Here are some of the standout statistics from gameweek 18 of the Premier League, featuring Manchester United’s rise to the summit, Manchester City’s excellent defence keeping them in sight, Sheffield United finally winning a fixture, and Spurs inability to close out games.
Man United go
joint top of the table
For the first time in the post-Ferguson era, Manchester United have returned to the top of the Premier League table at the end of a gameweek. In seven whole seasons they have never really come close to challenging for first place, but if they get a result against Liverpool this weekend then the title race is firmly on.
The Red Devils didn’t find it easy against Burnley on Tuesday, winning via a Paul Pogba strike, but it was the first time this season they have kept a clean sheet away from Old Trafford. They had conceded 11 goals in the previous seven games on the road.
As for Burnley, they continued their wretched home form against the Big Six, losing for the 21st time in their last 26 such Premier League matches. They’ve drawn four and won just once, a 2-1 victory over Tottenham in February 2019.
Man City defensively excellent, not so much in attack
If Man United are to claim their first title in seven years, then they may have to win a three-horse race to do so. Manchester City may have only beaten lowly Brighton by a single goal, but it was their fourth league win on the trot. That’s as many as they had in their previous 11 (won four, drew five, lost two).
Undefeated in eight matches, City’s stern defence has been the backbone of their return to form. Wednesday evening saw their eighth clean sheet of the season, the most of any team, while they have also conceded the fewest goals (13).
If there is one area that City definitely still need to improve, it’s from the penalty spot. Raheem Sterling’s miss was the team’s seventh since the start of last season, more than any other team in that time. The winger has missed three of those.
3 – Raheem Sterling is the first player to miss three consecutive Premier League penalties since Saido Berahino did so between April 2016-September 2017. Wayward. #MCIBHA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 13, 2021
Pep Guardiola’s side are now third in the table, just four points off their neighbours with a game in hand, but with Sergio Aguero unavailable and Gabriel Jesus severely out of form they will need to sort their striker problem if they are to last the pace.
City created 16 chances, 13 in the box, for 2.63 expected goals (xG) against the Seagulls, but could only convert one. No team has a worse xG difference in the league, scoring 7.24 goals fewer than the should have, according to Understat. City have scored just 25 goals from 349 shots, the seventh-worst conversion rate in the league (7.2%).
Sheffield United finally bag a win
Billy Sharp scored his 100th league goal for Sheffield United and it came at a good time for the club, securing their first win all season in the Premier League.
Before beating Newcastle on Tuesday night, the Blades had not won in 21 games across all competitions, losing 18 and drawing the other three.
The forward converted from the spot, the third time this season the Blades have scored with a penalty, their joint-best return alongside 1993-94.
This was the Magpies’ third consecutive defeat away from home in the league, their worst run since October 2019.
Immensely proud of this achievement 1st person since Keith Edwards in 1984 🙌🏻⚽️⚔️❤️🔴⚪️⚫️ pic.twitter.com/Qsg1Xzv017
— billy sharp (@billysharp10) January 13, 2021
Spurs can’t get the job done again
Harry Kane got his 22nd goal involvement (11 goals, 11 assists) when he found the net in the first-half against Fulham, but that wasn’t enough for Tottenham Hotspur to claim all three points at home.
Ivan Cavaleiro headed home his second goal of the campaign in the 74th minute to nab a point for the visitors, their fifth consecutive draw in the Premier League. It’s their longest run of stalemates since January 2007 (six games).
• Spurs’ xG per 90 minutes when 1-0 ahead in the PL this season – 1.24
• 5 goals scored in 513 minutes when 1-0 ahead
Clear issue with the tactical approach when leading games. pic.twitter.com/PwLIoI2xJ7
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) January 13, 2021
It’s the fifth time Spurs have dropped points from a winning position this season, four of which have come when they’ve been 1-0 ahead. Only Brighton (12) and Sheffield United (11) have dropped more points from winning positions than the north London outfit (10) in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho’s attempts to shut down matches while holding a slender lead is evidently backfiring. Had they won each of those games they would currently be four points clear at the top of the table.
Sources: Opta, Understat, Transfermarkt.