The weekend’s fixtures in the Premier League felt like they could be pivotal for so many teams, especially near the top of the table.
It proved to be a mixed weekend for the title chasers with Manchester City beating Manchester United with ease, Chelsea throwing away two points at home to Burnley, and Liverpool losing their unbeaten start to the season against an in-form West Ham.
Deeper impacts were felt at the other end of the table as both Aston Villa and Norwich City felt the need to sack their bosses, despite the latter actually winning their first game of the season.
Find all that and more as Stats Perform looks at the quirky Opta facts behind the weekend’s action.
United soft and unstable
The Premier League’s favorite Jekyll and Hyde team, Manchester United, were at it again on Saturday as they ‘entertained’ neighbors Manchester City.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men had dusted themselves down following their last home game against Liverpool where they were dispatched 5-0 to win well at Tottenham, and then rescue a vital late point at Atalanta in the Champions League. But the 2-0 defeat to City was another reminder of how far they are off the title contenders.
To emphasize the need for improvement at Old Trafford, Eric Bailly’s own goal to open the scoring on Saturday meant that United are now without a clean sheet in their last 14 home games in all competitions. The only longer run in the club’s history without a home clean sheet was a 21-game stretch between April 1958 and March 1959.
In the Premier League era, only under David Moyes (1.18) have United conceded more goals per game than under Solskjaer (1.13).
Solskjaer may point to the fact that the away team has won nine of the last 12 meetings between United and City in all competitions (D1 L2), including each of the three games in 2021. Perhaps it would all have been fine for the Red Devils had Saturday’s game taken place at the Etihad?
Villa hate Fridays
Aston Villa was a team on the rise and Dean Smith was doing a great job at his boyhood club until they were not, and he was not.
The Villains began the season well enough, with notable victories at home to Everton and away at Manchester United. Then, before you knew it, they had lost five league games in a row, leading to Smith being relieved of his duties on Sunday.
Could it have been the day of the week’s fault, though? Heading into the game, Aston Villa had won none of their previous 13 away top-flight matches played on a Friday (D3 L10), with their last win coming in April 1950, a 4-1 victory at Charlton Athletic.
Unlucky for some? It certainly was for Smith and Villa, with the record now at 14 games.
Newcastle cannot buy a win
The excitement continues at Newcastle United right now as the club eagerly anticipates the January transfer window, with an opportunity to finally flex their financial muscle.
However, that remains almost two months away and the Magpies could be in a bit of trouble by then as their 1-1 draw at Brighton on Saturday meant that they are now 11 games into the season and still waiting for their first league win, the only team yet to register a victory.
It is now their longest winless run from the beginning of a league campaign, and most concerning of all to the new owners at St James’ Park will be that each of the last four Premier League sides to endure a similar start to a top-flight season have gone on to be relegated. Then again, none of those sides have the wealth Newcastle does now. Then again, is Eddie Howe the right manager to turn their form around?
Only Norwich City (26) have conceded more goals than Newcastle (24) this season, while the Magpies’ opponents have had a league-high 21.6 expected goals. Howe’s Bournemouth side conceded at least 61 goals in each of their five seasons in the top flight.
Norwich’s unconventional response to the first victory
Unlike Newcastle, the Canaries finally won their first league game of the season on Saturday and then sacked head coach Daniel Farke immediately after.
The 2-1 success at Brentford was Farke’s 49th and final Premier League game in charge at Carrow Road. His 12.2 win percentage is the second-worst of any coach to preside over 40 or more matches in the competition. Only John Gorman at Swindon Town in 1993-94 achieved a worse win percentage (11.9).
It seems the decision was taken before the game, with Norwich’s bottom of the Premier League table having lost eight of their first ten games since promotion back to the top flight.
One bright spot other than the three points though was the fact that it was the first time they have scored more than one goal in a game in 28 attempts in a Premier League match.
Hope for whoever comes in to replace Farke, at least.