Talking Numbers: Manchester United’s 2017-18 Season

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Another Premier League season is over and Manchester United have only one more match to play. Like last season, the Devils will play in a cup final as their final game of the campaign. Now it will be an FA Cup final against Chelsea, but this is also a good moment to look at certain numbers now that he league is over.

Manchester United finished second with 81 points. The Devils won 25 matches and drew six times, meaning they lost on seven occasions. That is a big upgrade on the previous season, when Jose Mourinho’s team managed to finish in sixth. In the end, the Europa League win meant that did not mean as much as it could, but nevertheless, it was an indicator of how things were across a 38-match season.

Certain Improvements And Room For More

In 2016-17, United won only 18 matches and scored mere 54 goals in a season full of dull 0-0 draws. This season was not exactly spectacular regarding offensive displays, but there were some very good moments. Early victories were rampant, while the second half of the season brought important wins over Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

The average expected goals per shot this season amounted to 0.115, which is not bad. It is an improvement on last season when that number stood at about 0.09 and United also overachieved their xG. Last season it was pretty much similar, with Devils scoring 54 goals and their xG standing at about 57. This term that difference is bigger and in opposite direction, as the average attack would score about 59 goals, but United in reality scored 68.

That means the attack worked better, which ‘the eye test’ would confirm. Also, there were big differences in defence. United conceded 29 goals last season, while this season the number is 28. So things are similar, but underlying numbers give another perspective. Mourinho’s team was allowing 11.5 shots per game, an increase of exactly two shots per match.

This made a difference in the role of David De Gea, as the team was even more reliant on him. De Gea made 74 saves, exactly two saves per 90 minutes. Such a number is too high for a team of United’s quality and that should change next term. De Gea has been brilliant, but it is not sustainable in the long run to be so reliant on how your goalkeeper is doing.

Reliance On De Gea

Man United’s expected goals against stand at 43.54, which is some 15 goals more than United actually conceded. If that is not enough to prove the importance of a world class goalkeeper, than the expected goals against per shot could explain that even better. Manchester United’s rivals were making shots worth 0.104 on average, which is a higher number than United’s last season’s xG/shot. That cannot continue.

The Devils should improve their shot placement, as 41.6 percent of all their shots came from the outside of the area. The trend in recent seasons has been for the number to be under 40 percent, for some teams even at around 36 percent. That might not sound like much, but actually is, as the better positions for making shots leads to more chances of scoring goals.

There are things to be improved next season, and these are some of them.

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