Three weeks into the new Premier League season, the team playing at home have won just 6 of the 30 fixtures (20%). This figure will undoubtedly rise as the new campaign progresses but the percentage of home wins throughout a season has been in continuous decline. But what has caused this recent trend and will we see it starting to be reversed?
There are many reasons for the decline, but one of the key factors is the lack of a ‘home banker’. As recently as December 2009 Mick McCarthy was playing his reserves in a fixture at Old Trafford whilst in 2010/11 Manchester United won 57 of the 59 points available at home. However, lower half teams no longer fear the established top 6 meaning they are more likely to drop points at home. So far this year, last season’s top 4 have won 2 of their 6 home fixtures, one being Manchester City’s demolition of fellow title contenders Chelsea. Meanwhile, Arsenal have failed to score against West Ham and Liverpool, Manchester United suffered the same issue against Newcastle and Chelsea were lucky to escape with a point from their home encounter with Garry Monk’s Swansea. The only other home victory for the top 4 was United’s Kyle Walker assisted victory against Spurs on the opening day of the season.
Teams are content to visit the top 4 and play defensively but have faith in their ability to keep a clean sheet or score on the counter-attack, a complete shift in attitude compared to previous years. As teams have started to pick up points at Stamford Bridge, the Emirates, the Etihad, Old Trafford and Anfield, the rest of the league has gained confidence, believing that they will be able to replicate the feat. This means the top 5 will be dropping unexpected points throughout the season, one of the main factors in the number of points required to become champions reducing in recent years. Of course these teams will win more than they lose at home but don’t be surprised when they are not winning week in, week out.
However, the counter-attacking style that is becoming such a useful asset in away fixtures presents a fundamental issue at home. Home supporters notoriously like to see their team playing an attacking brand of football, not one that is primarily focused on defence. This means being more expansive in attack, leaving bigger gaps in defence and giving visiting opponents more opportunities. This is a particular problem against the top 8 where their more technically gifted players exploit the bigger gaps and punish any mistakes. In their six games away from home this season, last season’s top four have suffered just one defeat, Chelsea’s at Manchester City. In contrast to the goalscoring struggles at home, City and Chelsea have both scored 3 at West Brom whilst Arsenal scored twice at Selhurst Park and City twice at Goodison Park.
Aston Villa have been a prime example of this in recent seasons as away from home, the pace and power of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke gave the Villans a dynamic outlet. At home though, when the pressure was on Villa to have the majority of possession and break down a more rigid opposition defence, they badly struggled.
The improved condition of pitches throughout the top flight also benefits the top teams when playing away from home. Gone are the days of travelling to play on a synthetic pitch or bobbly minefield in winter. Now, pitches are perfectly produced throughout the year, negating any advantage that home pitches used to provide.
Many home atmospheres have also deteriorated with more seats sold to a corporate audience who are more interested in a day out at the football than offering vocal support to those on the pitch. The increased money in football has also led to increased fan expectations meaning a misplaced pass or defensive error draws moans and groans rather than encouragement to improve. For players who are lacking in confidence this can be a hammer blow to their fragile state of mind, making them go into their shell rather than playing in a more expansive fashion that is required to break through a rigid defence. In comparison, this uncertainty can allow away players to thrive, playing their natural game with the only pressure coming from committed supporters who have travelled away from home to follow their team, providing support through thick and thin.
Finally, players are better prepared for away games with travel not making players tired on the eve on a game as used to be the case. Players do not need to worry about long arduous coach journeys on the morning of the game, instead they are more likely to be relaxing in a local hotel the night before following an afternoon flight up the country.
Therefore, there is nothing to suggest that the reduction in home wins is likely to stop as more teams have confidence to visit a top side and gain a point but then suffering at home with their style of play. Therefore, on your coupons and accumulators this year, it may be a safer bet to pick the top 4 when they are playing away from home rather than in their own backyard.
Featured image provided by Philip Hartland.[separator type=”thin”]
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Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial
If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.
Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.
Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.
Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.
However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.
The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.
Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.
Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services
Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.
Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.
One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.
It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.
When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.
With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.
What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.
If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.
Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance
The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.
West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.
Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.
Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.
Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.
It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.
Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.
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