Good morning. We now have four weeks of football in the Premier League and already we are starting to see some trends emerge as the top two clubs, Manchester Mourinho and Manchester Pep, have started to pull away from the rest of the pack. Liverpool and Arsenal still haven’t fixed their defensive frailties despite having an entire summer to buy players and install a system which prevents the opposition from creating Big Chances and large numbers of shots in prime areas. Chelsea are already overperforming both offensively and defensively, continuing a trend from last year, and Tottenham have started the season off with some weird defensive numbers – but continue their trend of having one of the tightest defenses in the League. And finally, Watford, Burnley, and Huddersfield are all overperforming while Palace, Arsenal, and West Ham are all underperforming.
Before I show you the data, I need to present a caveat: this is a crazy difficult task I have set myself to. I don’t have access to the Opta data stream and I can’t get a scraper to work reliably (and it would probably be illegal to use one on this data) so I have to collect all of the shots data for the Premier League by hand. As a result, my data could contain errors. I have double-checked things but there’s always going to be some spot where I copied wrong or filled in the wrong bubble. I wish I could be exact but I can’t – and the point of this data isn’t to be exact but rather to present trends. So, if you see something here that looks way off, let me know.
I also need to point out that I don’t include own goals (there have been 3 already this season) so when you see the goals for and goals against data is off by a single number now you know why. As for definitions, a Big Chance is an Opta defined stat – these are shots where the player is 1-v-1 with the keeper, has an open chance at goal (like the long range goal Burnley scored against Crystal Palace this weekend), and/or has a shot from close range. “SiP” on my main data chart refers to “shots in prime”. These are shots in the very best areas on the pitch – right in front of goal from the 6 yard box to the penalty spot.
I rely on these two data points for the majority of my analysis as they are where most goals are scored. Big Chances in particular are a weird stat: most teams will score about as many goals in a season as the number of big chances they create, even though big chances are only scored at a 50% rate.
I recognize that this is a bit hard to read but I think if you click it, you can see the full size image. The data here is sorted by Goals scored.
Manchester United are off to a flying start. They have created the most Big Chances this season and the most shots in prime. This is because they have had the easiest schedule of just about any team. I remember last season when City came out the blocks in almost the exact same way and it was also because of the ease of schedule. Man U have such a cushy start to this season that they don’t face a top four opponent until October 14th! That said, they conceded their only two goals this season against Stoke this last weekend and Stoke can’t count themselves lucky: the expected goals against United in that match was 1.92.
I picked Man City to win the League this year based entirely on their stats from last season: they conceded the fewest big chances and shots in prime and were just unlucky with their finishing. This season, Guardiola’s ball hogging philosophy is once again paying dividends: they have allowed just one big chance and 3 shots in prime. They also have played Everton and Liverpool already this season and I considered Everton a big team at the start of the season (more on that in a minute). I believe that City will end this season with the best stats, whether they will take the Premier League trophy is probably down to the fickle mistress of finishing.
Chelsea are such a weird team. Antonio Conte sets them up to basically nullify the game which you can see in the fact that they neither create nor concede. In terms of big chance creation they have 4 which is on par with the relegation teams like Swansea (3), Stoke (3), Burnley (4), Huddersfield (4), and West Brom (4). And in terms of Big Chances allowed they are 2nd in the League with just 2! Would it be wrong of me to say that Chelsea are a typical Italian team?
Everton are in trouble. They needed to replace Lukaku and didn’t. I said earlier in the season that if they didn’t get a goal scorer they won’t break into the top four and I’m sticking with that. Overspent on the most overrated player in the League, Gylfi Sigurdsson. Should have used that money for a goal scorer.
Liverpool and Arsenal have similar problems in defense where both teams concede way too many Big Chances to be considered serious title contenders. Both teams have a great attacking setup and can be fun to watch (Arsenal could have really laid one on Bournemouth this weekend) but will concede goals. Both teams have already had what used to be considered “once in a lifetime” defeats this season with Arsenal conceding 4 to Liverpool and Liverpool conceding 5 to Man City. Liverpool have had the more difficult of the two team’s schedules and they had a player sent off against City so we could see their stats change over the next few weeks. If Liverpool or Arsenal had bought a legitimate holding midfielder this season they might be considered title contenders. But Liverpool spent all their money on Arsenal’s right back and Arsenal didn’t even try to sign a midfielder, both teams opting instead to just throw this season down the shitter.* I’m curious what Arsenal’s numbers will look like this season after they sell Alexis to Man City in January.
Bournemouth’s problem is that they have faced four teams that are significantly better than them. Actually, so far, every team is significantly better than them. Their results match their expected goals numbers almost exactly. I suspect that they are going to be relegated this season.
Swansea are actually overperforming right now, which is scary because they are awful. Their midfield signing Renato Sanches opened his account with as poor a debut as I have ever seen. While Wilf Bony didn’t even get a look in when he came on late. They are in real trouble.
In the massive overperforming group you have Watford, Burnley, and Huddersfield. All three of those teams should “revert to the mean” soon and reclaim their rightful place in the lower part of the table.
Below is my 7amkickoff Expected Goal Difference chart. This is about how I expect the season to shape up, except with Chelsea below Tottenham.
But Arsenal and Liverpool should be fighting for 5th place. Arsenal could pip Liverpool for 5th if they can turn around their 20% Big Chance finishing. My suggestion in that regard is to stop feeding the ball to Aaron Ramsey and start feeding it to their actual finisher, Alexandre Lacazette. But knowing Arsene, he’ll probably do the exact opposite. You know, because he only wants to win when his team play beautiful football.
*I know I’m being hyperbolic but come on, that’s funny.