PL Reload - MD 28Mar 21
Premier League stats review: Goal-shy Liverpool in crisis, Arteta's Arsenal toothless once again & Werner profits from dominant Chelsea
FootballCritic crunches the key numbers from another intriguing weekend of top flight action as Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd all drop points.
The 2020/21 Premier League season is well and truly at the business end of the campaign and there was plenty for fans to get their teeth into from a thrilling Matchday 33.
With all the action available via BT TV, BTSport.com teamed up with FootballCritic.com to review the weekend's action so far with an eye on the statistics.
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Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United
Liverpool’s slump in front of goal is now officially a full-blown crisis. Newcastle smashed and grabbed their way to a point which virtually secured their top-flight status, while the point for Liverpool effectively ended their Premier League top four hopes for the season.
The Reds amassed 2.9 xG in this contest but after Mo Salah’s emphatic early finish they squandered countless clear openings to put things to bed. And the worrying thing will be that the wastefulness was contagious; Salah went on to miss another two clear chances, but Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all equally culpable.
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Firmino and Mane’s form has been off the entire season; the smart decision-making and calmness in the final third that made the front trio with Salah the most formidable attacking unit in Europe has completely deserted them.
And that’s reflected in their individual xG totals for the season. Mane’s xG is 12 but has scored just eight in the league, while Firmino has 11.36 xG against just six in the league. That’s two forwards running nine goals behind where they should be. You have to wonder whether it’s the end for that trio as Liverpool’s default starting attack and whether a summer transfer could be an option.
Much of the focus, as it always is, was around the harsh red card handed to Fabian Balbuena, but that came with just eight minutes remaining and the fact is the West Ham we’ve been used to seeing simply never arrived.
The Hammers had scored 11 times in their last four outings but amassed just 0.27 xG in this one and never at any point looked like threatening the Chelsea goal. Indeed Thomas Tuchel’s Blues, who have a tumultuous week due to the Super League debacle followed by a nervy 0-0 draw against Brighton, will have been delighted by quite how easy West Ham made this.
Chelsea’s 2.52 xG highlighted their dominance in a match where they should have been far more convincing winners, and Timo Werner netting the only goal will be another source of satisfaction for them. It was just his sixth league goal, well behind the run rate of his xG, but in this case Werner’s been getting into the positions and has been a little unlucky. This could be the catalyst, with Real Madrid in wait in the Champions League.
And for West Ham, it’s a bad time to lose two matches in a row but their run-in - Burnley, Everton, Brighton, West Brom and Southampton - is kinder than others. It’s not over yet.
Another fixture where the actual action on the pitch seemed insignificant compared to the huge Super League protests taking place outside it, but Arsenal’s home form continues to lurch from bad, to worse, to unacceptable.
The Gunners have won only six (35%) of their 17 league matches at the Emirates. That has included losses to Everton here, as well as the likes of Burnley, Wolves and Aston Villa. They’ve drawn with Fulham, Crystal Palace and Southampton.
They have scored 19 goals at home, three less than Newcastle. Despite signing a bumper new contract, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang has scored goals in just three home matches in the league. Nicolas Pepe continues to provide nothing like the output expected of a €70m player, while Alexandre Lacazette’s lack of movement continues to be a factor.
Mikel Arteta was supposed to provide this team with the type of reset that could be built upon. But since the FA Cup success of last season his team have regressed further. The risible 0.74 xG amassed here has been typical of their toothless season. It’s certainly not the type of performance we would come to expect from a Super League participant.
It’s fair to say that on the road Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes to keep things tight, and that was reflected in this drab affair where goalscoring opportunities were at a premium.
The combined xG of both teams barely added up to a goal but United have bigger fish to fry - Roma in the Europa League followed by arch rivals Liverpool next Sunday.
And as a result this game just…. Happened. It proved to be another warning for the Super League aficionados - and indeed the reformed Super League - that pointless games in a league structure can and will happen no matter how many teams are involved. This felt like both teams would have been happy to put an X for a draw in the calendar and move on. How many of those would there have been in the Super League?