SZ Premier League Awards: Team Performances of the Year
Other teams scored more goals on their travels, but no away team dominated the ball like Arsenal did at Craven Cottage. Taking thorough advantage of Steve Sidwell's 12th-minute red card, the Gunners chalked up season highs for passes attempted (768) and completed (688) – each roughly three times Fulham's totals. Meanwhile, their 71.2% possession figure was only beaten twice by away teams: Arsenal topped the league with 72.0% at Norwich, while Swansea managed a fraction less in the Boxing Day bore draw at Reading – the match with the fewest shots.
Most efficient attacking performance: Liverpool
(4-0 at Wigan, Sat 2 Mar)
Although Liverpool didn't always have it their own way on the road – Reading's Alex McCarthy made an astonishing 10 saves in the 0-0 at the Madejski – they frequently acted with clinical efficiency in their away games. The 6-0 win at Newcastle springs to mind, but that was only the third-most efficient in terms of goals per unblocked shot: the Reds had 16 attempts, of which 4 were blocked. In the 5-2 win at Norwich, they scored with all 5 on-target efforts but had another 4 off-target attempts (plus 7 blocked). But in the 4-0 win at Wigan, they scored 4 goals from 8 shots (of which 2 were blocked) – a 66.6% ratio of unblocked shots to goals, in a game in which their hosts had 14 fruitless shots and 52.1% possession.
Most shots in a game: 35, Liverpool
(5-0 v Swansea, Sun 17 Feb)
Not a glorious Sunday for the Swans, although they made up for it a week later at Wembley. Their weakened team was dismantled by a Liverpool side who hadn't won in five; Daniel Sturridge fired in 8 shots, Luis Suarez 6 and Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho 5 each. The Reds piled in a startling 22 first-half shots but only got 4 on target and went in just the one goal ahead, through Gerrard's penalty; in the second half they took their time, got 6 shots on target and scored 4 goals, through Coutinho, Jose Enrique, Suarez and Sturridge (from the spot). Liverpool topped all the season shots-per-game ratios, averaging 22 at home, 16.9 away and 19.4 overall.
Most shots on target in a game: 15, Chelsea
(8-0 v Aston Villa, Sun 23 Dec)
A less than merry Christmas trip for Villa set a new Premier League record: the first time a team had registered seven different scorers in one match. The Blues crashed in 26 attempts; 5 were blocked and 6 off-target, but more than half were on target – and more than half of those went in. Chelsea went into half-time 3-0 up from 9 shots (5 on target, the other 4 blocked); after the break they rained in 17 more attempts (10 on target, 1 blocked) as various attacking substitutes tormented the tiring visitors. Only Manchester United's 9-0 win over Ipswich in March 1995 has been a greater mismatch in Premier League history.
Fewest unblocked shots in a game: 0, Norwich
(0-4 at Man Utd, Sat 2 Mar)
The match before Real Madrid's trip to Old Trafford was low-key, but Norwich barely got started at all. The champions elect – they went 15 points clear with this win – eased past the Canaries thanks to Wayne Rooney's last-minute goal (from the only one of his 7 efforts to hit the target) and Shinji Kagawa's rather more efficient three-shot hat-trick. All Norwich had to show for it was Jonny Howson's blocked 20-yarder just before the hour. It's one of 3 Premier League games in which Norwich failed to get a shot on target: only Sunderland (4) gave the opposition goalkeepers more days off.
Most chances created in a game: 30, Tottenham
(3-1 v Reading, Tue 1 Jan)
With Gareth Bale suspended, things looked bleak for Spurs when Pavel Pogrebnyak put the Royals 1-0 up after four minutes – but thereafter the hosts steamrollered the visitors, creating a chance every three minutes. Aaron Lennon and Mousa Dembele led the charge, making 6 opportunities each, while Emmanuel Adebayor contributed another 5. At the other end of the scale, we're glad to report that no team finished a game without creating a single chance, but 3 teams only managed 1: Fulham (twice – at home to Arsenal and at Manchester City), Norwich (twice – at Liverpool and Manchester United, as shown above) and Sunderland (at home to Swansea).
Fewest completed passes: 119, Sunderland
(3-0 at Newcastle, Sun 14 Apr)
As detailed above, Arsenal racked up the most completed passes (688) in their 1-0 win at Fulham. The weekend before, Sunderland had taken a rather more efficient route to an away derby victory with their memorable 3-0 win at St James' Park. Compared to their hated hosts, Paolo Di Canio's side had only half the possession (34.2% to 65.8%), shots (10 to 19) and passes attempted (186 to 375), and barely a third as many passes completed (119 to 303), but they cared not a jot and won 3-0.
Best passing accuracy: 92.9%, Manchester United
(3-2 v Fulham, Sat 25 Aug)
Funny old season for Fulham, their worst for half a decade: despite starting and ending with 5-0 and 3-0 victories, they lost 9 home games (a joint high with Villa, Newcastle, QPR and Wigan) and suffered some statistical bashings. Before the heavily-dominated home loss to Arsenal (see above) came this, Manchester United's first home game, in which the eventual champions heaped on an unsurpassed 92.9% completed passes (571 from 614). Not that it was one-sided: Fulham took an early lead through Damien Duff, and although United scored three before half-time a Nemanja Vidic own goal led to a nervy last half-hour, in which the away side pressed (ending with 16 shots to United's 20) while the home side tried to keep possession, with almost as many successful passes as Sunderland managed in their whole game at Newcastle (see above).
Worst passing accuracy: 55.6%, Southampton
(3-3 at Stoke, Sat 29 Dec)
This game had the season's lowest overall pass completion, but it wasn't Stoke's fault… unless Southampton were trying to beat them at their own game. At the Britannia, the Saints attempted 284 passes, of which 190 (66.9%) were classed as forward passes and 158 (55.6%) completed; three days earlier at Fulham, Southampton had racked up 400 passes, of which only 41 (10%) were forward and 302 (a much healthier 75.5%) successful. It might have worked too, if it wasn't for that pesky Cameron Jerome and his late 30-yard equaliser.
Most completed dribbles: 23, Arsenal
(0-0 v Sunderland, Sat 18 Aug)
Arsenal started the season in style, treating the Emirates to 39 attempted dribbles – 20 from Gervinho (10 of which he completed). Not that it helped, their 23 attempts on goal resulting in only 3 unblocked on-target efforts and no goals. Six games saw teams fail to complete any dribbles: slow handclaps for Norwich (at Reading and home to Man City), Reading (home to Villa and to Swansea), West Brom (home to Chelsea) and Swansea (home to Everton).
Highest possession: 74.1%, Man United
(2-3 v Tottenham, Sat 29 Sep)
Possession isn't everything, as Spurs showed by winning at Old Trafford despite barely having a third as much ball as their hosts (in fact, United had almost as many passes in Tottenham's third as the visitors did overall). In fact, three of the four lowest possession totals were recorded by winning teams: after Reading in their 1-0 loss at Man City (26.7%) come Aston Villa in their 3-1 win at Liverpool (27.9%) and Norwich in their 1-0 home win over Arsenal (28.0%).
Most aerial duels won: 66, Stoke
(2-1 v Reading, Sat 9 Feb)
Stoke played to their strengths against Reading, winning 66 of the 107 aeriel duels the sides contested and completing a higher-than-average 10 of the 30 attempted crosses. They went in front when Robert Huth headed home Glenn Whelan's corner, and had the majority of possession – unusual for Stoke under Tony Pulis. In contrast, the lowest number of successful aerial duels was Manchester United's 2 – of just 8 battles – in Alex Ferguson's final home game, a 2-1 win over Swansea. Evidently there's more than one way to win a home game 2-1.
More team-based numbers:
0 – fewest penalties conceded (Man United) and won (Tottenham, Swansea)
1 – shortest winning run (West Ham: every other team managed consecutive wins)
5 – fewest clean sheets (Aston Villa, Reading, Wigan)
5 – most red cards (Arsenal)
6% – lowest goal conversion rate (QPR)