Why Southampton fans have every reason to dream
When Leicester City pulled off the most unprecedented of title triumphs last season, most people wrote it off as a once in a lifetime event that would never be repeated. The general assumption was that the status quo would be restored, with the elite clubs dominating yet again.
But what if there was statistical evidence suggesting that one of the ‘lesser’ clubs could mount a serious title challenge this season?
Big data is changing the way we view football but the jury is still out about which statistics actually matter. Leicester City and Atlético Madrid have already proven that you can win titles without monopolizing the ball but one metric that seems to have a strong correlation with a team’s finishing position is their ‘shots on target supremacy’. This is the number of efforts on goal they have compared with the opposition.
At the start of the 2013/14 season an adjustment was made to how it was calculated – blocked shots were omitted unless the ball was on target and stopped by the last defender. Shots on target now include any effort on goal that results in a goal, any effort that is on target and saved by the goalkeeper as we all as any effort on goal that is blocked by the last defender.
Footcharts provide comprehensive data on a whole range of game-related statistics and the table below gives an indication of how English Premier League teams are performing in terms of ‘shots on goal’ in the current season.
We are now almost a quarter of the way through the campaign and Southampton are undoubtedly the surprise package. The Saints are boasting the best supremacy figure, averaging 6.11 efforts on goal themselves (2nd best overall), while restricting the opposition to just 2.11 efforts on goal per match (top ranked).
So why is this important?
If we look at the top 5 leagues across Europe – the English Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A – a startling statistic emerges – 10 of the 15 sides that finished top at the end of the campaign in the previous 3 seasons had the highest shots on target supremacy figure in their respective division.
That’s Bayern Munich (3 times), PSG (3 times), Juventus (twice), as well as Manchester City and Barcelona, while Real Madrid, Napoli and Man City all finished as runners up after returning the best supremacy figure and both Real Madrid and Spurs also finished 3rd, to make up the other 5.
Put simply, if Southampton could maintain this trend until the end of the 2016/17 Premier League season, they would almost be guaranteed a top 3 finish!
Equally remarkable, is the fact that 4 of Southampton’s away games have been against some of the strongest opposition they will face, in the form of Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and champions’ Leicester City. Claude Puel is clearly stamping his authority on a side that seems to lose its best players and manager every summer and the fans must be loving what they are witnessing.
The Saints have secured 3 clean sheets in their opening 9 Premier League games and record signing Sofiane Boufal gave the first glimpse of why he could turn into this season’s ‘Dimitri Payet’, with a wonderful strike in the Efl Cup win over Sunderland – fantasy football managers should sit up and take note!
Southampton may not finish the season in such a lofty position but they have a league cup quarter-final against Arsenal to look forward to, while they are also handily placed in their Europa League group, suggesting that this could be an unforgettable season for the South Coast club, that rekindles memories of 1976.
Could this be the year that the Saints finally go marching in ?