Stats Zone Games of the Season 2015/16: The statistical mind-benders
If you haven't yet caught up on our annual Stats Zone Awards yet, then head here.
If you have, or just can't be bothered to, read on! For below you'll find the season's extremes: those matches that thrilled or made us want to eat our own fists; those with the most and fewest passes, shots, fouls, attempted dribbles and more.
You might well be entertained by some of the videos that show them off best too...
Most passes in a game: 1,139 (Man City 4-0 Aston Villa, Mar 5)
- 2014/15 1,189 Man Utd 4-0 QPR (824 vs 364)
- 2013/14 1,192 Arsenal 2-0 Hull (803 vs 389)
- 2012/13 1,169 Arsenal 0-2 Swansea (608 vs 561)
In case you missed it, Pep Guardiola moves to Manchester City this summer. The titan of tiki-taka – a concept he hates but can’t escape, like the Beatles and “mop-tops” – isn’t exactly joining Long-Ball Rovers, though: City were involved in three of the Premier League season’s five passiest games (the others being at home to Watford and at West Brom).
When they ended a run of three straight league defeats by pummeling Aston Villa, they used their 71.2% possession to attempt 811 passes, completing 739 (a Pep-pleasing success rate of 91.1%) to Villa’s 251 of 328 (76.5%). Not that Guardiola will be blown away: the following week his Bayern completed 889 of 969 (91.7%) in a 5-0 battering of Bremen.
Fewest passes in a game: 616 (Crystal Palace 1-0 Norwich City, Apr 9)
- 2014/15 574 QPR 0-0 West Ham (305 vs 269)
- 2013/14 541 Stoke 2-1 Aston Villa (286 vs 255)
- 2012/13 536 QPR 0-2 Stoke (267 vs 269)
These two sides exchanged pleasantries on the opening day, Palace winning 3-1 at a sunny Carrow Road, when all concerned were suffused with the excitement of possibility. By the time they reconvened at Selhurst in April, they were 16th and 17th and nervous as hell. The resultant game was described by Norwich’s Alex Neil as “average” and The Guardian’s Dominic Fifield as “fraught, horribly panic-stricken and utterly excruciating viewing”.
Just 360 passes were completed – the home side edged it with 187 successful attempts out of 315 (59.4%) to the visitors’ 173 of 301 (57.5%). Palace prevailed, Jason Puncheon’s goal giving them a first league win of 2016; Norwich lost crucial centre-back Timm Klose to injury, then the following weekend’s six-pointer to Sunderland, five of their last six games, and eventually their Premier League place.
Best pass completion: 89.48% (Man City 2-0 Watford, Aug 29)
- 2014/15 88.72% (Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa; West Brom 3-0 Chelsea)
- 2013/14 89.9% (Man United 3-1 Hull)
- 2012/13 92% (Man United 3-2 Fulham)
It was quickly forgotten among other news involving the fall of Chelsea, the rise of Leicester, the slow death of Manchester United and the latest leader change at Liverpool, but Manchester City started the season like a train. A particularly determined train, one that kept passing and winning: they won their first five games by an 11-0 aggregate.
By season’s end City had been involved in the Premier League’s top four games for pass completion, including the opening-day 3-0 romp at West Brom and this efficient dismissal of Watford – a freshly promoted, improved version of the team who had raced into a 2-0 lead in an FA Cup game at the Etihad just seven months previously. On this occasion City prevailed through Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho goals early in the second half, eventually completing 594 of 645 passes (92.1%), Watford 393 of 458 (85.8%).
Worst pass completion: 58.44% (Crystal Palace 1-0 Norwich, Apr 9)
- 2014/15 58.71% (QPR 0-0 West Ham)
- 2013/14 62.7% (Stoke 2-1 Aston Villa)
- 2012/13 59% (Stoke 3-3 Southampton)
Yes, we’re back at the Selhurst Park version of the Hunger Games. Not only did it have the lowest number of passes attempted, as we revealed two categories earlier, but a goodly swathe of those passes didn’t work. Fewer than three in five reached their man, which means it also recorded the worst pass-completion rate, and therefore the fewest completed passes. Hmm.
That poor return is partly about the teams’ desperation, but also a question of style. Palace frequently feed their pacy wingers with what a proponent would call a “quick vertical”, which by its nature is less accurate than a safe sideways pass, while Norwich were involved in the PL season’s four lowest pass-completion fixtures (and the two games with the fewest attempted passes; Palace were in five of the bottom nine).
As a result, in this deathmatch one pass in five was a long ball, and most of those didn’t work: Palace failed with 50 of their 69, Norwich with 45 of their 60. They are assembled here, reduced into 15 seconds for your viewing pleasure.
Most shots: 44 (Tottenham 2-1 Swansea, Feb 28)
- 2014/15 52 (QPR 3-2 Leicester)
- 2013/14 44 (Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland; Sunderland 0-1 Everton)
- 2012/13 48 (Newcastle 1-2 Swansea)
If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Having gone behind in the 19th minute to Alberto Paloschi’s debut Swans goal, title-chasing Tottenham laid siege to Lukasz Fabianski’s area: they rained in 34 shots, of which 15 were on target. It took 70 minutes and a deflection to beat him – Nacer Chadli diverting Kyle Walker’s effort – before Danny Rose drove in the winner.
As is typical of Tottenham’s season, we must mention Leicester. The Foxes were involved in three of the five games to feature 40+ shots: there were 43 during Leicester 2-5 Arsenal (27 for the Gunners), 41 at Leicester 3-1 Everton (32 from the home side) and 41 in the 2-2 at Southampton (27 from the Foxes). They also won the league. Sorry Spurs.
Fewest shots: 9 (Bournemouth 1-1 Leicester, Aug 29)
- 2014/15 12 (Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle)
- 2013/14 9 (Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton)
- 2012/13 13 (Reading 0-0 Swansea)
These two teams pepped up the Prem with their vim and indeed vigour, but their August head-to-head wasn’t exactly throbbing with goalmouth incident. Bournemouth had their rhythm disturbed by three forced substitutions, while Leicester hadn’t found their rhythm or best XI: this was N’Golo Kante’s first league start, while Shinji Okazaki was a half-time substitute. Each team only got two efforts on target and scored with half of them, Jamie Vardy’s late penalty cancelling out Callum Wilson’s overhead kick.
Other games this season in which goalkeepers could crack on with a good book include Villa 0-0 Newcastle (2 shots vs 9) and Man City 0-0 Man United (6 vs 6).