Leicester City vs Tottenham

Leicester City vs Tottenham Preview: The shifting press

It’s funny how the momentum seems to shift from game to game in the Premier League this season. Of course, in part, this comes from the media need for interest to be generated across a 38-game season. But in this case, the artist formerly known as the Top 4, now imaginatively titled the Top 6, has something of a turbulent feel to it.

Take Spurs, for example. Going from a 3-1 win over London rivals Chelsea to a 4-2 loss to London rivals Arsenal (via a 1-0 win over Inter in the Champions League), it’s hard to know exactly how we should be viewing Mauricio Pochettino’s team.

Not that a team is only as good as it’s last game. In many respects, Tottenham’s loss to Arsenal can be traced to a failure in its ‘diamond’ pressing system to account for Arsenal’s ability to use width. Read More

West Ham vs Manchester City

West Ham vs Manchester City Preview: What hope the Hammers?

Previewing Manchester City games is like reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time: you know how it ends even if you don’t know how it will quite get there.

Pep Guardiola’s team are favourites to take home the Premier League trophy again this season. If you doubt this fact, then maybe the data will convince you. Take, for example, expected goal (xG) values from the 12 games so far this season. Of the top six teams, Manchester City are the only side who have consistently produced a greater xG for than their opponents have produced against them.

West Ham vs Manchester City Premier League Preview

If this isn’t impressive enough as it is, City’s average xG For – hovering, as it is, just below the 3 xG per 90 line – has only been bettered by Manchester United in one of their games so far (against Bournemouth away). Guardiola, then, is producing an average xG For better than Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have managed in 11 of their 12 games. Read More

Arsenal vs Liverpool Premier League Preview

Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview: Will regression decide the outcome?

With over a quarter of the season gone, it may seem odd that, when Arsenal and Liverpool clash on Saturday evening, there still remains uncertainty about how good either of the sides are. But neither of the opponents from Matchday 11’s most intriguing tie have lived up to the sort of numbers they have been posting in the Premier League so far this season.

In many respects, Arsenal are to this season what Manchester United were to last season. Despite finishing second in the league last year, Jose Mourinho’s United scored nine goals more than their expected goals (xG) values suggested they would, conceding 15 goals fewer than the same metric projected they should have conceded. As any statistician worth their salt will tell you, over- or under-performance against xG values is unsustainable in the long run and, lo and behold, this season, Manchester United find themselves regressing towards the norm with wild abandon. Read More

Southampton vs Chelsea Premier League Preview

Southampton vs Chelsea Preview: From ‘good Napoli’ to ‘good Chelsea’

For anyone who had caught much of Napoli during the past three seasons, the arrival of Maurizio Sarri in the Premier League during the summer promised to be something of a treat. With his eponymous Sarri-ball, the former investment banker had been beguiling aficionados of Serie A for whom Sarri’s high-energy pressing and breakneck transitions had almost seen them topple Juventus at the end of the 2017/18 season.

However, lest it was assumed Chelsea would be re-created in Napoli’s image under Sarri, he was quick to qualify the fan’s expectations of Sarri-ball 2.0.

‘I don’t want to do another Naples,’ he said earlier in the season. ‘I want to do a good Chelsea. I have to adapt myself to the characteristics of this championship and of (my) players. I am studying my players.’

Of course, in speaking of ‘my players’, Sarri was not entirely correct in differentiating between Napoli and Chelsea. For he had brought one player with him who would be the rock upon which he would build his new church in West London: Jorginho. Read More

Juventus vs Napoli Serie A Preview

Juventus vs Napoli Preview: Tactical conundrums for top two

As Serie A drew to a close last season, fans of Italian football were treated to something of a rarity: a title challenge that went to the wire. Having beaten Juventus at the Allianz Stadium in Gameweek 34, Napoli found themselves one point off the top of the table with four games to go. In their next two games, though, they failed to beat Fiorentina and Torino, whimpering to a second-place finish five points behind I Bianconeri who picked up a seventh consecutive scudetto.

With the new season six games old, there is already a sense of déjà vu at the top table of Italian football. Juventus find themselves three points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A as they head into their clash on Saturday. According to FiveThirtyEight’s predictive model, Juventus have a 63% chance of ending up at the top of Serie A come the end of the season, a figure that dwarves the 21% ascribed to their next closest challenger, Napoli. However the championship plays out this year, you can almost be certain that one of these two teams will be declared the winners by the time May swings around. Read More