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Hot Stat Takes: Newcastle will rise

I've got the numbers and some counter-narratives for the midweek matches in the English Premier League.

Michael Steele

This has been a bad time for Newcastle United. They've been outscored 10-0 in three matches, two of which have been at St. James Park. The Magpies have faced quality opponents and an always difficult Tyne-Wear Derby, but still, 10-0 is 10-0. Except that, I think, it really hasn't been that bad. As I noted in my last Hot Stat Take, Newcastle created some good opportunities against Chelsea but just didn't convert. The same was true yesterday against Spurs and indeed also in the derby previously.

These are the basic stats for Newcastle and their opponents in the last three matches.

For explanations of terms, see the glossary section of my Premier League Statstics page.

Club S DZ S Wide SoB S Cr S TB
Newcastle United 18 7 28 6 2
Opponent 15 13 19 4 0

That does not look like a club that's in crisis to me. That looks like a club which has seen Eden Hazard and Emmanuel Adebayor put on a couple shows and at the same time seen their strike force run into one of the worst slumps of the year in the Premier League. The chance that Papiss Demba Cisse missed in the 8th minute is a shot that a striker usually finishes three times out of four. They are creating chances inside the box without relying too much on crosses, and I think that if they keep playing at this level, the goals and the points will come.

Newcastle vs Spurs

So does that mean I think Spurs were lucky to win yesterday? No, not really. Spurs created more good chances, two off rebounds, than Newcastle. It was a stronger attacking performance than the raw shot totals suggest. But I think that the numbers show how Newcastle managed to puncture Spurs' defense effectively and almost certainly deserved a goal or two. Except, Cisse.

Club S DZ S Wide SoB S Cr S TB
Newcastle United 6 2 5 2
Tottenham Hotspur 5 5 5 1

As I said, I think the raw shots totals give us a pretty good idea that Newcastle attacked well. I think they obscure a little bit with Spurs, as two of Tottenham's chances came from rebounds, where a save was deflected out. Rebound shots are converted at a rate nearly twice that of normal shots from the same regions. (Bart Schotten is your go-to analyst for shots off rebounds.) Both Paulinho and Emmanuel Adebayor had much easier chances than usual, given their locations, because Tim Krul was out of position having just parried a previous shot. So this looks like a good away win for Spurs, but not as dominant a victory as the 0-4 final scoreline would imply.

West Ham United vs Norwich City

If Newcastle want a positive comparison in this slide, obviously the first one would be Tottenham. Spurs couldn't convert a thing through the first ten matches of the season, but that turned around. An even stronger comparison might be West Ham United. The Hammers were struggling so badly to convert shots that people started to suggest that Sam Allardyce's tactics might be skewing the numbers and creating worse chances than the numbers could identify. Colin Trainor put forward this hypothesis in an intriguing and well-argued piece at Stats Bomb.

However, ever since then, West Ham have turned around their shot conversion numbers and started scoring more goals than would be expected. They had scored 9 goals on 89 danger zone shots through December 12th, an awful 10% rate compared to league average around 15%. Since December 12th, West Ham have scored 10/46 shots from the danger zone, a rate over 20%. This will probably regress to the mean over time as well.

West Ham's 2-0 win over Norwich City looks like a bit of karma coming around for the Hammers. They didn't really out-shoot or out-create Norwich. They just scored two of the good chances they created while Norwich converted none. After the match Chris Hughton said the problem for his Canaries is just a matter of finishing, and I think he's probably right.

Club S DZ S Wide SoB S Cr S TB
West Ham United 5 2 5 3 0
Norwich City 6 1 6 2 2

Arsenal vs Manchester United

The damp squib of the round. I feel fortunate that as a Spurs fan I was watching an enjoyable end-to-end affair rather than this. The numbers suggest Arsenal may have been a bit unfortunate not to take the points. Still, their eight danger zone shots is less impressive when you note that five were assisted by crosses. And United have that one central shot assisted by a through-ball from Juan Mata that Robin van Persie uncharacteristically failed to convert.

Club S DZ S Wide SoB S Cr S TB
Arsenal 8 0 9 5 0
Manchester United 3 1 2 2 1

Fulham vs Liverpool

This one is a good test case for shot quality. While Liverpool had the best of the total shot chart, Fulham had two shots from the center of the six-yard box. These are chances converted at a rate closing in on 50%, and they make up for almost all of Liverpool's advantage in the rest of the shot chart.

Club S 6Y S DZ S Wide SoB S Cr S TB
Fulham 2 2 2 6 1 0
Liverpool 0 7 5 8 2 1

Projections will follow tomorrow.