Monthly Archives: September 2012

Saints Alive

After Southampton started the season with four losses many commentators were saying that their double promotion was a case of too much too fast. However, they had faced some really tough opposition and as I pointed out last week they have had a rougher start and avoided relegation.
Up to half-time on saturday they were trailing the slow-starting Villa at home but a four goal blitz in the final 45 minutes dispelled some doubts there fans may have been entertaining

There is no doubt that spectators have been getting plenty of action at Saints games. In just five games there have been 24 goals scored, six more than any other team have been involved in. Against Villa, Southampton crammed their goals into a 32 minute spell and I thought I would check out how that rate of scoring four goals matches up all time. Turns out to be not that impressive though Saints do figure in the analysis quite highly

There have been ten instances so far this year (obviously games where five or more goals are scored will have more than one time gap between 3 goals) and Southampton’s only ranks fourth behind Arsenal’s 26 minute against, yep, the Saints
It is extremely unlikely that Arsenal’s figure will stand up all year. Here are the fastest spells for each EPL season

As can be seen, Southampton have been victimized more than any other team, including the worst ever shellacking in the inaugural season of the Premier League. The Saints were actually leading the game until the 54th minute when Spurs struck four body blows in as many minutes, with Sheringham contributing a brace
Amongst the usual suspects, there are the odd team in the fastest scorers table as Villa, twice, Ipswich and Derby feature

For the record, here are each team’s best performance all time

  • Norwich have never bettered their performance on Day 1 of the Premiership, a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over Arsenal.
  • Southampton’s 32 minute spell this year ranks 4th= in their list
  • Neither Hull or Swindon managed a 4 goal game in their stints at the top

Stumbling out of the Gate

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It seems that every year a major talking point is how well team X have started or how team Y have stumbled out of the gate. Last season Arsenal supporters and management – at least according journalists looking for a story – were panicking after the team had picked up just four points in five games including an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Man Utd.
I covered this in a post at the time. Their season didn’t work out too badly with a third place finish: teams will often have bad patches, especially when new players are bedding in. 60% of teams have at least one six game or longer winless sequence during a season

Nevertheless, this will always be a point of interest particularly when it confirms an ongoing narrative. Here are the teams that have , after four games, had their worst start in at least their last six years in the top flight (for the purpose of this exercise, three points for a win have been used for all seasons)

With a new manager in Brendan Rodgers and the debacle of disposing of Andy Carroll without an adequate replacement, Liverpool are very much under the microscope. They have had their worst statistical start in 89 top-flight years. In fact, they dominated the two drawn games and could be comfortably placed. However, it was the anticipated finishing problems that stood out and if the profligate Suarez is going to record as many goals as the next two scorers combined (as happened last year) it could be a long season.

QPR and Southampton have each only ever recorded one inferior start, albeit in relatively fewer seasons in the top league. The Saints started even worse in 1998/9 and continued in the same vein with just two points from nine games. Amazingly, they avoided relegation. Averaging a point a game, Villa’s season is not of particular note other than to show that they have tended to start quite well in recent years

On the flip-side, there are a couple of teams having their best starts is a while

Two, usually mediocre, teams probably just having a good spell. It is, however, West Brom’s best beginning to a Premiership campaign and Fulhams top one since 2006/7, when they recovered well from a 5-1 opening day loss to Man Utd.


After 10 games.

Debut Delight

On Saturday, there was a first for Manchester United in the EPL.
No it wasnt a 4-0 home victory – there have been 32 of those since April 1995.
Nor the pairing of Giggs and Scholes: they have now played in 349 league games together.
In fact, it was the first time Alex Ferguson introduced two new players who both responded with a goal. They are the 11th and 12th United players to score on their EPL debut.
Here is a summary for the leading teams

Each of the 45 teams that have graced the premiership have had at least one debut scorer although Swansea, scoreless in their first four games last season, had to wait for Michu in game 1 this year to join the group
Blackpool have the highest proportion but might have done with using one more players as they finished their only season in the top flight one point from safety.
As a side note, West Ham have used the most players, in spite of missing four EPL seasons.

Excluding those still playing, there have only been four players – and none since 1995 – who scored in their only game for a club: Morrison(CRP), Newhouse(WIM), Bull(NMF), Harford(COV). Of these, Bull’s appearance in the list is the most surprising. He is the only one of them who played as a starter and his strike was the sole goal of the mid-season game. Nevertheless, all he managed subsequently for Forest were two spots on the bench

Only two players have made at least another 30 appearances for the club without notching a goal: Zat Knight(40) with Villa – though he did score also for Fulham and Bolton -and Gabriel Heinze who featured in a further 50 league games for Man Utd without finding the net. He did however score twice in a Champions league game

Most multi debut scorers come in the early games of a season when there are plenty of EPL debutants. This latest occurence is only the second to take place after 19th August of any year. David Thompson and Neil Mellor both scored in their Wigan debuts on 21st January 2006,combining for three assists to boot. But they only totalled 11 more, scoreless, appearances between them for the club

Somewhat surprisingly, seven players have scored for three different teams including some not-that-prolific strikers

Murray loses his mantle

I do not often look at tennis stats, but Andy Murray’s marvellous victory in the US open
has encouraged me to dig into some Grand Slam Data, starting with the men’s singles

As has been well-documented, Murray had the dubious distinction, along with his
coach, Ivan Lendl, of losing in his first four Grand Slam Finals.
Lendl’s first win came in the 1984 French Open against John McEnroe. I recall Dan
Maskell commenting ,as McEnoe took a two set lead, that the American was possibly the
best player ever. However, Lendl dug deep and recorded seven more Slams in the next
six years. McEnroe, older by just one year, did not win a title after that season

Prior to his victory, Murray had the well-deserved reputation as the best player never to
win a slam. Assuming that you have to reach a grand slam final to even merit
consideration, he had left his rivals in the dust.
All of those with zero wins and three defeats played more than 50 years ago. Of these,
Eric Sturgess maybe has the best claim: born in 1920, World War II undoubtedly
impacted his opportunities. Including doubles competitions he totalled 15 GS finals.
There are a couple of more recent players who deserve consideration. Àlex Corretja
finished runner up in two French Opens and, at his peak, reached World Number 2,
whilst Robin Soderling also lost two French finals but may never compete again due to
his mononucleosis condition.
The final candidate is Andrei Medvedev. He only reached one Grand Slam final, the 1999
French. However, he has the distinction of being the only player to lose a Grand Slam
tournament whilst winning two or more games than the champion.
He was downed 6–1, 6–2, 4–6, 3–6, 4–6 by Agassi

Not that Murray will care much, but his notoriety of ‘failure’ has morphed into the
obscurity of being a one-time Grand Slam winner along with 65 others.
Here is the distribution, led by Federer’s 17 titles.

Of the sixty-six one-timers, Murray is one of only four who did not win more games than the runner up. He did, however, shade the points score, 160-155

I plan to take a look at the best players ever in a subsequent post

Owen’s Last Gasp?

After a lot of self-twittering, Michael Owen has managed to land up with a Premier League team; in Stoke
It will be interesting to see if he ever forms a Tall and Small duo with Peter Crouch or spends his season on the bench

Here is a graph monitoring his performances over the years. Each dot indicates
a squad appearance with its size representing the goals scored in a game.
He twice managed four in a game with Liverpool but only garnered five in a three year stint at Man Utd

Even at Liverpool, he often was used for less than 90 minutes but in none of his 31 Man U appearances did he play a full game. Over his career to date, 56% of his appearances have been complete games (Of players with more than 300 EPL games, Joe Cole is the lowest, at 37%).