The Premier League Stats Here

This weekend sees the return of the Premier League; although it doesn’t really seem like football ever went away. To get us in the mood, here are some of my favourite stats and trends from last season, and I analyse what they might mean heading into the new season. I also give you my predictions, which knowing my luck will probably look terrible by the time May comes around.

Arsenal away off the big boys
Yes, there will be some puns here. Arsenal at the Emirates last season were formidable. They won 17 of 19, collecting 53 points (level with Manchester City), and scored 54 goals. Away from home was a very different story. When leaving the comforts of their local library Arsenal won just 4 of 19 games, collected a meagre 16 points, scored just 20 goals, and conceded 31. If Arsenal can sort out their away form, maybe they can find their way back into the top four.

Bournemouth need an alarm clock
Maybe the Bournemouth players need more Weetabix before games, because they sure take their time to find their groove. The Cherries only scored 18% of their goals in the first 30 minutes of a game – 8% lower than the PL average, and 56% in the final 30 – 16% higher than the PL average! On the other side of the ball, they concede evenly throughout the game, so they often find themselves behind. They scored the first goal in just 34% of games last year and won 24 points from losing positions. If Bournemouth could start games as well as they finish them, they could be dangerous.

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Brexit, the Mental Health Syndrome

If it’s somehow passed you by, we are a few months away from self-destruction. The likelihood of a no deal Brexit has drastically increased after recent events in the commons, and contingency plans are now being formed for such a scenario. Industries are planning to stockpile foods, medicines, and fuel if we crash out of the European Union, and the Army are being put on standby to ferry supplies around the country to those without easy access to such goods.

The future of healthcare after Brexit is especially precarious. The government plans to leave the single market and customs union, the arrangements that currently deliver health services, goods, and workforce to the UK. The economy will be taking a drastic hit at a time when the NHS is already chronically underfunded, and pressures are all year round. But there’s one area that doesn’t receive the amount of attention it deserves, the effect of Brexit on mental health.

Firstly, there was the decision itself. To many, the vote to leave was a complete shock and brought about feelings of insecurity due to the uncertain political, economic and personal consequences ahead. All of our lives are dependent on the future deal struck by the government, but especially so are the lives of the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK and the 1.2 million UK citizens living or working across the EU. For two years now, their lives have been in limbo, unsure of their rights after March 2019. The UK and EU agreed in principle late last year for the same rights to apply to both parties, but a no deal Brexit would throw that out of the window.

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What Changes Now?

If like me you’ve been scrolling through Twitter endlessly today, you might think the government is in the middle of collapsing. After David Davis and Steve Baker’s resignation just before midnight last night, and Boris Johnson following suit this afternoon, it’s easy to see why. After a supposed cabinet agreement was produced at Chequers last week, the two Brexit heavyweights decided that enough was enough, and left in protest to the governments swing towards a softer Brexit.

This afternoon in the commons May was defiant. She talked up her Chequers deal, and in a likely attempt to put an end to any further resignations reminded her party that we would be leaving the single market, customs union, and ending free movement of people into the country. Which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t match the message coined last week. As broken by Kevin Schofield a couple of hours ago, May and her team have also maintained that she will fight on regardless, and will take on any vote of no confidence put forward by the backbenches.

It’s hard to see why that wouldn’t be the case. Sure, the ERG and the backbenches have the numbers to put in their letters to Brady, but I highly doubt they have the numbers to win the vote. Many Tory MPs who currently sit on the fence know that a change in leader would lead to a leader in favour of no deal, and arguably could lead to Corbyn making his way into number 10. May also knows that if she does fend off the vote of no confidence party rules maintain she would be safe for a further 12 months, which would take us well into the transitional period of leaving the EU.

As I put forward in a piece late last year, Theresa May has always been merely a tool for the Tories as long as they need her. Whoever leads throughout the Brexit process will be tainted afterwards, and many leading Tory candidates will want to avoid this. May was, and still likely is, the person that will deliver Brexit, and would then likely resign or be forced out shortly after. Many colleagues would rather hold off and use the ‘Brexit betrayal’ line, and few Conservatives will want May anywhere near another general election after last year’s debacle.

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Don’t Fold on Immigration

Earlier this month parliament voted against a Lords amendment to chase EEA membership, one reason being the Labour leadership choosing to abstain, and some Labour MPs even choosing to side with the government. It seems we don’t have an opposition when it comes to Brexit. Despite many rebelling to vote for the amendment, the general consensus on the opposition’s benches was that an EEA deal would be betraying the vote. You know, that voting form that had the two options: ‘remain in the single market’ or ‘leave the single market’…

As the single market comes with the four freedoms, an EEA deal would likely lead to freedom of movement continuing. Something that seemingly we voted for an end to. As I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, the idea that anyone voted for anything beyond leaving the EU is nonsense. Of course, immigration played a key part in the referendum and the campaign of the Leave side, but when you speak to those who voted Leave, many will tell you foreigners were not the issue.

Of course, the reaction was to believe that they were the reason. And why not. The theme of the past few years globally has been anti-immigration, anti-liberty, and one of shut up shop and lock the doors. With the vote for Trump, the rise of Le Pen, Orban etc, all of which ran on anti-immigration stances, globalisation and the movement of people has been given a smack in the jaw.

The problem is, the issue of immigration is consistently overhyped. Whilst many do want immigration reduced, to most it doesn’t rank among their top issues. Roughly 30% rank it as a top issue, whereas around half believe that immigration is a positive for both the economy and culture. The key fact is that the UK public has become far more positive about immigration in recent years, and the same applies across the pond. 75% of Americans say that immigration is a good thing and just 35% are calling for lower levels of immigration, a figure that has almost halved from the mid-1990s. The argument that an America at its most positive about immigration voted for Trump due to his strong immigration stances is folly.

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Time for Labour to Lead

It’s hard to be a so-called moderate in the UK these days. Not only do you find both parties veering further towards each wing, you also see that UK politics is now completely devoid of rationality as we hurtle towards Brexit. Alastair Campbell describes Labour’s position as “constructive ambiguity”, I find that to be a kind assessment. Both parties believe the argument is sorted, and both are under the false illusion that a hard Brexit was voted for.

Labour’s policy seems to be to appeal to leavers whilst hoping that their pro-European membership wouldn’t feel compelled to vote for any other party. At some point, this has to give. Mark Carney recently revealed that household incomes are about £900 per household lower than was forecast back in May 2016, and due to Brexit, the economy is roughly 2% lower than it would have been had we voted to remain in the EU two years ago. If Corbyn and McDonnell want to implement their manifesto promises, a hard Brexit is simply out of the question.

In 2017, the ambiguity worked. Leavers felt that Corbyn wanted to leave the EU as much as them, and Remainers saw Labour as the only route to blunt May’s push for hard Brexit. Again, this has to give, and it seems it’s the Remainers who are buckling. In 2017 the party was able to shift the focus onto other issues such as healthcare, but with Brexit day looming that strategy is out of the window. Only 26% think that Labour’s position on Brexit is clear, while 60% believe it’s unclear.

The public overwhelmingly favours the PM’s handling of Brexit, with 32% approval compared to a measly 19% for Corbyn. May is also impressing far more leave voters than Corbyn is remainers, 40% of leavers back May, just 26% of those who voted to remain back Corbyn’s treatment of Brexit. Labour is also losing the support of young people; last year 19% more 18-34-year-olds backed Corbyn over May, now the PM has a 2% lead. As Labour members shift, Corbyn stays rooted.

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Clinging On, Any Memes Necessary

On the morning of the 4th, I woke up to see that Labour had failed to take London councils such as Westminster and Wandsworth and had managed to lose Barnet along the way. By the time I got home from work only 12 hours later, I was shocked (but unsurprised) to see my Twitter feed telling me that last night was Labour’s best local elections performance since 1971.

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

The ‘original fact’, albeit not completely factual itself, was that it was Labour’s best performance in London in local elections since 1971. Then again, the rest of the country hardly seems to matter to the Labour party anymore. Of course, the BBC, ITV, Sky News, and all other reputable news corporations ran with the truth that, really, not much happened last night. ‘Neck and neck’ the BBC called it. That outraged the Corbyn clique.

Later that night I found myself seeing memes showing the final seat tallies; Labour with 2350 and Conservatives 1332, positioned next to the report from the BBC saying, ‘neck and neck’. It seems, unsurprisingly, not everyone knows how the locals work. The popular vote was actually neck and neck, 35% apiece for the main two parties with the Liberal Democrats surging up to 16 percent.

A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes. On Twitter, it travels quicker. Sure, we can point out to these people their mistakes. Maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll simply call us ‘right wing’ or ‘Blairites’. But the damage is already done. Before you know it, Rachel Swindon has retweeted the lie and it has over 20,000 retweets and a million impressions.

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Cricket’s Crisis Point

The last few weeks could easily be mistaken for an average BBC2 comedy. The cricket season starts just a week after heavy blizzards across the country, Peter Siddle takes a wicket wearing a woolly hat, and the ECB announce a new 100 ball format to ‘shake up cricket’. I can imagine it now. Kris Marshall plays the bumbling ECB executive, and there’s a load of poor innuendos about stumps.

It’s almost like The Thick of It. The intern pitches the idea of a 10-ball final over, and suddenly it’s being announced to the nation. For years now, a new competition was always in the offing to try to rival the IPL or the Big Bash. Sure, we have our T20 blast, but a shorter inter-city format was needed. Then came the announcement from the ECB. A new eight-team city tournament was on its way from 2020, but rather than T20, there will be 100 balls per innings.

With the working title ‘The Hundred’, it’s an attempt to appeal to the masses. The competition will offer faster matches, start slightly earlier, and allow kids to get home at a reasonable hour. There will be 15 traditional six-ball overs and a single 10-ball over to complete each innings. A women’s event, run along the same lines, will also be launched. To increase viewership, the BBC will also have shared coverage, allowing those without Sky TV to get involved in the action too.

After the announcement, social media was up in arms. I mean yeah, on the face of it, it all does sound rather stupid. But could this work? Could it revolutionise the game? Eoin Morgan certainly thinks so. He’s warned that unless English cricket is prepared to accept change, the sport may die out. Participation levels have fallen steadily over the past decade, and it’s ‘boring’ reputation needs quick fixing. I’m a traditionalist myself; test cricket is the ultimate for me, but I understand that sport today demands quicker, more exciting formats.

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