Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Most ‘slain’ Premier League team Liverpool face banana-skin FA Cup visit of Bolton

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

By Brian Sears

23 January 2015

The formation of the Premier League from the 1992-93 season marked a major change in English football as the gap between the new top division and the rest of football quickly became a gulf. At a glance the first graphic below pretty much sums up what happened in financial terms. If you want more background on that, this linked piece from 2011 will explain in more detail.

Suffice to say, when we talk about the ‘Premier League’ era, it is not because we think that’s when Sky TV invented the game, or because we think it only matters since then, but because the game changed fundamentally at that time – to become more and more dictated by money. The Premier League is the ‘monied era’ for good, or ill – and any Premier League VS The Rest comparisons should be seen in that context, not least in the FA Cup.

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Mind the gap

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Thus within the context above, the Premier League team in the PL with the worst FA Cup record against ‘The Rest’ is arguably Liverpool. And the prime evidence in that argument is that Liverpool have been eliminated from the FA Cup by lower-league opponents more times in the Premier League era than any other PL team.

It’s happened to them eight times since 1993, and perhaps even more worrying as they prepare to face lower-league opponents Bolton at Anfield this weekend, six of those previous eight defeats were at Anfield. Indeed in 1993 the victors were Bolton themselves at Anfield, in a third-round replay. Then in 1994 Liverpool lost to Bristol City at Anfield; then in 2000 to Blackburn, in 2003 to Crystal Palace, in 2005 to Burnley (at Burnley), in 2008 to Barnsley (at Anfield), in 2010 to Reading (at Anfield) and then two years ago to Oldham (away).

Here are the most slain PL teams in the FA Cup:

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FA Cup slayings in PL to 2015

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Five Premier League clubs have been eliminated from the FA Cup this season already, but only one so far at the hands of lower league opposition: QPR, who lost to Sheffield United, most often PL slayers in the PL era.

In the fourth round this year, at least two more Premier League clubs are certain to be dismissed after all-PL ties involving Southampton v Crystal Palace and Tottenham v Leicester.  The other 11 Premier League cup hopefuls are all up against lower league opponents: seven from the Championship, three from League One (Bradford, Bristol City and Rochdale) and Cambridge United from League Two.

FAC giant killing in PL era

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Arsenal’s task of winning in Manchester is harder as City step up to United standards

Friday, January 16th, 2015

By Brian Sears

16 January 2015

Arsenal visit Manchester on Sunday to play Manchester City and then return to Manchester for their last away game of the season in May to play United. Old Trafford has long been hard work for Arsenal, not only in the Premier League era but throughout all the post-war years.

In 67 league visits to Old Trafford since the war, Arsenal have won on just 10 occasions, with only three wins there in 22 Premier League games.

Arsenal have much more enjoyed their post-war visits to Manchester to take on City. The Gunners are in post-war points profit in their visits to City, gaining 87 points and allowing City only 60 points. Overall in the Premier League era too, Arsenal have remained in profit by 32 points to 17 on City’s turf.

But the enormous financial investment made by Sheikh Mansour since 2008 in City, Arsenal have found visits there so much tougher. City had to wait until the 10th Premier League visit from Arsenal before getting their first win on their own ground.  (Arsenal had won eight and drawn one before that). But in the last eight home games with Arsenal, City have won five, drawn one and lost just two.

Up to then Arsenal had only lost 10 times in 46 post-war visits.

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Arsenal in Manc

 

Arse wins in Manc, PL

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… and another thing

Are you up for the Cup?

It’s no doubt a question that the Football Association will be interested in knowing from fans about their flagship tournament.

How can we find out? By comparing gates in the third round, when all the big clubs come in, with average league gates for the home sides to see how those attendances compare.

The answer: fans overall are 18.4 per cent down for the Cup, in the 32 ties as first played (without replays). And as many as four out of every five regular Cardiff fans for league games turned their backs on the Colchester tie while one in every two stayed away at Burnley, Millwall and Charlton.  This decline has been typical of FA Cup third-round attendances in recent seasons at some clubs.

But then there are the astronomic increases at non-league venues and the doubling of average gates at Yeovil and Tranmere. Encouraging too for the FA is the way gates are maintained at clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City.

The crowds at the seven replays in total fell a bit further than the earlier games, by 23 per cent overall. The FA should use Ipswich as their role model of keeping crowds up for the cup. Nearly one in two more fans attended the replay with Southampton than have attended league games so far this season.

FAC3R crowds 2015

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NUMBER-CRUNCHED: the best and worst of English league football in 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

By Brian Sears 

31 December 2014

Of all the teams playing in the four main divisions of English football in 2014, Manchester City and Chelsea were the standout performers in the calendar year in terms of points per game. Both amassed 88 points from 38 league games in 2014 for 2.32 points per game on average, with City just pipping Chelsea on goal difference (+56 vs +55) for the year.

Each of those clubs have won 27 games in 2014, drawn seven and lost four and it is appropriate they head the calendar year table for England as they start 2015 as the two prime contenders to be champions of England this season.

Calendar year: bah humbug! That is a familiar refrain in some quarters when annual rather than season figures are produced but they serve a purpose beyond wrapping up a year and being a half-way marker in a season. When you look at the worst performing teams in particular, the calendar year data tends to highlight long-term problems that are not always immediate when looking at seasonal data. Certainly long-term issues are thrown into starker contrast.

In all, 94 different teams spent all or part of 2014 in those the four divisions. Of those 94 clubs, only four – City, Chelsea, Luton and Liverpool – averaged two or more points per game. Again, this reminds us what a magnificent first half of 2014 Liverpool had, and what a relative flop they have been in the post-Suarez period.

The star performers outside that trio include resurgent Wolves and Preston, with Arsenal not doing so badly in seventh ahead of Derby, Bristol City and then a pair of Premier League aspirants, Bournemouth and Brentford, both just ahead of Manchester United.

Article continues below (NB: this graphic was updated on 5.1.15 to correct an error over games played by Luton)

Top 20 Eng calendar 2014

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Next: the worst 10 performing clubs of 2014. Confirmation that Blackpool fans have good reason to be miserable. Thanks Oyston clan!

Also note that West Brom and Hull are the only Premier League clubs with less than a point per game. Their woes are long-term now. And Leeds fans see no signs of their struggles abating just yet.

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Calendar 2014 the 10 worst

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Before we move on to the divisional tables, here are some of the ‘most and least’ highlights among the 94 clubs in 2014:

Most wins: Man City, Chelsea, Luton, Wolves – all 27.

Fewest wins: Blackpool 5, Hull 7.

Most defeats: Blackpool 29, Hartlepool 28.

Most goals scored: Bournemouth 91, Man City 89.

Fewest goals scored: Blackpool 31, Aston Villa 32.

Most average team in England: The average points per game of all clubs is 1.38, so Accrington Stanley are closest.

Calendar 2014 GPG

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And while we’re on the subject of random stats:

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Calendar 2014 notable

 

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And here are the tables by division: PREMIER LEAGUE

Calendar 2014 PL

 

And here are the tables by division: FOOTBALL LEAGUE

(NB – Luton played 44 games, not 46, as per top graphic, so had 2.05 pts per game)

Calendar 2014 FL1

Calendar 2014 FL2

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QPR’s road woes keep them on course for ignominy … and relegation

Friday, December 19th, 2014

By Brian Sears

19 December 2014

Queens Park Rangers play at home this weekend – and that must be a relief. On home form alone, Harry Redknapp’s team would be eighth in the Premier League, just behind Arsenal, after winning four and drawing two of their eight home league matches at Loftus Road this season. On home form alone they would be above Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham among others.

But Queens Park Rangers play away at Arsenal on Boxing Day – and that, on the form of the past few years, must be a huge concern. They have played eight times away this season and lost all eight. The last time they were in the Premier League, in 2012-13, they won just twice away. In fact their woeful away record, over the past 40 away games in the Premier League, has led to just 13 points from 120.

If it carries on, it threatens to be reach levels of record-breaking badness, which in turn would carry a high probability of relegation, as detailed later. But first, the season so far and the games to come:

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QPR away woe in PL

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The table below details the worst 10 ‘away seasons’ in Premier League history, including the records of the six sides who went through entire PL campaigns without a single win. Coventry in 1999-2000 and Leeds in 1992-93 both fell into that category but both managed seven away draws and had good enough home records that they stayed up. The other four teams who were winless on the road all went down: Wolves in 2003-04, Norwich in 1994-95, Hull in 2009-10 and Derby in 2007-08.

As the table shows, a total of seven or fewer away points carries a strong chance of relegation, or a 70 per cent chance based on this sample. And six or fewer away points carries a virtually certain chance of going down.

It didn’t get much better for the teams (not displayed) who won eight or nine away points. Nine teams have won as few as eight away points – and all were relegated. Five sides have won as few as nine away points – and three went down.

The lesson for Harry Redknapp from all of this, bleeding obvious though it may be, is that he needs to change QPR’s extremely long-term Premier League travel sickness, and quickly, and significantly, or else QPR are going down. Merry Christmas, ‘Arry!

Article continues below

 Worst away seasons in PL

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And another thing …

Newcastle host Sunderland on Sunday in the north-east derby and this particular relationship throws up a Premier League statistical quirk.

Typically over a long period of time, you’d reasonably expect any one team to gain more points at home against any one opponent than you’d expect them to win away against the same opponent.

But Newcastle have won fewer points on their own turf against Sunderland, or 16 points from 12 meetings, at a rate of 1.33 per game, than they have away against Sunderland, or 20 points from 12 games, at a rate of 1.66. Being really good away in derbies would be one explanation – but it does not explain why Newcastle have been relatively so poor at home against the same team. Derby pressure and related tension, perhaps.

Here is Newcastle’s home and away record in the PL against all PL opponents, showing clearly the anomaly of their relationship with Sunderland.

NUFC v SAFC

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Man Utd look to repel raiders Liverpool to restore Old Trafford as fortress

Friday, December 12th, 2014

By Brian Sears

12 December 2014

Manchester United have the best home record across the Premier League era of any of the 46 clubs to have played in the Premier League, whichever measure is used.

They have played 432 PL games, won 320, drawn 70 and lost 42.

That’s more wins than anyone (320); a higher win percentage than anyone (74.1 per cent); a lower loss percentage than anyone (9.7 per cent, the only single-digit loss percentage rate of the era); more goals than anyone, and more goals per game than anyone; fewest goals conceded per game than anyone. And on and on.

Things have not been so brilliant in recent times, admittedly, with seven home defeats last season alone. But even with that anomalous season, United have, on average, lost fewer than two home games each season across the Premier League era as a whole. That’s fewer than two games a season for more than 22 years. And that is a large part of why they have won the Premier League so many times and been the dominant English team of the PL era.

Before we consider those teams who have been able to overcome them most often on their own turf, here is how United’s home record in the Premier League era compares to other teams.

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PL home records 1992-now

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United’s 42 Premier League defeats have come at the hands of 20 different opponents, with Chelsea winning at Old Trafford most often in the PL era (six times), then Liverpool (five times), Manchester City (four times), Middlesbrough and Arsenal (three times each), then six clubs on twice each and nine clubs on once each. Article continues below

PL wins at OT, 1992-Dec 12.2014

Of this season’s Premier League teams, seven started the season without any Premier League win at Old Trafford. Swansea put that right on the opening day. Four other teams have played there and failed to change that stat by losing: QPR, Crystal Palace, Hull and Stoke lost. Southampton (in January) and Burnley (in February) are the other current PL teams without any PL win at United but yet to have a chance to change that this campaign.

Sunday’s match at home to Liverpool gives United a chance to put one over on one of their most successful opponents. It took Liverpool nine seasons to get a first win at OT in the PL era, and they have added four more since 2002. In Liverpool’s five wins, Danny Murphy scored the only goal in 1-0 away wins in December 2000, January 2002 and April 2004; Liverpool got their best win there with a 4-1 victory in March 2009 and then Steven Gerrard (with two) and Luis Suarez (one) gave Liverpool another win in March this year.

United’s only home league defeat this season was that opening game to Swansea. Any sustained revival of fortunes will inevitably be reliant on turning Old Trafford back into a fortress. Repelling Liverpool’s raiders will be a sign that is already happening.

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From Chelsea to Arsenal via Tottenham: best season, worst and bang average

Friday, November 28th, 2014

By Brian Sears

27 November 2014

Chelsea’s storming start in the Premier League is their best ever start in the 23 seasons of England’s revamped top division. With 32 points from their first 12 games, they are a point ahead of their previous best-ever tally at this stage – and more than nine points clear of their average tally after 12 matches.

In stark contrast, everyone knows Arsenal have been struggling for consistency, but in fact it’s worse than that. This is their worst ever start to a Premier League season. Their current 17 points from 12 games means they are currently one point down on their previous worst tally after 12 games; that was back in 1994-95 when the Gunners ended the season 12th in the table. The following season they recovered to fifth and in the 18 completed seasons since they have never finished outside the top four.

Elsewhere in London, the perception is that Tottenham are struggling a little under Mauricio Pochettinho. But the reality is that by their own standards, Spurs are having a bang average campaign. On average at this stage over the past 22 years of Premier League football they have had 16.7 points. This season they are on 17. A bang average tally for a bang average team.

To be fair to Tottenham supporters, the current tally is some way short of their best haul of 28 points from their first 12 PL games. But it is also rather better than their worst haul of eight points at this stage.

As our graphic at the bottom of this article shows, three clubs this season are having their best ever Premier League starts: Southampton and Swansea join Chelsea in that category.

Manchester City, West Ham, Everton and Stoke are also having better than average starts when measured by their own standards in the Premier League era.

But three of the one-time “Big Four” clubs are way down on even their average points hauls at this stage: Manchester United are almost six points down, with Liverpool and Arsenal almost seven points down on their own average benchmarks. All of them are much further away still from their best starts, it goes without saying.

Our table is cruel on the current Burnley squad, being compared to a Burnley who have just the one previous PL season to be compared with. Five seasons ago that team collected 16 points from 12 games and then only 14 from the next 26 as they were relegated with Hull and Portsmouth.  Sean Dyche’s men will hope to play it differently this time round.

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CFC to AFC, best to worst PL seasons

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Upgraded Saints alive with potential … but now to handle the crunch

Friday, November 21st, 2014

By Brian Sears

21 November 2014

Fans of Southampton must have been pinching themselves over the last year or so, having built on the survival of their ‘return’ season to the Premier League in 2012-13 with two storming starts last season and this.

They were ever-present in the revamped top division between 1992 and 2005, and counting the 2012-13 season too they averaged a little under 10 points from their first 11 games in each of those 14 PL campaigns.

Then last season their haul from the opening 11 games shot up to 22 points, and despite the turmoil of the summer at St Mary’s, that has risen again this season to 25 points from 11 games. Before this weekend’s action commences that puts them in second place behind Chelsea (who are in amazing shape) and, for the moment, four points clear of last season’s champions, Manchester City.

Article continues below

Saints after 11 in PL

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Southampton already have eight win from 11 league games this season – two more than last season and seven more than two seasons ago at the same stage. This is extraordinary stuff by the Saints ‘normal’ PL standards over the past two decades. Indeed in 1995-96, they kept their Premier League status while winning just nine games all season.

So what has changed?

Last season Mauricio Pochettino, in his first and only full season with Southampton, continued the work started by Nigel Adkins and helped to bring the best out of a group of players mostly already in the Saints system for a long time before he arrived. Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert and Calum Chambers were among them. Dejan Lovren was one player bought in on Pochettino’s watch, for what turned out to be a bargain £10m, and he was a good counterpoint to a £15m waste of money that Pochettino also purchased, Dani Osvaldo.

The Saints then lost an executive chairman, Nicola Cortese, and Pochettino went to Spurs in the summer, replaced by Ronald Koeman. And the Dutchman, with the substantial assistance of the long-standing and highly methodical in-house recruitment unit, oversaw an extraordinary upgrade.

Why extraordinary? Because on the face of it Southampton sold all their best players yet replaced them with better players while spending tens of millions of pounds less than they received. This was no fire sale. A fire sale is “the sale of goods at extremely discounted prices, typically when the seller faces bankruptcy or other impending distress.” This was almost the opposite of a fire sale. This was the sale of goods at top-whack prices.

The graphic below tells its own story. Fraser Forster came in for £10m from Celtic as Artur Boruc went on loan to Bournemouth. Forster has been part of a defensive unit keeping seven clean sheets in the league.

Also playing key roles in that back line have been full-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand. Clyne was already at the club and Bertrand came in on loan from Chelsea with an option for Saints to make the deal permanent. Out went Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers, respectively to Manchester United and Arsenal, for £43m combined. Saints sold Lovren for £20m and re-invested £6m in Florin Gardos while also taking the La Liga-winning Toby Alderweireld on loan from Atletico with an option to buy.

The solidity of the Alderweireld-Jose Fonte pairing at centre-half ahead of Forster, in turn protected by shielding defensive midfielders, allows the progressive Clyne and Bertrand to get forward with confidence of cover.

The upgrading continued in midfield, where it might recently have seemed sacrilegious to suggest Lallana was anything less than Saint’s heartbeat and soul. But one of the more astonishing aspects of the summer upgrade is that Dusan Tadic – bought from Twente for £10.9m – has been better than Lallana was. And Southampton bought both Tadic and Senegal wing man Sadio Mane combined with the money they got for Lallana, and still had £4.1m left over.

And then there were the striking changes, Rickie Lambert sent with the good wishes and blessing of all Saints fans to boyhood club Liverpool. And there was even four million quid in it for Saints. In came Graziano Pelle from Feyenoord, as did Shane Long from Hull as the low-profile Billy Sharp went to Leeds.

The upshot? A pretty decent team from last season, dismantled, upgraded – and with a £37.7m profit.

Nobody would suggest this is the sort of thing any football club should be doing on a regular basis. Or perhaps at all. But that’s a taste of why Southampton are still doing pretty much as well this season as they were at this stage last year.

As we’ll come to in a moment …..

Article continues below (and click to enlarge graphic)

Upgrading at SM

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Southampton fans trying to keep their feet on the ground will not need reminding that from a situation similar to the current one, last season they went on to gain only two points from their next six games. In the terminology of the stats geek – and this is being penned while wearing the free anorak handed out at the StatsGeek2014 convention – the Saints might well be argued to have benefitted this season (and last season by the same stage) from ‘schedule bias’. Or in laymen’s terms – easy fixtures so far.

Thus Saints fans will be eyeing up their matches leading up to Christmas. And there are one or two or three eerie similarities. A year ago their next six games were Arsenal, Chelsea, Villa, City, Newcastle and Spurs. This year Arsenal also feature in the next six, after Villa and City in the next two games, then Manchester United, Burnley and Everton are far from gimme games. Chelsea lie just beyond those.

Saints alive! Alive with potential. But how Koeman’s upgraded team handle the crunch will be key to whether they push into the new year with something genuinely remarkable still on the cards.

Article continues below

Saints crunch

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… And another thing

This weekend’s fixtures have thrown up a remarkable set of contrasting ties – six at 3pm on Saturday with a Premier League head-to-head history of home dominance, then four from Saturday tea-time onwards where none of the home sides have won more than 40 per cent of home PL meetings with this weekend’s opponents.

The six fixtures at 3pm on Saturday have collectively been played 39 times in the PL era, with 29 home wins for a 74% win rate plus seven draws (18%) and just three home defeats. The tea-time onwards fixtures have been played 45 times in the PL era with just 15 home wins (33%), 16 draws (36%) and 14 away wins (31 per cent).

If history is our guide then it’s home wins for Chelsea, Everton, Leicester, City, Newcastle and Stoke this weekend while Arsenal, Palace, Hull and Aston Villa shouldn’t expect easy rides on their own turf.

The game-by-game breakdown is in the graphic below.

Home and away, contrasts 21.11.14

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Chelsea’s 10 unbeaten games keeps them on Invincibles course ….

Friday, November 7th, 2014

By Brian Sears

7 November 2014

The 2014-15 Chelsea vintage are the 17th side to get into double figures of undefeated games at the start of a Premier League season but how long will they go unbeaten? Fourteen of their 16 predecessors did not get beyond 15 unbeaten games, although famously, 11 years ago, Arsenal set the ultimate standard in this regard.

In the end their unbeaten run had lasted 49 games (including all 38 league games of 2003-04, read about that here) and, of course, they lost it at Old Trafford in October 2004.

Only three of these unbeaten runs have been ended on home territory and Manchester United have most often been the team to bring a run to its end. Surprisingly, perhaps, United appear only once in the table below, albeit on the second best such run in the PL era, four seasons ago on their way to be Champions with only four defeats all season.

Article continues below 

PL 10 unbeaten

If Chelsea are to get anywhere close to Arsenal then they will need, as a minimum, to get through all these matches unscathed:

November: 8 Liverpool (A); 22 West Brom (H); 29 Sunderland (A).

December: 3 Tottenham (H); 6 Newcastle (A); 13 Hull (H); 22 Stoke (A); 26 West Ham (H); 28 Southampton (A).

(From this distance out, the title decider at Southampton looks the biggest banana skin of those. He jested).

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And another thing …

Sunderland’s win at Crystal Palace on Monday consigned the three promoted clubs to the three Premier League relegation spots: Leicester with 9 points, QPR with 7 and Burnley with 4.  That’s a total of 20 points and each club has played 10 games.

In no previous Premier League season has such a small total of points been gathered at this stage by the promoted clubs. And in six of the 23 seasons promoted clubs have gained at least twice as many points. In the one season when all three promoted clubs were relegated, after 10 games 25 points had been managed: Palace had 11, Bolton 8 and Barnsley 6.

This season Burnley have found points most difficult to win; they are the only side in the top seven tiers of English league football yet to record a win. But history can provide them comfort and inspiration. Only one other promoted side has gained four points at this stage of the season and that was Southampton two seasons ago, and Saints then went on to collect 37 points from their next 28 games to finish 14th.

Only two promoted clubs have gained fewer points from the first 10 games. Last season Crystal Palace had three points at this stage but then they gained 42 points from 28 games to rise to 11th. The example that Burnley must seek to avoid is that of Swindon 21 years ago. They had three points from 10 games, added 27 from the next 32 games (42 games in a Premier League season back then) and still ended 13 points short of safety.

Low point for 3 promoted

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City host United in Manchester derby on crest of rivalry rollercoaster

Friday, October 31st, 2014

By Brian Sears

31 October 2014

The Manchester derby on Sunday reminds us how the pendulum has swung to the blue side of the city in recent years, and the graphic below charts the dramatic change over time.

Manchester City have only been in the same division as United for 17 of the past 22 years of course – because in the other five years they were playing below the Premier League.

But all the league meetings in those 17 years are mapped below, and we have created the chart on the right-hand side of the graphic to show the roller-coaster of respective dominance. The team winning the fixture at each venue is depicted for each season, and the points won in the league derbies each season are noted, and then a three-year ‘rolling’ total of derby points has been graphed.

Some observations from this data:

1: The gap between the two sides when they’ve been in the Premier League for any three straight seasons was biggest at the end of the 1995-96 season when United had won seven straight derbies and all six in that rolling period to lead it 18-0.

2: The gap was next in double figures when United led City 16-1 at the end of the 2010-11 season after five wins and a draw in the previous six derbies. And then the next time it was in double figures was at the end of last season; the pendulum had swung, and City led 15-3 after five wins and one defeat in the six derbies to then. City are on the crest of the rollercoaster ride now.

3: City have won six matches of 17 at home against United in the PL. They have drawn two at home. That leaves nine United wins at City in the PL era. In the last six derbies played at City, United have won three, City two and there has been one draw.

4: City have won the last three derbies they’ve played at Old Trafford.

5: City won just one derby in the first 11 years of the PL, a period in which United did derby doubles over them in three of the six seasons they met.

6: City have won nine derbies in the second 11 years of the PL, five at home and four away. City have only ever won consecutive home Premier League derbies once in the PL era, in the 2002-03 season followed by in 2003-04.

Article continues below

Manc derby in PL to 31.10.14.

And another thing …

Aston Villa made a bright start to the season with 10 points from the first four games but have now suffered five straight defeats and not scored a goal in their last 531 minutes of league football.

Now they face Tottenham who they have not beaten since 15 September 2008; that was at White Hart Lane when goals from Nigel Reo-Coker and Ashley Young were answered by Darren Bent’s consolation in the last few minutes of the game.

Villa have endured a non-winning run against Tottenham since then that is longer than the non-winning runs against all the other current PL teams, as today’s second graphic shows.

Article continues below

Villa winless v Spurs

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And yet another thing …

In their four seasons as Premier League residents, Swansea have played 27 different clubs and got at least one draw from each and every club. They have won five of seven meeting against West Brom, and five of six against Fulham, and won four of seven plus drawn two against Newcastle.

But against both Tottenham and Everton they have just the one draw and no win in six PL games so far.

They play Everton this weekend.

Swansea PL record to 31.10.14

 

 

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Arsenal bedevilled by too many draws as trip to stalemate Sunderland looms

Friday, October 24th, 2014

By Brian Sears

24 October 2014

The two Premier League clubs with the most draws so far this season meet this weekend when Sunderland (five draws in eight league matches) host Arsenal (ditto).

Ten places separate those two clubs, with Arsenal in seventh and Sunderland in 17th before the weekend’s action starts. And three points separate them. So tight is the table at this stage, in fact, that two wins could theoretically move Newcastle from the relegation zone to the Champions League spots.

Before we consider the importance of draws (and they are especially important to get or avoid depending on which end of the table you operate), here are the amount of draws secured so far by the 20 Premier League this campaign.

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PL draws 14-15 to 24.10.14

Arsenal have converted two of their undrawn games into wins but Sunderland only one of theirs, and the eight goals Sunderland conceded at Southampton last week has damaged their goal difference severely. Sunderland will need at least a five-goal win against the Gunners to move above them in the table this weekend.

The bigger picture on the relevance of draws is that Sunderland are just managing to keep themselves out of the drop zone by drawing all those games instead of losing; and Arsenal are not nearly as high up the table as they would like because they are drawing too many games instead of winning them.

As the second graphic goes some way to illustrating, teams that draw the most matches tend not to pull up too many trees. (Let’s not be coy; they’re a bit dull). And those that draw the fewest games are a polarised bunch of excellent teams (who draw few because they’re winning many) and poor teams (who are too poor to draw too many and just keep losing).

On that basis, we might crudely say the bore-draw specialists in the Premier League include Aston Villa, Stoke and Leicester, while the best teams (Man Utd, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea) are drawing similarly low proportions of games to the poor teams (like Burnley and QPR, and in years gone by, Barnsley, Reading and others).

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Draws PL to 24.10.14

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The phenomenon of too many drawn games has bedevilled much of Arsenal’s Premier League history, not least in the days when they were trying to compete with United. That seems a long while ago now, doesn’t it, for more than one reason?

Long-term, United have set the example of turning draws into wins to put them 216 points ahead of Arsenal over the 23 seasons of the PL era – the ‘monied era’ that makes it appropriate separating from the ‘pre-Sky’ years before 1992-93.

Aspirations to top the Premier League seem to involve avoiding too many draws. While the avoidance of relegation often involves gaining more draws by changing odd goal defeats into draws. As the long-term table above shows, Arsenal have a higher share of draws in their Premier League history than Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and even Tottenham as well as United.

But this season even Man Utd are slipping from their winning ways having already chalked up three draws from four away games played. That level of stalemate achievement should at least help keep them up ….

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