According to “M”, Man Utd are the most unlucky team in the PL. Let’s see if that’s right.

By Tony Attwood

As we saw in the last article, Mr Mourinho is complaining.  And we are not the only people to have noticed this.   For the Guardian noticed it too, and wondered if “M” was really right to call his team “unlucky”.

In an article “Are Manchester United really the unluckiest team in the Premier League?” Paul Wilson posed this question: “Are a team unlucky if they keep hitting the woodwork, or do they need more shooting practice?”

Then, doing the sort of research I have been screaming out for, for months if not years, the writer adds, “In any case United are nothing special in that department. They are mid-table with five strikes against the frame of the goal, whereas Bournemouth are runaway leaders with 13, followed by Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal on seven.”

And this is the point.  If you want to make the case for luck, or Arsenal always having a bad time in November, or Mr Wenger dithering around and so never buying the right players for the club, you need first some facts, and then some analysis.

This is what the media is so bad at.  For example, I noticed that the Telegraph is still today saying that November is Arsenal’s worst month.  Which it is.   But they are still not considering the key point:

Every team must have one month that is their worst, since clearly the fortunes of all teams go up and down.  Even in the Unbeaten Season we had one bad month.

Is the case that Arsenal are always bad in November, while other teams might been poor in March one year but in September another?  Indeed as we can see from any quick analysis, in Arsenal’s case the worst month is not always November.  In 2003/4 it was September with three league matches played, two of which were draws.  Two points out of nine.  Terrible.  We went unbeaten and won the league.

But adding up all the months, yes November is the one that comes out worst for Arsenal.  But it is also the one in which we regularly have to play two of our main rivals.  If we say that Arsenal have four main rivals, that means that eight games a year should be against them.  One a month.  But we persistently get double this in November.  That is the statistic that is revealed – but of course not reported.  And when we ask why, the most obvious reason is that the TV companies fix the schedules – not just moving games to Sundays, but also moving matches around to give a boost to November (for example) when their are internationals all over the place.

Anyway back to Man U.   According to the Guardian they are fifth in the table for shots on target, fifth in the one for possession, fourth best team in the league for total shots and eighth best for the most number of passes in the final third of the pitch.

All of which relates to their position in the league so nothing weird there.   But when we come to look at shooting accuracy and goals-to-shots ratio we can see that they are less likely to hit the target with each shot than Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and the Tiny Totts.

However even hitting the target is no good if the ball just drops into the arms of a well placed keeper.

The goals-to-shots ratio is what we really need to be seeing.   And here we can see Manchester U need almost twice as many shots to score as Arsenal.

Indeed thanks to figures from we can see exclusively how clinical each side has been a dozen games into the 2016/17 Premier League campaign.

Although Arsenal have scored the fourth most goals in English football’s top flight, our 25 strikes have come from just 172 shots. A conversion rate of 14.5 per cent which is enough to make the Gunners the Premier League’s most clinical team this season.

Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s top scorer with six goals in 12 appearances. With his strikes coming from 34 shots, a conversion rate of 17.6 per cent has helped his side become the Premier League’s most ruthless side in front of goal.

And Manchester U?  Well, keep looking down in the table below.  They are indeed above State Aid United, Swansea and Southampton.  But that is all.

There’s no luck in this.  When it comes to hitting the back of the net from a shot, Man U need a lot more attempts.  In fact Man U will need (at this rate) 293 shots to get the same number of goals as ARsenal have gained in 172 shots.

And just so they don’t feel left out, consider the Tiny ones down the Seven Sisters.   They have the third most shots (209) but only 18 goals.   Much of this comes about because Christian Eriksen has recorded as many as 38 shots without finding the back of the net once this season, affecting the team’s overall conversion rate massively.  What a shame.

So I come back to my eternal point.  We do need statistics, and we need to look at what is behind the statistics.

But this point raised in the Guardian is an improvement.   A little while ago no football journalist would ever have questioned “M” on the veracity of his claims.

He could have said that Man U have scored more goals in the last 10 minutes than any other club and they are failing to lead the table because refs persistently give Man U less time added on for stoppages than any other club.

And the press would have printed that as gospel and for the next seven years everyone would have kept on repeating it.

As that wonderful, wonderful novelist Philip K Dick said (and as the very decent New Scientist magazine reminded readers last week) “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”.

Football journalism on radio, TV and in the press is run by people who don’t care about the difference between fact and opinion.  These are the people who have for decades laughed at their colleagues in the rest of the media for bothering to check facts.  Now these other journalists have thought, hell, why am I bothering with all the tedious stuff?   Let’s tell people you can prove anything with statistics, and save ourselves a lot of time and money.

Meanwhile the politicians, never that close to facts (or come to think of it, reality) have abandoned fact checking too.  Then along comes Mark Zuckerberg, portrayed for many years as the great pioneering, far-thinking, IT genius, who tell us that people make decisions based on their lived experience not on facts.  Yep, the sun goes round the earth.

Worse, their lived experience includes – indeed in many cases is dominated by the media.  Voting patterns and explained reasons for voting in the EU in/out poll in the UK show this very clearly – the percentage of people voting leave the EU and citing immigration as their prime reason for wanting to leave turns out to have been the highest in areas with the lowest immigration.  People it seems were influenced by what the media said more than what they saw.

As New Scientist says, the world is transformed by reason, discovery and innovation.  Same with football.   And the move towards pointing out that Mourinho’s wild rants are, well, wild rants, is a little step in the right direction, in my opinion.

ales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

While others mature with age Mourinho gets more idiotic.

Ref Review: MU – Arsenal

CL Arsenal – PSG 2-2

Arsenal v PSG: the team and the formation, plus other guess work

Are Tottenham just like Arsenal, 18 years ago?

Serge Aurier has been refused permission to enter the UK. But would we let in the Trump?

Leicester, State Aid Utd., Man U; tales of decline

Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek #11 complete with video evidence

Hector, I love you more than words can say

19 Replies to “According to “M”, Man Utd are the most unlucky team in the PL. Let’s see if that’s right.”

  1. United might be the unluckiest team right now but not for the reasons Mourinho claims they are.

    They have been trying, however, to rebuild their squad in an era where everyone is relatively cash rich and there are only so many top players available.

    But the main reason United might consider themselves ” unlucky” is the fact that since SAF retirement, there most likely won’t be another PL manager with that much pull with the league and referees ever again.
    So they can forget about getting the extra points they were so accustom to getting – something they always denied of course.

    Re the anti- immigration backlash – the same was tru for the US population.
    The states with the lowest levels of immigration were most against it.
    Progressive states like Illinois, California and New Yourk , where illegal immigrants constitute about 10% of the workforce, overwhelmingly voted for Clinton.

  2. Agree that the relative downturn in MU results does not signify a reduction in quality, but a reduction in the guaranteed level of ref support following the departure of Ferguson. Sky commentators said as much in our match last week when Valencia’s dive was not rewarded with a penalty gift.

    Despite this, as is shown by other contributors’ review of each week’s referee performances, MU are still the beneficiaries of “mistakes” made by referees.

  3. Wonderful article Tony.

    I think while Mourinho was even in his first missionary journey at Chelsea his mind was focused on managing Man Utd. Why? Because he noticed how the FA and referees always favoured the Old Trafford-based outfit match after match, competition after competition, season after season.

    Being an unrepentant egoist, the Portuguese would have felt that such sudden drought of favours evaporated during David Moyes and Luis van Gaal’s eras mainly because these managers lacked the personality to CONTINUE attracting the favours.

    Presently the ex-Chelsea manager has come to terms that both Sir Alex Ferguson, Howard Webb retired almost at same time and that whatever hold Ferguson had or blackmailed with seems to have evaporated with the Scott’s retirement. Since then every Man Utd’s manager has been earning his keep. Perhaps that’s why ‘M’ is battling so much to restore the Fergie days.

  4. Can wild rant win the PL title and the ones? I don’t think so. But what of wild playing that does incur minimal wild cards from the referees? Well, it could. Because we saw Leicester City played wildly last season and sustained it to the end to win the PL title.

    Liverpool, Chelsea of late and Man City have all been playing wildly this season in the name of sustained high pressing game for 90 minutes plus with occasionally drawing the wild cards from the refs. So far, their playing wild this season has worked for them as their positions in the PL table has suggested.

    Can Arsenal play wild(the disciplined high pressing game) sustainable for 90 minutes plus? That’s an area in the Gunners game Le Prof should seriously look into to aim at upgrading the Gunners to play wild and play it sustainably the most, to enabled us capture titles this season.

    Whichever club’s team plays wild sustainably the most in all competitions is likely to be the clubside that will win the most titles this season.

  5. @Samuel, a high pressing game has it’s downside throughout a long season as Liverpool have seen last season, but a season with no European matches and a 7 day recovery very much leaves you able to recharge and go again…

  6. Sorry!
    I’ve noticed some word errors in my last comment posting after I’ve posted it. But I was still on the site re-reading my posting when I detected the errors, I then tried to correct the word errors by pulling out to reverse back to my comment typing. But it didn’t work for me this time as it used to work when I will have my comment posted twice but with some corrections on the first comment posting.

  7. I have been quite impressed with our finishing this year, perhaps there is something to this “trying to walk the ball into the net” which the media love to hear us over the head with, i prefer to look at it as making the chance as easy as possible so as to not miss, and that surely can’t be a bad thing…

  8. Tai
    Nice take of the mourinho/Utd relationship. That’s exactly why he chose to become pally with Ferguson when he first arrived at Chelsea in the first place. They should naturally have been the two worst enemies because Chelsea were challenging Utd both on the pitch and in flexing financial muscle. But no, instead it was poor Arsenal who were a distant fourth who were deemed enemy number one.

    It would be odd to find madrid’s main rival being a team like Sevilla if you went to Spain, you’d expect their immediate rival to be Barcelona for the obvious reasons stated above, with everyone else coming after that. But curiously in the PL Arsenal, a side which was only fighting to stay in the top four, was deemed the bigger rival by these two, despite the obvious lack of resources Arsenal suffered. Strange. The media played a huge part in all of this; it wasn’t too difficult to spot that the British media and referees all preferred Ferguson, and hated Wenger. And mourinho knew that to be taken to heart by both all he had to do was hate on Wenger and ridicule him at every opportunity.

    As you correctly point out, the favours Utd did enjoy seem to have disappeared with Ferguson’s retirement, and mourinho through his arrogance and big ego assumed the favours (which, as u rightly point out again, had been denied ‘lesser’ managers like Moyes & Van Gaal) would naturally return once he took the reins at Utd. How wrong he was. Let him be exposed for what he really is.

  9. Spot on Al.

    But I think Wenger and Arsenal turned the common enemy just because we went a whole season unbeaten – a milestone neither Fergie(with all the refs and FA favours) nor Mourinho(with all Abramovich’s billions) could replicate till date.

  10. OG – 2 games , 2 shots , 2 goals . Prudent economy personified !
    And a very nice thought that all of ManUre’s ‘goodwill’ so far extended by the PIGMOB may have expired .Not that the playing field is now level- not even close.

  11. And speaking of lying pricks ….

    Pedro was conjugally a very experienced man when he got married to Maria, but she was totally naive.

    On their wedding night, when Pedro removed his clothes, Maria asked, ‘Pedro! What is that?’

    Pedro, a quick thinker, said, ‘Maria, I am the only man in the world with one of these.’

    And then he proudly proceeded to demonstrate to her what it was for. Maria was pleased. After their honeymoon was over, Pedro returned to work. On returning home in the evening after his first day at work post-honeymoon, Pedro found a very upset Maria waiting on their front porch.

    ‘Pedro, you said you were the only man in the world with one of those and yet today, when I saw Gonzalez changing his clothes behind the shed, he had one, too!’

    Ever a ‘Fast Thinker’ on his feet, Pedro said, ‘Oh, Maria, Gonzalez is my best friend. Since I had two, I gave him one. So he is the only other man in the world with one.’

    A skeptical Maria accepted this answer, but when Pedro returned home from work the following evening, an agitated Maria was waiting on the porch.

    ‘Maria? Now what’s wrong?’

    ‘Damn it, Pedro. You gave the better one to Gonzalez’

  12. Anyway,
    Listen closely,
    the wind is whispering,
    the birds are chirping,
    all the animals are joining in the song, the song that goes:
    “Arsenal will win big this season”.
    Can you feel it? can you hear it? can you grasp it? Sing along please(pleez/plz for the younger ones).

    Come on Arsenal, come on, come on.

  13. Tony !!!

    You’re reading the press too much … if we played three in September of the UNBEATEN season, we must of got more than two points … or was Mike Riley doing the maths that year 🙂

  14. Our last four shots on target (all competitions) have produced four goals.
    We just need to get more on target I guess is the answer.

    BTW, noticed Sky having a go at us about Granit not playing much. They just can’t leave us alone, can they?

  15. Tai
    Agree. Ferguson and the media were hating on us for achieving that milestone, while playing exquisite football. mourinho just got himself involved to curry favour with the media and Ferguson.

  16. This standard of refereeing Arsenal differently to other sides was a result of collusion between Ferguson and Riley, which started with game 50 at OT (because we were threatening to go a second season unbeaten!). Before that we never used to worry about refs..

Comments are closed.