It was another rollercoaster weekend in the Premier League. If drama were made of strawberries, we’d all be drinking smoothies for weeks.
By 3.05pm on Saturday, Arsenal were 1-0 down at home to Fulham and Manchester United were 2-0 down at home to Nottingham Forest. The former ended with a draw and the latter came back to win, but it only added to the drama and intrigue, before Manchester City scored an 88th-minute winner at Sheffield United and 10-man Liverpool turned things around against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Sunday thanks to a Darwin Núñez super-sub spectacular.
This week’s SVQ looks at a quirk of Arsenal’s that they really need to address, as well as analysing the leading two in England’s top flight (Manchester City and… *checks notes* West Ham) and their extreme differences.
Then see how you fare in our weekly quiz. If you do well, we give you permission to do a Jason Tindall and publicly shush us (hopefully it works out better for you than it did for him).
If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe below and receive Stat, Viz, Quiz direct to your inbox every week:
STAT – Gone in 60 Seconds (Arsenal Clean Sheets, that is)
At Opta, we love statistics because they’re reassuring. You think you’ve noticed something in a game, and then a lovely stat backs up what you thought you’d seen. Or, you see a stat, and you are immediately told something you didn’t know about a team or player. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: stats are great.
But the downside to loving stats so much is that when you see one that leaves you a bit flummoxed, it can be more than a little disconcerting. And try as we might, we just can’t find an explanation for this one.
When Andreas Pereira caught Aaron Ramsdale out to give Fulham the lead after 57 seconds on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium, it meant that Arsenal became the first team in Premier League history to concede a goal inside the first minute of a match on three separate occasions in a single calendar year.
On each occasion, it has happened on home soil and in the space of the last nine league games at the Emirates, with a goal conceded inside 60 seconds to Bournemouth, Southampton and now Fulham. They ultimately avoided defeat in all three, but still dropped points in the latter two.
What kind of explanation is there for this curious quirk of Arsenal’s recent home form? The three early goals have each been different but have all involved the opposition catching Mikel Arteta’s men off guard early on in one way or another. It’s one thing to say Arsenal start games too slowly, but one of the best teams in the country consistently being caught napping inside the first minute of Premier League games? It’s utterly bizarre.
What can Arteta do other than issue a Sunday league-like rallying call before the next home match to “keep it tight first five”?
Bar starting games with a few extra defenders on the pitch, there doesn’t seem to be much else he could do.
It’s a problem they need to address. Somehow.
VIZ – Being Extreme Pays Off
As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. It’s a horrible saying really as we love moggies. In fact, we’re thinking of getting our own at Opta Analyst and calling them Cat, Viz, Quiz.
The famous idiom obviously means there’s more than one way to obtain a desired outcome, and that’s certainly true at the moment in the Premier League. Manchester City lead the table as the only team to win all three of their games so far.
In second place sit West Ham, who have seven points from three games after following up an opening draw at Bournemouth with impressive 3-1 wins against Chelsea and Brighton.
The reigning UEFA Europa Conference League holders have been able to soak up plenty of pressure and hit their opponents on the counter-attack to great effect.
Compare that to Man City, who notoriously dominate possession and territory, and you’ve essentially got two teams with polar opposite approaches at the top of the Premier League after three games.
As our team sequence style viz above shows, no side has averaged fewer passes per sequence than West Ham, or attacks with more direct speed, while no team has averaged more passes per sequence than City, or plays at a slower upfield pace.
On average, Pep Guardiola’s side’s sequences have lasted just over 16.5 seconds, with just over 5.5 passes per sequence. David Moyes’ team’s sequences have lasted just 5.3 seconds each on average, with fewer than 2.0 passes per sequence.
The two teams will meet at London Stadium on 16 September in what could very well be a top-of-the-table clash, and it should be a fascinating tactical battle if nothing else.
You can find stats and vizzes like these in our Opta Stats Hub.
QUIZ – Travelling Around Europe
We’ve admittedly been a bit Premier League heavy so far in this edition of SVQ, so this week’s quiz will represent each of the top five leagues in Europe.
Starting with, ahem, the Premier League… Answers are at the bottom of the page.
1. Darwin Núñez’s second goal against Newcastle was the 42nd 90th-minute winner that Liverpool have scored in the Premier League, the most by any team in the competition’s history. Which team has the second-most?
2. Atlético Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano 7-0 on Monday, just the second time they have won by that margin in La Liga in the 21st century. Who else did they beat by that scoreline in November 2013?
3. Bayer Leverkusen star Florian Wirtz created 10 chances in open play in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach. Who was the last player to create more than that in a game in Europe’s big five leagues?
4. Inter’s Marcus Thuram provided his first assist in Serie A in the 2-0 win at Cagliari on Monday. What notable family-related moment did it come exactly 17 years and 282 days after?
5. Kylian Mbappé scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain beat Lens on Saturday, meaning he now has 301 goal involvements in all competitions for the club, but what is his split of goals and assists? (Give yourself a point if you’re within 10 of either)
The Data Day
On this week’s podcast, Graham Bell, Matt Furniss and Ali Tweedale review the weekend’s Premier League action, while Aaron Barton was willing to talk to us about Everton’s poor start, providing insight on both where Sean Dyche’s men are at and what new signing Beto could bring to Goodison Park.
This week’s question was sent to us on X by Matt Hayes, who asks: “What is the youngest ever starting XI to win a game in the Premier League? And you might as well throw in the oldest too!”
Answer: It may not be too much of a surprise to learn that the youngest starting XI to win a Premier League game was Arsenal, with Arsène Wenger famous for giving young players a chance.
On 2 May 2009, Wenger named a starting XI for a trip to Portsmouth with an average age of just 22 years and 237 days. The Frenchman’s team was made up of Lukasz Fabianski (24), Bacary Sagna (26), Johan Djourou (22), Alex Song (21), Emmanuel Eboué (25), Theo Walcott (20), Denilson (21), Aaron Ramsey (18), Andrey Arshavin (27), Nicklas Bendtner (21) and Carlos Vela (20).
Arsenal’s young pups went on to win the game 3-0 thanks to two goals from Bendtner in the first half and another from Vela in the second.
The oldest starting XI to win a Premier League game was Fulham in 2013. It was April Fools’ Day when Martin Jol’s experienced side beat Queens Park Rangers at Craven Cottage, though tired legs almost meant they threw away a three-goal lead.
A brace from Dimitar Berbatov and a Clint Hill own goal had given Fulham a 3-0 advantage, though Adel Taarabt pulled one back for the visitors just before half time. Loïc Rémy made it 3-2 early in the second half, and the hosts were really holding on when Steve Sidwell was sent off with just over 10 minutes remaining. Hold on they did, though, despite a starting XI with an average age of 31 years and 295 days.
Jol’s lineup was made up of Mark Schwarzer (40), Philippe Senderos (28), John Arne Riise (32), Brede Hangeland (31), Sascha Riether (30), Ashkan Dejagah (26), Steve Sidwell (30), Damien Duff (34), Giorgos Karagounis (36), Dimitar Berbatov (32) and Bryan Ruiz (27).
What Are We up to at Opta Analyst?
Here’s some of the latest data-driven offerings you can find on our website:
1. Arsenal (30)
3. David Silva for Manchester City in March 2015 against West Brom (11).
4. His father, Lilian Thuram’s, last assist in Serie A (19 November 2005 for David Trezeguet against Roma for Juventus).
5. 215 goals and 86 assists
Before you go…
Enjoying Stat, Viz, Quiz? Think it needs improvement? Send us your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.