By the numbers: Hope and worry from a small Premier League sample size

·3 min read

Five matches isn’t enough to seal a place in Europe or a spot in the Championship, but it gives a sample size just large enough to use as a reasonable part of your calculations on whether a club is in contention for the Premier League penthouse or plausible relocation.

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We’re not necessarily talking about certainties for one and not the other (outside of the big boys), for example. Brighton and Hove Albion’s fourth-place spot in the table isn’t a hot ticket to Europe yet, but the Seagulls play against some lesser foes combined with their results mean it feels very unlikely that Graham Potter could push all the wrong buttons and see his side headed back to the second tier.

So let’s turn over some rocks and see what kinda bugs we find.

The unbeaten

Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United have all started with four wins and a draw.

So what’s there to divide them? Man United’s scored 13 goals, one more than Chelsea and Liverpool, but underlying numbers say we might be sleeping on the Anfield set.

While their two rivals have significantly outperformed expected goals, Liverpool’s 13.68 is the league leader and Man City is the only other club in the same stadium.

Similarly, Liverpool’s xGA trails only City and Brentford. Their shots (25) lead the PL, while possession is second only to City.

That said, the Reds quality of opponent has been substandard and their lone blemish is the same as Chelsea’s: their 1-1 draw. The Blues have wins over Spurs and Arsenal who, while not at their top powers, are the pick of the litter… and if they aren’t, it’s Aston Villa.

If all three aren’t in the top four, someone’s getting fired.

The Etihad elephant in the room

As usual, center forward or not, Manchester City is running rule over the stats book despite their opening day loss to Tottenham and recent draw with Southampton.

City was actually superior to Spurs in their 2-0 loss and you might as well say “second only to Man City” if you’re highlighting a club’s relative superiority in a character.

City is second to Liverpool in goals and shots, but leads the Premier League in:

  • Fewest goals allowed and xGA

  • Fewest shots allowed per game (by 2.2 shots!)

  • Possession (by nearly 8 percent!)

  • Passing percentage (90%)

Unlucky so far

Five clubs have failed to win a match going into the sixth weekend of games, with Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle, Burnley, and Norwich City staring at donuts.

It feels the worst for Norwich City and Newcastle. Norwich because they don’t have a point even against a challenging schedule and Newcastle because they’ve drawn two of the teams in this sad quintet.

Southampton and Burnley, however, can look at their returns and feel aggrieved but also confident, midtable in attack and defending.

Leeds remains to be seen. Everyone’s darlings aren’t scoring as much and are still shipping goals. They do, however, boast 58.6 possession (behind only Man City and Liverpool) and are seventh in shots on target.

For real for real?

Brighton and Hove Albion has been quite good and if they can turn their possession into more quality attempts on goal they will flirt with the top seven.

But the Seagulls still have to face some big teams and not just survive but thrive if they’re to stay on that stage.

Wolves can also feel like the new Brighton, a team producing offense and defending well but waiting on the rub of the green.

The Molineux set is allowing the second-fewest attempts in the league and taking the third-most. If Raul Jimenez finds any sort of his previous form, we may see Wolves rise up the table with a bullet.

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By the numbers: Hope and worry from a small Premier League sample size originally appeared on NBCSports.com