Hull City launched a superb late comeback to beat West Ham United 2-1 and keep their hopes of staying in the Premier League well and truly alive.
Andy Carroll put struggling West Ham United ahead in the first half but Andrew Robertson made it 1-1 in the second half and then Italian defender Andrea Ranocchia headed home late on to give the Tigers a vital three points as they remain unbeaten at home in the PL in 2017.
With the win Marco Silva’s side move on to 27 points and are only in the relegation zone on goal difference, while West Ham are on 33 points.
For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.
He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).
For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).
Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.
— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.
Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.
Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.
With everything else happening in Arsenal Land, you might have forgotten the 2016-17 Premier League season is far from over. Sure, the future of Arsene Wenger is in greater doubt now than it’s ever been; sure, the Gunners have lost two in a row in league play, and fallen to fourth in the league table, 12 points back of leaders Chelsea; and yes, they suddenly find themselves closer to sixth place (just two points between Arsenal and Manchester United) than they are to second (three points back of Tottenham Hotspur).
But Hull City are coming to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), which means an easy, automatic three points, right? Well, actually, wrong. Marco Silva’s side shocked Liverpool just last weekend, a result which gives the Tigers points from three of four PL games (their only loss came against Chelsea) under their newly appointed Portuguese boss. Another upset this weekend would almost certainly jump Hull from 18th in the PL table, where they presently sit, to safety outside the bottom-three.
Arsene Wenger, on the support of the fans: “Our fans have been consistent and have a high level of expectation, as I have as well. But I don’t feel it is absolutely clear. You cannot be a fan until last Tuesday and not be a fan anymore and not be behind the team this Saturday, it doesn’t make sense. … I want the fans to be behind the team. But at the same time, I am not fool enough not to know that the first priority is us and our dynamic inside the team that will create and facilitate the support of our fans.”
Marco Silva, on turning one good result into two: “Of course last weekend was important because we won three points. We take those points but now we forget the game because in my mind, all we do now is prepare for the match against Arsenal. We have to continue to show our best on the pitch and prove that what we did last week in terms of the result is our real value.”
At some point, all those injuries are going to catch up with Hull — not just the number of players unavailable, but they quality and import they carry with them as well — and if we know one thing, it’s that Arsenal bite back the hardest after they’ve been written off. Alexis Sanchez has himself a day to remember, and Arsenal are up 2-0 or 3-0 before halftime.
The team at the bottom of the table at the turn of the calendar year has only survived three times in Premier League history. Hull City may not have to worry about that.
Robert Snodgrass delivered two exquisite free-kicks, as the first crashed into the post but the second found the back of the net to give Hull City a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Ross Barkley rose high in the air six minutes from full time to peg back the home side, leaving the sides to share the points with a 2-2 finish. Still, the draw pulls Hull off the bottom of the table, leaving Swansea City a point in their wake.
Hull City was the more incisive and attacking side in the opening few minutes, and they were rewarded after 6 minutes. A corner came in from Robert Snodgrass to the near post, and Curtis Davies met it there and nodded it across the face of goal. With all the defenders sucked up to the near post towards the initial ball, Michael Dawson was at the far post where Davies’ flick fell, and he whacked it into the back of the net for an early home lead.
The Toffees responded immediately, and nearly came level just seven minutes later. A ball into the box from Gareth Barry from the left met the head of Seamus Coleman, who powered the ball on net, but it clattered the inside of the post and unluckily came back out, cleared by the Hull defensive scrum.
Nevertheless, it was clear Everton was the brighter side following the opener. They pressured David Marshall‘s box on numerous occasions through the 20th minute, when Hull had a chance of their own to go 2-0 up. A cross from Ahmed Elhomamady on the right met the crown of Dieumerci Mbokani who beat Coleman in the air, but his header was weak and cleared.
The game closed down, and it appeared Hull would take a lead into halftime, but just before the break, Hull City goalkeeper David Marshall had a horrible moment to gift Everton a goal. With a corner swung in by the Toffees, Mbokani got in Marshall’s way, looking to clear the ball with his head, and when Marshall rose behind him to punch clear, the ball clipped off the inside of his fist and instead went backwards into his own net, ticking the score to 1-1 after 45 minutes.
21 – Hull City have now gone 21 games without a clean sheet in all competitions – their worst run since January 1991 (22 games). Porous.
After the break, goals were there for the taking, but the woodwork denied both sides. Everton had a chance just two minutes after play resumed, as his shot pinged off Dawson and was tipped off the bar by a Marshall save. Then minutes later, Robert Snodgrass delivered a delicious, curling free-kick that slammed into the corner of the bar after having beaten Robles.
He’d get another chance, however, after a soft foul was given outside the Everton box when Leighton Baines was judged to have pushed down Harry Maguire. Snodgrass presented another brilliant delivery, and this time it went in, curling around the wall and tucking just inside the top-left corner.
They again couldn’t hold on, as Everton struck six minutes from full time as a nobody closed down Leighton Baines on the end line left of the box. The England international whipped in a cross, meeting the head of Ross Barkley who rose to head in the equalizer. They nearly went on to win it, as substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed just wide a minute before added time.
The points shared means Hull City moves to 13, off the bottom of the table but still four points back of safety. Swansea City now sits on the bottom, and they take on Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve. Everton, meanwhile, move to 27 points, but remain in seventh, still six back of Manchester United in front of them.