What do Tottenham Hotspur and Star Wars antagonists the Sith have in common?
They only deal in absolutes.
And while it didn’t do Anakin Skywalker any good as he still allowed Obi-Wan Kenobi to chop his legs off, in Tottenham’s case it just means they don’t like drawing games of football.
We also look at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sparkling record, analyse yet another brilliant performance from Sergio Aguero and ponder whether Gonzalo Higuain is in decline or if Maurizio Sarri can revive his goalscoring form.
Pochettino’s men refuse to draw
Tottenham’s last Premier League draw came a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… (at Brighton’s Amex Stadium in April 2018).
And while their 1-0 win over Newcastle may not have been the best advert for football when it comes to selling the sport to aliens from another planet, it did set a new Premier League record.
Not only did Son Heung-min’s 83rd-minute strike earn Spurs a hard-fought victory, it also extended their run of league games without a draw to 29.
That eclipses Bolton’s 28-game streak between 2010-11 and 2011-12, during which they lost 21 and eventually succumbed to relegation.
In contrast, Tottenham’s run features an impressive 22 victories – though they have thrice gone close to the dreaded draw.
They needed injury-time winners to beat Burnley in December 2018 and Fulham in January 2019, while their former midfielder Jake Livermore came back to haunt them in May 2018 when he netted a 92nd-minute winner for West Brom.
|Longest run of Premier League games without drawing|
|Team||Seasons||Games without drawing||Wins||Defeats|
|Tottenham||2017-18 to 2018-19||29 (ongoing)||22||7|
|Bolton Wanderers||2010-11 to 2011-12||28||7||21|
|Arsenal||2017-18 to 2018-19||25||15||10|
|Crystal Palace||2014-15 to 2015-16||23||12||11|
|Manchester City||2014-15 to 2015-16||23||17||6|
“Help me, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. You’re my only hope…”
…is probably not what Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said when he approached the Norwegian about becoming caretaker boss at Old Trafford.
Nonetheless, the way Solskjaer has turned the Red Devils’ fortunes around since the sacking of Jose Mourinho has been remarkable.
Sunday’s victory at the King Power Stadium also means they have won more points than any other Premier League team since Solskjaer took over.
Indeed, he has claimed nine more points than league leaders Liverpool – although Jurgen Klopp’s side have played two games fewer – and seven more than Manchester City.
Maybe Ole is United’s chosen one.
|Premier League top seven since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over|
Brilliant Aguero shines bright for City
In his last two games Sergio Aguero has been scoring goals faster than the Millennium Falcon can complete the Kessel run.
It took him just 24 seconds to break the deadlock in Manchester City’s midweek defeat by Newcastle and he was at it again on Sunday – scoring after only 46 seconds against Arsenal.
The Argentina international also managed to bag a further two goals during the win over the Gunners, which saw him complete his 10th Premier League hat-trick.
Only ex-Blackburn and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time leading scorer, has netted more (11).
His three goals on Sunday also took his tally against the league’s ‘big six’ to 42 – that’s almost double Harry Kane’s tally – albeit Aguero has played 20 more games.
|Goals scored against the Premier League’s ‘big six’|
|Player||Games played||Goals scored|
Is Higuain in decline?
Well, judging by his double on his home Premier League debut, you’d think not.
But when you take a closer look at the stats over the past few seasons, a worrying trend starts to emerge.
In 2015-16, the 31-year-old Argentina international enjoyed his best goalscoring campaign – netting an incredible 36 goals in 35 Serie A appearances as Napoli finished runners-up to Juventus, who then acquired his services that summer for £75.3m.
His form has waned since then and his league goal tallies have dropped considerably season by season. In fact, they have fallen by a third each year, from 36 to 24 and from 24 to 16.
If that mathematical trend continues, Chelsea fans will only have a few more Higuain strikes to celebrate.
However, he has netted 38 goals in 37 league games under Maurizio Sarri, his former boss at Napoli who is now in charge at Stamford Bridge.
Perhaps under the Italian’s guidance Higuain can discover his old goalscoring powers once again.
|Gonzalo Higuain’s goalscoring record over the past four seasons|
|Season||Club||Games / goals (League)||Games / goals (All comps)|
|2018-19||AC Milan / Chelsea||17 / 8||25 / 10|
|2017-18||Juventus||35 / 16||50 / 23|
|2016-17||Juventus||38 / 24||55 / 32|
|2015-16||Napoli||35 / 36||42 / 38|
Burnley finally win a spot-kick
Clarets fans, players and manager alike were rejoicing come full-time on Saturday.
Not because they had scored an equaliser deep into injury time to claim another vital point in their bid to avoid relegation.
Not because Ashley Barnes was wheeling away to celebrate his second goal in as many games.
Not because deadline-day arrival Peter Crouch had played a key role in the build-up to the goal.
The reason? It was because Anthony Taylor had awarded Burnley a penalty – thus ending their run of 67 Premier League games without one.
But if Sean Dyche thought his team were unlucky, how would he have felt about Queens Park Rangers’ 72-game run in the mid-90s or when Wimbledon went 91 games without being awarded one between November 1997 and March 2000?
|Longest run of Premier League games without a penalty|
|Team||Date of first game||Date of last game||Games without a pen|
|Queens Park Rangers||05/03/1994||25/11/1995||72|
Gracia’s magic 39
No-one had ever managed Watford for more than a single Premier League season prior to Javi Gracia’s arrival at Vicarage Road.
Therefore he could have been forgiven if he thought ‘it’s a trap’ when he took control following Marco Silva’s departure in January 2018 – but that couldn’t be further from the case.
Thanks largely to Ben Foster’s heroics in goal, Watford were able to take a point from their trip to Brighton on Saturday in what was Gracia’s 39th league match in charge.
The most any previous Hornets boss had managed was 38 Premier League games – a feat achieved by club legend Graham Taylor and Aidy Boothroyd, who both took the club into the top flight but were immediately relegated the following season, resulting in them losing their job.
Quique Sanchez Flores and Walter Mazzarri were also at the helm for 38 matches. They both ensured Watford beat the drop, in 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively, only to be sacked at the end of the campaign.
But, when you compare Gracia’s record with his predecessors, it’s easy to see why the Hornets faithful have been happy to see him stick around.
|Watford managers in the Premier League era|
|Manager||Season(s)||P||W||D||L||Win %||Points per game|
|Javi Gracia||2017-18 to 2018-19||39||13||10||16||33.3||1.26|
|Quique Sanchez Flores||2015-16||38||12||9||17||31.6||1.18|