Here is Michael Caley’s data for week one of the 2016-17 Premier League:
A few notes on the results on the results:
Leicester are fine.
This is almost certainly a clear example of “it’s a flukey result, nothing to see here.” Hull scored twice, relying on some lucky bounces and clinical finishing to secure both their goals, while Leicester was dreadfully unlucky in front of goal, somehow managing to score zero goals from open play despite Caley valuing their chances at 1.4. If Leicester finishes any one of those three chances in front of goal, this is a draw. And there were many times last season where Leicester beat expected goals.
It’s also worth noting that Hull managed only .7 xG, which suggests that the Leicester defense is doing OK even without N’Golo Kante. Granted, Hull is an awful barometer for judging their quality defensively, but at the very least we can say their midfield didn’t suddenly open up in the season’s first game.
It’s possible that this is a sign that Leicester’s luck is running out and the team won’t have a repeat of last year’s series of lucky results (says the bitter Spurs fan). But at this point it’s one game and Leicester was the better squad. The Foxes may not be a top four team again, but there’s no reason to reevaluate our preseason predictions based on this result.
Manchester City is a work in progress.
In one sense, Pep’s Man City looked a lot like Pep’s Bayern. They played the same sort of 4-1-4-1 cum 2-3-5 shape that Pep used at Bayern, with the centerbacks (the back two) flaring out wide and the fullbacks tucking inside to join the midfield one and form a trio behind the attacking five.
Unfortunately for Guardiola, at Bayern he had Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez for the back two with David Alaba and Philip Lahm tucking into midfield with Xabi Alonso. At Manchester City he has John Stones and Aleks Kolarov in the back two with Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy joining Fernandinho.
It’s not a surprise, then, that against Sunderland they struggled to create chances. We’ll see improvement the longer Guardiola is there, of course, and the attacking talent he can call upon is enormous. But my hunch all along has been that City has the highest ceiling of any team this season, but that their floor is also lower than Chelsea’s.
Liverpool needs a midfield.
Of the six clubs likeliest to challenge for Champions League placement, Liverpool’s squad may be the most intriguing, particularly in midfield and up top. The Reds boast a large contingent of attacking midfielders in Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, and Marko Grujic. They also have Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, and Divock Origi fighting for playing time up top. It’s an extremely versatile and industrious group of players and it’s not hard to imagine Jurgen Klopp coming up with some real magic based on this group of players.
Unfortunately, what Liverpool lacks is a credible holding midfielder. Emre Can is the only player that one can even really imagine playing a number five role effectively for the team and even he is probably better deployed in a more box-to-box role. Over the weekend we saw the Reds try out a midfield three of Wijnaldum, Lallana, and Jordan Henderson with Henderson in the theoretical holding role. It didn’t really work. Sure, the game was fun as hell and Liverpool did some good things in the attack—Mane in particular looks primed for a huge year—but there’s just a ton of uncertainty with this team due to their porous midfield.