Sport Soccer

Monday 26 August 2019

Premier League match facts

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United could be involved in another low-scoring encounter against West Brom
Louis van Gaal's Manchester United could be involved in another low-scoring encounter against West Brom

Bournemouth v Newcastle

The first goal is unlikely to be the last word here, with the struggles of these two sides this season linked to their inability to defend a lead. Only Aston Villa have protected a smaller share of points from winning positions than these two, who have retained 42 and 53 per cent respectively, so there's a good chance that both will get on the scoresheet.

Bournemouth's vulnerability from the air gives their header-loving visitors a promising route to goal. Newcastle have converted the division's highest percentage of headed efforts, with one in four finding the net while only Chelsea have seen a greater share of headers sail into their net than Bournemouth's 27 per cent.

Leicester v Watford

Watford could receive an unwelcome lesson in finishing here, with Leicester having scored in 12 consecutive Premier League matches - the division's longest run - and operating its third-sharpest attack with an average of 7.1 shots taken per goal scored. The visiting Hornets have so far struggled to continue the goalscoring form that got them promoted, requiring over twice as many efforts to score each goal - an average of 14.4, which is the top flight's highest.

Manchester United v West Brom

Louis van Gaal acknowledged the fans' frustration with his tactics after his side scraped past CSKA Moscow in midweek and having drawn a blank in three of their last four league matches. There's definitely been a drop in attacking output since the Dutchman took over at Old Trafford - only this weekend's visitors West Brom have taken fewer shots per match than they have - an average of 9.8 per match to the Red Devils' 10 - so this could be an uneventful encounter.

Norwich v Swansea

Swansea may be enduring a difficult spell, with just one win in their last seven league matches, but in Norwich they face a struggling defence without a clean sheet in 14 outings, the longest run in the division. The Swans have been kept at a distance this season, with the 53 per cent of their shots that have been struck from outside the penalty area the Premier League's highest, but their attackers should be able to make more inroads than usual here. Their hosts have allowed a greater share of their opponents' shots to be hit from inside their area than anyone else - 72 per cent - and have blocked just 21 per cent of the efforts against them, the second-lowest percentage.

Sunderland v Southampton

Despite their struggles in recent seasons, Sunderland have retained a generally strong record against Southampton. In their eight meetings over the past three years the Black Cats have won four times and drawn three, losing only once. The solitary defeat however was their eye-watering 8-0 reverse at the Saints' hands just over a year ago and, with their visitors having taken an average of four and a half more shots per match than them so far while facing similarly fewer in return, there's no guarantee of normal service being restored here.

West Ham v Everton

This fixture has been one of the division's more one-sided in recent years, with West Ham having failed to beat Everton since April 2007. This winless run for the Hammers has spanned 17 fixtures in all competitions, with six draws and 11 defeats to the Toffees, but regardless of whether it continues we should expect to see some clinical finishing here. These two sides have taken fewer shots for each league goal they have scored this season than anyone else, with averages of 6.6 and 6.9 respectively.

Stoke v Chelsea

Stoke's shot-shyness this season makes this a great opportunity for Chelsea to continue their rehabilitation after the midweek win over Dynamo Kiev. The Potters have taken fewer shots than their opponents in all but one of their Premier League matches so far; the worst record of any side this season. Peter Crouch recently complained about being under-used by Stoke, but if Mark Hughes has picked up on Chelsea's aerial vulnerabilities then he will surely throw his towering striker on here. The Blues' defence has already conceded six headers this season, the same number as in the whole of last season and one more than in the season before that. With five of Crouch's league goals last season coming from the air, including all of his most recent four, his presence can certainly unsettle their visitors.

Aston Villa v Manchester City

It's hard to be optimistic for Remi Garde's first match in charge of Aston Villa. His new charges have created an average of just 2.7 shots on target per match, lower than anyone else and almost three times fewer than City's division best of 7.2. Their visitors have also allowed opponents the fewest in return, an average of 2.5 per match. Jordan Ayew gave Villa a glimmer of hope in last week's defeat at Tottenham when he popped up with a goal from outside the area, and a similar strategy could pay off again here. Villa have enjoyed one of the better success rates from long shots, seeing 30 per cent of their goals arriving from outside the area, while 33 per cent of those conceded by City have come from this range, the second-highest percentage in the top flight.

Arsenal v Tottenham

After Manchester City, these two sides have carved out more shots on target than anyone in the top flight this season, averaging 6.5 and 6.4 per match respectively compared to the average of 4.3, so this is a contest full of attacking potential. After a frustrating start to the season, Arsenal have now racked up five league wins in a row, but they're up against a side unbeaten since the opening day. While both of these sides look capable of repeatedly testing each other's goalkeeper, said custodians have been performing better than any of their top-flight peers. Petr Cech and Hugo Lloris have repelled a higher percentage of the shots on target they have faced than any other Premier League goalkeeper, 84 and 83 per cent respectively versus the top-flight average of 71 per cent.

Liverpool v Crystal Palace

Liverpool's main problem this season has been wasteful finishing - they have only scored more than once in two of their competitive matches this season and only Watford have taken more shots for each Premier League goal scored than their average of 13.5. In Palace they will have to deal with visitors who clearly know how to frustrate their hosts - Alan Pardew's side have not conceded more than once on the road since January. This sequence of 12 matches is three times longer than anyone else in the top flight has managed.

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