October 19, 2016

FREE KICKS: Is the Premier League getting more offensive?

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It’s a little thing that I’ve been beginning to notice in the scorelines this year: There seem to be a lot less zeroes.

In fact, there have been just 36 clean sheets this season in 160 games. That’s 22% of games have ended with a team blanked on the scoreboard. Compare that to last year’s clean-sheet rate of 26.9% and you see that the league has been getting a bit less defensive.

Another thing to consider is that defence tends to be better early in the season, when teams are still building chemistry in attack and new players are learning systems. There tends to not be as much turnover in defenders over transfer periods, with less bonding needed on the backline.

So is this a trend, or just a coincidence? Managers might be looking for more goals to keep owners happy.

It should be noted that goal-scoring is actually at an identical pace as last season, with teams potting 1.35 goals per game.

So, maybe with every club flush with TV money, we’re seeing more parity in the Premier League. With the same amount of goals, but less clean sheets, it’s a reasonable assumption to make.

And as for less zeroes showing up on the scoreboards, it’s great for casuals to see and might draw in some more fans from around the world. The illusion of more goals usually means more attention.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Heading into this weekend, Maarten Stekelenberg wasn’t even in the top 10 of fantasy goalkeepers. After saving two penalties against Manchester City and putting on a very impressive performance, he’s now the top fantasy GK.

The Dutch keeper stopped both Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero from the spot and made an incredible leaping save late in the game to preserve the draw.

Phil Jagielka should be sending the keeper a gift after bailing out the defender, whose two clumsy challenges resulted in the penalties.

This great performance comes after letting in a long-distance effort by Paul Pogba with the Dutch national team last week. Good to see him bounce back against the Premier League’s best.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

It’s always a nice move when a player doesn’t celebrate after scoring against their former club. That was the case this week as Nacer Chadli didn’t whoop it up after roofing one against Spurs. Class act … Ben Foster made a fabulous save to earn his team a point … Bournemouth’s 6-1 demolition of Hull will do wonders for its goal differential and could doom the Tigers in the end. That tiebreaker always looms large late in the season … Way to celebrate your manager’s new contract, Tigers. If they play like that too often, Mike Phelan will be out of a job by Christmas … Granit Xhaka had a well-deserved straight red. A senseless challenge and he made no attempt at the ball … What a way for Mesut Ozil to celebrate his birthday. His fantastic volley was the goal of the week … Looks like resting Riyad Mahrez for Champions League is going to be a thing for Leicester. Do the Foxes have their priorities right, though? They don’t have much of a shot at winning the title, so shouldn’t they be concentrating on the league? The Foxes were totally out of sorts against Chelsea … If you’re going to forget to mark someone on a corner, it better not be Diego Costa. The Blues’ striker is on form right now … David De Gea saved Manchester United’s bacon yet again. If he ever leaves, the Red Devils will be in big trouble … United 34% possession against Liverpool was the least it has had in a Premier League game, ever … It makes all the sense in the world that the Reds somehow picked up their first clean sheet of the season against a team like star-laden Manchester United. This Liverpool side can’t stop the lower sides from scoring, but can hold off Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Co.

THE LAST WORD

It’s getting harder and harder to play fantasy football.

Just this week, you could’ve brought in two hot players like Christian Benteke and Heung-Min Son and you would’ve been very disappointed.

Son played just 19 minutes after suiting up for the South Korean national team twice during the break and also played 90 minutes of Champions League football on Tuesday.

Benteke did play 90 minutes against West Ham – one of the league’s worst defensive units – put up a whopping minus-1 fantasy points. Yep, that’s what a yellow card and a missed penalty will get you.

And with Aguero making a substitute appearance missing a pen, that’s another minus-1 that most owners had to swallow – especially bad if he was your captain…

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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