Set-pieces? Counter-attacks? Costly errors? We delve into a world of statistics to reveal every Premier League club’s strength and weakness…
Strength – Sharing the burden
No club shared out the goalscoring burden more than Arsenal last season, with 17 different players finding the net in the Premier League. Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang will lead the charge going into the new campaign, but new head coach Unai Emery will hope those in supporting roles continue to pose a threat up front as they target a return to the Champions League.
Weakness – Costly errors
Mistakes came at a price for Arsenal last season, with 15 errors leading to goals in the Premier League. That league-high total was four more than Southampton and Bournemouth, and that tally will have to reduce drastically if they are to challenge for a top-four spot.
Strength – Aerial duels
Only relegated Stoke (26 per game) won more aerial duels than Burnley (25.2) last season, with centre-back pairing James Tarkowski and Ben Mee proving to be a formidable partnership. Sean Dyche will look to take his well-drilled team on a European adventure this season, but first they must navigate their way past Aberdeen in the Europa Leauge second qualifying round.
Weakness – Misplaced passes
Burnley recorded the lowest passing accuracy in the Premier League last season, with the figure of 70.5 per cent partly down to the fact they averaged 81 long balls per game, a league high. Sean Dyche is unlikely to change his approach, but greater precision would not go amiss as they take on the tricky task of improving on a seventh-placed finish.
Strength – Set-piece and comeback kings
Eddie Howe’s side impressed on two fronts last season. Not only did they score a league-high 16 goals from set pieces (Man City and Arsenal both recorded 15), but they also proved to be kings of the comeback, recovering 21 points from losing positions – no club could top that.
Weakness – Insufficient shut-outs
Bournemouth kept just six clean sheets in the Premier League last season, the joint-fewest along with relegated Stoke. So the Cherries’ back line, and in particular goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, will need to improve on that defensive stat in the upcoming campaign.
Strength – Brilliant blockers
Brighton shipped the fewest goals of any bottom-10 side in 2017/18, conceding 54 times. Among a host of impressive statistics, they went toe to toe with Burnley in terms of blocks made, recording just one fewer than the Clarets’ season-total of 191. Everton made the third-most with 160.
Weakness – Tackle success rate
Despite a strong showing defensively, Brighton had the lowest success rate in the league when it came to tackles, with their 63.44 per cent just below Bournemouth’s 63.65 per cent. It’s a fine margin, particularly with Liverpool’s league-high at 70.64 per cent, but it offers Brighton an area to improve in during preseason.
Strength – Set-play specialists
Cardiff’s football may not have been pretty last season, but it was effective enough to secure promotion to the Premier League. Neil Warnock’s side will be expected to continue their direct approach, and the Bluebirds will look to be a threat from set plays, having scored from such scenarios 15 times in the Sky Bet Championship – a league high.
Weakness – Wasteful on the ball
Cardiff comfortably recorded a Sky Bet Championship low last season when it came to passing accuracy, with the 59.38 per cent an indication of their tendency to play long balls. Only two sides enjoyed less possession than Neil Warnock’s side, with the club averaging 42.54 per cent over the course of the campaign.
Strength – Heads, you win
Alvaro Morata’s seven headed goals only begins to tell the story of Chelsea’s threat in the air last season, with the Blues managing 17 in total – four more than second-place Arsenal. Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso both chipped in with two headers, but whether crosses form part of Maurizio Sarri’s approach remains to be seen.
Weakness – Straying offside
As Chelsea look to challenge for Premier League glory once more, they could well look to minimalise the amount of times they are caught offside, having strayed too far on 108 occasions last season, more than any other club.
Strength – Dribble happy
Behind Chelsea (13.5 per game) and Manchester City (13.2), Crystal Palace (12.7) were third when it came to successful dribbles, with Wilfried Zaha unsurprisingly playing a huge role in that statistic. The Ivorian completed 119 dribbles last season, with only Eden Hazard (165) recording more.
Weakness – Converting big chances
Palace will have to rediscover their shooting boots in the upcoming campaign as they look to improve on an 11th-placed finish. The club missed 55 big chances in 2017/18, which put them fourth on the list behind Man City (63), Liverpool (61) and Arsenal (55).
Strength – Clearing the danger
Everton recovered from a poor start to the 2017-18 season by finishing eighth, and few teams were as busy defensively as the Toffees. They produced 617 headed clearances and 514 interceptions, both ranked as the third-highest in the league, while 1229 clearances in total was a league high.
Weakness – Creating chances
Averaging just 9.4 shots per game, only Swansea (8.9) recorded a lower total than Everton last season. With 44 goals from 38 games, it is an obvious area for improvement as Marco Silva prepares for his first season in charge at Goodison Park.
Strength – Possession masters
Fulham played a unique brand of football in the Sky Bet Championship last season, and they can only hope it pays off in the Premier League after securing a play-off final win over Aston Villa. Having averaged 60.39 per cent possession, no team in the second tier looked more comfortable on the ball than Slavisa Jokanovic’s side, but replicating that will be no mean feat in the upcoming campaign.
Weakness – Errors leading to shots
There were six Sky Bet Championship clubs who made more errors leading to shots than Fulham last season, but none will be gracing the Premier League this time around. Having allowed 24 shots after making mistakes – joint with Wolves – they may not be so lucky when making blunders in the top flight.
Strength – Attacking down the right
Huddersfield defied expectations by confirming Premier League safety with two games to spare, and David Wagner will now be working on a formula that keeps the Terriers in the top flight once more. When it came to attacks, 42 per cent came down the right wing – the highest in the league – with Collin Quaner and Tom Ince heavily relied on when it came to creating chances.
Weakness – Finding the target
Swansea are at the bottom of another unwanted stat, with their 2.7 shots on target per game just worse than Huddersfield (2.9). That’s in part because Wagner’s side enjoyed the fewest touches in the box last season – 568.
Strength – Converting chances
Deadly on the counter-attack, Leicester were also clinical when it came to taking their chances in the previous campaign, finding themselves narrowly behind Manchester City (20.7 per cent) and Manchester United (19.77 per cent) when it comes to shot conversion rate (18.24 per cent) – a total helped by Jamie Vardy, who scored 20 goals, a 33.9 per cent hit rate.
Weakness – Discipline
Five red cards for Leicester was the most in the Premier League last season. Wilfred Ndidi was the guilty party on two of those occasions, with Ben Chilwell, Daniel Amartey and Marc Albrighton also seeing red. The Foxes managed to beat Brighton 2-0 with 10 men, mainly because Ndidi was dismissed in the 87th minute, while they also secured a valiant 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge after Chilwell was given his marching orders with 25 minutes to go.
Strength – Punishing on the counter
Liverpool were simply devastating on the counter last season, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino proving a tricky trio to handle. The Reds scored nine goals from fast breaks, one more than Tottenham – both clubs created 26 chances from fast breaks – and two ahead of Leicester.
Weakness – Drawing after leading
No team ended up drawing more times after taking the lead than Liverpool, who shared the spoils on seven occasions. They were one of just three teams (along with Tottenham and Manchester United) not to lose after taking the lead, but seven draws equates to 14 points dropped – a clear area Jurgen Klopp can look to improve on.
Strength – Top-six victors
It’s difficult to know where to begin with City, who broke all manner of records when clinching the Premier League title with 100 points. Crucially, they won the top-six mini table, picking up 24 points by winning eight and losing two against the remaining five teams – Man United (19pts), Tottenham (13pts), Chelsea (12pts), Liverpool (10pts) and Arsenal (7pts). A repeat performance would surely ensure the trophy remains at the Etihad.
Weakness – Hitting the woodwork
The champions scored a record 106 league goals in the previous campaign, but remarkably they could have scored more. Not only did they miss the most big chances (63), but they also hit the woodwork 23 times – seven more than Arsenal in second.
Strength – Shutting up shop
David de Gea picked up the Golden Glove award for the first time last season after keeping 18 of United’s 19 clean sheets. The ability to shut out their opponents in every other game helped them secure second, boasting the second-best defence (28 goals conceded) – one behind City.
Weakness – Prolificacy in front of goal
For all of United’s defensive efforts, Jose Mourinho will certainly want his side to improve in front of goal this season. It’s difficult to compare against City’s tally of 106, but United’s 68 goals scored last season was also fewer than Liverpool (84), Tottenham (74) and Arsenal (74).
Strength – Pass masters
Outside last season’s top six, no other side made as many through balls – 67 – as Newcastle did, with most coming from Jonjo Shelvey’s boot. And if the mercurial playmaker is on song again this time around, then expect another mid-table finish for the Magpies.
Weakness – Lack of possession
Averaging 43.8 per cent possession, only relegated duo Stoke (43.7 per cent) and West Brom (42.8 per cent) saw less of the ball than Newcastle. It mattered little for Rafa Benitez’s men, as they ultimately secured a 10th-place finish, but the Spaniard will surely look to wrestle back momentum – particularly against other sides hoping to beat the drop.
Strength – Spot-on Saints
Despite battling relegation for most of the previous campaign, the struggling south coast club actually only conceded one goal from a penalty during the whole season – the joint fewest number in the entire top flight.
Weakness – Converting chances
Southampton endured a below-par season in the Premier League, and only guaranteed safety on the final day of the season – albeit after a vital win over Swansea in their penultimate match. The Saints survived by the skin of their teeth, and a shot conversion rate of 10.98 per cent – the second lowest after West Brom (10.69 per cent) – hardly helped the cause. It’s an unforgiving statistics, with City topping the list with 20.7 per cent, but an area Southampton know they can improve in.
Strength – Defending a lead
Spurs were one of three teams who did not lose a game after taking the lead, along with United and Liverpool. Mauricio Pochettino’s side led on 25 occasions and went on to win 23 of those games, drawing the other two, a metric they’ll hope to replicate as they look to turn their new stadium into a fortress.
Weakness – Sharing the load
With 10 goalscorers last season, variety was not Spurs’ strong point last season. That tally of 10 was fewer than the remaining top six, and while Heung-Min Son, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli proved valuable allies to Harry Kane up front, Mauricio Pochettino will be looking for a greater input from the rest of his squad.
Strength – Shot-shy shot-stoppers
Between them, shot-stoppers Heurelho Gomes and Orestis Karnezis made just 95 saves in the Premier League last season, the fewest of any top-flight shot stoppers bar City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs. So can new Hornets ‘keeper Ben Foster be equally as redundant in goal this time around?
Weakness – Foul play
Watford were guilty of 441 fouls last season, with only Everton (460) recording more. The Hornets managed to reach 41 points, enough for a 14th-place finish, but perhaps they won’t be so lucky if the ill-discipline continues.
Strength – Owning your goal
Despite West Ham conceding 68 times in the Premier League last season – the joint most along with relegated Stoke – only one of those was actually an own goal. And with some of their rivals gifting opponents as many as five goals from their own players last time out, this could be looked at as being one of the Hammers’ main strengths heading into the new campaign!
Weakness – Conceding penalties
The Hammers were victims of their own defensive errors at times last season, conceding seven penalties, the joint most along with Swansea. Such gifts would be well received once more in the upcoming campaign, but new manager Manuel Pellegrini will not be so keen to dish them out.
Strength – Goals! Goals! Goals!
No other side could match the 82 goals that Nuno Espirito Santo’s team scored on their way to winning last season’s Sky Bet Championship. And with even more firepower added up front this summer, expect more free-flowing attacking football on their return to the Premier League.
Weakness – Fighting lost causes
Where to pick out holes in a Championship-winning season? One sticky point could be the seven points Wolves recovered from losing positions. Sure they only fell behind 12 times all season, but only on one of those occasions did they manage to fight back and win. They’ll find themselves trailing more often in the Premier League, and Nuno will want to see some fighting spirit when that happens.