Alex Stewart

Alex is a Southampton supporting writer based in north London. He writes about sports and coffee for a variety of magazines and websites. He likes hermits, reading, drawing, forests, and graphic novels. He creates By The Numbers and provides scripts for the Whiteboard Football: Tactics
  • Youth In The Premier League

    In the 2016/17 season, the Premier League saw 16-year-old Angel Gomes play two minutes for Manchester United and 41-year-old Shay Given notch up 450 minutes for Stoke City, before the Potters realised that maybe signing Lee Grant was a better idea. Gomes was the only player born in 2000 to appear, while Given appeared in this world, presumably already with enormous hands and tendency to misjudge crosses, in 1976. ...

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  • By The Numbers: Should Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud Stay or Go?

    The rumour mill has suggested that Olivier Giroud could be on his way out of Arsenal, with a transfer to West Ham or Lyon as part of a swap deal with Alexandre Lacazette the latest mooted moves. Giroud, who joined the Gunners in 2012 and has scored 69 goals in 164 Premier League appearances, has at times been a divisive figure among Arsenal fans. His physical presence invites a more direct, aerial style, which is anathema to many Arsenal fans and, often, to their manager. But how does his performance stack up against other Gunners and how much has he brought to the team? ...

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  • By The Numbers: Is Eden Hazard Really The Best Player In The League?

    N’Golo Kante won the PFA Player of the Year for the 2016/17 season, the annual award given to the player deemed best that year by members of the Professional Footballers’ Association. There is a school of thought, though, that says Kante wasn’t the best player in the season just past; indeed, he was not even the best Chelsea player. The other name in the mix is Eden Hazard, but how did the Belgian attacking midfielder stack up statistically this season? ...

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  • By The Numbers: Premier League Season Stats Round-Up

    Chelsea clinched the title at a canter, confirming it with a win against West Brom. In the final game of the season, against already sunken Sunderland, they became the first side to win 30 games in a 38-game-season, beating the previous record of 29 set by Chelsea in 2004/05 and 2005/06. In the end, their 2.45 points per game showed only a 0.01 points per game dip from their form up to 28 games played, a remarkable level of consistency and the second highest points total in the Premier League era, two behind Jose Mourinho’s 2004/05 Chelsea side, who managed 95, and the best in the last ten years by some distance.  

    Year Team Games played Points PPG  
    2016/17 Chelsea 38 93 2.45  
    2012/13 Manchester United 38 89 2.34  
    2006/07 Manchester United 38 89 2.34  
    2011/12 Manchester United 38 89 2.34  
    2008/09 Manchester United 38 90 2.37  
    2011/12 Manchester City 38 89 2.34  
    Once again, Spurs have had the best goal difference in the league but not won the title – this has happened eight times now since 1992/93, and last season Spurs were two goals better than Leicester. Indeed, Spurs are the only side in the Premier League era to twice have recorded a higher goal difference than the Champions in a season, and yet never won a Premier League title. Harry Kane had a hand in 36 goals, scoring 29 to take the Golden Boot and assisting seven more; Christian Eriksen also excelled, with 15 assists, second only to Kevin De Bruyne. Goals came easy to Spurs, but they were only one of seven teams for whom the balance between scoring and defending tilted in the positive. In 2015/16, only one team in the top 11, Stoke City who finished 9th, had a negative goal difference: [2015/16 top eleven] By contrast, only the top seven this season had a positive goal difference.
    Teams GD Points
    Leicester City 32 81
    Arsenal 29 71
    Tottenham 34 70
    Man City 30 66
    Man Utd 14 66
    Southampton 18 63
    West Ham 14 62
    Liverpool 13 60
    Stoke City -14 51
    Chelsea 6 50
    Everton 4 47
    [2016/17 top seven]
    Teams GD Points
    Chelsea 52 93
    Tottenham 60 86
    Man City 41 78
    Liverpool 36 76
    Arsenal 33 75
    Man United 25 69
    Everton 18 61
    Interestingly, the average goal difference of the top six in both years is markedly different: In 2015/16, the average goal difference of the top six was plus 26.2. In 2016/17, the average goal difference of the top six was plus 41.2. Similarly, the average points tally of the top six is ten points higher: 2015/16 saw an average points’ total for the top six of 69.5, whereas this season’s average points total for the top six was 79.5. Chelsea achieved 12 points more than last season’s Champion Leicester City, and this season’s Spurs tally would have been enough to win the league last year too; indeed, the teams who finished 3rd to 5th this season would have won enough points to finish second last season. All this suggests less that this season’s sides were better, but more that there was a greater difference between the top six or seven sides and the rest in this year’s league than last year. The gap might be widening. It also suggests that anyone who says Spurs ‘bottled’ anything should look at evidence and context rather than grasp at narratives that often rest on the credulity of consumers rather than any footballing reality. That’s not to say the league was a goal fest for everyone. While it is true that the average goals per game rose to 2.80 from the last two seasons’ 2.57 and 2.70 (and was almost the highest ever in the Premier League era, 2.81 in 2011/12), two teams this season recorded seven 0-0 draws. Indeed, this is the first season since 1998/99 that more than one team recorded seven or more 0-0 draws, with the league record nine 0-0s in one season. [Teams since 2000/01 who have had seven or more 0-0s]
    Team Season Number of 0-0 draws
    Tottenham Hotspur 2000/01 7
    Fulham 2001/02 8
    Birmingham City 2003/04 7
    Manchester City 2006/07 7
    Fulham 2008/09 8
    Blackburn Rovers 2009/10 7
    Aston Villa 2011/12 7
    Sunderland 2014/15 9
    Middlesbrough 2016/17 7
    Southampton 2016/17 7
    While lacklustre ‘Boro cannot be considered a surprise presence in this list, scoring a league-low 27 goals, Southampton struggled too. They scored 41 goals, joint 14th lowest in the league, but their shot conversion rate of 7.45% was the lowest in the league. It wasn’t just in front of goal where ‘Boro struggled; they also created the fewest chances, 249, compared to league leading Spurs’ 507. Not all goals are assisted, obviously, so the percentage of chances that yield an assist is a better measure of creative efficiency than chances to goals. In this regard, Southampton were second worst, second only to the dire Sunderland, but having created over 100 more chances. Indeed, no player in the league with at least one assist saw fewer of his chances created turned into goals than Saints’ Nathan Redmond. Redmond created 57 chances for his one assist, a 1.8% chance into assist conversion. Southampton are a good goal-scorer away from being a good side.
    Team Chances created Assists % chances yielding assists
    Sunderland 266 12 4.5
    Southampton 396 27 6.8
    Stoke City 300 23 7.7
    West Ham United 358 29 8.1
    Middlesbrough 249 21 8.4
    Burnley 267 23 8.6
    Watford 299 26 8.7
    Manchester United 453 41 9.1
    Hull City 272 25 9.2
    Swansea City 302 32 10.6
    And the most efficient sides? Only five managed to convert more than 11% of chances into assisted goals:
    Team Chances created Assists % chances yielding assists
    Chelsea 451 57 12.6
    Arsenal 434 54 12.4
    West Bromwich Albion 290 34 11.7
    Everton 394 46 11.7
    Tottenham Hotspur 507 59 11.6
    Once again, a Tony Pulis side achieves a better than expected rate of conversion of chances. West Brom, of course, led the league in set-piece conversion - perhaps a focus on set-piece conversion is the way to guarantee better efficiency in chance conversion and goal-scoring? Lastly, though, something to chew on (for Pep, as much as anyone): the average finishing league position for the side with the best possession in the last decade was between third and fourth (3.8). No side has won the Premier League title in the last ten seasons and also managed the best share of possession across the season. The top six teams for possession this season show the same trend:
    Team Possession (%)
    Manchester City 64.93
    Liverpool 62.04
    Tottenham Hotspur 60.48
    Arsenal 58.65
    Manchester United 56.63
    Chelsea 54.75
    Again, the teams with the best possession finished 3rd and 4th. It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it. This season, Antonio Conte and Tony Pulis have taught us the value of that lesson.

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  • By The Numbers: Premier League Penalties

    This season, no game week has seen more than four penalties scored. So far, up to the evening of Monday of GW33, 75 penalties have been scored this season. As we saw a few weeks back roughly 82-84% of penalties won are scored in the Premier League historically, and the ratio is consistent. ...

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