The promoted sides are here to stay (for this season, at least)
Seventh to eighteenth in the current Premier League table would make perfect sense if it was turned totally on its head. West Ham, West Brom, Everton, and Stoke would make up the rest of the top half – Burnley, Watford, Brighton, and Huddersfield in danger of relegation.
But no, this is not so, and the minnows of the league are showing the more well-known faces how things are done.
All three promoted sides are performing genuinely well, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They all feature in the best 11 for shots on target conceded, Newcastle’s 3.75 per game within touching distance of the 3.67 per game of Arsenal and Manchester United (and the newly Pulis-less West Bromwich Albion, but that’s an article for another time).
Taking attacking into account as well, they’re all in the top 13 of the league for shot on target difference. On this front, Newcastle actually looks like the prime contender for ‘best of the rest’ seventh place, taking nearly five shots on target per game, and just about half a SoT per game behind Manchester United’s +/- per game.
If any of them is to slow down and fall back down the table in a significant way this season, it may be Brighton that does it. They’re the only one of the three who are riding a nice little difference in the rate that they’re converting their shots to the rate that their opponents are.
Their 12.5% conversion rate is only a little above the rough average of 10-11%, but their opponents are scoring at a rate of just 7.9%. A favorable difference in conversion rate – particularly a difference of four percentage points – usually occurs at the top, where a discernible difference in quality of chances happens.
However, only four sides have a better conversion difference than Brighton, and three of them are some of the truly top sides – both Manchester teams as well as Chelsea. The other is Burnley. Draw your own conclusions.
Brighton also has a mediocre rate at preventing dangerous passes, unlike their promoted pals. The Seagulls’ opponents concede a large amount of non-long ball passes into the danger zone (the central strip of the 18-yard box, where the majority of goals are scored), at just over four per game.
Newcastle and Huddersfield, by contrast, concede just 2.08 and 2.00 of these passes per game, right up at the better end of the table among the likes of the Top 6 and Southampton.
Granted, they drop down the table significantly looking at the same stat for their attacks, but only to a midtable level, and both would break roughly even looking at the difference between these passes made and conceded.
Such potential to finish in the top half has not existed for newly-promoted sides for at least a decade, probably since the shiny days of 2006-08, where newly promoted sides Wigan, West Ham, and Reading all achieved top half finishes in two seasons. However, these seasons also brought three relegations of new sides, and it would look a hard job for one of Newcastle, Brighton, or Huddersfield to throw away their form and go down now.
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