Decent company, that.
It was also a great day for Mason Greenwood, who put his disappointment of having to leave the England squad on the eve of a successful Euro 2020 campaign through injury to one side and celebrated his 18th Premier League goal. This now makes him the fifth-highest scoring teenager in the history of the competition, with Nicolas Anelka’s 19 the next target.
Just like last season, Old Trafford was a scene of misery for Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds, but expect this to be a one-off for a talented squad with one of the best coaches in the competition.
Not Very Nice, Really
Lille won the Ligue 1 title against the odds last season, but just two days after this victory they’d lost coach Christophe Galtier to Nice. Today saw the return of their championship-winning boss to Stade Pierre-Mauroy and it wasn’t pretty for the reigning champions.
Lille probably should have known this wasn’t going to be their day after 57 seconds, when Kasper Dolberg scored the first of his two goals and the quickest Ligue 1 goal by Nice since April 2013.
Lille matched Nice for quantity with 11 shots each, but quality is the difference at the top level. Nice’s 11 shots equated to an expected goals total of 1.85, which was nearly double that of Lille’s (0.98).
The last time that Lille lost by as many as four goals in a Ligue 1 home game was in September 2017 in a 4-0 defeat to reigning champions Monaco. That was under Marcelo Bielsa, who only lasted six more league games before exiting the club.
This defeat was the heaviest home loss for a reigning Ligue 1 title holder since Nice themselves lost 5-1 to Angers in March 1960. With PSG now strengthened with the signing of some lad from Barcelona, it looks like Lille are unlikely to be winning a second successive league championship in 2022.
All or Nothing? All for Brentford. Nothing for Arsenal.
For a starting XI that contained just three previous Premier League appearances between them – Ivan Toney (two) & Sergi Canós (one) for the fewest for a starting XI since Reading’s starting line-up had zero PL games between them in August 2006 vs Middlesbrough – Brentford started life in the competition like old hands.
Buoyed by the raucous home fans, the Bees were extremely impressive in the opening half, particularly out of possession. They pressed high up the pitch, putting Bernd Leno and Arsenal’s back four under a lot of pressure. It either left Arsenal under extreme pressure with the ball at the back or forced them to go long from goal kicks. It was no surprise. Thomas Frank’s side generate 55 shots from high turnovers in the Championship last season. No side created more.
And they scored from one for the first goal. Ethan Pinnock intercepted a clearance from Calum Chambers and headed it to Sergio Canós, who cut inside and lashed a shot into the bottom-right corner. It was Brentford’s first goal in the top flight since Len Townsend in May 1947 against Sunderland, 27,110 days ago. A few months after that goal, Arnold Schwarzenegger was born. Yes, he’s 74. And yes, Brentford are back.
The Gunners were bullied from the off. Ivan Toney was a menace. He contested (21) and won (11) more duels than anyone else on the pitch, as he prayed on the frailties on Ben White and Pablo Mari who looked extremely off the pace. Toney created havoc in the box for Brentford’s second, in what can only be described as a very ‘Arsenal goal to concede’: a long throw hurled into the box that the Gunners somehow let bounce inside the six-yard area, before Christian Nørgaard powered it into an empty net.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen Arsenal struggle against a team playing in red and white stripes who use towels for long throws, but Stoke City 2008-09 this very much isn’t.
The Gunners, in their fans’ eyes at least, tend to lurch from the sublime to the utterly hopeless. The reality is that this club are probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. But this performance did nothing to stymy to tide of negativity against Mikel Arteta.
Outside of Kieran Tierney – who offered a great outlet as usual from left back, creating five chances for his highest total in a single match in the English Premier League – and Emile Smith-Rowe, who took up some great positions in between the lines to spin and drive at the Brentford defence while completing all of his 39 passes in the Brentford half – there was little to be positive about.
In fact, Arsenal ended last season in good form with five consecutive victories. And if you took the Premier League table from Boxing Day last year, Arsenal were actually third, showing that they enjoyed a strong second half of the season. At the back, only four sides gave up more expected goals against per game than Arteta’s side last year. But try telling that to Arsenal fans right now. This looked like anything but a side riding a wave of confidence.
But enough about Arsenal. This is Brentford’s night. Welcome to the Premier League. Your 74-year long wait is over.
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