“What was the highest xG in a Premier League game this season?” asks Pippa Wright. “And what was the lowest?”
Our friends at Stats Perform have given us some moreish data for the 2021-22 Premier League season, so let’s tuck in. The highest combined xG in a match was at the Etihad on Boxing Day, when Manchester City beat Leicester 4.17-2.41. The combined xG was 6.58, the actual score 6-3 to Manchester City.
The highest for one team was at Anfield in February, when Liverpool plugged Leeds 6-0. Their xG that night was a slightly frightening 5.36. That also led to the greatest disparity between xGs in a match this season: 5.15. The mathletes among you will be able to work out that Leeds’ xG was 0.21.
That wasn’t quite the lowest of the season, though. Cruelly, if not entirely against type, that dubious award goes to Nuno Espírito Santo’s Tottenham Hotspur. When they lost 3-0 at Crystal Palace in mid-September, the game that started their collapse under Nuno, Spurs had an xG of just 0.07.
While we’re on the subject of shot-shyness, the match with the lowest combined xG took place on the same day. Brighton sneaked a 1-0 victory at Brentford, with Leandro Trossard’s late winner an affront to both the home side and the statisticians: the combined xG for that game was 0.71 (Brentford 0.39-0.32 Brighton).
The most wasteful performance of the season came from Manchester United, who drew 0-0 at home to Watford in February despite an xG of 3.19. And the most ruthless came across Manchester – when Manchester City had an xG of 3.25 against Leeds at the Etihad in December. Unlike United, they found a way to win: 7-0.
Cup final debuts
“Has any player made their debut in a Cup final?” asked John Tumbridge last week. “Not including matches at the start of the season, like the Community Shield.”
Let’s start with a couple of close efforts, including this one from Jack Hart. “Not his full debut, but Ryan Bertrand made his European debut for Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League final. He didn’t do badly, either. As mentioned in that link, Trevor Francis made a memorable continental debut for Nottingham Forest – scoring the winning goal in the 1979 European Cup final against Malmö.
“Chris Baird played 86 minutes in the 2003 FA Cup final for Southampton, on only his second start (and fourth senior appearance) for the club,” notes Ricardio Sentulio. “His first match was as a substitute in the ominous 6-1 slaughter at the hands of Arsenal. In the rematch at the Millennium Stadium, Southampton narrowly lost 1-0.”
But so far, only one full debutant in a Cup final has been unearthed – and he’s a pretty famous name. “Paul Gascoigne made his debut for Middlesbrough in the 1998 League Cup final – a dismal no show 2-0 defeat to Chelsea,” writes Garry Brogden. “Gazza came on as a sub after replacing Craig Hignett in the squad – the story is that he gave his runner-up medal to Higgy after the game.”
Centenary titles (redux)
Last week, we looked at clubs who won league titles in their centenary year – but there were a few we missed.
“Celtic were Scottish title winners in the 1987-88 season,” wrote Charlotte Larkin and several others. “They also won the Scottish Cup that season, completing a centenary Double.” Celtic were technically formed in 1887, before playing their first game in 1888 – but that season was acknowledged by the club as their centenary.
Elsewhere, Kári Tulinius has an offbeat example: “FC Copenhagen was formed in 1992 by a merger of two clubs, Kjøbenhavns Boldklub (founded in 1876) and Boldklubben 1903. FC Copenhagen went on to win its third league title in 2003, 100 years after Boldklubben were founded.”
Finally, Dirk Maas has gone through the history books with a fine-toothed comb to find five more examples:
Al-Tilal (Yemen) founded in 1905, champions in 2005
Al Ahly (Egypt) founded April 1907, champions in 2007
CD Olimpia (Honduras) founded June 1912, champions in 2012
AS Samaritaine (Martinique): founded in 1920, champions in 2020
CS Herediano (Costa Rica): founded June 1921, champions in 2021
“In May 1969 my club Grimsby Town had our record low attendance for a home league match of 1,833,” wrote Pete Green in 2011. “In May 1972 we had 22,489 turn up to see us seal the Fourth Division title, meaning the crowd had grown more than 12 times bigger in three years. Can any other full-time English club claim such a steep surge in support?”
Tim Hill got the ball rolling: “Wigan Athletic recorded their lowest attendance in the 01-02 season of just 3,535 at home against Cambridge in their 4-1 win on 5 March 2002, yet on 11 February 2006, for their 1-0 loss to Liverpool, they recorded their highest home attendance of the season: 25,023. Not 12 times, just a measly 700% uplift in attendance.”
Staying in the northwest, Stig Marstein added that “on 8 December 1998, Manchester City played against Mansfield in the Auto Windscreens Trophy in front of 3,007 fans and in March 2004 they played against Manchester United in front of 47,284. So 15 times bigger in a bit more than five years.”
But Rob Egan went even better. “My team, Stevenage went from 414 fans at home to Wokingham Town in February 1993 to a crowd of 6,489 when they entertained Kidderminster Harriers less than four years later, in January 1997. While this was in non-league times, I calculate the latter crowd to be more than 15 times larger. In fact, in November 1991 they played Leyton Wingate in front of 329 supporters. So in little over five years, the crowd increased by a factor of 19.”
Can you help?
“Liverpool played in three finals this year, and didn’t score in any of them. Given that two went to extra time, that’s five-and-a-half hours without a goal. Is this a record? If not, who’s gone scoreless in finals for longer?” asks Derek Robertson.
“Which British club has the oldest floodlight pylons that are still in use?” asks Gordon Smith.
“The 2021 FA Cup final was Luke Thomas of Leicester’s 26th professional game but his first in front of a crowd,” notes Simon Tyers. “Did anyone play more games from the start of their career entirely in front of empty stands? Is there someone who made their debut during lockdown and has somehow still never played in front of fans?”
“Wednesday’s Copa Libertadores match between Peñarol and Colon featured 30 minutes of second-half stoppage time,” writes Dustin Franklin. “Surely this has to be a record for added time?”
“Tammy Abraham has won the Champions League, Super Cup and Europa Conference League but has won no top-tier domestic trophies,” notes Rob Lawshaw. “Which player has the most continental titles without a domestic one?
“My team, Fenerbahçe, have been managed by winners of four intercontinental cups – Carlos Alberto Parreira (Copa América, Asian Cup), Holger Osieck (Gold Cup) and Luis Aragones (Euros),” writes Öndar Susam. “Can any team beat that?”