x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

If all Premier League matches finished at half time

Inside the numbers Never was there a more apt cliche than 'a game of two halves' for some clubs this season.

Robert Green, the West Ham United goalkeeper, has seen his side throw nine points away from winning positions at half time throughout the course of the season.
Robert Green, the West Ham United goalkeeper, has seen his side throw nine points away from winning positions at half time throughout the course of the season.

To begin with the biggest cliche of the lot, football is a game of two halves. Pretty literal but there is something about the 90 minutes being split in two, the 15-minutes of recovering and waiting, that affects teams in different ways, providing significant momentum swings.

You will hear television commentators say things such as: "Mick McCarthy will be happy to get his side to half time at 0-0" or talking about Sir Alex Ferguson's "hairdryer treatment" for the way he vents his anger at his players during the break. Tired old sayings, but rooted in reality.

This is how one team would be in the Champions League places if games finished at half time this season, but are actually stuck in a relegation battle. Last week we had tangible evidence of the problem of leading a game too early. Some teams can cope with it and some cannot. And West Ham United are in the latter category.

They went into half time last week at Wigan Athletic 2-0 up and, with rivals Birmingham City losing, in a superb position to give themselves a chance of escaping relegation.

Three quarters of an hour later and they had capitulated, shipping three goals, turning three points into none and confirming their relegation with a game to go.

West Ham have thrown away 22 points from winning positions, nine from half time. That is the difference between relegation and safety. But Blackburn Rovers are the worst half-time offenders, they would be fourth if they had held on to all their points. But they have conceded 70 per cent of their goals in the second half of games, and have not turned a single defeat into a win.

The other extreme are West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea, who both earned 14 points that they did not have after 45 minutes. Otherwise West Brom would be bottom.

On Sunday, two of the worst offenders go head to head, with the winner guaranteed to be safe. Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have thrown away nine points from half time and 21 in total, take on Blackburn, whose hideous record is mentioned above.

With Rovers conceding the bulk of their goals in the second half and Wolves letting in 30 per cent of theirs in the last 15 minutes, chances are the half-time score will not hint at the final scoreline.

Most points after half time

West Bromwich Albion  14

Chelsea  14

Stoke City  13

Tottenham Hotspur  11

Fulham  7

Most points lost in second half of matches

Blackburn Rovers  18

Wolverhampton Wanderers  9

West Ham United  9

Everton 9

Home is where the heart is for Man Utd

A statistic to back up what everyone already knew. Manchester United won the title on their home record this season.

Away from Old Trafford, United earned just 25 of their 77 points. Every other team in the top five won more games on the road than they did. Even Blackpool, third from bottom, have won the same amount of away games (five) as United have.

To back this up, United have the worst away record of any Premier League winning team, since the first division was rebranded for the 1992/93 season.

They averaged just 1.32 points per game away from home, putting them below Arsenal's champions of 1997/98, who had 1.62.

Their five wins is by far the worst, with Arsenal (1997/98) and United's treble-winning team of 1998/99 nearest, on eight away wins.

The best away record ever? That would be Chelsea in 2004/05, Jose Mourinho's first season as manager, in which they dropped just nine points.

And this is the Mourinho who went nine years, 151 games and four clubs without losing at home in various leagues. It is no surprise that his Chelsea side were the Special Ones.