EPL

Bale's unrivalled goal productivity, Mike Dean loves a red – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk May 03, 2021

It was another Premier League weekend where off-the-pitch (well, sort of) matters dominated the headlines, with Manchester United's home game against Liverpool postponed as a result of anti-Glazer protests.

That also meant Pep Guardiola had to put the Cava back on ice for another week, with Manchester City's title celebrations on hold.

Nevertheless, there was still plenty to keep us occupied, with Mike Dean adding another to his red card haul for the campaign and Gareth Bale proving he can cut it against the best with a hat-trick against *checks notes* relegated Sheffield United.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches…

 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Guardiola's men unrivalled going forward

City and Guardiola being rather good is nothing new, but in terms of how effective they are going forward, you may not know how much better than everyone else they really are.

During Saturday's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, which put them within one win of the title, City reached 700 goals under Guardiola across all competitions.

To put that into context, over the same period Liverpool have scored the second most among English clubs – 543. Then it's Tottenham (532) and – perhaps surprisingly so – Arsenal (522).

The only club among Europe's top five leagues to have outscored City over this time is Paris Saint-Germain (712), a club that spent roughly €400million on just two forwards back in 2017 and have – for the most part – dominated Ligue 1.

Of the 700, Sergio Aguero – who scored against Palace – has the most with 122, followed by Raheem Sterling (102) and Gabriel Jesus (81).

 

Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Tuchel has Blues switched on at the back

Ever since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Chelsea have been better almost across the board.

Arguably their greatest improvement has been at the back, where suddenly the Blues look incredibly strong despite Tuchel having the same pool of players to pick from as Lampard.

Under the former England international they had conceded 23 goals in 19 Premier League games this term, but they've let in just eight in 15 with Tuchel at the helm.

People might be keen to suggest it's just luck, but the fact the Blues' xGA (expected goals against) is 7.8 shows their eight concessions is bang on.

Granted, Lampard's xGA figure of 18.4 was a fair bit lower than the 23 let in, so they were perhaps conceding to particularly remarkable finishing.

Nevertheless, the xGA per game of the two coaches are significantly different: Tuchel's 0.5 is exactly half Lampard's 1.0, but why? What's changed?

One potential explanation is that Tuchel has Chelsea pressing more intensely from the front, as shown by PPDA data. PPDA is the number of opposition passes allowed outside of the pressing team's own defensive third, divided by the number of defensive actions by the pressing team outside of their own defensive third.

Under Lampard they had a PPDA of 11, whereas it's 9.4 under Tuchel, the lowest in the Premier League over that time. Chelsea are now facing fewer shots (7.4 per 90 minutes, compared to 10.1), and this could be down to the greater off-the-ball intensity implemented by the German.

 

Newcastle United 0-2 Arsenal: Mike Dean loves a red

Few referees in the modern game have fascinated and infuriated fans quite like Mike Dean, who is – for want of a better phrase – absolutely box office.

From his self-assured facial expressions and body language, to his frankly baffling mannerisms and showmanship: when Dean is in charge of a match, you're virtually guaranteed a talking point of some description.

But above all, it's his eagerness to pull out that red card that is the most noteworthy aspect of his officiating.

He was the man in the middle as Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-0 on Sunday and had his say right at the end as he showed Fabian Schar the red card for a nasty lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.

It stretched his record as by far the most red-card-happy referee in Premier League history. It was his 112th, 45 more than any other official.

Remarkably, it was the eighth he's shown this season alone, which is at least double the next strictest referee in the Premier League, with Graham Scott and Peter Bankes next on the list with four each.

 

Tottenham 4-0 Sheffield United: Bale makes a statement

Bale was in inspiring form on Sunday as Tottenham smashed Sheffield United 4-0, with the Wales international scoring a hat-trick – his first in a league competition since January 2016 when he put Deportivo La Coruna to the sword.

Granted, netting a treble against the Blades might not be quite as impressive as doing so against… well, any other Premier League side for that matter.

However, his overall performance coupled with his "I play well when I'm happy" comments at full-time seemed almost directed at former Spurs boss Jose Mourinho, who had Bale in and out of the team for much of the season.

Those three goals took him to 11 goal involvements (nine scored and two assisted) in 16 Premier League games this term, an average of one every 66 minutes.

That is the best such record in the league this term. The next best (among players with more than two involvements) is his team-mate Harry Kane (34 involvements, one every 80 minutes).

Bale's future is uncertain for the time being, but such a record must have club officials contemplating keeping him around for another year.

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  • Lingard named Premier League Player of the Month as fine loan spell continues Lingard named Premier League Player of the Month as fine loan spell continues

    Jesse Lingard has been named the Premier League Player of the Month for April, winning the award after also being nominated in February and March.

    The attacking midfielder has thrived since joining West Ham on loan from Manchester United.

    Lingard scored four goals and added an assist in four appearances over the course of the month as West Ham continued their push for a European place.

    He has nine goals and three assists in 13 Premier League outings for West Ham so far since joining, having been out of the picture under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the first half of the season at Old Trafford.

    The fine form he has shown earned Lingard an England recall in March.

    Mason Greenwood was one of the other members of an eight-man shortlist which also contained Trent Alexander-Arnold, Stuart Dallas, Kelechi Iheanacho, Matheus Pereira, Allan Saint-Maximin and Chris Wood.

    "I've been nominated for the past two months and even getting nominated is a great feeling for me," said Lingard, who recently received praise from Bruno Fernandes when the United playmaker labelled him the top-flight's best player over the past 10 games.

    "I want to be up there as the best I can be and the best in the world.

    "David Moyes has shown faith and given me the freedom in each game to go and perform."

    Meanwhile, Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce is April's manager of the month.

    He beat Sam Allardyce, Marcelo Bielsa and Solskjaer to the award after a month which saw Newcastle draw with Liverpool and Tottenham while recording wins over Burnley and West Ham.

    It was a run of form that secured Newcastle's Premier League safety.

    Bruce won the award for the first time after 19 years and 465 matches in the competition.

  • Macarthur 3-1 Melbourne Victory: Derbyshire at the double Macarthur 3-1 Melbourne Victory: Derbyshire at the double

    Matt Derbyshire bagged a brace as Macarthur climbed up to second in the A-League with a 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory.

    Veteran striker Derbyshire seized upon a slack pass to dink home a cheeky finish in the fourth minute – the earliest goal by any Macarthur player in the A-League.

    The hosts were indebted to a magnificent point-blank save by Adam Federici from Rudy Gestede that preserved their lead – an advantage that was doubled in the 39th minute when wing-back James Meredith headed home Jake McGing's cross to crown a fine team move.

    Elvis Kamsoba reduced the deficit for second-bottom Victory after substitute Lleyton Brooks sprung the offside trap and his shot came back off the post.

    But Derbyshire was played in by Michael Ruhs to coolly slot home his 13th goal of the season, strengthening Macarthur's grip on a finals berth and moving them nine points behind runaway leaders Melbourne City.

  • Rudi can't fail - Rudiger's rise from Lampard outcast to Tuchel's defensive rock at Chelsea Rudi can't fail - Rudiger's rise from Lampard outcast to Tuchel's defensive rock at Chelsea

    Antonio Rudiger is no stranger to putting himself in difficult and painful situations for the cause, as evidenced by the defensive lynchpin of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea revival sporting a protective face mask during matches over recent weeks.

    Nevertheless, even as a player who appears to relish a challenge and refuse to back down from a confrontation, Chelsea playing behind closed doors might have done Rudiger a favour earlier in the year.

    The Stamford Bridge faithful, for all the success lapped up during the Roman Abramovich era, are certainly not shy when it comes to voicing their displeasure over an unpopular change in the dugout, of which there have been plenty.

    There was the vocal backing for Roberto Di Matteo weeks after his sacking in 2012. Interim boss Rafael Benitez was the villain in that situation but calling out any perceived culprits among a squad often noted for wielding player power has also marked times of tumult.

    When Jose Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea ended with the then-reigning Premier League champions lurching close to the relegation zone in December 2015, he was backed by plenty of fans amid accusations of player betrayal. One banner in the ground famously branded Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa to be "The 3 Rats".

    Had stadiums been full around the time of Frank Lampard's January demise, it is possible Rudiger would have faced similar scrutiny.

    "There have been so many nonsense rumours around about me since last week," he told The Athletic in February, following speculation that urged the Chelsea board to dispense with Lampard. "I've never talked with the board about the situation of the coach or on any other topics."

    In a separate interview with Sky Sports, Rudiger explained he suffered "immense" racist abuse online after Lampard's sacking, both an indication of the levels of toxicity at play and a deplorable sign of our times.

    It certainly did not feel plausible that, in the space of four months, Rudiger would be arguably the form defender in European football and leading Chelsea's charge under Tuchel for a pair of major honours, starting in Saturday's FA Cup final against Leicester.

    Indeed, the most remarkable element of Rudiger being singled out as a man responsible for so many of the ills at Chelsea around the fall of Lampard was how little he had been involved in the first team.

    He started two of their first 17 Premier League fixtures before being recalled in the wake of a 3-1 defeat by Manchester City to start back-to-back games against Fulham and Leicester – the latter of which was a 2-0 defeat that effectively sealed Lampard's fate.

    Overall, Rudiger made nine appearances in all competitions under the former England midfielder this season, with eight of those starts. His 742 minutes on the pitch were dwarfed by first-choice duo Kurt Zouma (1,999) and Thiago Silva (1,552).

    Tuchel's decision to switch Chelsea into a 3-4-2-1 shape obviously did Rudiger and his fellow centre-backs a favour in the most basic terms of one more slot in the team being available, but the Germany international has repaid his countryman's faith emphatically.

    In 21 appearances since, he has been involved in a remarkable 14 clean sheets. No defender in the Premier League, or elsewhere in Europe's top five leagues for that matter, can boast more in this time.

    The six goals conceded with him on the field is also the lowest across the continent's elite divisions for any defender to have started 15 or more games from January 27 onwards, which was the date of Tuchel's first game in charge – a 0-0 draw with Wolves.

    Rudiger rested up for Wembley in midweek when Chelsea went down to a lacklustre 1-0 home loss to Arsenal. He was an unused substitute for the only other league defeat of Tuchel's tenure, an unhinged 5-2 collapse versus West Brom after Silva was sent off.

    In the 19 Premier League games Rudiger has not started in 2020-21, Chelsea have conceded 26 goals at a rate of 1.4 per game. With the ex-Roma man in the first XI, this plummets to seven in 17 (0.4 per game).

    Those seven goals have arrived over the course of 1,530 minutes on the field, meaning Rudiger has seen a goal conceded every 218.6 minutes. This is the best ratio in the Premier League for any defender to have played 1,000 minutes or more this term, with Manchester City pairing John Stones (194.9) and Ruben Dias (148.1) next on the list – suggesting the Champions League final in two weeks' time could be something of a cagey affair.

    When set alongside his Chelsea central defensive colleagues Zouma, Silva and Andreas Christensen, Rudiger's imposing qualities are evident. He has made 29 tackles in the Premier League this season, an average of 1.7 per 90 minutes, with no other member of the quartet averaging above one.

    His 7.1 duels per 90 is bettered by Zouma (7.6), although both have the same return when it comes to duels won (4.8).

    Of course, Rudiger has starred within a collective recalibration. In the Premier League, Tuchel's Chelsea have faced an average of 7.8 shots per game at an expected goals (xG) value of 0.6, down from 10.1 and 1 under Lampard.

    Adjustments beyond the defence have also made the Blues harder to play against. They control matches far more effectively, with an average of 663.6 passes per game up from 612.7 at a slightly better accuracy (87.7 per cent from 86.3).

    Chelsea are also pressing opponents more effectively, allowing an average of 10.1 passes per defensive action (PPDA) under Tuchel, behind only FA Cup final foes Leicester and Leeds United across the period in question. This season with Lampard in charge, they averaged 11 PPDA, which was fourth among all Premier League teams.

    The improvements have made life a little easier for defenders, but when Chelsea step out at Wembley there will be no mystery over the identity of their standout performer at centre-back – even if he is wearing a mask. Rudiger has lifted himself off the scrapheap to become Tuchel's talisman.

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