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Premier League stats review: Leicester's slide towards the Europa League, Guardiola's nemesis and why Man Utd need to keep Cavani
FootballCritic.com crunch the numbers of another fascinating weekend in the English top flight as the race for Europe looks set to go down to the wire.
Manchester City’s champagne remains on ice after comeback kings Manchester United did it once again on the road and both teams feature below.
It’s been a bad week for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester. A cup final place might be secured but the infinitely more valuable Champions League spot remains in the balance after drawing at Southampton last week before this baffling capitulation at home to Newcastle.
A Newcastle side that has scored just 14 goals in 17 matches on the road this season, but struck four here in an hour in a display of ruthless finishing that left Rodgers’ side stunned. Jonny Evans going off through injury didn’t help matters, but in truth the Foxes were cut open time and again by a Newcastle front line who seemed free from the concerns of relegation.
This was Steve Bruce’s side recording their best xG on the road of the season by some distance (2.9) and in truth could have had a couple more. Liverpool are closing in on Leicester in the race for the top four - they are six points back but have a game in hand - and their final three games are against Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham. This is likely to go to the wire.
Leaving aside one of the worst penalties in Premier League history as Sergio Aguero contrived to Panenka his kick right into the welcoming arms of Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal, Pep Guardiola will be worried on a few counts.
First of all, Thomas Tuchel’s transformed Blues have defeated him twice now, once in the cup and now in the league, with their Champions League crunch to come. But also because the league trophy still isn’t settled despite the result seeming academic for months now.
Aguero’s penalty miss contributed to City’s higher xG on the day but Chelsea changed things in the second half and were good value for their win. This was always likely to be a game of cat and mouse from a tactical perspective given the big one to come, but Tuchel responded to a lacklustre first half with positive changes and will have Guardiola more than a little nervous. Not many coaches have the Catalan’s number - does Tuchel?
United maintained the title race, for what it’s worth, for another couple of days and kept up their unbeaten record on the road. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have won 11 and drawn seven of their 18 matches away from Old Trafford and once again they had to come from behind in order to do so.
But the big question surrounds Edinson Cavani. Given the Uruguayan had had his injury problems in the previous 18 months prior to signing, in the last month or so we’re seeing how much the forward can still contribute to this team if he chooses to stay for another season.
Cavani’s 0.64 xG P90 is more than double that of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood. His 0.69 non-penalty goals P90 is second only to Kelechi Iheanacho in the entire league, better than Harry Kane and Mo Salah. The impact he makes to the team cannot be overstated and, simply, United do not have a finisher in his league. Anthony Martial has regressed in that department, Rashford has never been the best pure goalscorer, while Greenwood is still developing. United want to keep Cavani and they should be doing everything possible to make it happen.
West Ham’s top four race appears to be run. It was always unlikely that the Hammers could compete, let alone qualify for the competition, but they have come unstuck in a run-in where they just couldn’t maintain their momentum.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s first-half goal condemned David Moyes’ side to their third defeat in four, leaving them five behind Leicester in fourth with three to play. Everton produced the type of savvy display that Chelsea managed a few weeks ago, asking West Ham to step out and attack, and they were found wanting, their game so much more set up for counterattacking via Jesse Lingard, and Jarrod Bowen than taking the game to the opposition.
It is still a pleasantly surprising season for the Hammers, but in this fractured season when the big guns have proven more than a little vulnerable, it could well be a case of what might have been.