PL Reload - MD 28Mar 21
Premier League stats of the season: What the numbers taught us in 2019/20 – from a dribbling renaissance to why De Bruyne’s assists don’t do him justice
FootballCritic.com picks out some of the more intriguing trends set during the 2019/20 Premier League season with a deeper dive into the numbers.
With the 2019/20 Premier League season finally completed, FootballCritic.com have broken down some of the statistical trends, the individual performers and stories within the numbers from the elongated top-flight campaign.
Get BT Sport today - contract free
Watch BT Sport's unbeatable line-up of world-class live sport for just £29.99 per month.
1. Kevin De Bruyne
Assists can be a little bit misleading sometimes, given that an assist requires the co-operation of a team-mate in order to register, and though De Bruyne’s 20 assists puts him level with Thierry Henry’s record from 2002/03, when you look at chance creation, it’s even better.
The Belgian made 34 Big Chances - which is defined as a chance the forward would reasonably be expected to score - which is the total of second and third, Riyad Mahrez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, combined. It also gives an insight into the profligacy of his Manchester City team-mates this season.
For comparison, the 16 assists De Bruyne achieved in 2017/18 came from 19 Big Chances. 34 is a simply colossal total, and it should have been converted into the highest assist total in Premier League history.
His consolation prize is that since transferring to a top five league in 2012, only Lionel Messi has recorded more assists than him - an incredible feat.
2. Dribbling is back!
In 2018/19, Eden Hazard (4.2 completed dribbles per 90 minutes) was someway ahead of the rest of the competition (minimum 1,000 minutes) - only Wilfried Zaha (3.4) gets close and it’s only these two who get above three P90.
But carrying the ball has certainly been more popular.
Adama Traore leads the way with an unbelievable 6.3 completed dribbles P90 (he put up similar numbers in 18/19 with a much smaller sample size). Allan Saint-Maximin isn’t far behind him on 5.6, but when compared to last year with two, we have nine who completed more than three dribbles P90.
They aren’t all wide players, either; the likes of Emiliano Buendia (3.5) and Mateo Kovacic (3.3) showcase more central players who are excellent at progressing with the ball at their feet.
3. Pass, pass, pass
For the third season in succession, four of the top five passers per 90 minutes in the Premier League (min. 1,000 mins) are Manchester City players; Aymeric Laporte (92.8) Rodri (92.5), Ilkay Gundogan (86.2) and Oleksander Zinchenko (84.8).
Only Joe Gomez (88.3) breaks up the monopoly. In 18/19 it was Jorginho and in 17/18 it was, maybe surprisingly, our current Football Writer’s Player of the Year, Jordan Henderson.
City top passers yet again
Four of the top five passers in the Premier League were Man City players for a third season in succession.
Not only that, but four of the five players who have made the most passes into the final third are City players.
In 18/19 and 17/18, Mesut Ozil and Eden Hazard inserted themselves into the top five, but with the German exiled and Hazard gone, the mantle has passed to Bruno Fernandes, with 31 final third passes P90, to stop City’s clean sweep, with David Silva (35.0), De Bruyne (30.3), Zinchenko (29.8) and Bernardo Silva (28.3).
City’s possession game is not big news but, if anything, they are camped more than ever in opposition territory in matches, passing them around until a gap opens up.
4. English Golden Boot winner
Jamie Vardy became just the third English player in the 21st century to win the Premier League Golden Boot, with his 23 goals putting him one clear of fellow Englishman Danny Ings and the 2018/19 winner, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. At 33, he is also the oldest player ever to claim the prize, a year older than Didier Drogba was in 2009/10.
Kevin Phillips’ 30 goals in the 1999/00 season and Harry Kane, who triumphed in 2015/16 and 2016/17, are the only others to have achieved the feat.
But the forward who was most efficient with his minutes in front of goal was Sergio Aguero. Due to rotation and injuries the Argentine played just 1,456 Premier League minutes, but scored 16 goals, giving him a goal P90 total of 0.99, well clear of Ings’ 0.70.
5. There’s always next season…
For some of the league’s poorest finishers, they’ll already be looking at getting in some shooting practice in the close season.
The three worst strikers in the league in terms of conversion rate - David McGoldrick (4%), Joelinton (4%) and Christian Benteke (5%) - played 5,736 minutes between them and scored just six goals - a goal every 956 minutes and a goal every 23 shots taken.
Sheffield United fans will of course point to the excellent work McGoldrick does as part of the collective, but it’s unlikely Newcastle or Crystal Palace fans would be so generous.
6. Newcastle might not get away with numbers like these again
Steve Bruce has always been keen to stress the scores on the board when asked questions about his side’s dominance in matches this season, but it’s hard to shake that the underlying numbers are those akin to a relegated side.
Their expected goals for of 36.15 is 19th in the division, while their 66.5 expected goals against is 17th. And when we look at their expected points - which is calculated based on simulations of the individual outcomes of matches using expected goals for and against - Newcastle are bottom of the revised table.
Newcastle had the 19th-best expected goals in the division, yet managed to finish 13th in the table.
In terms of passes within 20 yards of goal (excluding crosses), their total of just 132 is by far the lowest in the division; by comparison, Manchester City have made four times as many. What’s more, only Norwich have allowed an opponent more passes in the same area.
With takeover talk still ongoing, it’s still unclear what kind of Newcastle we’ll get next season but if their statistical performance mirrors this one, they’ll be clear relegation candidates.
7. Penalty Kings?
Manchester United were awarded an astonishing 14 penalty kicks, the most ever, beating the previous record of 13 set by Crystal Palace in 2004/05 and Leicester in their league-winning season of 2015/16.
Marcus Rashford has scored six of them but also missed two, while Bruno Fernandes netted his fourth out of four on the final day win over Leicester. Earlier in the season both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba had missed.
Of the 12 that were scored, eight of them came when Manchester United were drawing the contest, meaning the penalty goal had a direct impact on the result of those matches.
United have no doubt been in excellent form since lockdown and their Champions League qualification is an excellent result, but their reliance on penalties to shape the outcome of games would be of minor concern - they still have work to do on the creative front.
8. David Luiz
David Luiz’s form has the ability to traverse from the sublime to the ridiculous and, true to form, after two accomplished displays against Liverpool and Manchester City, he returned to his old ways against Watford.
He became the first Premier League player in history to give away five penalty kicks in a single season, achieving this by clattering Watford’s Danny Welbeck in Arsenal’s final match at the Emirates.
Gunners’ fans must be asking themselves - how does Good Luiz weigh up against Bad Luiz?