We reach week three in the
EPL BPL top flight and once more I will add a necessary rider to the week’s column insofar as ideas posited are firmly in the realm of suggestions and observations based on a very small sample of games rather than firm conclusions derived from sufficient inputs. Scything through the data and proclaiming that Riyad Mahrez is the second coming is something that can wait for a wider look at his true level. He’s currently three non-penalty goals from 12 shots, 25% and hot, compared to four from 63 last season, 6% and cold.
Chelsea’s inability to prevent shots
Back on 18th October 2014, Frazier Campbell netted a stoppage time consolation to prevent Chelsea achieving a clean sheet in an otherwise routine 2-1 victory. That goal was only the 24th shot on target Chelsea had conceded in the 2014-15 season, an excellent three per game, and they sat atop the league with seven wins and a draw from eight games. Jose had a glint in his eye, as we can see here:
The 24th shot on target Chelsea conceded this season came as Salomón Rondón tried to force home a late equaliser in the third match of the season. Chelsea have conceded more shots on target (24) than Sunderland (23), more than Newcastle (19), more than everyone. They now have a win to go with two red cards, some bizarrely shambolic play and Jose’s glint has, for now, receded:
Now that’s a bit of fun there but the early story line is nonetheless fascinating. It’s simply rare for one of the top teams to suffer such a blip in performance, and especially given a reputation for uber-pragmatism and defensive shrewdness, a Mourinho team. In fact, I have to go back to mid 2012-13 to find a top seven team that had a similar three game run of shots on target conceded- both Liverpool, in a bad year and eventual Champions and notable stat outliers Man Utd managed this ignominious feat there. Once more we saw vulnerabilities down Ivanovic’s flank and once more John Terry found a way to make headlines.
On the plus side, they effectively restricted West Brom’s shooting whilst at 11 v 11 but still contrived to face a penalty and concede a goal. Pedro’s debut and his chance to show that he was more than just Ringo Starr to Barcelona’s rotating cast of Beatles was not without promise. As Sterling has quickly given a more diverse focus to Man City’s attacking schemes and balanced well with Silva, it seems possible that Pedro could do the same with Hazard and the perennially underrated efficiency machine, Willian. As we’ve seen, so far the attack isn’t the problem and while one presumes all this will settle down in time,forthcoming matches against Palace, Everton and Arsenal may provide something of a test just at a point when a home fixture against Sunderland would fit the bill.
Teams that can have no complaints
Man City, obviously.
Norwich with 57 shots for and 19 against is encouraging, especially given that this weekend they limited Stoke so effectively whilst racking up 21 shots. A miserable conversion rate was a big red flag for them the year they got relegated and that they haven’t turned this dominance into more points yet is a minor quibble.
Swansea, fuelled by a series of analytics regression predictions blu-tacked to the wall of the club bar, have flown out of the traps by outshooting their opposition at a more than 2:1 ratio; after all the strongest reaction to poor shot numbers is clearly good shot numbers.
Stick that in yer computer!
Sigurdsson, Ayew, Gomis and Shelvey have lead the way with 12, 11, 10 and 9 shots each and that four of them are contributing significant shot volumes is an improvement on the flatter Bony/Sigurdsson axis from last year. Opposite to Chelsea they’ve spent a deal of time at 11 v 10 which certainly makes life easier and can be a little peeved that they failed to finish of Sunderland, as the chances suggested. And so we ponder their inevitable regression. How good are Swansea? Not this good but three games and three sets of rock solid numbers is as fine a start as any team in the league.
Teams that are tending towards horribleness
Newcastle, finally back under the tutelage of a bona fide coach and with exciting new talent like Mitrovic and Wijnaldum, have had a tough start. Away to Utd and Swansea aren’t easy games and nor is a home game against Southampton. They have two points, which is a big plus, especially when held against league worst shot numbers (20 For-54 Against) and i’m going to err on the kind side and presume that McLaren’s sole remit was to survive August without being entirely annihilated. That next week’s fixture is (H) Arsenal, does nothing to deter this view. For Newcastle, it seems this year the season starts in September.
My pre-season speculation that teams collapse upon the departure of Big Sam was initially stymied by their fortunate victory at the Emirates. Happily, at least for my view, the two shoddy home defeats to teams with similarly basic expectations of survival have pointed the gun firmly back in the direction of themselves. One of Allardyce’s chief abilities at times has been to extract results and thus points in excess of his team’s underlying shooting totals. West Ham had horrific numbers in 2013-14 yet stayed up and after their ten game beano at the start of 2014-15, performed with all the enthusiasm that you might expect from a team with a lame duck coach. The numbers stayed poor, they had enough on board to exist in mid table mediocrity and now with a bit of a gamble in Bilic and the Sam shackles removed they ship four to Bournemouth. I am skeptical.
Teams that fans are up in arms about but should probably be given a break
The Tottenham section has a new name this week as despite zero wins and a trademark case of switching off after a goal, the raw numbers are okay. That may seem insufficient for a team thought to want to challenge for higher European places, but given the nature of the youth experiment going on at the Lane these days and reflecting on the underlying horrors of last season, a Villas Boas style point at Leicester despite much controlling but sterile play is bordering on the acceptable. Delle Alli scored, which was a fillip for those of us hoping to proclaim that he and not Mahrez is the Second Coming, but sadly N’Jie Clinton was nowhere to be seen. Also absent, and more importantly going forward was Eriksen, a non-specified “knee injury” was cited and his influence was sorely missed. Without him nobody had the skill or smarts to transition play up the field effectively.
It’s strange to think that a less successful season than last would be considered progress, but that’s where Tottenham are for now. Work is most definitely in progress.
And i’ve not even mentioned the transfer window.
Thanks for reading!
Quick word for Paul Riley’s excellent expected goals Tableau, give it a whirl if that’s your bag.
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