This ludicrous Premier League campaign has been labelled an ‘asterisk season’. Although seemingly tainted and unworthy of comparison, the record books care not.
The 29th edition of the competition has coughed up some truly unforeseeable abnormalities. Implausible scorelines, improbable sequences of results, an avalanche of penalties and ’keepers excelling in both boxes – we’ve seen it all.
We take a look at how the Premier League record books have been rewritten in 2020/21.
The Awayday Blues
Where better to begin than with the champions?
Earlier this month Manchester City’s 4-3 victory over Newcastle broke the record for the most consecutive away wins in the history of the top four tiers of English football. Their 12th away win of the season surpassed the previous record of 11 set by Chelsea in 2008, and equalled by The Citizens in 2017.
The win was City’s 23rd consecutive unbeaten away match in all competitions (W21 D2) – the longest ever unbeaten away run by a side in the top four tiers of English football (beating Notts County’s run of 22 in 2012).
⛅️ Weather since 1230 BST Sat: 𝙍𝘼𝙄𝙉𝙄𝙉𝙂 𝙂𝙊𝘼𝙇𝙎 pic.twitter.com/wMsdSEOoAr
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 21, 2020
Gabriel Jesus may have endured another patchy season as an individual, but at least the misfiring striker managed to bag himself a personal memento. The Brazil international’s late goal in City’s 3-1 victory over Wolves in September was the 44th goal of matchweek 2 – a competition record for a 20-team season. The previous record, which stood at 43 goals, was set in February 2011.
Prolific forward Sergio Agüero scored his 183rd and 184th Premier League goals for Manchester City on the final day – breaking the record for the most goals scored by a Premier League player for a single club.
The Red-Hot Devils
Manchester United’s 9-0 demolition of Southampton in February mirrored their own record (9-0 v Ipswich Town 1995) for the biggest home win in Premier League history. In the process, United became only the second side to have seven different scorers in a Premier League match, after Chelsea’s 8-0 triumph over Aston Villa in December 2012. If you count Jan Bednarek’s own goal for Southampton as a ‘different scorer’, then United are indeed the sole custodians of this record.
— Portsmouth FC (@Pompey) February 2, 2021
Bruno Fernandes arrived in Manchester with a reputation as a goal-scoring midfielder, but who could have predicted the abounding numbers he has achieved this term? The Portuguese toppled Frank Lampard’s seemingly insurmountable record for goals scored by a Premier League midfielder in a season. Fernandes’ 28 goals in all competitions pipped the record of 27 set by Lampard with Chelsea in 2009.
Liverpool’s Night to Forget
Liverpool’s 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa in October says everything you need to know about their freakish season. That result matched the record for the biggest loss by a reigning champion held by Blackburn Rovers (0-5 vs Coventry City 1995), Man United (0-5 v Newcastle 1996 / 0-5 v Chelsea 1999 / 1-6 v Man City 2011) and Leicester City (1-6 v Spurs 2017).
The Merseysiders embarrassment didn’t end there, with Jürgen Klopp’s side becoming the first reigning English top-flight champion to ship seven goals in a league match since Arsenal lost against Sunderland in September 1953.
On a positive note … Allison Becker’s exquisite header! The Brazilian added his name to the short list of Premier League goalkeepers who have netted, including Peter Schmeichel (Everton v Aston Villa 2001), Brad Friedel (Charlton Athletic v Blackburn Rovers 2004), Paul Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur v Watford 2007), Tim Howard (Everton v Bolton Wanderers 2012) and Asmir Begović (Stoke City v Southampton 2013).
75 – Half-time substitute Thiago completed more passes (75) than any Chelsea player managed in the entire match. Since full passing data is available for the Premier League (2003-04), his 75 successful passes are the most by a player who played a maximum of 45 minutes. Control. pic.twitter.com/UvHfrw1ggN
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 20, 2020
Liverpool new boy Thiago Alcantara also set a record, and on his Liverpool debut no less. The Spaniard, a half-time substitute against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in September, completed 75 passes – the most by a player to have played 45 or fewer minutes in a Premier League game (since Opta started tracking passing statistics in 2003).
Kane to Son, to Kane to … Son
Harry Kane, a striker with numerous goalscoring records to his name, became the first Englishman in Premier League history to assist four goals in a single game. It is an accolade indicative of how complete a footballer he is but, more importantly, his assists equalled a record that had been dominated by ex-Gunners.
The talisman’s contributions matched those of Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal v Leicester City 1999), José Antonio Reyes (Arsenal v Middlesbrough 2006), Cesc Fàbregas (Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers 2009), Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United 2012) and Santi Cazorla (Arsenal v Wigan Athletic 2013).
14 – Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min have now assisted one another for 14 Premier League goals this season, breaking Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton's all-time record of 13 set in 1994-95 for Blackburn. Telepathy. pic.twitter.com/rewuUwCxPG
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 7, 2021
Improbably Kane’s four assists were all to Son Heung-Min – making it the only instance in which all four assists were to a single player. It is not the only record the two share. The duo have combined for more goals in a single season than any other pairing (14) – breaking the all-time competition record of 13 set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95.
Fiery Gunners and Penalties Aplenty
Arsenal fans may be disillusioned by another lacklustre season and at their wit’s end with their owner, but at least they have equalled a record this term. The Gunners’ five red cards this campaign brings their all-time Premier League red card tally to 98, the same amount as fellow top-flight mainstays Everton.
Unsurprisingly, the record for penalties awarded in a season has been smashed. Since the stricter interpretation of the handball rule has been introduced we’ve been speculating about when this might occur. This season has seen a total of 124 penalties awarded – the previous record of 112 was set in 2006/07.
Leeds’ Future is in Safe Hands
21 year-old Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier has been one of the outstanding young players of the season. The 6’6” giant set a new Premier League record this campaign for clean sheets in a single season by a goalkeeper before his 21st birthday. Leeds’ 3-0 victory over Southampton in February was his eighth shut out of the season, eclipsing the seven achieved by Joe Hart in 2007/08.
Illan Meslier set another record this season:
Feb 2021: Most PL clean sheets in a single season by an U21 goalkeeper ✅
Feb 2021: Most PL starts made in a single season by an U21 goalkeeper ✅
April 2021: Youngest PL goalkeeper to keep 10 clean sheets (21 years, 54 days) ✅ pic.twitter.com/rEbjscvL7H
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) April 26, 2021
Meslier kept yet another clean sheet in April, in a scoreless draw against Man United at Elland Road, and yet another record fell. At 21 years and 54 days the former French youth international became the youngest goalkeeper to keep ten clean sheets in a season, beating former City starlet Hart’s record by over 100 days.
Ryan Mason represented a new generation of Premier League managers, if only briefly. At 29 years and 312 days old Spurs’ interim boss became the youngest manager in Premier League history, beating Italian legend Attilio Lombardo’s record of 32 years and 67 days old (Crystal Palace 1998).
73 – As well as being the oldest manager in Premier League history (73y 280d for Crystal Palace's win over Aston Villa), Roy Hodgson is one of only four managers to manage a Premier League match aged 70+, along with Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Alex Ferguson and Neil Warnock. Nous.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 18, 2021
Similarly, former Palace boss Roy Hodgson entered the world of management at the age of 28 – but in 1976. The 73 year-old journeyman became the oldest manager in the Premier League history in February 2019, when the veteran coach exceeded Sir Bobby Robson’s record age of 71 years and 198 days old (Newcastle v Villa 2004). Hodgson, who has stopped short of saying he has retired from the game, has set the bar at 73 years and 287 days.
The Blunt Blades
If not for the calamitous Derby County side of 2007/08 Sheffield United would have shattered more records than Usain Bolt.
The Blades start to their campaign was one of the worst the league has ever seen, setting a new record for the most consecutive games without a win from the start of a season – 17. The Yorkshire outfit are the first English top-flight side in history to fail to win any of their first 17 games in a season since Bolton Wanderers in 1902/03.
Rock-bottom United matched the unenviable record for the most Premier League defeats in the season (29) held by Ipswich (1994/95), Sunderland (2005/06) and Derby (2007/08). They also equalled Derby’s tally for the fewest goals scored in a season (20) and, oddly enough, now share the record for the fewest draws in a campaign (2) with Man City (2018/19) and Spurs (2018/19).
Norwich’s exceptional Championship season has seen the Canaries match a record they’ll hope not to break – at least not anytime soon. Their latest ascension to the Premier League is their fifth (1994/95, 2004/05, 2013/14, 2015/16 & 2019/20) – the same number as West Brom (2002/03, 2005/06, 2008/09, 2017/18 & 2020/21) who will hope to reclaim the record at the first attempt.
11 – Only Birmingham City (12) have suffered more top-flight relegations than West Brom (11), whilst their manager Sam Allardyce has been relegated from the Premier League for the very first time, having managed in 17 different seasons in the competition. Curtains. pic.twitter.com/wVfY2WZMQT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 9, 2021
Unsurprisingly these clubs, two of the league’s most prolific flip-floppers, share another related title. West Brom’s relegation this campaign is their fifth in total (2002/03, 2005/06, 2008/09, 2017/18 & 2020/21), equalling the record set by Delia’s boys last year (1994/95, 2004/05, 2013/14, 2015/16 & 2019/20). History suggests we may yet hear Mrs Smith’s roars of encouragement again in the not too distant future.
8 – Sam Allardyce has taken charge of more different clubs in the Premier League than any other manager, while West Brom will be his eighth different managerial role in the competition. Everlasting pic.twitter.com/aMES6kH7YS
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2020
When West Brom boss Sam Allardyce accepted the impossible task of saving The Baggies he broke a Premier League record in doing so. Big Sam has now managed the most clubs in the history of the league – 8 (Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton & West Brom). Despite his failure to keep the Baggies up, there is a very high chance that a Premier League chairman will hit the Big Sam panic button at some stage next season and give the former England boss the chance to extend his record.