Nicolas Pepe

Leicester City punishes sorry Arsenal

1 Comment

Leicester City continued its fine home cooking with a straight-forward 2-0 defeat of unorganized Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Foxes go second in the table with 26 points, a point more than Man City before the defending champs visit Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal is now eight points back of fourth place, sinking below fifth place Sheffield United on goal differential.


Three things we learned

1. Unai Emery‘s race is run: Yeah, it’s dangerous to make judgments on a week-to-week basis, but the Spaniard’s work at Arsenal has been tremendously disappointing. Opting for a 3-5-2 with Rob Holding, David Luiz, and Calum Chambers at the back, he demanded plenty from his midfield; Lucas Torreira and the usually strong Matteo Guendouzi failed to impress behind Mesut Ozil. He has no firm idea how to best deploy his talent, and again left Nicolas Pepe to rot on the bench while Leicester rang up a 2-0 lead.

2. Leicester onto something special, especially at home: There’s been luck along the way, but the Foxes have now taken 16 of 18 points at home during an unbeaten start to the season at King Power Stadium. Their proverbial tails are up and the style, freedom, and confidence of the opening goal tells you all you need to know about the vibe at KP this season. In the words of Arlo White… “Barnes… Tielemans… VARDY!!”

3. Leicester City built for style: If Rodgers’ Foxes are given room in the midfield, they are going to run through most teams. Arsenal opted to try and match the Foxes in fluidity and possession, and were unable to do so. Outdone in possession (52-48) and shots (19-8), Arsenal rarely looked prepared to challenge despite a couple early chances for Lacazette.

Man of the Match: Maddison will be the easy shout here, but Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi were magnificent in the center of the park. Any of the three works for us.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Alexandre Lacazette missed an early chance for Arsenal, while James Maddison won a dangerous free kick for the Foxes. It came to nothing, bounding past the far post.

Lacazette stabbed wide after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cried for a handball off a prone Wilfred Ndidi.

James Maddison skimmed a free kick off the top of the bar in the 42nd minute, as a rain-soaked pitch saw increasing moments of opportunity.

Vardy sliced Leicester into a 68th minute lead with his 11th goal of the season, the clinical end of a clever bit of passing from Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes to set up the veteran Englishman.

Bernd Leno stopped a Vardy rocket moments later, but Maddison gave Leicester a cushion when he drilled a low shot through the legs of Bellerin for 2-0 in the 75th.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Arsenal

LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two of the Premier League’s more electric attacks meet at King Power Stadium when Arsenal visits Leicester City on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester can join Chelsea on 26 points with a win, a figure good for second in the Premier League before Sunday’s big Liverpool-Man City match.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Arsenal can close within three points of fourth-place Leicester with a win at the King Power Stadium

Nicolas Pepe is again on the bench for Arsenal.

LINEUPS

Leicester City:

Arsenal:

Lackluster Arsenal concede late goal, draw Vitoria

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal dropped their first points in the UEFA Europa League as they drew 1-1 at Vitoria SC in Guimares, Portugal on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

For the Gunners it was a case of yet another late goal conceded after being ahead.

Shkodran Mustafi nodded home late on as Arsenal looked to be heading home for a win with their only effort on target, but Bruno Duarte’s superb overhead kick in stoppage time snatched a draw for Vitoria.

A much-changed side didn’t play well at all against Vitoria as the pressure remains on Unai Emery shoulders. With the draw Arsenal remain top of Group F and on course to reach the Round of 32, but they will only reach the knockout round on Thursday if Standard Liege lose to Eintracht Frankfurt.

The home side came flying out of the traps as Pepe smashed the post with a superb strike from distance and then Emiliano Martinez was forced into a fine stop to deny a curling effort from the edge of the box.

Davidson’s cross was inches away from Duarte converting as the home side continued to dominate, as Martinez saved Tapsoba’s header before the break.

Mustafi sent a header just over in the second half as Arsenal improved marginally, while Dani Ceballos hobbled off with an injury to give Emery further selection issues.

Vitoria battled hard to keep their chances of getting out of the group stage alive, but Mustafi nodded home Nicolas Pepe‘s fantastic free kick to grab a victory for the Gunners.

1-0 to the Arsenal…

Wolves loanee Leo Bonatini smashed a late effort over the bar as Vitoria looked dead and buried but then Duarte finished superbly to make it 1-1 and set up a grandstand finish.

A cross then deflected off Mustafi and flew inches wide of the post as from the resulting corner Rochinha’s volley was agonzingly close for Vitoria.

The home side have crashed out of the Europa League but they do so with their heads held high, which is more than can be said for Arsenal.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 11

1 Comment

A new last place side and the potential for movement at the top, of course, as the Premier League anticipates a weekend with swing matches all over the fixture list.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

It starts with a relegation swinger between Norwich City and Watford, and ends with Sunday’s hotly-anticipated visit of Manchester City to Liverpool.

Let’s say where they all sit right now.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low


20. Norwich City — Two goals in six matches since beating Man City, both in the 87th minute or later of blowout losses. Battle stations for Friday against an improved Hornets side.
Last week: 19
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Brighton
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Friday v. Watford

19. Southampton — Impressive enough while under duress, and a decent bounce back after the Leicester humiliation.
Last week: 20
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Everton

18. Watford — Moral victories aren’t worth three points, and the improved Hornets are six points back of safety. Friday is a must.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Friday at Norwich City

17. West Ham United — Is this an institutional issue? Because Manuel Pellegrini is a heck of a coach and the talent here is deep. Lukasz Fabianski can’t come back soon enough.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

16. Burnley — Three-straight losses heading into an all-Claret visit to West Ham.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

15. Newcastle United — Over-performing their talent, yeah, and Allan Saint-Maximin is worth the price of admission. A win at home over Bournemouth would ease a lot of concerns.
Last week: 17
Season high: 15
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

14. Tottenham Hotspur — Their display versus Everton was the definition of underwhelming.
Last week: 10
Season high: 2
Season low: 13
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

13. Everton — So much better than their record. We’re all pulling for Andre Gomes, who might be a big loss in addition to the emotions involved.
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Saints

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — Graham Potter is getting results, and some buys in January might make the Seagulls a good bet for midtable.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

11. Aston Villa — Dean Smith will be furious with his men for another late capitulation, even if it was against Liverpool.
Last week: 8
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

10. Arsenal — Free Nicolas Pepe.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 8
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

9. Manchester United — This team badly needs Paul Pogba back. And he’s not coming any time soon.
Last week: 7
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

8. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s goal-scoring drought sure could use ending, but how about a nod to James McArthur‘s exceptional early season?
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

7. Bournemouth —  Diego Rico and Philip Billing have been very impressive when the Cherries are at their best.
Last week: 13
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Man Utd
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

6. Wolves — Four points from the Europa League places despite a highly-suspect start to the season. No one wants Wolves on their schedule. Now if they could get back to playing well against teams that are not the big boys.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Sheffield United — The advanced stats say the Blades are riding their luck, but we’re enjoying the journey.
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

4. Leicester City — Those same advanced stats say Leicester has been really fortunate, but like Steve McQueen in “Papillon,” they are still here.
Last week: 4
Season high: 3
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Arsenal

3. Chelsea — A forgiving run of schedules opened the door to Christian Pulisic and Co., and they’ve taken the door off its hinges and set it on fire. City in two weeks.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 2-1 at Watford
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Crystal Palace

2. Manchester City — No pressure, Pep, but Liverpool can take the title off you with all three points on Sunday.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Liverpool

1. Liverpool — Showtime, Jurgen.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

The story of the Premier League season in expected goals, points

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Human error and exceptional efforts mean that production often goes unrewarded in sports. It’s “why we watch” and why they don’t hand out trophies based on theory.

According to Opta, the expected goals (xG) “measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance.”

[ MORE: Emery attacker use in focus ]

Plenty of goals, like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s first touch, 11-yard shot from the center of the box against Wolves, are xG. Others, like Jonjo Shelvey‘s unruly, long free kick against West Ham, are not.

Many times, the xG data shows us a game very similar to the final score line. Take Manchester City’s 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Oct. 26, where Villa missed a big chance but things otherwise went exactly as expected given the chances produced by Pep Guardiola‘s men (Graphics via the exceptional twitter.com/MC_of_A)

Now consider Christian Pulisic‘s hat trick game for Chelsea at Burnley, a 4-2 win for the Blues, when some moments of individual brilliance from both teams transcended the ordinary means of production. In an xG world, the Clarets win 2-1.

So it’s stands to reason that the site UnderStat shows us an xG table quite off from the Premier League table. Here are the teams producing or failing to produce outcomes befitting their created chances.

NOTE: Excuse some of the word choices here. It’s tricky to deal in what “should” or is “expected” to happen without sounding a bit absurd. No match, player, team, or season is accurately depicted by numbers, but an 11-match sample size is as good a time as any to see who’s living a charmed or cursed life in the Premier League.

Individual leaders

The top five players in xG+xA per 90 minutes (min. 400 minutes) belong to Man City (Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne) with only Tammy Abraham of Chelsea stopping Bernardo Silva from making it six of six. Mohamed Salah is eighth, while Christian Pulisic and Marcus Rashford are ninth and 10th.

Teams beating xG

Leicester City‘s early season has been remarkable, and was so well before the Foxes hung nine goals on Southampton. Brendan Rodgers‘ prolific men have scored 27 goals this season, almost 13 more than expected. On one hand, that’s pretty magical. On another, it could be foreshadowing.

Spurs have 17 goals this season, almost five more than their xG total.

Sheffield United have conceded a miserly eight goals this season, and that’s almost seven fewer than xG.

Players in xG wilderness

Given his side’s “over-performance,” it’s not a surprise to see Jamie Vardy‘s 10 goals coming in about 5.48 more than his expected 4.52

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino is living in a different world, his three goals and three assists about 2 lower than expected. Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe is expected to have scored three goals this season, but has just one.

And how about Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick, who has not scored in 565 minutes but could have 3.31 goals according to the table? West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko is expected to have 3.28 assists, not one, while Miguel Almiron hasn’t delivered to the tune of 2.34 xG+xA

xG table, in points

According to xG, it’s not a big surprise that Man City should be leading the table. The two-time reigning champs and xG darlings gave 25 points, but were expected to claim about 27.

Meanwhile, Leicester (-6.83) and Liverpool (-8.3) are flying past their xG totals, and Newcastle (-4.13) isn’t far behind. Manchester United (+7.48), Everton (+6.82) and Watford (+9.16) are scratching their heads.

Here’s how the Top Six would look in an xG world:

  1. Man City, 26.8 xPTS (25 on real table)
  2. Liverpool, 22.7 xPTS (31)
  3. Manchester United, 20.48 xPTS (13)
  4. Chelsea, 20.41 xPTS (23)
  5. Everton, 17.82 xPTS (11)
  6. Brighton and Hove Albion, 16.31 xPTS (15)