Dispelling Premier League Myths: End of Season Trends

Thursday, April 1 2021

 

As we enter the final straight, Premier Injuries has done some number crunching to fill the Premier League shaped holes in our lives. We wanted to identify any data trends that may affect teams heading into this period.  


We examined four major areas, and we have hypothesised based on myths and stereotypes that are often associated with the end of the season. So, we decided to investigate to see if there was any truth behind:

  1. Do teams drop off after reaching the "safe" 40-point mark? (if they ever do!)
  2. The "summer holiday" effect resulting in a downturn during the final eight games.
  3. Do teams with "Nothing to Play For" really see an effect on performances?
  4. Do teams heavily rotate at the end of the season?

This article will explore the first two phenomena that are often discussed when the season is heading towards its final fixtures. We want to see if these seasonal stereotypes hold up to data scrutiny.


Looking at the previous 3-4 seasons, we were able to come to some valuable conclusions concerning these sides' data. These conclusions include league-wide trends and focus on the "Main Team Grouping" that we identify within the Premier League:

  • The Title Hunters: Top Two teams fighting for the Premier League.
  • European Teams: Those sides in and around the European qualification places.
  • Midtable: Teams unlikely/unable to make it into a position that would grant them European football in the following season.
  • Relegation battlers: Those who are fighting to stay up.

These groups all have different needs and motivations for their playstyles, and thus it made sense to put them into these groupings. A relegation-threatened side, or one that is in the title hunt, may have players that are prepared to work harder and push through injuries.


MAGIC 40: Do we see a drop off after a team reaches the "safe" 40-point mark?


For our first investigation, we looked at the effect of reaching "Premier League safety". Our inspiration was the story of Watford Football Club. Perennially, the Hornets would start strongly, secure safety, and then enter holiday mode:

2015/16: Reached 37 points after 27 games, only earning an additional eight points more.

2016/17: Lost their last six games of the season after reaching 40 points.

2017/18: Got to safety (GW29) and then earned five from the remaining fixtures.

2018/19: Hit the "safe" 40-point mark early (GW27), then went on to earn 10 points from 11 games, including three consecutive defeats to end the season.

In Premier League vocabulary, there is the hallowed "40 points'' which is seen as the traditional safety net in terms of a team's ability to avoid the drop. However, in terms of this being the actual marker point, the BBC conducted a fantastic investigation into this phenomena. They looked into the likelihood of a team staying up from their point totals and concluded that the worshipful 40 points was, in fact, outdated, "having been the threshold for survival just once in the last 16 years."

Below, the table from the BBC shows that once you reach the 36-point mark, you are more than likely to stay up.

Thumbing through the annals of seasons gone. In 2002/03, West Ham set the record for the highest points total for a relegated side (42). In Premier League history, only two other teams have finished in the Bottom Three with 40 points. These were Sunderland in 1996/97 and Bolton Wanderers in 1997/98. So, historically speaking, 43 points should be considered the best lowest points tally. But, because the "Safety Net" idea is a psychological one based around the mythological 40-point mark, we thought we would follow suit.

Our investigation found that 71% of teams will continue to perform at the same level or above even after securing their top-flight status. In the "Title Hunters" category, Liverpool (2019/20) was an incredibly anomalous performance. In all the other seasons, the sides in First or Second position actually finished with the strongest PPG during the run-in.

Down the table, those with the most potential for a downturn in overall PPG are those sides placed in 7th-9th. These teams experienced a loss in PPG and averaged eight place drop (vs Rest of the League): Liverpool, Everton, and Arsenal. You have been warned!

There seems to be value, and potential for a significant upturn, for those teams positioned in 15th-18th. We saw an average increase of 7 places and a higher overall PPG vs Rest of the League, so Burnley, Brighton, Newcastle, and Fulham could all be potential risers.

Only once, in 2017/18, has the bottom side (West Bromwich Albion) taken their Points Per Game to above 1.0 and finished outside the Bottom Two. This basically writes off Sheffield United and this season's incarnation of West Brom, who will do well to exceed their current 0.62 PPG.


WE'RE ALL GOING ON A SUMMER HOLIDAY: Do teams suffer a downturn after the International Break?


In this investigation, we changed methodology by looking at a game week rather than a points total being the motivating factor in a change of output.

Another Premier League argument that is often discussed within the football community is the fact that many teams appear to lose focus as they approach the end of the season. Sheffield United in 2019/20 is a good example: having already achieved their goals, they took their foot off the gas… Smaller sides fight hard throughout, and following a long campaign, their focus may have already shifted onto planning for next season. However, as with all of these discussions, there could be several influencing factors.

Looking at Gameweeks 30-38 and comparing it to the first 29 rounds of the season, we found that, first and foremost, the data seemed relatively stable across the whole of the league. The PPG increased, teams do score more, but on the flip side, they also concede a greater number of goals during this period.

However, breaking it down into specific groups. The Title Hunters (Top Two) push on a fair bit. They earn more PPG towards the end of the season; they score a lot more and concede only slightly more than before. The push for a title seems to bring out the best in these teams as they move up from 2.43 PPG onto an impressive 2.51 PPG. What is also enticing is that these sides score a lot more, with 0.36 goals per game. The teams maintain a high-quality defence, although let in 0.04 more goals per game. But the Title Hunters keep focusing and find another level with the title within reach.

The data below shows that the teams vying for European positions are the ones with drop off in some data. Their PPG goes down, as does their goalscoring. But their goals conceded stays relatively stable.

This could be due to these teams focusing on defensive fortitude to cement their places as the season draws to a close. Some managers play more like Mourinho than they might care to admit. There could be many reasons, but the data shows that the European hopefuls are cagier when it gets to the "business end" of the campaign.

Mid Table teams remain relatively unaffected. They have a slightly higher Points Per Game from GW30 onwards with a marginally improved goals per game (0.1) ratio during this period. There is also some improvement from their defence with more steely performances.

There are no surprises, though, that the greatest drop off is witnessed within the relegation-threatened teams. Quite often, there are teams in 19th or 20th place who, on paper, have a mathematical ability to stay up, but the reality is that by GW30, they are "relegated already". This is very much reflected in the data: there is a downturn in PPG for these teams, but what is most pronounced is the defensive and offensive data drop-offs from these sides. In the remaining gameweeks, these sides score 0.14 fewer goals per game and concede 0.27 more goals per game.

You can watch the accompanying video on the Premier Injuries YouTube channel here

We hope you enjoyed the first part of our investigation into the end of season trends. Make sure to check out Part Two, where we discuss what happens when teams have "nothing to play for" and how much rotation affects team selection. 

 


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Blank Gameweek 29 | Fantasy Premier League

Friday, March 19 2021

 

In a Fantasy Premier League season that has not offered us much, one would have hoped that this blank game week might have been a fun addition to the calendar. Unfortunately, the GW29 schedule gives us a super blank set of fixtures to navigate through without any outstanding picks, and even the punts feel a bit too far. What is most interesting is that these fixtures seem to pit teams of a similar ilk in terms of their attacking and defensive data.


Who is playing who?


Brighton vs Newcastle

I would invest in Brighton's defence as the Newcastle side are not good at attacking or defending.

Looking at their data, the Seagulls have been the second-best defence over the last six GWs, but like usual, Brighton have failed to deliver, letting in seven goals from an expected tally of 4.43 against.

The team have only allowed six big chances, 29 shots in the box, both 2nd best, and actually have the best total goal attempts conceded. But the data is still not translating as there is only one clean sheet in that period.

What gives me more certainty is the side that they are playing against Newcastle, who have been woeful due to the loss of their attacking players. Callum Wilson and Saint-Maximin are out, while Miguel Almiron is rated as 50/50 - and this is reflected in their incredibly poor attacking data.

Newcastle sit 3rd from bottom for xG over the last six in terms of attacking numbers, and all their forward line data is in the bottom half of the table.

This may also be a game week to take a punt on a Brighton forward as their underlying attacking data is good, and the Newcastle defence has not been great. The Seagulls have the 4th best shots inside the box and 5th best xG since GW23. But again, they have underperformed with an output of only five goals from 9.78 xG. Newcastle's numbers are not catastrophic, but they are bottom half of the table, and the side is low on confidence. If you are going to take a punt, this is the time as you will have only one week to suffer if it does not work!

So, the defensive assets have to be Sanchez and Dunk for me. Sanchez has some great stats to show why he is an upgrade on Ryan plus Dunk is a good attacker on set pieces from a side that does work on being great at dead ball situations.

The third Brighton slot could go to either:

  • Neal Maupay has the highest xGI of any Brighton player this season and is normally on penalties.
  • Pascal Gross can also take spot-kicks, is on set pieces and has the 4th highest chances created this season.
  • Leandro Trossard has the second-highest xGI of Brighton players, is also on set pieces and has the 2nd highest xG of any Brighton player over the last six gameweeks.

For me, it is a punt too far, and I can just about fathom some trust in a Brighton defence that has burned me recently. But my trust issues with the Seagulls stop me from going in fully on their forward assets.


Fulham vs Leeds

This game is a tough one to call as Fulham have looked defensively strong recently. The Lilywhites were Top Four in defensive data before Manchester City but still have impressive numbers after sitting 7th for overall xG conceded. But what interests me is that Leeds also have a similar xG conceded during this period and sit just above Fulham.

Over the last six, Fulham have looked better than Leeds going forward with a better xG, but Leeds have better chances created, shots in the box and Big Chances created where they are second in the Premier League.

So, you can see that this is a tough matchup. Leeds have been better in attack, but they face a side that has improved defensively of late with a lot to play for. My faith in this game is invested in the attacking players as I do not feel a clean sheet, for either side is on the cards.

Lookman has been the main person in Fulham's attack, but Maja also catches the eye with 3.35 xG over the last six (two goals). This is an opportunity for him to get on the scoresheet and for Fulham to match some of their good attacking data.

Leeds will also be up for this; Raphinha has the 4th best xGI over the last six gameweeks, and so is one of my favourites in this tie. Patrick Bamford must have a look in as well.


West Ham vs Arsenal

Over the course of this season, West Ham have been a Top Five defence and a relatively good attack. In their recent games, the Hammers attack abilities have decreased a little, and they face an Arsenal team that are doing a good job blocking out opponents.

Defence from both teams seems the sensible one for this game. It is a derby of sorts, so neither side will want to lose this game.

Looking at the numbers, Arsenal sits 3rd, and West Ham 4th for best xG conceded over the last six. West Ham have done better in meeting those expected numbers with three clean sheets and four goals conceded, but Arsenal have conceded fewer shots in the box and attempts in total. My leaning is more towards West Ham in this game as they seem to be matching their numbers, whereas Arsenal have no clean sheets.

What is worrying, though, and why my general focus is on West Ham is the risk of rotation for Arsenal. It is uncertain who will play due to the Europa League, and players will be rested after the Olympiacos game.

For me, Fabianski is a good own, Cresswell is almost a must-have, then it is a toss-up between the more creative Coufal or, the more goal threatening Dawson.

Lingard is tempting due to taking spot-kicks, and Antonio can pick anyone apart on his day, but both Arsenal and West Ham's attacking data makes me think this might be a 0-0 bore draw.

Again, if I were to pick an attack to invest in, it would be West Ham. Arsenal have been sloppy at times, hence why they have no clean sheets in the last six, so if there is a goal, I can see it for the team in Claret rather than the Gunners.


Aston Villa vs Spurs

13 goals in their last six versus 4 goals in their previous 6. On the face of it, you would assume that it was Villa in the rich vein of goalscoring form and Tottenham with the poor output. But you would be wrong, it is the reverse, and things are worrying for Villa.

Since their COVID outbreak, Aston Villa have struggled to get results and score in games. Martinez has been the saving grace, ensuring Villa have overperformed their xG conceded by five goals. He is a good goalkeeper, but Spurs are a team filled with players who can score these chances that Villa have allowed.

Offensively, the Villains should not worry Spurs too much. They sit in the bottom half of the table for xG and have only scored 4 goals in their last six matches.

If Son is fit, then the South Korean, Harry Kane and Sergio Reguilon would be my picks. But, if he misses out, then Gareth Bale gets the nod even though his minutes might be managed.


You can also watch our accompanying Premier Pundits GW29 video here

 

Wishing you the best of luck! Statman J


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Heung-Min Son speared by “The Spanish Archer”

Wednesday, February 19 2020

 

Heung-Min Son speared by “The Spanish Archer”

 

On form, on Son…..

Six in his last 5, the Champions League quarter-finals just around the corner, Kane hamstrung and no centre-forward signing during the January window, then all of a sudden, Spurs UNDROPPABLE man has been speared by the deadly “Spanish Archer” and given the “El-bow”.


The Perfect Storm:

  • 32 games already this season
  • Previous Elbow Injury
  • Contact with an opponent
  • Fall on an outstretched hand

Surely this is a schoolboy error by Mourinho???

They said he had it all: speed, power, technical attributes and an unerring ability to be in the right place at the right time. And they were right: he is an exceptional player, some would say one of the best in the world. But he’s not Superman. With Kane injured, Jose Mourinho placed all his eggs in one South Korean basket, and under his tutelage, he started every game when not suspended. So there you go, high game load, previous injury and the correct mechanism to inflict a proximal radial fracture. I’m surprised your surprised he got injured!!! Why not plan for the worst and hope for the best? Why did Mourinho not sign a proven goalscorer in the January window? Is this amateurish? I’ll cover this in The Late Fitness Test Podcast with my cohosts Ben and Stel.


How bad is this injury?

Radial fractures are the most common fracture at the elbow. This type of injury was first reported over 80 years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine; it is still a topic for debate on how to best manage this injury. The radius is an extremely important bone of the forearm. If injured it pretty much renders the rest of the arm useless. It provides vital stability and movement at the elbow and governs function at the wrist and hand. Suffice to say, an injury to it can be quite debilitating. An important note to also bear in mind is that radial fractures are often associated with other injuries including ligament and cartilage damage as well as damage to the other bones around the elbow joint. More trauma may lead to a delay in return to play is what I am getting at.


The Surgeon

Mr Alun Yewlett, a recognised expert in the field of shoulder and elbow surgery, reports that an operation is usually required if the bone has been displaced. In an interesting conversation around this type of injury and the need to go under the knife, Alun believes that the key to a successful surgery is to “restore stability at the joint”. Alun also forecasts that “when surgery is involved” and depending on which repair option was chosen, these cases are more likely to need “between 10-12 weeks before returning to play”.

https://www.108harleystreet.co.uk/consultant-list/the-london-sports-orthopaedic-clinic/alun-yewlett/


Where is the proximal radius?

The proximal (closest to the head) part of the radius can be found at the elbow. The radial bone runs the length of the forearm down to the wrist on the side of the thumb and forms two joints at the elbow and one further down at the wrist. The other bone of the forearm is the ulna.


When will he return to play?

Six weeks might be a best-case scenario while some people can take up to three months to recover from such an injury. Obviously, a lot depends on how severe the initial trauma was. The more trauma, the more likely it will take longer to recover.

According to injury analyst Ben Dinnery, Heung-min Son suffered a similar injury (same arm) in the summer of 2017. He returned to play nine weeks later (61 days exactly). Further interrogation of the data by Ben reveals that he is the only attacker to have suffered this injury in the Premier League in the last ten years. Over 63% of players to incur this type of injury or similar were goalkeepers and defenders. And of note his teammate Hugo Lloris recently spent 109 days on the sidelines due to an elbow dislocation.


Premier Injuries

If like me, you love your injury stats, then check this out for size:

  • Arm/Elbow account for Five of the Top Six time-loss injuries for the Upper Body
  • On average Goalkeepers spend 75% longer (vs Outfield) on the sidelines after suffering an Upper Body injury.
  • Overall Upper Body injuries count for 12% of those reported by Premier Injuries.


Rehab Like A Pro:

The key to quick and safe recovery is to get the arm moving as soon as possible to limit stiffness, reduce stiffness and minimise muscle loss. The rehab around the elbow itself will focus on:

  • Minimise infection risk
  • Protect the surgical site from re-injury
  • Optimise Bone remodelling
  • Pain reduction
  • Range of Motion - https://youtu.be/CYQmLzEp9ik
  • Grip strength
  • Functional strength

If the fracture site is deemed stable, and surgery is relatively unremarkable, the likelihood is that Son’s elbow will not be placed in a cast, and instead, be placed in a removable splint which will enable early gentle movement to begin as soon as possible. When he returns to train and play, the medical team will need to come up with an innovative solution to not only protect the elbow from future injury but to also ensure that it will not endanger the safety of the other players.

Over the coming few weeks, I will detail the type of rehab that he will undertake in our Rehab Pro Series and you can check out all the exercises he is likely going to do on our YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB1DrMOViNEvMATXnUDfBpw


Hope you enjoyed the piece guys. Love to hear your feedback.

Best wishes

 

Johnny Wilson

Clinical Director

108 Harley Street

www.108sem.co.uk


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Ben Dinnery

Ben Dinnery

@BenDinnery

Ben is football’s leading injury specialist. The ‘go-to’ guru for big hitters like Sky Sports, ESPN and NBC Sports when they need data. Or the BBC, talkSPORT and the broadsheets when a quote is required. His unique insight has helped provide a better understanding of what is really happening in the treatment rooms.


Johnny Wilson

Johnny Wilson

@johnny_wilson5

Johnny is a respected physiotherapist and sports scientist, specialising in football injuries and rehab. Johnny has headed up the medical departments at Chesterfield, Scunthorpe and Notts County. Overseeing everything from player-specific training loads to pre-signing medicals. He has a proven record working with elite athletes in Private Practice and is regularly called upon throughout Europe to deliver presentations on the latest rehab innovations.


Matt Nesbitt

Matt Nesbitt On TipTV

@MattNesbitt16

Matt's short, unremarkable football career was ended by his own bad driving. His long, distinguished career as a football tipster was ended by his own good advice. Because bookmakers don’t like a winner. First, they closed his accounts. Then his members’ accounts. Then his tipping service. And now they employ him as a consultant. Funny old game.


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