I've commented over the weeks regarding my view that there are 7 bad teams in the league and whilst West Brom seem keen to add themselves to the list, there are more signs that 3 of the 7 would like to form a special group of their own. They could be regarded similarly, and without improvements most likely will: 'relegated teams' seems a potentially apt descriptive term. Who are these miserable three, and why?
Problem: 4 shots.
Old Trafford may not be as intimidating as it once was, but achieving 4 shots over 90 minutes is about as bad as it gets. Hull pulled the same trick at Arsenal whilst somehow drawing 2-2 but here such generosity from the opposition was not forthcoming & they were so routinely trounced that even Van Persie scored. Despite results, Hull's early season numbers were pretty bad & Steve Bruce chuckled his way through a few fortunate interviews, but the joke has now worn wafer-thin. A rolling 5 game conversion rate of 3% on an average of 1.8 shots on target per game is truly the stuff of nightmares, they've lost 4 straight & are now the worst shots team in the league. Nowt to smile about, Steve.
Problem: 32 shots
Real 'run about a bit' stuff at Loftus Road in a match that featured a historically high 51 shots, indeed @Etnar_UK informed me he'd had heard it was an all time Opta recorded high & certainly I can find no higher. So what the hell was this, a basketball style shoot out? Could have gone either way? Well... The chief problem I have with this game & Leicester's 'contribution' is the concession of 32 shots against.
Concession of 30+ shots in a game occurs on average about 8 times a season, across the league. Chelsea have an excellent record in the 'for' column here & generally the big clubs have a near monopoly on achieving such high shot totals. It isn't something that relegation threatened teams like QPR achieve very often at all & not what you'd like to concede against such direct rivals. As a contrast, bad teams have a strong history of terrible defensive games. In the past, teams like Blackpool '10-11 (twice), QPR '11-12 (twice) & Cardiff '13-14 (once against also relegated Norwich) have each represented a commitment to avoiding defense by conceding 30+ shots.
So: a match against direct relegation rivals & you concede 32 shots? Very, very bad.
Problem: worse than Villa
Villa, who have shown an abysmal attacking instinct throughout the season, managed to hit year high totals for shots & shots on target against poor Burnley. Much like the QPR v Leicester match, coming up well short against direct rivals is a clear indicator of deep trouble ahead & in this instance Burnley were playing at home. They've been a bad team all year but have only reached the nadir of my background scores these last couple of weeks. Last week they recorded 50% pass success, which is a horrible figure, whilst being outshot 5:1. This week, they have single handedly allowed the worst shots team in the league to become the 2nd worst shots team in the league. This is bad.
Week by week league wide shot conversion
The season started with extremely high conversion rates, indeed against a long term league average of around 10% the week of Southampton's 8-0 mauling of Sunderland ran at over 13%, a high, but in line with earlier weeks' overperformance. Since then, goals have become more scarce & the conversion rate hasn't broken 9% for 5 weeks. This week was a new low of under 7.5%. And so steadily it heads towards an expected rate, but it's taken two extremes to get there.
There have been a few storylines this season that have become quickly entrenched; certain teams are in crisis, certain managers have had their day, all praise John Q Manager for his team's fine start and so on. The media & fans have bedded down & decided whether they're happy or not, all the while failing to notice whether any wider truth might be concealed in amongst the underlying figures.
This week, we have witnessed some truths revealed via those age old football means: goals and results. And so, crises are halted, editorials suspended and fan protests look rather silly. An entertaining postscript to all this is the raft of games forthcoming over the next 7 days. Two more full rounds of games may well indicate a quick return to crisis, or maybe, we are seeing the first green shoots of a reversion to the status quo. All the money clubs bar Chelsea won and this week, officially, Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham have all set sail for the top 4. Yep, that's right: the top 4 that won't hold 7.
So where have we found regression?
- Southampton concede 3, score none and their PDO drops from a very high 113 to a notsohigh 106.
- Swansea, whilst still riding high in some underlying numbers, managed to draw at home to Palace. A 'meh' result by any measure but far more representative of their actual quality.
- Chelsea, powered to the top via crazy high conversion rates, specifically those of Costa, manage to score nothing against Sunderland, despite 20 odd shots.
- Arsenal, coming off two silly defeats & a season of high opposition conversion got a win their dominance deserved & kept a clean sheet.
West Ham have been great Big Sam has got them playing alright they made great signings can beat anyone on their day Big Sam knows his onions alright Downing is one of the best creative forces in the league top 6 not out of the question you know, yeah?
Newcastle are flying doing really well Pards has worked some magic there alright good signings can beat anyone on their day European place there for the taking he's done it before has Alan, yeah?
And West Ham won 1-0, so this week Big Sam is the smart guy & Pardew goes back to the drawing board. But: so what? For all the media interest surrounding events at these two clubs i've got them pegged as firmly mid-table teams. They will not get relegated, they will not challenge for Europe. They will meander through the season and end up in 10th and 11th place. Shooting numbers, possession stats, passing figures & all you can derive from these numbers indicate 50% teams. If we're still hearing about these teams in April or May, I will be surprised. This isn't to say Allardyce can't be congratulated for improving his team; he has, but they've spent good money & mid table should be expected, indeed, they shouldn't have been as bad as they were for so long last year. Ditto, Pardew. Newcastle should be comfortable, it's just that they are both league average, and that's as good as it gets. Sorry!
Obligatory Tottenham bit
Last week, I was positive. Flying in the face of fan consensus, I thought there had been significant improvements in the numbers that weren't quite translating into the results & here we are a week later with a delighted fanbase, the best performance of the season, players in from the cold (Chiriches, Lennon, Paulinho), a team with an average age of about 15, full of homegrown talent and even a goal for Roberto Soldado.
Good times! Exactly the right time to go to Stamford Bridge then. Tsk.
Still: noted underperformers Kaboul, Adebayor and Capoue are 'injured' and we have seen a clear change in 'philosophy' from the coach. It looked like a 4-4-2 variant out there today, and that might have been just because Lennon played but the pressing, by god! It was like watching Southampton last year, and that is something we'd not seen until now. Pochettino appears to have decided to trust in youth, follow the same blueprint he did at Southampton and take control. Bentaleb, who only days ago turned 20, returned for a first start alongside Mason & looked every bit the old hand he did last year. Suddenly the CM2 was working & two kids were at the controls. Kane, a man whose game smarts belie his young age, was again excellent. Davies seems to have developed real tenacity & Fazio no longer looks the Dawson clone his early performances indicated. Hell, even calamity Chiriches looks a player, reformed in at right back. Indeed for 10 minutes we had the tantalising prospect of Lamela and Chiriches as our right side: just pure flair. And Eriksen! Totally embroiled in the work ethic & nifty as ever.
The only complaint I can put forward here is that the performance was a little too much like Southampton '13-14: they ran out of puff & offered less as the game wore on. Despite this, the win was well deserved & even if Everton had managed an equaliser, only the most cycloptic of fan could deny the very obvious improvement that has been forthcoming over the course of the last 3 matches. Villas Boas splutted intially & started 5-2-5 then lost only 3 more games over the course of the season. Pochettino has also started 5-2-5 and appears to be on the right track.
Thanks for reading!
Earlier this week I wrote an article that was published on Statsbomb about Southampton & their excellent start. By allowing Man City to destroy them, they will have enabled some easy dismissiveness but I think they've still got a lot going for them. City are still a dominant force & some mild regression against them was inevitable. Read it HERE
We also have midweek Premiership games this week which may well allow a BONUS column and I'm also working on a manager profile, so keep alert & check back regularly for more content.