This week we look at the team that never fails to score, the new comeback kings and Europe’s leading bench-warmers.
Behind the scenes
On Saturday, West Ham overturned a two-goal deficit for only the third time in the club’s Premier League history, in a game that saw Huddersfield put on their best attacking display of the season but still lose 4-3.
That victory leaves West Ham as this season’s comeback kings in England, with Manuel Pellegrini’s side having now won a league-high 15 points from losing positions, although their average return of 0.75 points in those games isn’t quite so impressive.
Nonetheless, just two teams in Europe’s top four leagues have earned more points after going behind, and West Ham are in very good company — the clubs in question are Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund.
Only six sides have averaged more than one point from the games in which they’ve been in losing positions, with Liverpool and Juventus leading the way. Manchester City have been behind on the fewest number of occasions: five.
It comes as little surprise to see some of the same sides among those who’ve picked up the most points on average after taking the lead, although it’s quite a shock that Leicester are averaging as many as Barcelona.
No team has managed to win every league game in which they’ve gone ahead, but 15 are still to lose after being in a winning position: Liverpool, Juventus, Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Leganes, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen, Getafe, Roma, Cagliari, Sassuolo and Stuttgart.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s 65th-minute introduction during Chelsea’s humbling 2-0 loss to Everton on Sunday was his 19th substitute appearance in all competitions this season. That’s among the very highest totals for players at clubs in Europe’s top four leagues.
Although the midfielder has made 29 appearances in all, he’s averaging less than 43 minutes per game in which he’s taken to the field.
The only three players to come off the bench more often than Loftus-Cheek this term are Valencia’s Kevin Gameiro, Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City and Bournemouth striker Lys Mousset.
Meanwhile, the man who’s been taken off most frequently is Loftus Cheek’s Chelsea teammate Willian, closely followed by Heung-min Son of Spurs and Inter’s Matteo Politano.
The numbers for unused substitutes are skewed by two factors: (1) Serie A allows considerably more players in its matchday squads than the other big leagues, making it much less likely that a sub will see game-time; (2) goalkeepers are only ever brought on in cases of emergency.
Discounting that league and field position, just three players have been included in the game squad on more than four occasions without ever making it onto the pitch this season. They’re 18-year-old Bayern Munich center-back Lars Lukas Mai (seven times), Everton midfielder James McCarthy (five) and Espanyol striker Victor Campuzano (also five).
Hoffenheim’s 1-1 draw with Stuttgart on Saturday means they’ve only failed to find the net in a single Bundesliga game this season. You can see a stylish finish by their top scorer, Andrej Kramaric, from earlier in March here:
That’s impressive from Hoffenheim — on a par with both Juventus and Barcelona, in fact — but it isn’t even the highest scoring rate in the German top flight this term. That accolade belongs to Florian Kohfeldt’s likable Werder Bremen side, who remarkably have found the net in every single league match so far.
And if they manage to keep up that record in the remaining eight games of the Bundesliga campaign, then they’ll match a feat that only three clubs in the big four leagues have managed since 2012: Barcelona (2012-13), Bayern Munich (also 2012-13) and Real Madrid (2016-17).