Normal Football - Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shakes hands after the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Inside Edge: Goals drying up as ‘Big Five’ leagues start to take more normal shape

Nick Haynes from Form Labs suggests PSG’s response to a slow start in Ligue 1 may be a sign of normal things to come for the big teams across Europe and questions whether the bookies have been slow to react to a slowing of the goals, before highlighting four ‘Impact Players’ to keep an eye on in the Premier League.

The start of this football season saw a few interesting trends, such as the drastic rise in the amount of penalties and number of goals in the opening weeks of the campaign. 

However, as we predicted previously, the goals would eventually work their way back to the norm due to defenders getting up to speed with the new season, as well as the tweaking of the ridiculous handball law that was introduced for the opening weeks.

What we’ve learned: Goals drying up, but market lagging behind

The first four weeks of the Premier League season saw an average of 3.8 goals per game (gpg), as big scorelines and surprising results became the normal. However, over the last two rounds of fixtures since the international break that figure has been just 2.35 gpg, and even that is bolstered by a late flurry of goals from Man United and West Ham in gameweek 5. 

Interestingly though, it seems the market has been slow to react with Friday night’s clash between Wolves and Crystal Palace, and Fulham v West Brom on Monday night the only two fixtures this weekend to be odds-on for ‘Under 2.5 Goals’ at 3/5 and 4/5, respectively. The most surprising price seems to be 17/10 for low scoring Sheffield United hosting a misfiring Man City side who will be without a recognisable number nine. 

League leaders over performing, or favourites under performing?

As the goals begin to fade away, we might see the same fate for another trend across Europe. Everton, AC Milan, RB Leipzig and Real Sociedad are all surprise leaders of their respective leagues, which begs the question: are these sides over performing or have Europe’s giants been slow to kick off their campaign? 

PSG are a case in point for this trend as having lost their opening two matches, they have now resumed their place at the top of the table. With Ligue 1 getting a few weeks head start on the rest of the ‘Big Five’ leagues, is PSG’s rise an indication of what we can expect elsewhere over the next few weeks. 

Instead of naively looking at teams’ points total after the same amount of games last season, a better indication is how they’ve performed in relation to the corresponding fixtures last season.

AC Milan have had the smallest rise and are only 2.33 points better off than last year per our calculations, though last year’s Serie A winners Juve have seen a drop off of 5.16 points which has been a massive help to the Rossoneri so far. 

Everton have seen a 4.83 point rise which coincides with their local rivals’ 3 point drop, and while Leipzig are 5 points better off at the top of the Bundesliga, Munich haven’t exactly fallen off the pace being just a single point worse off than last year. 

La Liga, however, looks to be where the table shows a bit of a false standing at the moment as while Sociedad are 5.67 points better than last year, last year’s winners Real Madrid have seen a climb of 6.5, so we’d expect that lead to change hands pretty imminently.

Cases can be made to support Everton’s rise in that Carlo Ancelotti has had time to bed in and two windows to build a team he’s happy with, while AC Milan’s form stretches back way into last season. It’s hard to make a similar case for Sociedad who have lost Martin Odegaard and although they’ve added David Silva, it’s not enough to suggest they’ll remain at the top. 

We’d expect Liverpool, Bayern and Real to follow in the footsteps of PSG and get things back to normal in the coming weeks, though issues seem to be rooted a bit deeper for the Old Lady and Serie A could be changing hands this season for the first time in a decade.

Match Preview: Man United vs Arsenal

The days of Arsenal being absolute pushovers on the road to the top sides appear over under Mikel Arteta, though it remains a fact that the Gunners only picked up two points away to top-six sides last term, while they’ve already gone down at Anfield and the Etihad in the new campaign. They haven’t won a league game at Old Trafford since September 2006, so it’s understandable that the hosts are favourites following recent performances against quality outfits.

It should be noted that Man Utd’s five-goal haul midweek did flatter them somewhat, while Solskjaer’s men struggled to create chances against a compact Chelsea set up last weekend. The evidence of Arsenal under Arteta suggests Utd can expect a similar type of game here, which encourages us to suggest it’s likely to be a low-scoring encounter. 

Indeed, the last three head to heads have all seen fewer than three goals. Further, Arsenal have seen a maximum of two goals in five of six matches up against top sides Liverpool, Leicester or Man City in all competitions this season.

Premier League Impact Players

Here is an assessment of which Premier League players have the biggest impact on their teams when starting since the beginning of last season, using the Football Form Labs player analysis tool.

(Of players to have started at least 20 & missed at least 10 games)

  1. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – Started 22, With: 86%, Without 43%, Difference: 43%
  2. Jack O’Connell (Sheffield Utd) – Started 34, With: 38%, Without 10%, Difference: 28%
  3. Ben Mee (Burnley) – Started 32, With: 41%, Without 18%, Difference: 23%
  4. Jonjo Shelvy (Newcastle) – Started 30, With: 37%, Without 14%, Difference: 23%

NFL Preview: New York Jets @ Kansas City Chiefs

Across the pond, it’s a slight David vs Goliath contest as last year’s Super Bowl winners the Chiefs come up against the 0-7 Jets. The New York franchise is dead last in the NFL for yards gained with just 264.3 yards per game, and it’s not as though that’s on the rise as they actually lost four yards in their most recent half against Buffalo. 

The Chiefs sit as 19.5 point favourites on the spread, though if the words of head coach Andy Reid and star Quarter-Back Patrick Mahomes are anything to go by, the Chiefs are paying no attention to the odds and a 20 point win margin looks a bit of a stretch at even money. 

We wouldn’t expect Sam Darnold to have much joy in this game either though, coming up against one of the best passing defences in the league, while the 24 sacks they’ve already allowed this campaign doesn’t read well for Jets fans going into this.

Stat of the day

Man City have won 86% of 22 Premier League matches Gabriel Jesus has started since the start of last season, compared to just 43% of the 21 he didn’t, as they scored 1.09 goals per game more when he took to the field from the off.

Form Labs delivers bespoke editorial covering a variety of sports to a number of sportsbooks. Click here for more information or contact Nick Haynes on [email protected].

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