We are halfway through the first half of the Premier League campaign. Well, sort of. There are still teams with 18 matches played, Everton are at 17 and Aston Villa are even three matches behind the halfway mark. Manchester City could even get ahead of Man United at the top of the table if they win their game in hand.
Nevertheless, it is Man United who are still top of the league and they will stay there for some time more. Now is the perfect time to look at the campaign so far and dissect it with numbers, to see just how good or bad Man United have been in certain areas.
The Main Stuff
Man United have won 40 points this season, winning 12 matches, adding to that four draws and three losses. Only Man City have lost fewer games and only Leicester have as many wins (although City could get there too). Also, only Liverpool have scored more goals than United so far, 37 to 36, with United now sitting six points ahead of the champions after their 1-0 loss to Burnley.
Man United are currently overperforming their expected goals by some distance, while defensively remaining at their level. They scored 36 goals, but expected goals are having them at 30.8 according to Statsbomb’s data. Their expected goals against are 24.7 with the Devils conceding 25 goals. This measn that United’s attacking performances have been better than the chances they were creating would suggest. Their xG difference is just +6.1, while their actually goal difference is +11. That is not something we should not pay attention to…
Where Man United Could Improve?
Another potential problem for United over the long-term could be non-penalty goals. Manchester United expected goals which do not include penalties are at 26.3 expected goals, which is less than four sides have accumulated – Liverpool, Man City, Leeds and Chelsea. Most of those sides have struggled. Man United could do with creating more from open play if they are to keep up.
Where United have done well this season is with goal creating chances, according to Statsbomb. In that category, which counts offensive actions directly leading to a goal, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls. Man United have made 61 of such actions, being top of the league in that regard with Tottenham Hotspur. Liverpool, for example are struggling with 48, with sides like Aston Villa, Leicester, Everton and Leeds being ahead of them.
Let’s Learn From Leicester
Manchester United will need to improve their defence overall, even though they have been looking better in that regard recently. Conceding 25 goals is a lot, although six of them came in a single match against Spurs. Man United are now on a run of nine wins and three draws since losing to Arsenal three and a half months ago. There is certainly space for improvement in this team during the second half of the campaign, especially with open play goal creation and allowing less chances to rivals.
No one really expected to see Man United sitting top of the table in the second half of January and hopefully this side will be able to make those improvements midway through the season, similarly to the way Leicester City managed during 2015-16 season…