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Stats Zone: Featuring Manchester United, Everton and Erling Haaland

Read our weekly round-up delving into the stats from England to try and sniff out the value ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.

Week 1: Nunez, Fernandes, Leno

Week 2: Fulham, Everton, Tottenham

Week 3: Arsenal, Eze and Chilwell

Week 4: Fernandez, Everton, Gordon

Week 5: Fernandes, Wolves, Middlesbrough

Week 6: Haaland, Kulusevski, Crystal Palace

Week 7: Chelsea, Szoboszlai, Ipswich

Week 8: Rodri, Everton, Nottingham Forest

Week 9: Rashford, Liverpool v Everton, Aston Villa v West Ham

Week 10: Palace v Spurs, Wolves v Newcastle and Liverpool v Forest

Week 11: Man Utd, Middlesbrough, Coventry

Week 12: Nunez, West Ham v Forest, Isco

Week 13: Crystal Palace, Saka, Man Utd

Week 14: Man City v Spurs, Newcastle v Man Utd, Bayer Leverkusen

Week 15: Aston Villa v Man City, Everton v Newcastle and Spurs v West Ham

Week 16: Man Utd, Bournemouth, Calvert-Lewin

Week 17: Burnley, Chelsea, Bimingham

Week 18: Nunez, Arsenal, Sheff Wed v Coventry

Week 19: Villa v Newcastle, Liverpool, Brentford

Week 20: Burnley v Fulham, Sheff Utd v Villa & Boro v S'land

Week 21: Foden, Brentford, Forest v Newcastle

Week 22: Brentford v Liverpool, Forest v West Ham & Everton v Palace

Week 23: Everton, Manchester City and Bayern Munich

Week 24: Brentford v Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal

What is xG? Expected Goals explained

Liverpool to punish miserable Manchester United

You’ve likely seen a lot of stats recently about how many shots Manchester United are conceding and that they’ve managed to concede the most in the Premier League this year… well, here’s some more:

Over the course of the season, Manchester United have attempted nearly 100 fewer shots (427) than they have allowed (521).

The fewest shots Manchester United have allowed in their last eight games is 17; across the entire season, the highest average number of shots per game is 18.3 (Sheffield United), followed by 17.3 (Manchester United) and 17.1 (Luton Town).

In 12 of their 30 games, Manchester United have allowed 20 or more shots; they’ve allowed 30 or more twice.

Erik ten Hag is aware of modern footballing metrics, and while he acknowledges his side are allowing too many shots, he recently countered that lots of the shots were from range. While it’s true that the shots United are allowing aren’t a high volume of high-quality chances, the numbers they’re putting up are absolutely wretched.

Fans are quick to call out players’ efforts when things are going wrong, but all too often we see four United players camped on the edge of the opposition’s area, a back four in another postcode, all while Kobbie Mainoo has to do the job of three men, in part due to Casemiro’s legs deserting him.

In only two of the last 21 seasons (the Mourinho/Solksjaer campaign and the doomed Solskjaer/Rangnick campaign) have United conceded more than the 44 goals they’re currently on with eight games left to play.

Be it Liverpool or Luton, there is not one good fixture for Manchester United at the moment – even Championship Coventry will be feeling positive ahead of their FA Cup semi-final – but Jurgen Klopp’s side might be the most unwelcome of visitors to Old Trafford right now.

Liverpool can right the wrongs of their FA Cup defeat, and with goal difference looking potentially crucial, they shouldn’t be taking their foot off the gas…

Liverpool -1 - 7/5
Liverpool over 19.5 shots - 4/5

Toffees long overdue a win

Even by Everton’s low standards, it’s hardly been the most enjoyable season at Goodison Park. Between points deductions and appeals, Toffees fans haven’t even known where they are in the league table for much of the campaign.

Of course, they’ve not helped themselves on the field, and while Dominic Calvert-Lewin finally got his goal to rescue a point against Newcastle, the 1-1 draw at St James’ Park made it 13 Premier League games without a win.

Interestingly, Everton have recorded a superior xG in five of those games (0.3, 0.3, 1.6, 1.0, 0.8), but Sean Dyche’s men just can’t get over the line.

The Toffees have underperformed their xG all season with a goal difference 12.3 worse than their xGD. It’s hard to keep the faith when you keep dropping points every week, but Everton’s numbers are fine, and relegation shouldn’t be too big of a worry.

They have a reasonable run-in that includes a trip to Luton while hosting Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, but Everton sorely need to put three points on the board for the first time since travelling to Dyche’s old club Burnley in mid-December.

And who do they have next at Goodison Park? You guessed it.

Everton to beat Burnley - 13/20

Haaland's dry spell to end

Perhaps one of the reasons why Manchester City aren’t running away with the title this year is the declining goals of Erling Haaland.

After 24 games last season, Haaland was on 27 goals; after 24 games this season, he’s on 18, and there’s an outside chance someone else actually wins the Golden Boot.

The Norwegian blitzed the Premier League in his maiden campaign, scoring 36 goals by the end when it felt at times like he was going to hit 50.

Recently, however, Haaland has scored just two in his last six, and four in his last 11. Owing to injury and the Club World Cup, we’ve not seen a rampant Haaland this season, and in those last 11 games, City have picked up just 22 points, allowing Liverpool to take charge in the title race and allowing Arsenal back in.

But how are Haaland’s other numbers? Haaland is scoring 0.80 goals/90 this season, and it’s the first time since leaving Norway that he’s dipped below 1.00. More tellingly, though, Haaland’s xG/90 is 0.95 – marginally better than he was last season.

In terms of xG, it’s actually Haaland’s best season. He’s also having more shots/90 (4.06 to 3.77) and slightly more shots on target/90 (1.74 to 1.72), but for the first time, Haaland is underperfoming his xG

There are doubts around his fitness for the trip to Selhurst Park at the weekend, but when he’s back in the starting line-up, it won’t be long before he’s back amongst the goals.

Erling Haaland to score against Crystal Palace - 4/5

Week 24 featuring Brentford v Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal

Goals at the Gtech

Fans whose club have spent around £1bn on players and have recently won a Champions League can’t exactly bemoan their bad luck, but the Chelsea faithful must be wondering when the tide will turn.

They inexplicably failed to find the net once again, this time in the EFL Cup final against Liverpool, and while Chelsea can absolutely criticise their players’ finishing, this time they were denied by an incredible Caomhin Kelleher save that Alisson would’ve been proud of.

Nicolas Jackson is the biggest culprit when it comes to xG underperformance, with seven goals from an xG of 11.3, and it should all change before too long, with the Blues at least finding the net more if not winning more games.

Their opponents on Saturday, Brentford, are still waiting for their form to turn a corner. After two wins in four either side of a trip to Tottenham and a home game with Manchester City, Brentford have lost three on the bounce again. Concerningly, their xGD is trending downwards. Their five-game xGD was around +0.4 per game for a while, but has dipped to -0.8 after the 4-2 defeat to West Ham.

However, their games are still seeing plenty of action. The total xG of Brentford’s games has consistently bounced between 2.5 and 3.5 per game, and it’s been over 3.0 for a few weeks now.

With both sides needing a result, goals may well be on the cards in West London.

Over 3.0 Goals (Asian Line) – 1.900

City in cruise control

What were once competitive fixtures have become increasingly one-sided in recent years. While Manchester United enjoyed a resurgence against their noisy neighbours under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – winning three on the spin at the Etihad – Manchester City have now won six of the last seven, and it will take a minor miracle if United are to prevent that being seven in the last eight.

Erik ten Hag’s men are sixth in the table, there points behind Tottenham (who’ve played one game fewer), but they’ve scored a measly 36 goals – the same as Fulham, who lost star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic in the summer, and whose replacement, Raul Jimenez, is on five for the campaign – and have conceded 36 – more than Everton.

Their xGD is the 11th best in the table and the reason they’re not further down the table is largely because of Andre Onana (who’s actually prevented more goals than he’s allowed, despite early criticism, and ranks third for save percentage), and Scott McTominay, whose late cameos have been good for at least five points. Without them, United would be four points ahead of 11th-place Chelsea who have a game in hand.

United have struggled with injuries since the start of 2023, with the likes of Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Casemiro, Mason Mount, Kobbie Mainoo, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial all spending extended time on the sidelines, and there comes a point you have to feel it’s no longer a coincidence, and that the Red Devils are unlikely to ever have a full roster available as long as Ten Hag is manager.

Sunday will be a backs-to-the-walls job with United trying to stay in the game as long as possible.

However, as we’ve covered recently, City tend to control games more at home and are able to patiently wait for their opening. Against Fulham, they had just six shots yet scored five goals. At home to Burnley, Newcastle, Brighton and Nottingham Forest, they averaged just over 11 shots a game.

Only three times have City registered more than 20 shots at home this season; against Chelsea when they were behind for much of the game, against Brentford when they needed 21 shots to score their first goal in the 71st minute, and against Bournemouth when they won 6-1.

With Rasmus Hojlund out injured, United’s goal threat is significantly diminished, and while City might not plunder a load of goals against their beleaguered rivals, they should have more than enough to win well.

Manchester City under 19.5 shots – 5/6

Manchester City -2.000 (Asian Handicap) – 2.150

Gunners to blunt Blades

After their meek showing against Fulham on New Year’s Eve, making it one point from their last three, Arsenal’s title bid looked to be dead in the water.

But all credit to Mikel Arteta’s men, they’ve responded immaculately. They’ve since won all six Premier League fixtures, scoring 25 goals, conceding three, and more promisingly, the numbers back up the results.

Their average xGA per game has typically been around 0.6 to 0.8 for most of the season, but it’s now dipped to around 0.3 over their last five games. They’re conceding a similar amount of shots as they have all season, but the average xG/shot has dropped from around 0.09 – a respectable figure in itself – to a miserly 0.04, meaning the shots they are allowing are much less likely to result in a goal – for context, over the whole of last season, the best xG/shot tally was 0.09.

The Gunners have hauled themselves back into the title race, but with testing fixtures to come, they’ll likely come up short.

They can, however, continue their impressive form against Sheffield United.

Although results haven’t reflected it, the Blades have been tighter at the back since Chris Wilder’s return, conceding fewer shots per game (14.9 from 18.9), fewer shots on target per game (5.2 from 7.4) and allowing fewer xG per game (1.6 from 2.1), but things haven’t significantly improved at the other end, with shots per game increasing slightly from 8.5 to 9.5, shots on target increasing from 2.4 to 2.9 and xG increasing from 0.67 to 0.97, and they’ll need to be better to get anything from the resurgent Gunners.

Arsenal to win to nil – 5/6


Week 23 featuring Everton, Man City and Bayern Munich

Toffees to past Brighton test

On average, Premier League teams take 13.4 shots per game (for context, Manchester City are 17.9, Tottenham are 15.8, Manchester United are 14.4)

Everton rank eighth in the league for shots/90 and only three teams have a better non-penalty xG/shot than Everton, but as has been the case all season, they’re perpetually handicapped by poor finishing. On Monday night against Crystal Palace, they created enough chances to take the lead, with Abdoulaye Doucoure missing from close range, and Jordan Ayew scoring at the other end seconds later.

Remarkably, their xGD this season is the eighth best in the league, better than Tottenham and Manchester United, yet they’re still looking over their shoulders (though they would be 12th if not for the points deduction)

Of course, it’s hard to know exactly when Everton’s luck will change, and in Brighton they have perhaps the league’s most unpredictable side, who can beat Manchester United 3-1 at Old Trafford, beat Tottenham 4-2, Newcastle 3-1, yet lose 4-0 to Luton and 6-1 to Aston Villa.

Brighton can look like anything in between world beaters and relegation candidates depending what side turns up, but whatever Brighton shows up at the Amex on Saturday, Everton should pose a threat.

Draw or Everton – 10/11

City shots on the cards

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at Manchester City’s shooting numbers and how, despite dominating the ball at the Etihad, their better shooting numbers are nearly all away from home.

Prior to the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, where they put up a mammoth 31 shots, six of Manchester City’s highest seven shot totals have come on the road (albeit mostly when they’ve been chasing games).

At home, City are more patient as teams set up shop, and excluding the hugely sub-par performances against Arsenal and Aston Villa where they put up a measly six shots combined, five of City’s six lowest shot totals this season have come at the Etihad.

City average 18.1 shots away from home and 16.7 shots at home (boosted from 15.5 after the Chelsea game), and if it follows the pattern of many of their away games this campaign, where they spend much of the 90 minutes chasing a goal, they could well increase that average. It's also worth keeping in mind that City have taken more than 18 shots in seven of their 12 away games, with Aston Villa (2), Arsenal (4), Chelsea (14), Burnley (17) and Luton (18) the only fixtures where they didn't.

Manchester City Team Shots Over 18.5 - Evs

Bayern to bounce back

Bayern got little change out of their trip to Leverkusen and deserved to be on the end of the 3-0 defeat that saw Xabi Alonso’s men take charge in the title race. The defeat at Bochum the week after, however, was less deserved.

It still sounds a little desperate when a manager cites their xG on the back of a disappointing result, but Thomas Tuchel did have a point.

Bayern took and early lead and only an uncharacteristically wayward finish from Harry Kane denied Bayern a two-goal lead.

The Bavarians were most certainly the better side, but when such a defeat comes on the back of a 3-0 humbling to the new title favourites, alarm bells will ring.

But Bayern are still creating lots of chances; they’ve only put up less than 2.0 xG three times all season (and two of those were 1.8 and 1.9).

Their opponents on Saturday, RB Leipzig, have hit something of a sticky patch, with just two wins in their last seven, and their average xGD over their last five games is exactly zero.

Bayern should get back to winning ways on Saturday evening, and can do so in style.

Bayern Munich -1.0 (Asian Handicap) – 2.100

Week 22 featuring Brentford v Liverpool, Forest v West Ham & Everton v Palace

Brentford back to winning ways

Despite their recent four-game winning run away from home, it’s hard to know exactly what we’ll get from Liverpool on the road. They laboured through most of their early games, winning two of their first seven, and one of those wins required late heroics from Darwin Nunez.

They’ve since faced Sheffield United, Crystal Palace (where they were 1-0 down until Jordan Ayew’s 75th-minute red card), Burnley and Bournemouth, taking a maximum 12 points before running into a sumptuous Arsenal at the Emirates, where Liverpool never looked like getting anything, and their xGD/90 on the road of -0.08 is worse than Brentford’s home (+0.24) and away (+0.27).

Trent Alexander-Arnold will also miss the clash through injury, and while Conor Bradley has so far proved to be a capable deputy, Alexander-Arnold doesn’t have a like-for-like replacement. 

The full-back-cum-playmaker ranks fifth for shot-creating actions this season – above the likes of Mohamed Salah, Phil Foden and Rodri. He also ranks sixth for key passes and third for passes into the final third and 10th for passes into the penalty area.

Mark Flekken has been covered here recently and still ranks bottom in the Premier League for goals prevented, but after struggling for much of the first half of the season, the Dutchman’s save percentage from his last two games is 85% from 20 shots on target (Liverpool’s Alisson tops the league with 75.3%.

The return of Ivan Toney has also been a huge boost for the Bees, with the frontman only failing to score against Manchester City since his return. Only Everton rank lower than Brentford for goals minus expected goals, and it’s something Toney has quickly been able to rectify.

Brentford to beat Liverpool +1.0 (Asian Handicap) – 1.900

Hammers to be held by Forest

Only West Ham could beat Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal (two away from home) by a combined 9-2, only to lose 6-0 at home – their biggest defeat at home since 1959.

But there is something of a pattern regarding West Ham’s results. When they have more of the ball – typically against inferior sides at home – they win. When they have hardly any of them ball – typically against superior sides at home – they win. The four games when West Ham have had less than 30% possession (Arsenal away, Tottenham away, Chelsea at home and Brighton away) they’ve taken a maximum 12 points. 

In total, West Ham have taken 25 points from 10 games when they’ve had less than 30% of possession or when they’ve had 50% or more. 

But it’s the middle group of fixtures that could prevent West Ham playing European football next season, where West Ham have just 13 points from 14 games.

Their opponents – Nottingham Forest – haven’t experienced a significant uptick in form following the arrival of Nuno Espirito Santo, with their average possession per game going from 39% to 41% and their xGD going from -0.4 per game to -0.01 per game, but with West Ham’s only away wins when they’ve had a decent share of the ball coming against Luton and Burnley (both in the relegation zone at the time), three points might be slightly out of the Hammers’ reach.

West Ham to draw with Nottingham Forest – 5/2

Toffees to end winless run

Everton are back in the relegation zone after a seven-match winless run, but that has included two clashes with Tottenham and Manchester City, as well as hosting Aston Villa and travelling to Fulham and the Toffees can be positive of a result on Monday night.

While Crystal Palace have been below par this season, they haven’t been helped by injuries. When they’ve been without Ebere Eze, they’ve taken just two points from eight games (down to one point from four when Michael Olise has been out as well), while Cheick Doucoure has been out since the start of December with an Achilles injury; even the best manager in the world needs the right players at their disposal. 

Even by his own profligate standards, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is having a staggeringly poor season in front of goal, with his goals minus expected goals/90 at a remarkably low -0.39 (suggesting he should be scoring 0.39 goals per game more than he is). 

Nobody since xG figures have been recorded back in 2017/18 has produced a worse return in front of goal, and it’s only a matter of time before one goes in, especially having put up 12 shots in his last three games.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin to Score Anytime – 15/8

Everton to beat Crystal Palace – 7/10


Week 21 featuring Phil Foden, Brentford and Nottingham Forest v Newcastle

Fabulous Foden to take on Toffees

Pep Guardiola’s favourite time of the year is upon us once again, when his Manchester City side go on an unstoppable winning run, marching to the title.

The dry streak that saw City fail to win in four games is long behind them. Though it was interrupted by the Club World Cup and winter break, Guardiola’s men have now won five on the bounce, and taken 16 points from a possible 18. 

They might have laboured through the first half against Brentford, but as they nearly always do, City found a way, simply overwhelming their opponents. It’s been a common theme in a number of the champions’ away games this season. 

Perhaps surprisingly, City’s six highest shot totals this season have all come in away games. Less surprisingly, though, all of those games have seen City chasing the game for large parts of the contest. At home, things have been more straightforward and seven of their 11 lowest shot totals have been at the Etihad. Similarly, their five highest xG totals have been away from home, and of the 11 times they've scored three or more goals, only three of them have been at home.

Phil Foden continued his wonderful form with a hat-trick against Brentford, making it eight goal contributions in his last six games, and the 23-year-old seems to be at his best against sides who sit deep. His agility, touch, dribbling, movement and intelligence make him a nightmare for teams looking to allow as little space as possible, and Foden often has a knack of finding a gap where there doesn’t seem to be one.

Prior to City’s run from mid-December, Foden was averaging 3.5 shot-creating actions per game; that’s since been upped to 5.1 over the last seven games.

Sean Dyche won’t be overly committal at the Etihad on Saturday, and Foden could shine again.

Phil Foden to Score or Assist and Under 3 Match Goals – 5/1

Bees to keep Wolves at bay

A couple of weeks ago we looked at Brentford’s form and how they’ve struggled to put results together despite their impressive xG.

They’ve not been helped by goalkeeper Mark Flekken consistently allowing more goals than the post-shot xG – a measure of shot quality – would suggest. The Dutchman did, however, start to make amends with a superb performance against Manchester City, and he can’t be blamed for the Bees’ 3-1 defeat.

It was Flekken’s best shot-stopping performance of the season, and only the second time he’s prevented more than 0.5 goals (after their 2-0 win at Chelsea). Flekken is, however, still languishing at the bottom of the goalkeeping charts, allowing 0.38 goals/90 more than he should be, though if that starts to turn, Brentford should become much less leaky at the back.

Sheffield United are the new biggest xG underperformers in the league after their 5-0 drubbing against Aston Villa, but Brentford remain second, and with fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester City in their next three, their trip to Wolves might be their best chance of three points over the next few weeks. 

Brentford to win and Wolves to Score Under 2 Goals – 11/4

Goals on the cards at the City Ground

While Eddie Howe’s Newcastle finished in the Champions League places partly due to their ability to put four and five past sides, they were also extremely defensively resolute.

Injuries haven’t helped this term, but Newcastle have been more porous, but that’s been ramped up significantly in recent weeks.

It’s been a chaotic few weeks for the Magpies, losing at home to Nottingham Forest but winning at Aston Villa. It’s hard to know exactly what we’re going to get from Howe’s men, but there has been a slightly concerning trend in recent weeks.

Newcastle were averaging 1.28 xGA before the defeat to Forest (and that included the thrashings at Everton and Tottenham), but over their last five games that’s skyrocketed to 3.46. It’s skewed slightly by the calamitous showing at Anfield, but they’ve still allowed more than 2.0 xG in four of their five games.

The positive for Newcastle is that goals at the other end haven’t been an issue, and even without Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson, the hosts were able to put four past Luton

Over 2.5 Goals – 7/10


Week 20 featuring Burnley, Sheff Utd v Villa and Boro v Sunderland

Clarets can't afford another slip

Three weeks ago we looked at Burnley’s more forgiving fixture list at Turf Moor and how important it will be to quickly pick up wins ahead of their clash with relegation rivals Luton...

“In their home games with Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Sheffield United, Burnley average 15 shots per game (Manchester City are second in the league with 16.1) and are putting up an average xG of 1.1 while having 61%, 67%, 50% and 63% of the ball.”

In taking a first-half lead, the Clarets uncharacteristically ceded possession to their opponents, having just 39% of the ball, but Burnley did go onto record 13 shots, largely in line with their clashes with their lesser opponents and only a contentious late equaliser stopped them taking all three points.

There can be no excuses this time for Vincent Kompany’s men. Fortunately, they’re against a Fulham side who look utterly bereft of ideas away from home. Their xGD on the road is -1.33 – considerably worse than Burnley’s -0.47 at Turf Moor (whose actual goal difference per 90 is -1.27, potentially suggesting an impending uptick in their home form) – with their only win extremely fortuitous against Everton on the opening weekend. Fulham register 15.3 shots at Craven Cottage which drops to nine on the road.

There don’t appear to be many goals on the cards at Turf Moor on Sunday, but it’s a big chance for Kompany to revitalise his side.

Burnley to beat Fulham – 2/1

Under 2.5 Goals – 1.830

Battling Blades to take on Villa

Any faint notion that Aston Villa might actually be involved in a title race appears to be dead, with the Villans now hoping they can solidify their Champions League ambitions. 

Villa were over-performing their xG for much of the first half of the season (and still are) but even that’s starting to decline. Their five-game xGD reached a high of 1.08 in November, but that’s down to 0.36 now with results turning. After going nearly a year unbeaten at home, Villa were soundly beaten by a Newcastle side who couldn’t buy a win on the road, making it one win in five.

And at the other end of the table, how quickly a narrative can change. Sheffield United were well on their way to three points against Luton before two excruciating own goals saw them gift-wrap the visitors three points. Now Luton are making a good fist of their survival effort while the Blades look doomed. Of course, we don’t know what would have happened in the weeks following, but it’s likely the nine-point gap between the two clubs would’ve been considerably smaller.

It’s going to require something approaching a miracle for Sheffield United to stay in the top flight, but there has been an improvement in South Yorkshire wince Chris Wilder’s arrival, who are now taking more shots, conceding fewer shots, and have better xG and xGA figures, despite a testing eight fixtures that have included trips to Chelsea, Manchester City and Aston Villa, as well as a home tie with Liverpool.

 Under HeckingbottomUnder Wilder
Shots on Target2.433
Shots Against18.613.4
Shots on Target Against7.54.3

Wilder has made them a more organised outfit, and while they might not get a result against Villa on Saturday evening, they should at least make things difficult for the visitors.

Sheffield United to beat Aston Villa – 17/4

Sheffield United to draw with Aston Villa – 16/5

Sheffield United +1.0 (Asian Handicap) – 1.830

Sunderland to struggle in Tees-Wear derby

The jury is very much still out on Michael Beale in the north east, with the Sunderland manager yet to convince fans that he’s any improvement on Tony Mowbray.

Their xGD/90 has dipped from +0.66 under Mowbray this season to -0.06 under Beale – form that would be unlikely to find a top-half place, let alone a play-off one.

They’re also recording fewer shots and conceding more shots per game and it’s a trend that quickly needs arresting. 

Their record away from home sorely needs improving, too. Jack Clarke is the only Sunderland player to score away from home since the Sheffield Wednesday win back in September.

 Under MowbrayUnder Beale
Shots on Target4.93.7
Shots Against10.611.3
Shots on Target Against3.54.0

All stats per 90.

Leicester, Ipswich, Southampton and Leeds are a cut above the rest of the Championship and between them will occupy half of the play-off spots, leaving two available for the rest, and it could well be any of a number, including Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who face off on Saturday.

Back in mid-September, we looked at Middlesbrough’s rotten start to the season that saw them pick up one point from their opening six games. They followed that with a draw against Sheffield Wednesday, but went on a six-game winning run that saw them quickly climb the table and move go 6/4 for a top-six finish.

It felt like Boro would kick on from there, but their form has been decidedly middling since. On the back of their winning run, Boro lost 2-0 to Stoke and in their last 15 games, they’ve taken just 20 points, drifting to 9/4 for a top-six finish. 

Their xGD is the best outside of the big four and is good enough to merit a play-off place, but they need a run of results quickly, and can start at the weekend.

Middlesbrough to beat Sunderland – Evs

Week 19 featuring Aston Villa v Newcastle, Liverpool and Brentford

Toon to be Villa's next victims

The narrative this season is that Aston Villa have been excellent at home while Newcastle have been terrible away, but how much truth is there in that narrative?

Well in terms of results, plenty. Aston Villa are still unbeaten at home this season with 28 points from a possible 30, while Newcastle have won just once on the road, picking up a measly five points from 10 games.

The xG broadly tallies with actual goal outputs too:

 Goals forxGGoals againstxGA
Aston Villa (h)2921.789.8
Newcastle (a)1615.32223.2

Villa are slightly outperforming their xG in front of their home fans so they may experience a bit of regression there – don’t be surprised to see Villa’s goals dry up a touch in the coming weeks – but the performances have been good, while Newcastle just look like a different team away from St James’ Park.

Their ongoing battle with FFP means they’ve been unable to bring in reinforcements in January despite the large list of absentees that’s seen them regress hugely from their efforts last season that brought about a top-four finish.

While seven of Aston Villa’s best eight xG performances this season have been at Villa Park, nine of Newcastle’s 13 worst have been away from St James’. At home, they average 32.1 touches in the opposition box; away that drops to 23.3.

Newcastle have won just one of their 10 games away from home and based on the numbers, it doesn’t seem wholly unfair, and looks unlikely to change on Tuesday.

Aston Villa to beat Newcastle – 10/11

Reds roll on without Salah

The absence of Mohamed Salah and his 22 goal contributions so far this season was always going to be a test for Liverpool, but it appears to be one they’ve passed with flying colours. 

Salah being on AFCON duty meant that Luis Diaz moved to the right wing against Bournemouth, with Jota up front and Darwin Nunez playing from the left. While Nunez has racked up the xG as a centre forward, the goals haven’t been forthcoming, so naturally when he was shifted to the wing, he bagged a brace.

Jota himself was amongst the goals and scored two, and while Salah will be guaranteed his starting berth whenever he’s back to full fitness, it will give Jurgen Klopp something to think about.

Though he’s struggled with injuries and had to compete with a number of attackers for game time, Jota has established himself as one of Liverpool’s most underrated players. 

Since moving to Anfield in 2021, Jota has recorded 0.81 goals and assists per 90 (up to 1.07 this season) and has a knack with popping up with important goals.

Chelsea meanwhile are still trying to find their identity under Mauricio Pochettino. There have been some positives in recent weeks, with three straight Premier League wins, but with the games being so spaced out due to the winter break, it’s hard to know if that’s a true reading of the Blues’ form.

There are a number of key absentees still for Chelsea, including Reece James, Nicolas Jackson, Robert Sanchez, Wesley Fofana and potentially Christopher Nkunku, but they are a side who create chances – their xG away from home of 1.84 per game is second only to Manchester City, and while Liverpool should have too much for the visitors, there may well be goals on the cards.

Liverpool to win and over 2.5 goals – Evs

Brentford to bounce back

It’s been quite the mixed bag for Brentford so far this season. After winning one of their first eight games, they won three on the bounce. They followed that run up with seven losses in their next eight to plummet down the table.

Of course, no one ever thought Brentford would actually be fighting relegation in the coming months and the main reason was that their performances actually hadn’t been that bad.

Their xGD of +7.3 is the sixth best in the league, and their xG differential of -11.3 is the worst in the league (while Tottenham, on 12.1, have the best). That, combined with the return of Ivan Toney suggests the Bees’ luck should be about to turn.

Strangely, throughout his time at Freiburg, Mark Flekken actually prevented more goals than he allowed in his last four seasons there, but is rock bottom of the goals prevented charts this season.

Last season, Southampton’s Gavin Bazunu was bottom on -0.53/90; the season before was Illan Meslier on -0.43 and the season before that was Vicente Guaita on -0.37/90.

While it’s unlikely Flekken will continue to allow goals at his current rate, it may be that Guglielmo Vicario fails maintain his. 

The Italian has been one of the signings of the season, and his goals prevented figure has floated around 0.30 to 0.35 throughout the season but does appear to be catching up to him. Vicario is now on 0.26/90, but over the last three seasons, the best figures have been Alisson (0.27/90), Jose Sa (0.20/90) and Nick Pope (0.13/90), so don’t be surprised to see Spurs shipping more goals in the second half of the season.

Brentford +1.0 (Asian handicap) – 1.750

Week 18 featuring Nunez, Arsenal and Sheff Wed v Coventry

On the back of an impressive maiden Premier League campaign (albeit one that only produced nine goals), Darwin Nunez featured in the first Stats Zone of the season. His struggles in front of goals persisted and he appeared again prior to Liverpool's win against Brentford where he had two goals ruled out for offside.

Not only did Nunez not score then, he failed to score in his next six appearances before finally breaking his duck against Burnley, but the Uruguayan was back to his profligate ways against Newcastle on New Year’s Day.

Keep in mind, the most prolific shooters in the Premier League average around three shots per 90 – Nunez had eight against the Magpies and that was just in the 63 minutes he was on the pitch for, being replaced by Cody Gakpo (who, of course, scored 15 minutes after his introduction).

After his devastating brace against Newcastle at the start of the season, Nunez has registered 54 shots, 22 of which have been on target, and found the net just three times.

In 2021/22, Harry Kane topped the charts for big chances missed with 18 – which sounds negative, but is often an indicator of getting yourself on the end of chances – Nunez has already hit 18 and we’re only halfway through the season.

Mohamed Salah has departed for AFCON and it remains to be seen how Liverpool will adapt without their talismanic Egyptian. It feels unlikely Nunez will suddenly get more chances without the Reds’ most creative player, but it could be argued Nunez doesn’t need more chances; he just needs to score a couple of the countless opportunities he’s been getting.

Darwin Nunez to score v Bournemouth – 6/4

Gunners to get back on track

The wheels are very much in danger of falling off at the Emirates. With Manchester City stumbling throughout December, the opportunity was there to really turn the screw. The Gunners had the chance to keep Aston Villa at arm’s length but couldn’t find a response to John McGinn’s early goal, but responded with an impressive win over Brighton. 

Their draw at Anfield was important in not losing ground to a fellow title rival, but things have quickly unravelled since. 

Arsenal fell to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to West Ham, following that with a similarly disappointing 2-1 defeat at Fulham.

Credit to Mikel Arteta’s men, they looked to have responded well, doing everything but score in the first half of their FA Cup tie with Liverpool, only to somehow find themselves on the end of another 2-0 defeat.

Arsenal’s xG across those three games reads 6.1-3.5 while the actual score reads 1-6 and has effectively left them out of the running for two competitions inside 10 days.

Lots of talk has been about Arsenal’s need to sign a goalscorer and that may not be wholly unfair on Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian is the Gunners’ biggest underperformer in terms of xG and it’s a trend that’s followed his career; Jesus has just 65 goals from an xG of 80.4 in his six-and-a-half seasons in England.

That said, Arsenal are clearly creating enough chances and playing well enough to see an uptick in results, and shouldn’t have many problems getting past Crystal Palace.

Arsenal to beat Crystal Palace -1.5 goals – 1.950

Coventry form finally turns around

The Championship seems to get tougher and tougher to get out of each year. With parachute payments, the teams falling from the Premier League are often able to mount promotion pushes with the minimal of fuss. Indeed, Fulham and Norwich established themselves as yo-yo clubs in recent years, bouncing between the divisions, while Burnley were much too good for their rivals last season.

This season is no different. Leicester will run away with the league at a canter and the remaining automatic spot will surely be occupied by one of Leeds, Southampton and Ipswich, all of whom are a cut above the rest.

It would leave two play-off places for the chasing pack, but who will find themselves 180 minutes from Wembley in a few months’ time?

We spoke about Coventry back in November and how their attacking numbers betrayed their league position, loitering above the relegation places, and after losing to Preston and drawing with Stoke, the Sky Blues were as big as 11/1 to crack the top six.

Since the November international break, Coventry have taken 24 points from 11 matches, bettered only by Leicester (26) and Southampton (25), a huge turnaround from three wins in their opening 16 matches that had them five points outside the drop zone and 10 points away from the play-offs.

Mark Robins changed his system, doing away with the wing-backs that weren’t producing results, but while they weren’t getting the results in the first half of the season, they were creating better chances than they are under the new system that ironically is producing results. 

Over the first 15 games of the season, Coventry’s xGD/90 was +0.39 – ordinarily good enough for a play-off place. Since then it has dipped to +0.13/90, and if that trend continues it could be tough for Robins’ men to maintain their play-off push.

They face a trip to a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, and while the Owls still have a battle to avoid relegation, they’ve been significantly improved since the arrival of Danny Rohl. Their away form leaves a lot to be desired, but Rohl has taken 13 points from his seven matches at Hillsborough.

Under Xisco Munoz, Wednesday’s xGD/90 was a guaranteed-to-be-relegated -0.78, which has improved to a safely-in-mid-table +0.08 under Rohl. 

Of course, Wednesday still have to undo the damage from those first 10 games of the season, but they can continue their fine home form against Coventry.

Sheffield Wednesday to beat Coventry – 2/1

Week 17 featuring Burnley, Chelsea and Birmingham

Burnley to beat relegation rivals

We’re only just past the halfway stage in the season, but it feels safe to say that if Burnley are to stay up this season, their clash with Luton on Friday night is a must-win.

Easier said than done, of course, and there’s not been much to inspire confidence in any results at Turf Moor this season. The Clarets are languishing in the relegation zone with one win from their 10 home games, but the games in front of their home fans might be what saves them.

Vincent Kompany’s men have faced Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Manchester United at home this season, leaving an easier set of fixtures for the run-in when they could be starting to gather momentum.

The quandary for managers promoted from the Championship is often the same: compromise your principles to adapt to the tougher opposition or stick with the philosophy that got you there in the first place? Kompany has very much taken the latter approach and it’s often been the Clarets’ undoing. They’re unlikely to get many results trying to press and outplay better teams, but their efforts against lesser opposition should give them some encouragement. 

In their home games with Everton, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Sheffield United, Burnley average 15 shots per game (Manchester City are second in the league with 16.1) and are putting up an average xG of 1.1 while having 61%, 67%, 50% and 63% of the ball.

Burnley can expect to control proceedings against the visitors on Friday but they’ll need to turn their possession into three points.

Burnley to beat Luton – Evs

Blues due goals

Chelsea’s long-standing battle with their xG has been well documented this season, and the fact is there are likely too few games in the season for things to even themselves out, but the tide does have to turn sooner rather than later.

xG figures can be skewed by game state – you’re likely to put up a better xG if you’re chasing the game for long periods and worse xG if you're defending a lead for long periods (see Manchester United’s 3-2 win against Nottingham Forest early in the season), but when games are tight, you get a better indication of who’s creating better chances with both teams trying to score.

Chelsea’s numbers beggar belief. With games level, they’ve scored just 11 goals from an xG of 19.3, conceding 17 from an xG of 15.3, a differential of nine goals, and that’s through just half a season.

It’s causing huge swings in results with Chelsea often losing games they should be winning and without wanting to name names, Nicolas Jackson has been the primary culprit, with only Dominic Calvert-Lewin more wasteful than the Senegalese. Jackson does bring plenty to the Chelsea front line, but it may be that he’s a poor finisher whose goal tally will always be lower than his xG.

Nevertheless, Jackson will spend the month at AFCON, prompting something of a shakeup for Mauricio Pochettino. It’s still early days – too early to read anything into his numbers – but Christopher Nkunku has looked a real difference-maker in his limited spells on the pitch after his injury-hit start to life in West London, and it may be that we start to see a more clinical Chelsea.

Chelsea to beat Fulham -1.0 (Asian Handicap) – 2.040

Birmingham to bounce back

Birmingham City fans breathed a sigh of relief last week with the news that Wayne Rooney would be departing as manager. The club were sitting sixth in the Championship table on the back of consecutive wins when the eyebrow-raising decision to part ways with John Eustace was announced.

Since then, the club has been in free-fall, prompting a second change of manager inside three months. 

Through the first nine games of the season, Birmingham had an xGD/90 of +0.34 which, if maintained, would be the seventh best in the division; indeed, over the last five seasons, that would rank them fifth, seventh, fifth, fourth and sixth, so the numbers certainly seemed sustainably with a play-off push.

Throughout Rooney’s tenure, however, the club’s xGD sank to -0.81/90 - relegation form whatever way you look at it (only two sides have posted a worse xGD in the last five Championship campaigns).

Fans can be optimistic following the appointment of Tony Mowbray, another manager rather harshly dismissed after an excellent spell at Sunderland that resulted in a play-off berth last season.

Mowbray’s Sunderland this season had been on the end of some unfortunate results, but the underlying numbers were excellent, with an xGD/90 of +0.65.

The players are clearly good enough at St Andrew’s – look at their strong start to the season – and Mowbray should quickly allay any relegation concerns.

Birmingham to beat Swansea – 6/5


Week 16 featuring Man Utd, Bournemouth and Calvert-Lewin

Red Devils' regression

Anybody who’d watched Manchester United throughout their winning run that actually saw them top of the Premier League’s form table could tell you it wasn’t going to last much longer. 

They relied on stoppage-time goals in games they’d laboured through, as well as the occasional goal-of-the-season contender and a number of good goalkeeping performances.

It’s why a 3-0 defeat at home to relegation-battling Bournemouth wasn’t actually that much of a shock, even if it came after United’s best performance of the season against Chelsea just three days earlier.

The bad news for United supporters is that the Chelsea win was actually more of an outlier than the Bournemouth defeat.

Their xGA differential of -7.9 (suggesting they should be conceding approximately half a goal more than they have in every game this season) is the worst in the league.

They should be conceding far more goals than they have been and/or their goalkeeping has been unsustainably good. Andre Onana remains second in the goals prevented charts and how long that can last remains to be seen.

Their defensive output has been hampered by injuries to Lisandro Martinez, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and the eyebrow-raising omissions of Raphael Varane, but it’s hard to excuse some of the numbers. 

Manchester United have conceded 269 shots this season (only Sheffield United and Luton Town have conceded more) and their npxGA is the fourth-worst in the league; they’ve blocked the second most shots and rank 18th for progressive carries against them. 

Erik ten Hag claimed he wanted his side to be the best transition team in the world, but it’s on the counter where they’re most vulnerable, and West Ham will look to exploit that weakness on Saturday afternoon.

West Ham to beat Manchester United – 8/5

Cherries turning corner

The sacking of Gary O’Neil looked harsh at best and bewildering at worst when the news broke over the summer – that is until the announcement of Andoni Iraola’s appointment a few hours later. 

While no one would begrudge the strong start O’Neil has made to life in the Black Country, Iraola is a more accomplished manager and the move made sense. It did, however, ramp the pressure up on Iraola after the dreadful start to the season that saw Bournemouth pick up just three points from eight games.

Their five-game xGD was 0.9 after the Chelsea draw but dipped as low as -1.58 after the ignominious loss to Wolves.

A 6-1 defeat to Manchester City followed soon after, but the Cherries appear to have turned a corner. Having posted an xG of 2.0 or better only once in their first 11 games, they’ve done it three times since, picking up 13 points from a possible 15, with their five-game xGD now 1.1.

The deeply troubling collapse of Tom Lockyer saw their clash with Luton abandoned at 1-1, but Bournemouth will hope to evade any new manager bounce at what could be a mutinous City Ground on Saturday.

Bournemouth to beat Nottingham Forest – 31/20

Calvert-Lewin's luck to change?

We covered Everton’s under-performance in the early stages of the season, and while the results were extremely tough to take, the performances suggested that Everton were carving out enough chances to eventually put some points on the board.

That has happened, but there’s one man yet to catch up.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin leads the Premier League in npxG under-performance this season, with his xG of 6.1 more than 3.0 higher than his actual tally of three goals.

Prior to last season, Calvert-Lewin’s goals (44) had broadly tallied with his xG (48.5), but his struggles from last season seem to have carried into the new campaign.

Nevertheless, Calvert-Lewin is still getting into the right positions and should’ve scored against Manchester United and Chelsea in recent weeks, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s back on the scoresheet.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score against Tottenham – 12/5

Week 16 featuring Fernandes, Haaland and Tottenham

Brilliant Bruno back to his best

While Scott McTominay was the star of the show against Chelsea with another crucial brace for Manchester United, there was an unsung hero pulling the strings throughout.

Although he didn’t record an assist, we saw Fernandes at his creative best.

James Maddison still leads the way with 8.17 shot-creating actions per 90 (ahead of Bukayo Saka on 5.5) – Fernandes had 12 against Chelsea.

Maddison also leads the way with 3.16 key passes per 90 and 3.27 passes into the penalty area per 90 – Fernandes had five and three respectively.

It was a masterclass from Fernandes, whose npxG+xA sees him ninth in the Premier League, yet with just five non-penalty goals and assists, Fernandes ranks 32nd, behind the likes of Anthony Elanga, Odsonne Edouard and Pascal Gross.

It’s hard to know exactly what we’re going to get from Manchester United at the moment, but if the performance against Chelsea is anything to go by, it could be a long afternoon for visiting Bournemouth.

Bruno Fernandes to score or assist v Bournemouth – 5/6

Hungry Haaland to punish Luton

There are two things to know about ‘expected goals’. Firstly, it’s a measure of shot quality that over the long term can act as a good identifier of how a team is performing; secondly, Erling Haaland always over-performs his expected goals.

Except this season. Haaland is actually underperforming his non-penalty xG, albeit only by 0.6, but that still makes him the 63rd most wasteful of the 395 players to have taken a shot at goal this season.

What’s less surprising is that Haaland leads the way in shots, shots on target, xG and npxG, and of those players with at least 15 shots to their name, only Gabriel Jesus and Tomas Soucek are taking them nearer to goal.

In between Haaland and the Luton goal at the weekend is Tomas Kaminski, who ranks first in the league for expected goals prevented at 0.26 per 90.

It’s an unsustainably high figure – in the last three seasons, only Liverpool’s Alisson has bettered it, and Kaminski – as Alphonse Areola did – will likely start letting a few more in.

Ahead of the midweek Premier League fixtures, we pointed out the gulf between Erling Haaland with Rodri in the line-up and Erling Haaland without Rodri in the line-up. 

The Spaniard is back in the fold for the weekend trip to Luton, and City – without a win in four – will surely take all three points.

Erling Haaland to score two or more – 15/8

Spurs' scoring struggles

Ahead of the midweek games we pointed out Tottenham’s attacking struggles – despite putting three past Manchester City – and they again floundered in front of goal, falling to another defeat.

Little has changed (though Spurs have since dropped to 11th in the Premier League’s xG table – below Everton and Manchester United): Tottenham’s chance quality remains low (only Crystal Palace, Burnley, Luton and Sheffield United have lower npxG/shot – a measure of the average quality of each shot – while only Arsenal are conceding lower-quality chances than Newcastle.

With no James Maddison – and potentially no Son Heung-min after the South Korean limped off with a back problem late on against West Ham – who’s there to break down a typically stubborn Newcastle defence?

Injuries might finally be taking their toll in the north east as Newcastle fell to a 3-0 defeat to Everton on Thursday night. While Newcastle battered Manchester United at the weekend, once they got to 1-0, their attentions shifted.

In their three 1-0 wins this season, Newcastle have registered just nine shots after going 1-0 up (and none after the 78th minute), with a combined xG of just 0.53. When Eddie Howe’s men need to grind a result out, they can.

Tottenham v Newcastle Under 3.0 Goals (Asian Line) – 2.000

Week 15 featuring Aston Villa v Man City, Everton and Spurs

Rodri-less, rudderless?

A couple of months ago, Manchester City had to play three games without midfield lynchpin Rodri.

In those three games, they lost to Newcastle, Wolves and Arsenal, and those three losses in Rodri’s absence were no coincidence.

We pointed out the Spaniard’s importance to City and little has changed since his return.

Everything still continues to go through Rodri, who’s top of the Premier League for the most touches in the middle third with 803 (William Saliba is second with 688), and although he’s rarely the one playing the final ball, he remains a master of getting the ball into dangerous positions, ranking fourth for shot-creating actions/90.

Passes Received1st
Final Third Passes1st
Middle Third Touches1st
Progressive Passes3rd
Shot Creating Actions/904th
Carry Distance5th 

It goes without saying he’ll be a huge loss at Villa Park, where the home side have won 13 consecutive games. It’s possible no one will feel that loss more than Erling Haaland, who missed a host of chances in City’s 3-3 draw with Tottenham.

Although the sample size isn’t the biggest – Haaland has played 259 minutes without Rodri this season – he’s a noticeably different player.

Haaland’s xG/90 with Rodri is 1.27; without Rodri it dips to 0.25 – the same as Casemiro and lower than Matty Cash.

There isn’t really a good time to play Manchester City, but for Aston Villa, this is as good as it’ll get.

Aston Villa to beat Manchester City – 7/2

Aston Villa to draw with Manchester City – 16/5

Flashy Gordon to punish Young

Is there a more thankful task than being a Premier League right-back against Anthony Gordon right now?

The Newcastle winger has blossomed wonderfully into the £50m player signed from Everton after what was an indifferent start in the north east.

Gordon has been one of the players of the season with nine goal contributions, but his performances are more than goals and assists.

We mentioned how Gordon’s trickery had resulted in a booking for Matty Cash on the opening weekend and how Trent Alexander-Arnold was fortunate to escape the referee’s notebook, pointing out that James Milner was in for a torrid time. It took Milner – who started on the bench – just five minutes to receive a yellow card for fouling Gordon.

Both Harry Maguire and Antony were cautioned for bringing Gordon down on Saturday, with Lesley Ugochukwu booked for Chelsea before Reece James picked up a second yellow in the 4-1 defeat the week before.

In short, thoughts go out to Ashley Young on Thursday night.

But what about Gordon’s team mates? What’s left of them anyway… Nick Pope is the latest to check in to Newcastle’s physio room and will be out for a number of months with a dislocated shoulder.

Despite all the injuries, Newcastle have continued to blow sides away – but these performances almost always come at home, where their xG is 2.25, compared to 1.68 away from home, and that drops to 1.36 when you take out the Sheffield United anomaly. 

Some of Everton’s worst results have been at Goodison – defeats to Luton, Fulham and Wolves – but it’s also where their best performances have been. They should’ve won all three of those games with a combined xG score of 6.9-3.7 yet conspired to lose all three.

We covered Everton’s impending change in fortunes a few weeks ago and that has continued to be the case; there’s no reason Everton can’t get a result at home to a depleted Newcastle side.

Ashley Young to be booked v Newcastle – 9/4

Everton to beat Newcastle – 9/4

Everton to draw with Newcastle – 9/4

Tottenham face tough test

It’s safe to say that Ange Postecoglou is a man of his word. After the 4-1 defeat to Chelsea, he said his team would ‘have a crack’ even if they went down to five men. He acknowledged the strength of Manchester City before the weekend, but again insisted his team would ‘have a crack’.

Strangely, despite all the injuries, it was the second most goals Tottenham have scored in a game this season after their 5-2 demolition of Burnley, though it should be noted it came from an xG of just 0.5. 

Spurs’ xG never dipped below 1.0 prior to the Chelsea calamity, but since then it’s been 0.7 against Wolves, 2.3 against Aston Villa (with a sizeable chunk coming via Brennan Johnson at 2-1 down) and 0.5 against Manchester City.

Despite Postecoglou’s attacking intentions, Tottenham’s xG this season of 22.0 ranks them ninth in the league, lower than Brighton (1.66) and Brentford (1.89), and they’ve only managed to score more than twice on two occasions.

Of course, xG is just one metric and Tottenham are third for shots and shots on target, but only the newly promoted trio of Luton, Burnley and Sheffield United have a lower npxG/shot and only Sheffield United, Luton and Fulham are shooting from further out, suggesting that many of those shots are low-quality chances.

It’s a stretch to suggest that West Ham at home is a tougher prospect than Manchester City away, but it’s certainly a different challenge.

David Moyes has been happy to sit deep and absorb pressure – West Ham have conceded the third most key passes, the second most passes into the final third and the second most passes into the area, but are 15th for xGA (despite allowing 6.6 in the maulings by Liverpool and Manchester City).

Though the returns of Cristian Romero and Richarlison will help, Tottenham are still without Micky Van de Ven, Pape Matar Sarr and James Maddison, and it may require a craft and guile that Spurs are still lacking without Maddison to unlock West Ham, making a repeat of Sunday’s free-scoring affair unlikely.

Tottenham v West Ham Under 3.0 Goals (Asian Line) – 2.075

Week 14 featuring Man City v Spurs, Newcastle v Man Utd, Bayer Leverkusen

City to shut out Spurs

How quickly the wheels have come off in North London.

Topping the table after 10 games, the Ange Postecoglou era couldn’t have got off to a better start. The loss of Harry Kane wasn’t being felt in the slightest, and fans were finally enjoying an attractive – and effective – brand of football.

Of course, the biggest concern for Tottenham going into the season wasn’t so much the loss of Kane, but how they would handle injuries. The first XI looked strong enough, but the depth simply wasn’t there and it’s being exposed now.

Prior to the farce against Chelsea, Tottenham were flying, but it's proved to be a hugely costly fixture.

 Before ChelseaSince Chelsea
Touches in Penalty Area37.330
Touches in Final Third212.7174
Shots Against12.516

*All stats per 90

Of course, you can’t read too much into two games, but even with Cristian Romero coming back after the Manchester game, Micky van de Ven will be out for the foreseeable future with James Maddison also spending time on the sidelines, and it may be Maddison’s absence that will be felt the most. 

While Van de Ven’s electric pace facilitates Tottenham’s high defensive line, there’s no one available to Postecoglou who can unpick defences like Maddison.

The former Leicester man is still head and shoulders above the rest of the league in shot-creating actions with 80 (Bruno Fernandes is second with 66), and per 90 he’s even further clear with 8.17 and Jeremy Doku second with 5.59. Quite simply, a player who's contributing 8.17 shot-creating actions per 90 is irreplaceable.

Their opponents on Saturday are Manchester City, whose xGA/90 is always less than 1.00 over the course of the season and this campaign is no different, yet they’ve kept just four clean sheets in 13 games with Ederson actually conceding more goals than the xG would suggest he should be.

It shouldn’t be long before City start keeping sides out, and at home to a blunted Tottenham feels like the perfect place to start.

Manchester City to win to nil – 6/4

Slog on the Tyne

A few weeks ago, we mentioned Alphonse Areola’s unsustainable shot-stopping numbers for West Ham prior to their game with Aston Villa, which they went on to lose 4-1. Indeed, Areola has conceded 11 goals from a post-shot xG of 8.8 in his last five games.

Andre Onana is now second in the league in terms of PSxG with +0.26/90 – a figure that only Alisson has topped in the last three seasons.

After a sketchy start – and despite some absolute horror shows in Europe – Onana appears to be finding his feet at Old Trafford. Nevertheless, it’s a figure that is likely going to come down in the coming weeks and months, and a trip to St James’ Park is probably not what Manchester United need right now.

Although Newcastle look quite ordinary in a lot of attacking metrics – they’re 10th for touches in the penalty area, eighth for touches in the final third and 11th for shots, they’re able to still record big wins (5-1 v Aston Villa, 8-0 v Sheffield United, 4-0 v Crystal Palace, 4-1 v Chelsea) thanks to their xG/shot being the highest in the league. They might not create many chances, but when they do, they’re of high quality.

Manchester United have won five games out of the last six making them the form team in the lead, but the results continue to mask the performances. Even against Everton – the first game they’ve won by more than one goal this season – between Alejandro Garnacho’s wondergoal and Marcus Rashford’s penalty, they conceded 1.49 xG to Everton and were fortunate to stay ahead.

Newcastle, with Alexander Isak fit again, Bruno Guimaraes back in the heart of midfield, and Anthony Gordon terrorising every right-back in the country, should put an end to the Red Devils’ winning run.

Newcastle -1 Handicap Result – 12/5

Newcastle -2 Handicap Result – 6/1

Newcastle -3 Handicap Result – 16/1

Bayer's bubble to burst

You’ve likely seen the headlines coming out of Germany in recent weeks, that Bayer Leverkusen are top of Bundesliga after the best start in the competition’s history, with Xabi Alonso’s men running roughshod over everyone they meet.

The question is: can they sustain their start to the season and actually challenge for the title?

A glance at the underlying numbers suggests not.

They’re not just the biggest overachievers in terms of xG in the Bundesliga, but all of Europe’s top five leagues. With an xGD of 13.0 and an actual goal difference of +27 (over achieving by better than one goal per match), it suggests some regression is due.

Leverkusen have scored an average of just over three goals per game which is impressive however you look at it, but seven of those goals have come from wing-back Alex Grimaldo from an xG of just 1.6, and it’s hard to see him scoring too many more this season.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that despite Bayer’s huge over-performance in terms of xG, their centre-forward – Victor Boniface – is actually under-performing.

The Nigerian has stepped up impressively at his new club as Patrik Schick’s injury hell continues. Schick missed much of last season with a groin injury which carried into the new season. Having managed just one sub appearance, the Czech then picked up a calf injury. 

While Schick should be available for the weekend visit of Borussia Dortmund, Boniface may be called upon to lead the line again, making him Leverkusen’s most likely scorer.

Victor Boniface to score anytime v Dortmund – 8/11

Borussia Dortmund to beat Bayer Leverkusen – 7/2

Borussia Dortmund draw with Bayer Leverkusen – 15/4

Week 13 featuring Palace, Saka and Man Utd

Palace forwards fit and firing again

It’s been a long three months but Crystal Palace are finally getting their strongest XI back to full fitness.

Though Cheick Doucoure didn’t feature in the 3-2 defeat against Everton, Michael Olise did come off the bench and has had the international break to get up to speed.

Last season in the Premier League, Jordan Ayew ranked first for fouls won, while Wilfried Zaha was fifth, Michael Olise with seventh and Eberechi Eze was 12th.

This season, Ayew again ranks first having been fouled 41 times (James Maddison is second with 30 and Bruno Guimaraes is third with 26). Interestingly, despite being fouled 41 times, only one of those fouls has led to a booking (Takehiro Tomiyaso’s second yellow at the Emirates).

Jefferson Lerma and Cheick Doucoure should reunite at the base of Crystal Palace’s midfield, allowing three of Ayew, Schlupp, Eze and Olise to get at the Luton Town defence. 

Despite having one of the league’s lowest possession figures with 43.7%, they’ve won the fifth most fouls, but in terms of bookings given to their opponents, they rank 13th.

Luton’s opportunities for wins will be few and far between this season, but they might feel a home game with Crystal Palace is one. They’ll be backed by a raucous Kenilworth Road crowd, but Palace will threaten on the break and Luton’s wing-backs Alfie Doughty and the injured Issa Kabore's deputy Amari'i Bell could find themselves in the referee’s notebook.

Alfie Doughty to be booked – 2/1

Amari'i Bell to be booked – 6/1

Card Handicap – Luton +0 – 11/8

Starboy Saka picks up from last season

Throughout Eden Hazard’s time in the Premier League, he was the benchmark player; the one others were compared to. Be it Alexis Sanchez, Riyad Mahrez, even Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne in their early Premier League days – Hazard was the standard bearer.

That mantle appears to have been passed on to Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka. 

Salah has long been the best wide forward in England and remains in a league all of his own, and while Saka hasn’t reached Hazard or Salah’s level yet, he’s the one everyone now compares their player to. Be it Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, even Cole Palmer – Saka is the constant. With that comes additional scrutiny and there have been whispers that Saka is having a slightly quieter season, but the numbers don’t agree.

In terms of his per/90 stats, Saka is broadly where he was last season when he was one of the Premier League’s best players, firing Arsenal to an unlikely title challenge.

Progressive Carries5.074.67
Progressive Passes3.093.27
Progressive Passes Received14.713.0
Key Passes2.122.57
Passes into Penalty Area1.871.71
Touches in Final Third36.039.6
Touches in Penalty Area6.716.86

All stats per 90.

He’s also ranking well amongst the rest of the league and is first for progressive passes received, second for touches in the final third, fourth for shot-creating actions, sixth for touches in the area, sixth for key passes and eighth for goal-creating actions.

Brentford have been typically resolute this season, but if anyone will unpick the Bees’ defence, it will most likely be Saka.

Bukayo Saka to score or assist v Brentford – 21/20

Struggles to continue for misfiring Manchester United

If you were asked who the form team in the Premier League were – the side who’s taken the most points from the last five games – you might need 20 guesses to get it right.

Every team bar Manchester United has dropped points at least twice in the last five games, while the Red Devils have taken 12 from a possible 15.

Of course, there are caveats to that. Those four wins came against Brentford (which required two stoppage-time goals), Sheffield United (which required a 25-yard hit from Diogo Dalot), Fulham (which required another stoppage-time goal) and Luton (which required Victor Lindelof popping up with the winner after nearly an hour).

The other three Manchester United wins this season came against Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Burnley and all seven have been by one goal. Even when winning, United are riding their luck.

The stats suggest the likes of Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund will start contributing with goals and assists in the coming weeks, but the widespread injuries throughout the squad are leaving Erik ten Hag’s men looking more like a mid-table side.

Indeed, their xGD is actually negative at -1.3 – lower than Sunday’s opponents Everton. Only six teams in the league have fewer than United’s paltry 13 goals and they don’t make for good reading. 

Ten Hag has shown an unwillingness to even attempt to play his desired style of football while there are so many injuries out, and the style he’s implementing in its place is not one that will see United challenging for the top four, meaning they’ll continued to stumble through games and will be picked off by better sides.

And a trip to Goodison Park, with Everton fresh off the back of their 10-point deduction, might be the last thing they need.

The Toffees were extremely unfortunate to take just one point from their first five games and should’ve won at least two of them. They should’ve then beaten Luton but inexplicably lost 2-1. ‘Should have’s don’t cut it when losing at home to Luton, but the performances have been there and as we pointed out after the defeat to Luton, Everton were about to turn the corner - since then, they've taken 10 points from a possible 15.

It might not be the most attractive style of football – Everton had just 21% of the ball in the 1-1 draw with Brighton – but it’s effective.

With 56, Everton have had more shots on target than Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. With 17.9, their npxG is better than Arsenal and Manchester United. 

What’s less surprising is that they lead the lead in combined tackles and interceptions, or that they’re first in long balls attempted, or that their total long balls as a proportion of their total passes is behind only Luton (19%).

It’s unlikely we’ll see a classic at Goodison on Sunday, but Everton have no reason to fear their opponents.

Everton to beat Manchester United - 9/5

Week 12 featuring Nunez, West Ham v Forest and Isco

Darwin Nunez: The Enigma

In recent games, we’ve seen it all from Nunez. An awful first touch that was recovered and turned into a wondergoal; him rounding the keeper only to smash the post when presented with an open goal; him gifted a tap-in from three yards out that inexplicably cleared the crossbar.

If nothing else, it makes for good content on social media.

Jurgen Klopp has more attacking options at his disposal than he ever has at Liverpool. If we take Mohamed Salah’s place on the right wing for granted, it leaves two spaces open for Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez. It’s a selection headache every week, but Nunez looks to be Klopp’s pick for the centre forward spot.

The Uruguayan had to settle for a place on the bench for Liverpool’s first three games, but forced his way into the starting XI with a brilliant brace against Newcastle to win the game. Since then, with the exception of games following the international break, Nunez has started all but one game.

And while his finishing can range from the shocking to the sublime, how do his numbers stack up?

 2022/232023/24Premier League Rank
Shots on Target/901.862.291st
Touches in Area/908.198.774th

Min. 5.0 90s played.

Nunez's npxG/90 is better than Erling Haaland's and tied for the best in the league with Newcastle's Alexander Isak, while also improving in key areas on last season.

The Uruguyan's numbers were excellent throughout last season as he adapted to the Premier League and as a result he went off amongst the favourites in the top goalscorer market this season despite not being guaranteed a starting berth.

Such are Klopp's striking options, there are no guarantees who'll start for Liverpool, but while Nunez keeps his place in the starting XI, the goals are bound to follow sooner rather than later.

Darwin Nunez Top Goalscorer Without Erling Haaland - 14/1

Darwin Nunez to Score v Brentford - 13/10

Low-scoring affair at London Stadium

Both West Ham and Nottingham Forest have been covered here in recent weeks; West Ham and their struggles to create chances and Nottingham Forest’s more resolute approach to the season.

Though it was one-way traffic at Anfield, the 3-0 win for Liverpool meant the Under 3.5 Goals at 4/5 landed, and Forest returned to more comfortable surroundings for their 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

There are similarities between West Ham and Nottingham Forest this season; mainly that both are happy to concede possession and sit deep. As seen in the numbers below, neither is the most adventurous side and are happy to soak the pressure up.

 West Ham Premier 
League Rank
Nottm Forest Premier 
League Rank
Touches in Final Third Conceded1st2nd
Shots Blocked1st5th
Passes into Penalty Area Conceded20th15th
Key Passes Conceded19th9th
Passes into Final Third Conceded19th20th
Touches in Final Third18th19th
Passes into Penalty Area16th18th
Passes into Final Third13th19th

West Ham have had the majority of possession in just three games this season: Luton, Sheffield United and Everton; Forest just once: Luton.

So what happens when two sides who want to sit deep and don’t want the ball play each other? Well, we’re about to find out. The onus will be on West Ham to press the issue. A draw is a much better result for Forest than West Ham, but whatever the result, it’s unlikely there’ll be many goals at the London Stadium. 

West Ham v Nottingham Forest - Under 2.5 Goals - 21/20

Isco's Indian summer

A little over a decade ago, Malaga, only a few years removed from their promotion to La Liga, spent big in their quest for Champions League football.

The gamble paid off – in the short term, at least – with the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Martin Demichelis, Santi Cazorla, Jeremy Toulalan, Javier Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz at the club. 

But the star of the team was a teenager named Isco. 

The young Spaniard lit up La Liga and the Champions League, winning La Liga’s Breakthrough Player of the Year as well as the European Golden Boy. 

Sure enough, a move to Real Madrid followed, and despite recording 14 goals and assists in each of his first two seasons, Isco fell out of favour as a host of new managers came through the door in the Spanish capital. Issues with form and fitness followed, with Isco leaving after nine years to join Sevilla on a two-year deal.

To say the deal didn’t go as planned would be an understatement. Jorge Sampaoli claimed Isco wasn’t up to standard and released the 30-year-old just six months into his contract.

Isco was without a club for six months when he made the move to Real Betis, reuniting with old Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini, and Isco has been rejuvenated in Andalucia.

It's all running through the 31-year-old, who ranks among the best in La Liga - topping the big hitters at Barcelona and his old club Real - in a number of attacking areas:

 La Liga rank
Passes into Penalty Area1st
Touches in Final Third1st
Total Carrying Distance1st
Key Passes2nd
Progressive Passes2nd
Shot Creating Actions2nd
Carries into Final Third2nd
Shots on Target4th
Progressive Carries4th
Expected Assists5th
Goal Creating Actions5th

Up next for Isco? His former club and Real Betis’s arch rivals: Sevilla

Isco Over 0.5 Assists – 10/3 

Week 11 featuring Man Utd, Middlesbrough and Coventry

You have to go back to 1986 – the season Ron Atkinson was sacked – for the last time Manchester United lost five of their first 10 league games, and you have to go back to 1962 for the last time Manchester United lost eight of their first 15 games in all competitions.

A glance at the league table doesn’t provide much reassurance for Manchester United fans, either. Their goal difference is worse than Everton’s, they’ve scored fewer goals than Wolves, and have conceded more goals than Nottingham Forest. 

But there is a little room for optimism in United’s attacking numbers. While Erik ten Hag seems to have thrown his desired philosophy out of the window with the absence of key players including Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez, the Red Devils are getting the ball forward. 

Though the figures are slightly skewed by the amount of time United have spent chasing games (Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace), United rank fifth in the league for passes and carries into the final third, and fourth – ahead of Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Brighton – for passes and carries into the penalty area.

On top of that, each of Manchester United’s top six players in terms of xG are underperforming in front of goal. Indeed, Marcus Rashford tops the Premier League in expected goals minus goals scored and is 13th for npxG. Only Erling Haaland – who overtook him at the weekend – has more shots in the league than Rashford, though the United man ranks 156th for shots on target%, though that will surely balance out as the season goes on.

Of United’s other attacking options, Rasmus Hojlund, Antony and Alejandro Garnacho have combined for a total of 40 shots without finding the net this season, and while there’s been little to suggest that United’s performances are leading towards a goal glut, they should be finding the net more regularly than they have been.

Fulham defied their xG tally last season to secure a mid-table finish and look set to do the same again this season. Joao Palhinha, one of the stars of last season, has put the heartbreak of his collapsed move to Bayern Munich behind him and continues to be one of the league’s leading destroyers.

The Portuguese ranks first for tackles won, first for dribblers tackled and fifth for interceptions and that’s despite starting seven of 10 games.

But owing to their injuries, Ten Hag has often looked to bypass the midfield, which could limit Palhinha’s presence and be the Cottagers’ undoing.

Manchester United to beat Fulham – 6/5

Rasmus Hojlund to score or assist – 11/10 

Marcus Rashford to score or assist – Evs

Boro bouncing back

Back in mid-September, we looked at how Middlesbrough were one of the best-performing teams in the Championship despite sitting rock bottom in the league.

They had one point from their first five games, and followed that up with just one point in the resulting games at Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday, drifting to 9/2 after being held at Hillsborough.

Seny Dieng was bottom in goals prevented at the time and hasn’t improved significantly since, now fourth-bottom, and Boro are still running into keepers in fine form; keepers Boro have faced are preventing 0.35 goals per90, well ahead of Southampton who are second on 0.16.

But the performances have been there all season and Boro are finally reaping the rewards. After scoring just five goals in their first seven, Michael Carrick’s men scored five in their next two against Southampton and Watford, with nine more in their next four before their run was brought to a screeching halt by Stoke City on Saturday.

The 39 goals scored by Chuba Akpom and Cameron Archer will be impossible to replace by one or two players, but the rest of the squad are chipping in nicely.

In the whole of last season, Middlesbrough had 11 goalscorers; they’ve got 12 already this season.

Having lost so much ground so early – Boro had 10 points to make up on the play-off places after just seven games – it was always going to be an uphill battle, with Carrick’s side playing catch-up for much of the campaign, but the Teesiders have already closed the gap to three points and have every chance of a play-off place.

 Championship rank
Touches in Attacking Third2nd
Progressive Passes3rd
Passes into Penalty Area4th
Key Passes4th
Shots 5th
Touches in Penalty Area5th 
Passes into Attacking Third5th

 Middlesbrough to beat Plymouth – 17/20

Coventry to come good

While Middlesbrough’s season appears to have turned around, Coventry are still waiting for Lady Luck to play her part. 

After last season’s play-off final heartbreak, Coventry had to dust themselves off and go again – without perhaps the division’s best striker in Viktor Gyokeres. Gus Hamer was the next big name out of the door in the summer, with Mark Robins having to adapt to a number of last season’s loanees departing. 

Lots of pressure was placed on Ellis Simms’ shoulders, with the £8m signing from Everton tasked with replacing Gyokeres’ goals alongside Haji Wright, brought in from Antalyaspor. The former Toffees man has reasonable Championship pedigree, scoring seven in 17 for Sunderland last season, but only has two to his name this term, the same as Wright, with Matty Godden leading the way on five.

A run of just one win in nine games put paid to any outside hopes of another play-off run, and the Sky Blues have now lost three on the bounce and looking over their shoulders.

They do rank well in a number of attacking areas, however. Coventry are sixth for passes into the final third and third for passes into the penalty area.

Robins’ men have put up better xG totals than their opponents in 11 of 14 games this season and rank sixth in xGD, but have been held to six draws.

There was a high squad turnover in the summer and Coventry are perhaps still adjusting, but while the top six is likely beyond City, results should start going their way before long.

Coventry to beat Preston – 17/10

Week 10 featuring Palace v Spurs, Wolves v Newcastle and Liverpool v Forest  

Eze-less Eagles toothless

We’ve covered Crystal Palace more than once here this season, first looking at Eberechi Eze’s impressive start to the campaign, and second looking at how they were set to struggle in his absence.

Roy Hodgson must be deeply troubled by the lack of attacking impetus when Eze and Michael Olise are out of the side. 

Palace looked better in the closing stages at St James’ Park on Saturday, but they were 4-0 down and the hosts were able to make several changes by that point.

This season for Palace, Eze leads in key passes with 18 (Joachim Anderson and Jeffrey Schlupp are second on nine), passes into the penalty area with 13 (Tyrick Mitchell is second on nine), shot creating actions with 32 (Jordan Ayew is second on 24), touches in the attacking third with 215 (Jordan Ayew is second on 176) and shots with 27 (only Ayew and Odsonne Edouard have more than seven), and keep in mind Eze hasn’t played the last two matches.

Palace will be without Eze for a little while longer, and while they will eventually score goals, they won’t score many.

They host table-topping Tottenham on Friday night, who must feel confident of extending their excellent start to the season.

Tottenham’s first XI is strong. There are threats coming from both full-backs in Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie, Pape Matar Sarr and Yves Bissouma provide a sturdy midfield base, while James Maddison is going from strength to strength. 

And that’s without mentioning Son Heung-min, whose seven goals leave him behind only Erling Haaland and three off his tally from last season.

Son, however, is the biggest over-performer on xG in the league (+3.5), so don’t be surprised to see the goals dry up, though as excellent finisher, the South Korean often over-performs his xG throughout entire seasons.

If Son’s goals do dry up, Ange Postecoglou must be a tad concerned with where they’ll come from. The last six Spurs goalscorers are Son, Son, Son, Van de Ven, Son, Maddison. Even in terms of assists, the last six have been Maddison, Maddison, Richarlison, Maddison, Richarlison, Son.

Crystal Palace v Tottenham U2.5 Goals – 43/40

Testing trip for Toon

The big question coming into this season for Newcastle was how their squad would handle European football. 

In Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak there are two extremely potent forwards, but both of whom are too injury-prone to be relied upon to start 30+ league games. 

Wilson has long suffered with hamstring trouble and has already missed games with the same injury this season, while Isak was out for three months of last season and hobbled off with a groin injury during their Champions League game with Dortmund.

This was always going to be the test for Newcastle: can they keep their squad fit and fresh enough to play a European game midweek and still get three points in the Premier League at the weekend?

Since the start of last season, Newcastle have often been an all-or-nothing team. This season, they’ve scored one or none in four matches, and have scored four, five and eight in three matches.

It was a similar tale last season. In more than half their matches they scored one or none, but scored four or more eight times.

Newcastle are first in the Premier League goals and expected goals, yet rank 10th for shots, 10th for passes into the final third and ninth for passes into the penalty area. Howe’s men don’t attack in great volume but they do attack with high quality. When those high-quality attacks fail to materialise, however, the goals dry up.

They have one of the league’s biggest over-performers next with a trip to Wolves. The best-backed side to go down at the start of the season, Gary O’Neil has masterminded a victory over Manchester City, not to mention an ultra-satisfying one away to his former employers last week.

Wolves have been good in the games against top sides this season. They should’ve got something from the opening game against Manchester United; they were unlucky not to get something from the Liverpool game, then of course they beat Manchester City 2-1. 

They can be confident of taking a point or better on Saturday.

Wolves to beat Newcastle – 16/5

Wolves to draw with Newcastle – 3/1

Forest showing fortitude

Nottingham Forest’s xGA last season averaged out at 1.69 per game; this season it’s down to 1.39 per game – better than Manchester United, Aston Villa and Brighton – and that’s having playing Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City away from home. They conceded seven goals in those fixtures, compared to 16 last season.

There’s no question Steve Cooper has made his side more resolute and it’s what should keep them in the Premier League.

Interestingly, Forest have allowed the most passes into their final third but only the 10th most passes into their area, while only Arsenal and Manchester City have allowed more key passes

Forests rank 19th for tackles in the midfield and attacking third but second for tackles in the defensive third.

Cooper seems more than happy to allow sides to have the ball and come at Forest, making sure no one can get in behind them. It’s not leading to many goals at either end of the pitch, but it’s certainly effective.

It’s hard to make a case for Forest keeping Liverpool out for 90 minutes, but they should at least keep the score respectable.

Liverpool v Nottingham Forest Under 2.5 Goals – 15/8 

Liverpool v Nottingham Forest Under 3.5 Goals – 4/5 


Week 9 featuring Marcus Rashford, Liverpool v Everton and Aston Villa v West Ham

Rashford due a reward

Last week, we touched on Manchester City's performances with and without Rodri, how Everton were long overdue a win, and how big a miss Eberechi Eze would be to Crystal Palace for the visit of Nottingham Forest. This week we're looking at the maligned Marcus Rashford, the Merseyside derby, and how long West Ham can maintain their defensive record.

It’s no secret there are major issues at Old Trafford. Manchester United are lodged in mid-table, injuries have decimated their back-line and goals are proving extremely hard to come by.

There haven’t really been any disastrous performances, but a number of seriously underwhelming ones, with all four of their league wins coming by the odd goal against teams they’d hope to put to the sword. 

Injuries have certainly played their part defensively, but United have looked disjointed in attack, and it’s harder to accept when looking at the likes of Tottenham who haven’t exactly overhauled their squad but looks leaps and bounds better than last season – despite losing their best player in Harry Kane.

United have a front six that cost more than £300m – and that’s excluding Jadon Sancho and including academy graduate Marcus Rashford – and it’s fair to expect Erik ten Hag to be getting more out of his side than he currently is.

Despite his 30-goal campaign last season, there were reports that Rashford could be dropped from the United XI for the visit of Brentford and even then he only lasted little over an hour with the hosts looking toothless.

Rashford has perhaps shouldered the brunt of criticism so far with just one goal in his first eight games, so far unable to produce the goalscoring form that catapulted United into the top four last season.

The 25-year-old’s predictability and wastefulness in front of goal has become increasingly frustrating for fans, but Rashford’s numbers stack up quite well, particularly in comparison to last season.

Rashford’s per 90 stats have improved in a number of areas, including touches in the final third and the penalty area, successful take-ons, progressive carries, carries into the final third and carries into the penalty area.

Rashford also ranks first for shots in the Premier League this season, and with four of United’s next five fixtures coming against Sheffield United, Fulham, Luton and Everton, it shouldn’t be too long before Rashford starts hitting the target and finding the net. 

Marcus Rashford Premier League stats:

Key Passes0.941.08
Passes into Penalty Area1.661.76
Passes into Final Third1.191.22
Progressive Passes2.752.84
Shot Creating Actions3.064.71*
Touches in Final Third22.027.2
Touches in Penalty Area5.726.62*
Successful Take-Ons4.315.54*
Progressive Carries2.664.86*
Carries into Final Third1.592.30
Carries into Penalty Area1.723.51*

All stats per 90

*Top 10 in Premier League

Rashford O1.5 shots on target v Sheffield United – 6/5

Rashford O2.5 shots v Sheffield United – 4/6

Rashford to score anytime – 21/20

Goals in store at Anfield

They say attack is the best form of defence and it’s a principle Jurgen Klopp seems to be living by this season. 

While Liverpool do have a concerning tendency to concede the first goal in games (Bournemouth, Newcastle, Wolves, Tottenham and Brighton), they have a more encouraging tendency to hit back strongly. 

The question marks around Liverpool coming into the new campaign was how the new-look midfield would cope with the defensive aspect of the game, considering they were lacking a recognised defensive midfielder, with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai more of a threat at the other end of the pitch. 

And to be fair, Liverpool have looked exposed at times, certainly early in games. Their xGA has them 10th in the league, below Nottingham Forest and Everton and it’s unlikely Alisson will be competing for the Golden Glove unless they sharpen up significantly.

But it’s not causing the Reds any problems. Since the opening weekend against Chelsea, Liverpool have lost to Tottenham in a game they could so easily have won (or at least drawn) on another day and were undone by a defensive lapse and a set piece against Brighton. 

They have a myriad of attacking options, and Mohamed Salah is thriving in his role as more of a creator than a goalscorer. Salah’s npxG/90 is the lowest it’s been since arriving at Anfield but his xA/90 is the highest it’s been. Similarly, he’s taking the fewest shots of his Liverpool career, but is recording more key passes and more passes into the final third. It’s a role Salah can thrive in with the likes of Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez able to play more centrally.

The Merseyside derby is next for Liverpool, and based on how both sides have performed this season, goals appear to be on the cards. Everton’s woes in front of goal have been well documented but they went someway to putting the record straight against Bournemouth with three goals inside the hour. 

The Toffees' xGD is remarkably better than Tottenham’s, Brighton’s and Manchester United’s this season, and while losing at home to Fulham, Wolves and Luton does little to inspire confidence, Sean Dyche can be hopeful of his side giving Liverpool a game on Saturday.

Liverpool v Everton O3.5 goals – 11/10

Worry for West Ham?

Doesn’t it seem a long time ago that West Ham were in a genuine relegation battle? David Moyes was suggesting he’d have to field weakened sides in Europe to secure their Premier League status. Since then, they’ve hauled themselves out of the relegation zone, won a European trophy and look like the West Ham of old, seventh in the table, ahead of Newcastle, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Though there is room for caution, particularly ahead of this weekend’s clash with red-hot Aston Villa. 

Unai Emery’s men are blowing away anyone who dares to show their faces at Villa Park, recording a goal differential of nearly four per game in front of their home fans, though the Villans will have to get past one of the form keepers in the league in Alphonse Areola, and Brighton are the only side over-performing than Villa in terms of xG.

The Frenchman has snatched the gloves from Lukasz Fabianski and won’t be giving them back in a hurry but it’s worth mentioning that Areola currently tops the goals prevented charts with 0.44 per 90 – saving the Hammers almost half a goal every match. 

It’s a figure that’s virtually impossible to maintain over a full season (Alisson topped last season’s charts with 0.27/90, Josa Sa was 0.20/90 the season before and Nick Pope was top the season before that with 0.13/90) and will likely see West Ham ship a few more goals than they’d expect – especially as they have the third worst xGA in the league and have conceded the second most shots.

They might also struggle to test Aston Villa going forward on Sunday. They rank 15th in the league for shots taken – fewer than Bournemouth and Luton – and are dead last for passes into the final third, while only Wolves, Burnley and Sheffield United have completed fewer passes into the penalty area.

Moyes is content to let his side sit back and absorb the pressure but if the counter-attacking plan doesn’t work, it could be another routine home win for Aston Villa. 

Aston Villa to win – 10/11

Aston Villa to win 1-0 –11/1

Aston Villa to win 2-0 –11/1


Week 8 featuring Rodri, Everton and Nottingham Forest 

It’s not always wise to read too much into small sample sizes, but Pep Guardiola must be concerned with how his team performed in the absence of Rodri at the weekend.

The Spaniard has established himself as one of Guardiola’s most important players, and based on what we saw at Molineux, he might even be more important than Erling Haaland. 

Can a holding midfielder be more important than a striker who scores a goal a game? When you look at what that holding midfielder brings to the side, and what’s missing when he’s absent; perhaps so.

City had spent a total of 10 minutes behind in games this season prior to their trip to Molineux, where they were behind for 66 minutes, yet they couldn’t get past Wolves.

Rodri ranks fourth in the league for shot-creating actions per 90 and leads in a number of other areas: 

 Per 90Premier League Rank*
Touches in Midfield Third88.51st
Passes Received110.41st 
Progressive Passing Distance**530.91st  
Passes into Final Third13.61st
Progressive Passes10.93rd

*Min. 3 90s played.

**Amongst midfielders

Everything City do runs through Rodri, but it might be his progressive passing distance that stands out the most. On average in every match, he plays progressive passes the length of around five football pitches.

Without him, City need to adapt; Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes are both talented footballers, but neither brings what Rodri does.

The one solace for Guardiola is that his opposite number will be without arguably his most important player with Bukayo Saka expected to be missing through injury, but Arsenal must feel confident of getting a result on Sunday.

Arsenal to beat Manchester City – 19/10

Toffees to turn corner

It never rains but it pours, and at a drenched Goodison Park last Saturday, Everton’s season went from bad to worse. The Toffees have had a great start to the season in terms of fixtures; in their first seven games they’ve only faced one of the big seven and have faced two of the Premier League’s new boys.

But in terms of results it’s been a disaster with just one win and one draw. 

Now, saying ‘you won on xG’ to an Everton fan feels like a quick way to a thick ear at the moment, but there’s more to it than that. 

Yes, Everton have won all bar two of their games on xG, but in two of their first three games against Fulham and Wolves, they were by far the better side only to be punished by late goals. Win those and the narrative around their season would be very different.

Everton are losing to sides they simply have to be beating, but just as a coin can land on heads 10 times in a row, teams can be on the end of exceptional misfortune over periods of time.

Even against Luton, it was all Everton until the visitors’ first goal (which came after the ball rebounded off Jordan Pickford and was cleared into the path of the onrushing Tom Lockyer) and it was all Everton after their second. 

The issue is it was a devastating seven-minute spell that put the game beyond Sean Dyche’s men, even if Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored just before half-time. 

The style of football might not always be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it is creating chances. Everton rank eighth in the league for touches in the final third (above Newcastle and Aston Villa), eighth in the league for shot-creating actions (above Chelsea and Aston Villa), seventh for key passes (tied with Arsenal) and seventh for shots on target (above Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United).

Calvert-Lewin and Dwight McNeil are both fit again with Beto able to provide an option from the bench, and with struggling Bournemouth at home next, there’s no better time to record a second win of the season.

Everton to beat Bournemouth – 10/11

Forest to frustrate Palace

In week 3, we referred to Eberechi Eze’s new role at Crystal Palace and how he was thriving in it. The 25-year-old has blossomed into a player the Eagles can rely upon to be their primary creative outlet while offering a goal threat. 

This season, Eze has record three or more shots in every game (aside from the trip to Old Trafford where they soaked up pressure for much of the game after taking a first-half lead).

Eze ranks eighth in the league for shot-creating actions, seventh for carries into the final third, 11th for carries into the penalty area, sixth for touches into the final third, first for successful take-ons and ninth for key passes. 

Which is why his absence on Saturday evening for the visit of Nottingham Forest will hurt all the more.

And Forest present a different proposition this season. Their away form last term was dismal but Steve Cooper has made them a more resolute outfit on the road. Their away games this season have harshly been Arsenal, Manchester United, Cheslea and Manchester City, but they’ve only conceded seven games from those four games – winning at Stamford Bridge.

Nottingham Forest have allowed – by a fair distance – the most passes into the final third this season, but rank 13th for key passes allowed and ninth for passes allowed into the penalty area.

Forest are happy to sit deep and soak up pressure knowing that they’re unlikely to concede many big chances (their xGA is the same as Tottenham, and better than Manchester United, Aston Villa and Burnley) before using the likes of Taiwo Awoniyi, Calum Hudson-Odoi and Anthony Elanga to hit sides on the break.

With no Eze or Jefferson Lerma for Palace and Michael Olise still a long-term absentee, Roy Hodgson’s men may like the guile and firepower to get past an increasingly robust Forest side at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest U2.5 Goals – 8/13

Crystal Palace Under 1.5 Goals – 8/15

Crystal Palace Under 0.5 Goals – 5/2


Week 7 featuring Chelsea, Szoboszlai and Ipswich

Chelsea suffering the Blues

It’s not easy to sugar-coat it; Chelsea are nearing crisis mode. We’re less than two months into the season, Chelsea are less than three months into a manager, and the team is about 12 months into an almost-brand-new XI. 

But when you take one point from Nottingham Forest at home, Bournemouth away and Aston Villa at home, you can have few complaints when the cracked badges start to appear on the back pages of the newspapers.

But this was always on the cards. Alright, perhaps being shorter for relegation (50/1) than the title (150/1) by the end of September wasn’t on the cards, but inconsistency was. 

There is, however, reason for some optimism.

In terms of goals prevented by opposition keepers, only Everton (+4.4) rank higher than Chelsea (+4.0); they’re third for xGA behind only Manchester City and Arsenal and third for goals conceded behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

Chelsea’s struggles have come in front of goal, failing to score in their last three games and it will likely take time to find some attacking fluidity. 

Nicolas Jackson managing to pick up five yellow cards in his first six games almost feels impressive when you consider that two of those cards came in games in which he didn't even commit a foul, but it means he’ll miss Chelsea’s short trip across West London to face Fulham and it could create something of a headache for Mauricio Pochettino.

While Jackson only has one goal to his name, he’s third in the league for xG and ranks first by some distance in xG minus goals and will be missed at Craven Cottage, but Chelsea are performing well in a number of attacking areas and goals should come before long.

 Premier League Rank
Touches in Attacking Third2nd 
Touches in Penalty Area2nd 
Passes into Penalty Area2nd
Passes into Final Third3rd
Progressive Passes3rd

Chelsea O1.5 Goals v Fulham - Evs

Szoboszlai starring for Liverpool

It wasn’t going to be easy for any of Liverpool’s new midfielders stepping into a new system that even their new team-mates might not be familiar with. The old guard of Henderson, Fabinho, Milner, Keita, Wijnaldum and Co are long gone, and there will likely be some inconsistency for a little while yet.

But Dominik Szoboszlai has taken to life on Merseyside like a duck to water. He was a superbly creative midfielder for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, scoring six goals and creating eight in both his two seasons in Germany, earning a move to Anfield.

Despite his impressive performances in a Liverpool shirt, he’s yet to register an assist. This is likely due to him playing a slightly deeper role for the Reds than his did for Leipzig

 Premier League Rank
Shot Creating Actions4th 
Touches in Middle Third*4th  
Progressive Carry Distance*5th
Passes Received*7th
Progressive Passes7th
Passes into Attacking Third*8th 
Touches in Attacking Third15th 

*Amongst Premier League midfielders

It won’t surprise anyone to know that Both Teams to Score between Tottenham and Liverpool is the shortest price in the Premier League this weekend at 4/11. Both Tottenham and Liverpool have been scoring goals for fun, and while the Hungarian is yet to get amongst them, he’s quickly established himself as a crucial member of the Reds’ midfield, and he should find himself contributing before long.

Dominik Szobozslai O0.5 Assists v Tottenham - 4/1

Tractor Boys churning out wins

Rewind two years; Ipswich are languishing around the relegation zone of League One, now in their third season in England’s third tier; 21 years removed from their last promotion. 

Fast forward to the present day and a second consecutive promotion is looking more likely by the week.

2023 has seen Ipswich lose just five games in total, and after finishing second while reaching 98 points last season – a tally bettered by only four League One champions in the last 20 years – they’ve started the new campaign in similar fashion.

The appointment of Kieran McKenna – still the youngest coach in the EFL – is the Tractor Boys’ best hire since George Burley back in 1994.

Town rank first in the Championship for xG, goals scored, shots and shots on target, while Vaclav Hladky ranks first amongst Championship goalkeepers in goals prevented, stepping up in place of the injured Christian Walton, with the Tractor Boys also first for tackles won.

McKenna and Ipswich won plenty of admirers for their possession-heavy style of play in League One last season, but the challenge when stepping up a division is whether or not you can impose yourself against better opposition, and if not, how you can adapt.

McKenna seems happy to maintain his passing philosophy – the third goal against Wolves catches the eye with Jack Taylor scoring a 25-yard screamer, but it came at the end of a move featuring 19 completed passes, against a Premier League side, no less, that started from the back.

What might be most impressive about Ipswich is how they’ve only had 60% of the ball (their average possession in League One) once this season, but have still found a way to beat sides.

Only 11 team have gone from the third tier to the first tier in two seasons, but the way they’ve started, they may well be number 12.

Ipswich to be Promoted - Evs


Week 6 featuring Haaland, Kulusevski and Crystal Palace

Another game, another Erling Haaland goal. 

But watch the highlights of Manchester City’s trip to West Ham and you’ll see that Haaland missed an uncharacteristic - unprecedented, even - number of chances. 

The Norwegian actually missed five big chances against West Ham, and keep in mind he’d had seven big chances across his first four matches (where he’d scored six goals). 

But the performance against West Ham is actually indicative of a slight change in City’s approach. It won’t surprise anyone to discover that Haaland has the most shots and shots on target in the Premier League this season, but the 23-year-old’s numbers are actually increasing after last season’s effort.

In a campaign where he scored four hat-tricks and five braces, Haaland never reached 2.0 xG in a game last season; he’s recorded 2.1 against Sheffield United and 2.5 against West Ham so far this time around. He’s also having more shots, from closer to goal, and more of them are finding the target.

Shots on Target1.722.65
Shots on Target %45.7%48.1%
Average Shot Distance 12.6 yards11.5 yards

All stats per 90

Kevin De Bruyne’s yet to complete a half of football this season and won’t do so for another few months, but City remain a creative juggernaut with seven of their players being credited with an assist in the first five games. 

Ilkay Gundogan has been replaced by Mateo Kovacic, but even the Croatian has only started three games. Bernardo Silva has started three, while Jack Grealish and summer signing Jeremy Doku have started two each. No matter what the problem, City seem to have the answer.

Barring serious injury, Haaland will surely win another Golden Boot; he scored 39% of City’s Premier League goals last season and has 50% of them this season.

His maiden campaign in England saw him set a new goalscoring record, and Haaland may already have his sights set on surpassing last season’s 36-goal haul.

Erling Haaland to Score 2 or More v Nottingham Forest – 13/8

Erling Haaland to Score 40 or More Premier League Goals – 3/1

Dazzling Dejan

James Maddison may have taken the plaudits in the first few weeks of the season, with Son Heung-min getting his name back in lights with a hat-trick against Burnley; Dejan Kulusevski however is quietly going under the radar.

The Swede looked an excellent signing upon his arrival in North London with 13 goal contributions across his first 18 games, but hit something of a brick wall – like many of his colleagues – last season with Antonio Conte losing his job partway through the campaign. 

But Kulusevski once again looks like a crucial part of the Spurs attack and is back to his creative and goalscoring best.

He hasn’t technically recorded an assist yet, despite providing the ball for Pape Matar Sarr’s opener against Manchester United, but does have two goals to his name and is ranking highly in a number of attacking areas.

 TotalPremier League Rank
Carries Into Penalty Area172nd
Expected Assists – Actual Assists1.33rd
Progressive Carries294th
Progressive Passes Received614th
Touches in Att. Third1704th
Crosses Into Penalty Area37th
Key Passes1210th
Expected Assists1.311th
Shot-Creating Actions2212th
Carries Into Att. Third1313th

Spurs are riding the crest of a wave at the moment and just as it appeared the bubble had burst against Sheffield United, two stoppage-time goals extended their winning run.

Arsenal away represents not just their toughest test of the season so far, but one of their biggest tests of the entire season. 

There will be an inevitable drop-off at some point – perhaps starting this weekend – but while Tottenham’s good form continues, Kulusevski is likely to be integral to it.

Dejan Kulusevski to Score Anytime v Arsenal – 9/2

Dejan Kulusevski Over 0.5 Assists v Arsenal 11/2

Eagles soaring

Admittedly, the result at Villa Park – in particular the nature of it – hurt Crystal Palace hugely, but there’s been a lot to like from the Eagles’ start to the season. 

Cheick Doucoure has been joined by Jefferson Lerma providing a really solid midfield duo; Doucoure ranks fifth in the league for tackles and interceptions, sixth for interceptions and fourth for dribblers tackled.

The midfield pairing, protecting a solid back four of Joel Ward, Marc Guehi – who was injured for the trip to Villa Park – Joachim Anderson and Tyrick Mitchell, has seen Palace face just 12 shots on target, though the fact they’ve conceded seven goals may be a slight concern for Roy Hodgson.

It’s provided a robustness that’s allowed Eberechi Eze more creative freedom as a regular number 10 and it’s a role he’s thriving in. Eze ranks fifth in the league for shot-creating actions, sixth for touches in the final third, first for successful take-ons, sixth for carries into the final third and sixth for carries into the penalty area.

And as a team, Palace are looking like a more cohesive attacking unit, with only Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester City recording more shots on target this season.

Michael Olise remains a long-term absentee and Hodgson will be keen to have Lerma and Guehi fit again as soon as possible. There may be question marks over squad depth, but if they can avoid a significant injury crisis, it’s hard to see Palace being anywhere near the relegation zone this season.

Crystal Palace to finish in top half – 3/1

Crystal Palace to beat Fulham – 5/6


Week 5 featuring Fernandes, Wolves and Middlesbrough

A couple of weeks ago, we pointed out that Anthony Gordon had been fouled the joint-most times in the Premier League with full-backs having a torrid time against the former Evertonian, with James Milner likely to be the next in line – Milner didn’t enter the pitch until the 81st minute but it didn’t take long for him to find his way into the referee’s book with a foul on the Newcastle winger.

The week before, we looked into Eberechi Eze’s more attacking role at Crystal Palace and he found the net in the Eagles’ 3-2 win.

With the international break calling a temporary halt to proceedings, we’ve taken an early look at the numbers from the Premier League and Championship.

Bruno back on top

When adding everybody’s xG and xA from the Premier League so far this season and subtracting from their actual goals and assists, only Bruno Fernandes, Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Jackson and Abdoulaye Doucoure have posted 2.0 or higher and all four could be decent bets to find themselves amongst the goals and assists in the coming weeks.

But it’s the Manchester United skipper who ranks top of the league with 2.56. He does have a goal and an assist to his name this season; a respectable return from four games, but as with last season, it should be more.

As we mentioned in the first Stats Zone of the season, Fernandes wasn’t just top of the Premier League last season for expected assists, but top of Europe’s top five leagues and he's picked up where he left off. 

We only caught a glimpse of Rasmus Hojlund after coming off the bench at the Emirates, and while we still don’t know how reliable a goalscorer he’ll be for United, the Dane certainly offers a substantial physical presence.

He contributed more in his 23 minutes than we saw in the previous 67 from Anthony Martial, and it should make United a more cogent attacking unit. The Dane is also strong in the air, and he could prove a perfect target for Fernandes’s crosses from the right half space.

Fernandes ranks sixth in the league for shot-creating actions, fifth for touches in the attacking third, fifth for progressive passes amongst midfielders and first for xA and it shouldn’t be much longer before his creative efforts bear fruit.

Bruno Fernandes O0.5 Assists v Brighton - 11/4

Promising signs for Wolves

The international break will come to an end with Wolves playing host to Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. With all the turmoil over the summer, it became harder and harder to make a case for Wolves staying up and Gary O’Neil’s men were the best-backed side for relegation heading into the new campaign.

But the signs at Molineux have been positive. Wolves weren’t just unlucky to lose at Old Trafford, they were very hard done by not to win. They had 23 shots against Manchester United – a figure they only matched once last season (their 4-2 loss at home to Leeds) – with six shots on target.

Ironically enough, it was arguably their worst performance of the season against Everton when Wolves secured their only win of the season.

It wasn’t the easiest start to the campaign with three away trips and their only home fixture being against Brighton, where they somewhat naively took the game to the visitors only to find themselves picked off on the break.

They now have another of the Premier League big boys but will be backed by a raucous home crowd, and O’Neil must look at this as an opportunity to attack Liverpool.

The Reds haven’t quite got out of second gear this season and weren’t helped by Virgil van Dijk’s response to his dismissal at Newcastle, earning him an extra game’s suspension that will see him sit out of Saturday’s clash, with Ibrahima Konate still injured.

Wataru Endo was signed to give Liverpool’s midfield more robustness, but Curtis Jones was selected for Aston Villa and it may be that Endo is used more in games where Liverpool won’t have as much of the ball. Assuming Jurgen Klopp selects a similar XI against Wolves, it should make them more dangerous in possession, but more vulnerable out of it.

Progressive Passes147 (9th)141 (10th)
Key Passes49 (7th)45 (10th)
Passes into Attacking Third102 (13th)101 (14th)
Touches in Attacking Third582 (9th)569 (10th)
Passes into Penalty Area36 (10th)33 (12th)
Touches in Penalty Area103 (10th)110 (8th)

It’s still very early days and it’s hard to read too much into what we’ve seen so far, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism that Wolves can get a result on Saturday.

Wolves or Draw v Liverpool – 13/8

Wolves O1.5 Goals v Liverpool – 12/5

Tide turning on Teesside

It’s safe to say after the highs of last season and all the optimism going into the new campaign, few would have expected Middlesbrough to go into the international break with one point from five.

A place in the top six was tipped by many after the turnaround in fortunes following Michael Carrick’s appointment at the club a year ago, but Boro are rock bottom without a win.

There have, however, been positives to take outside of the results for the Teesiders.

Middlesbrough have the third best xG in the division and the joint-second best xGA, tied with table-topping Preston, and while the 39 goals scored by Chuba Akpom and Cameron Archer last season are clearly being felt, the performances aren’t matching the results.

They’ve also had bad luck between the sticks at both ends of the pitch. Seny Dieng hasn’t got off to the best start at the Riverside, preventing the fewest goals in the division (-4.1), and at the other end, Boro have been running into goalkeepers in inspired form with opposition goalkeepers preventing the most goals in the division (+5.7, ahead of Leeds United (+2.2) and Cardiff City (+1.4)). 

Huddersfield’s Lee Nicholls and QPR’s Asmir Begovic both produced a number of important saves to keep last season’s play-off semi-finalists winless.

In Carrick’s first managerial job we’ve seen a possession-heavy, attacking brand of football, and despite the change in personnel, that’s remained in place this term. 

 Championship rank
Touches in Attacking Third2nd 
Progressive Passes3rd 
Passes into Attacking Third3rd 
Passes into Penalty Area4th 
Key Passes5th 

If the first few weeks of the season tell us anything, it’s that the losses of Akpom and Archer will be the primary factor in Boro not making the play-offs, but the picture isn’t quite as bleak as it seems, and those wins should be right around the corner.

Middlesbrough to beat Blackburn – 17/10


Week 4 featuring Enzo Fernandez, Everton and Anthony Gordon

Fernandez flourishing in creative role

Last week we referred to Ben Chilwell’s more attacking role in Chelsea’s new setup likely leading to more opportunities to score goals and make assists. But for his inexplicable decision to square the ball when stood in front of Luton keeper Thomas Kaminski he’d have likely got off the mark for the season.

Another Blues player enjoying more creative freedom is Enzo Fernandez. It was hard to properly gauge anybody in the mess of last season, but the Argentinian is starting to look more like the £106m player Chelsea signed.

A glance at the table below shows just how more positive Fernandez has been, posting significantly better numbers in several areas.

Per 90 stats2022/232023/24
Progressive Carries1.284.67
Progressive Passes9.7716.0
Progressive Passes Received1.054.67
Key Passes1.162.67
Penalty Area Passes1.454.0
Shot Creating Actions3.436.33

Fernandez also compares favourably to the rest of the league. The 22-year-old ranks first amongst outfield players for long passes completed, passes into the final third and progressive passes. He’s also second for passes into the area and 13th for key passes.

Raheem Sterling now looks at home at Stamford Bridge, and Nicolas Jackson is sure to improve after what’s been a promising start in a Chelsea shirt, providing two excellent outlets for Fernandez. 

It will likely take time for the World Cup winner to adjust to a new system and an entirely new midfield, but the arrival of Moises Caicedo – and the injury to Carney Chukwuemeka – has given Fernandez more licence to roam, and he seems to be relishing in it. 

Fernandez has enjoyed an excellent start to the season, and while he doesn’t have any assists yet, that’s sure to change sooner rather than later.

Enzo Fernandez O0.5 Assists v Nottingham Forest – 10/3

Everton to end goal drought

Let’s be straight: Everton’s start to the season has been about as bad as it could've possibly been. They’ve played three, lost three, conceded six and scored none. To make matters worse, they’ve lost at home to Fulham and Wolves, conceding winners in the 73rd and 87th minute as added gut punch.

After the last few years at Goodison, it might be hard for the Gwladys Street faithful to find any reason for optimism, but there have been some signs that it’s not been that bad.

Prior to Fulham’s goal, the xG score on the opening weekend was 2.4-0.3, and prior to Wolves’ goal, the xG score was 1.3-0.6. 

Everton were on top in both games, and but for wasteful finishing, the Toffees could well be on six points and the picture suddenly looks very different. 

Contrary to what you might expect of a Sean Dyche team, Everton have offered a real threat going forward so far this term. Last season they averaged 121 touches in the final third per game, and that’s up to 154 this season; good enough to sit eighth in the table, above the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle and Aston Villa (who have, it should be said, had tougher fixtures).

Only Brighton, Manchester City and Newcastle have had more shots on target than Everton, and their goals to xG differential has them bottom of the table, suggesting the tide will turn before long.

Of course, there are mitigating factors to consider behind Everton's lack of goals and it can’t simply be assumed that the Toffees will start scoring just because they’re creating chances. Neal Maupay has consistently under-performed his xG, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s fitness can’t be relied upon, and Arnaut Danjuma hardly has a bank of top-level goals to call upon.

It’s led to the signing of Beto from Udinese, who has reached double figures in Serie A in each of the last two seasons, with a decent return of 0.46 and 0.42 goals per 90, similar to the rate achieved last season by Cody Gakpo and Ollie Watkins. 

He’s chalked up at Evs to score 10 or more this season, and if he can hit the ground running, Everton’s relegation fears may be allayed.

Everton can’t be talking about ifs and buts come May, however, and they can’t keep losing to teams they need to finish below them at the end of the season, and it feels like their trip to Sheffield United on Saturday is already a must-win.

Everton to beat Sheffield United – 7/5

Everton to score O2.5 goals v Sheffield United – 11/2

Gordon to get at Milner

The arrival of £40m Harvey Barnes could’ve given Eddie Howe the permanent left-winger he was missing last season after a number of players were utilised in the role. 

But the performances of Anthony Gordon so far this season – himself a £50m January signing – have rendered the ex-Evertonian virtually undroppable.

Matty Cash had no answer to Gordon on the opening weekend and picked up a booking for fouling the 22-year-old, while Trent Alexander-Arnold narrowly escaped a second yellow for pulling Gordon down on the break on Sunday.

Brighton’s defeat to West Ham on Saturday was a big surprise, and it perhaps exposed a flaw in Roberto De Zerbi’s system. There remains a Moises Caicedo-shaped hole in the Seagulls’ midfield, and West Ham looked dangerous on the break. 

Against Wolves, Brighton had 53% of possession and won 4-1. Against West Ham, they had 78% of possession and lost 3-1.

Howe should feel comfortable letting the hosts have more of the ball on Sunday, relying on counter attacks, and James Milner - 38 years old in the new year - is unlikely to be relishing a contest with Gordon, who’s already been fouled 10 times this season (joint-most in the league with Jordan Ayew). 

Milner, playing as a right-back at Brighton, has been on the pitch for 78, 56 and 71 minutes in his three starts this season which will need to be factored in if betting on the former Newcastle man, but don’t be surprised to see Howe look to use Gordon as a focal point on Saturday evening.

James Milner to be booked v Newcastle – 3/1

James Milner Over 2.5 tackles v Newcastle – 11/10


Week 3 featuring Arsenal, Eze and Chilwell

Arsenal to punish faltering Fulham

The hiding that has long been on the cards finally arrived at Craven Cottage on Saturday as Brentford put three past the hapless Cottagers.

It’s been well documented how fortunate Fulham were throughout much of last season and it appears that luck might have finally run out. Aleksandar Mitrovic has departed the club, leaving them with a 32-year-old Raul Jimenez, who hasn’t looked the same player since his head injury, leading the line. 

Having scored 30 goals across two Premier League seasons, Jimenez now has just six in his last 43 games, and without Mitrovic last season, Fulham picked up just 1.14 points per game. Not quite relegation form, but when that luck starts to turn…

Fulham were dismal against Brentford, offering virtually nothing throughout the game. The red card after the hour didn’t help matters, but the hosts were never getting anything from that game.

A trip to the Emirates is probably the last thing Marco Silva needs, even if he can treat it as something of a free hit.

Though Nottingham Forest had their moments on the opening weekend, the Gunners controlled the game, and but for the red card at Selhurst Park, Arsenal would likely have won by more.

There was something of an unknown to Arsenal coming into the new season, moving away from the 4-2-3-1 that served them so well last term, to a more adventurous setup with Martin Odegaard supported by Kai Havertz. 

But there’s been little adjustment period, and it’s hard to see the Gunners not improving significantly on their two goals so far this season on Saturday.

Arsenal -2 Handicap Result – 8/5

Arsenal Over 4.5 Goals v Fulham – 11/2

Eze excelling in new role

After an Achilles’ injury kept him out of much of 2021/22, we were treated to only glimpses of Eberechi Eze at the back end of the season.

Much was expected of the fit-again Eze in 2022/23, with the Englishman finishing the season on 10 goals, six of which came in the final 10 games of the campaign under Roy Hodgson.

The departure of Wilfried Zaha – and the arrival of Jefferson Lerma – has prompted something of a reshuffle. While Eze is versatile enough to play as a #10, on the wing, or in a deeper midfield role, the 25-year-old looks set to play in a more advanced position this season.

The signing of Lerma from Bournemouth looks to be a real coup, providing a sturdy base in midfield to allow Eze the freedom to take on a more creative role and it’s one in which he’s flourishing.

In the opening game against Sheffield United, Eze recorded 76 touches – more than his highest from last season (72), and considerably higher than his average per 90 of 51.7.

He also received 12 progressive passes (essentially a pass that moves the ball 10 yards closer to the opposition goal), a tally he bettered only once last season, at home to Nottingham Forest. 

He had eight touches in the opposition box and had 42 touches in the attacking third, both better than last season’s best, as well as eight key passes and eight shots (both a league high on the opening weekend and better than any total from last season).

Admittedly, he cut a more peripheral figure against Arsenal with Palace seeing much less of the ball, even with the Gunners playing the last 25 minutes with 10 men, but there’ll be easier propositions than last season’s title challengers to come, and what was evidently clear against Sheffield United is that Eze is going to be pivotal to Crystal Palace’s ambitions this season.

Eberechi Eze Over 0.5 Assists v Brentford – 5/1

Eberechi Eze Over 2.5 Shots v Brentford – 1/1

Eberechi Eze Over 0.5 Shots on Target v Brentford – 4/6

Eberechi Eze To Score Anytime v Brentford – 15/4

Eberechi Eze To Score from Outside the Box – Bet Boost >> 25/1

Marauding Chilwell a threat

It’s tough to get a proper reading on Chelsea and it likely will be for a few weeks. Aside from the fact that the starting XI is almost unrecognisable from two years ago, they’re onto another new manager in Mauricio Pochettino.

Liverpool started the game well at Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend, but Chelsea grew into the contest and were much the better side in the second half, perhaps unlucky not to win.

It was a similar story on Sunday, with Enzo Fernandez’s missed penalty preventing Chelsea going ahead and ultimately leading to a 3-1 defeat.

There will be inconsistency at Stamford Bridge for a while, but Ben Chilwell seems to be relishing his role in Pochettino’s system.

Playing a back three allows Chilwell to roam upfield playing more as a left-winger than a left-back, occupying a higher average position than supposed centre-forward Nicolas Jackson in each of Chelsea’s first two games. 

But for a matter of inches, Chilwell would already have a goal to his name against Liverpool as well as an assist.

With no disrespect intended to Chelsea’s opponents on Friday night, Luton may offer little resistance in what could look like a training exercise at times.

These games often rely on wide men to stretch a stubborn, compact defence, and Chilwell may well add to his opening day assist.

Ben Chilwell to Score Anytime v Luton – 11/2

Ben Chilwell Over 0.5 Assists v Luton – 9/4


Week 2 featuring Fulham, Everton and Tottenham

Fulham still living charmed life

Defying the xG Gods to finish 10th in last season’s Premier League, Fulham looked to be up against it somewhat coming into the new campaign. 

At one end of the pitch is Bernd Leno, who is tasked with replicating his performances that saw him prevent the second most goals in the league in 2022/23, and at the other end is Aleksandar Mitrovic who wants to leave the club.

On top of that, Joao Palhinha is out injured and it’s left a gaping hole in the middle of Fulham’s midfield, with Sasa Lukic temporarily tasked with filling it. 

For the first hour on Saturday at Goodison Park, Everton dominated proceedings and must have wondered how they weren’t two or three up. 

While the three points were big for Fulham, the fact they conceded 2.7xG to Everton, a figure the Toffees bettered just once in the entirety of last season, has to be a concern.

A short trip across West London is next for Fulham as they take on Brentford who looked potent in attack despite Ivan Toney’s absence, and they should feel confident of succeeding where Everton failed in breaching the Fulham defence.

  • Brentford Over 2.5 Goals v Fulham – 5/1

Promising signs for Everton

There’s no question that Saturday was a big opportunity missed for Everton. Three points dropped at home to potential relegation rivals is no way to start a campaign, but Sean Dyche has to be impressed with his team’s performance.

When hiring Dyche partway through last season, we knew Everton would become more defensively robust, but questions have remained over their attacking potency.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal output has dropped from 13 and 16 goals to five and two, with Neal Maupay being picked to start against Fulham, suffering from the same profligacy that’s plagued him for years.

Over the last five seasons, Maupay has scored 52 goals from an xG of 67.6, and after so long you have to accept that his finishing simply isn’t up to the standard of his peers.

Nevertheless, Aston Villa were left reeling from their hammering at St James’ Park and suffered what may well be a season-ending injury to Tyrone Mings.

Unai Emery had Diego Carlos and Pau Torres waiting in the wings, and has enough numbers and tactical nous to switch from a flat back four to a more unorthodox three at the back, but it could prove to be their undoing, certainly early in the season, and Dyche will be keen to exploit any vulnerability.

  • Everton Over 9.5 Shots v Aston Villa – 5/6

Tottenham touches

Shifting from Jose Mourinho to Nuno Espirito Santo to Antonio Conte to Ryan Mason and then to Ange Postecoglou was always likely to bring a testing transition period, and losing Harry Kane makes matters much worse.

But if you can be sure of one thing this season with Tottenham, it’s that they’ll be fun to watch.

But the signs were promising for Tottenham in West London on Saturday. Despite conceding 2.2xG, Tottenham still looked a potent attacking force, seeing plenty of the ball in the final third.

In their 38 Premier League games last season, their top three games for touches in the final third were Bournemouth at home (203), Liverpool at home (205) and Bournemouth away (302). Against Brentford, they registered 345; more than double their ninth highest total from 2022/23.

They’ll also have been encouraged by their next opponents’ shaky display at Old Trafford. Manchester United looked hugely vulnerable in transition with Wolves threatening to score every time they got the ball.

There are questions over Richarlison’s suitability as Tottenham’s primary goal threat, but James Maddison certainly looks the part, with Yves Bissouma also impressing.

We don’t know exactly what we’ll get from Tottenham, but goals seem assured.

  • Tottenham Over 2.5 Goals v Manchester United – 4/1


Week 1 featuring Darwin Nunez, Bruno Fernandes and Bernd Leno

Darwin Nunez due a goal glut

While he was the source of much mirth throughout his maiden campaign in England, there was lots to like about Darwin Nunez.

Cynics point to him missing chances – he missed the third most big chances in the league last season, though he finished behind Erling Haaland and Marcus Rashford on that front.

Most managers will tell you that missing big chances isn’t an issue; not getting chances in the first place is.

A slight concern is in Nunez losing his place towards the end of the season as Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota returned to fitness, but if Nunez gets minutes, he’ll get chances.

Last season, he ranked fourth* in the league for xG/90 at 0.64, higher than Mohamed Salah, Gabriel Jesus and even Harry Kane. 

You may recall Luis Suarez’s first full season at Liverpool, where he scored 11 goals, before exploding the season after with 23, and 31 the year after that.

While Nunez isn’t at the level his compatriot was, he can be expected to find that net more than the 12 times he managed last season.

  • Darwin Nunez to score v Chelsea - 21/10

Bruno Fernandes to continue delivering?

Marcus Rashford grabbed the headlines for Manchester United last season, with the likes of Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez making them a sturdier outfit, but it was Bruno Fernandes providing the Red Devils’ creative spark.

The Portuguese finished a criminally low ninth in the Premier League assists charts last season – level with Erling Haaland on eight, though he can thank his team-mates’ profligacy for that.

Five players registered more than 10 xA in the Premier League last season. Four of them were Pascal Gross (10.9), Trent Alexander-Arnold (11.5), Kieran Trippier (12.4) and Kevin De Bruyne (13.7).

Fernandes was miles above them all with 16.7 xA.

For context, across the rest of the big five European leagues, Antoine Griezmann topped the charts in La Liga with 13.9, the electric Kvarat Kvaraskhelia led the way in Serie A with 7.7, while Bayern’s Jonas Hoffman was the only player in the Bundesliga to reach double figures with 11.1, and Lionel Messi, as expected, was top in Ligue 1 with 13.4.

United’s problem was that Rashford was solely tasked with scoring the goals, as Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Antony chipped in with an underwhelming 16 goals between them.

Rasmus Hojlund isn't ready to feature yet, so Fernandes may still be missing an outlet, but assists should certainly come the Portuguese's way sooner rather than later.

  • Bruno Fernandes over 0.5 assists v Wolves - 2/1

Leno to leak goals?

Newly promoted Fulham were widely fancied to go straight back down last season, continuing their yo-yoing between Championship and Premier League.

They proved their critics wrong by not only avoiding the drop, but finishing in the top half – above rivals Chelsea no less.

Though their successes flew in the face of the xG gods, and that was partly down to the inspired performances of Bernd Leno.

Liverpool’s Alisson shone last season, topping the goals prevented charts with 10.1 with Leno second on 9.0 – a huge leap from his previous campaigns.

In third were Kepa Arrizabalaga and David Raya on 5.0 each, highlighting just how good Leno was last season.

It will be a tough ask for the German to repeat his heroics over another campaign, and don’t be surprised to see him digging the ball out of the net once or twice against Everton on the opening day.

  • Everton over 2.5 goals v Fulham - 4/1

*minimum 10 starts

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