Today is the September Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, a date which marks the end of Summer and start of Autumn, a transition rather neatly reflected by the weather this weekend. Autumn is when the Premier League properly starts to take shape for the season. Trends become established, gaps begin to grow and clubs playing in the Champions League and Europa League have to get used to playing twice a week more often than not.
It is also a time when the leading figures in each of the statistical categories begin to emerge, something that is already apparent when you look at the rankings for ‘Most appearances without any negative ratings’ and ‘Most appearances without any positive ratings’. Across the first few match days, so many players were tied for the lead that I simply had to write ‘Multiple players’ on the League Leaders page. After 6 match days, those numbers have been whittled down to 10 tied for the lead of ‘Most appearances without any positive ratings’ and 15 tied for the lead of ‘Most appearances without any negative ratings’. Depending on how much longer Liverpool’s unbeaten run and the winless runs for Wolves and Watford continue for, it is possible that we could have outright leaders in both categories relatively soon.
The tie for the lead of ‘Most appearances without any negative ratings’ is unsurprisingly dominated by Liverpool players. There are 8 Liverpool players tied for the lead with 6 appearances, even though only Virgil Van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have achieved that feat through playing every minute of the league season so far (Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Adrian are the others to have made 6 appearances without any negative ratings). Overall, 14 out of the 18 players used by Liverpool in the Premier League this season are yet to record a negative rating, though there is a surprising name on the list of 4 Liverpool players to have recorded a negative rating this season, Fabinho. The Brazilian topped this ranking during his debut campaign with 28 appearances, yet recorded a rating of -1 during his substitute appearance against Southampton, when Danny Ings scored an 83rd minute consolation goal against his former club.
Manchester City are the only other club represented on this list, though both of those players have recorded some pretty remarkable Plus Minus ratings in the short and long-term respectively. Riyad Mahrez is the champion in the short-term, currently sitting at the top of the rankings both in terms of overall Plus Minus rating (+18) and Plus Minus rating per 90 minutes (4.64). Rounding off the list is Kevin De Bruyne, who also went through the entirety of last season without recording a negative rating in the Premier League. In fact, you have to go all the way back to Sunday 14th January 2018 when Liverpool beat Manchester City 4-3 at Anfield for the last time De Bruyne recorded a negative rating in the Premier League, with his current streak now standing at 39 games. That is comfortably the longest current streak both in terms of games and days, with Naby Keita the closest challenger, playing 25 times in the Premier League without recording a negative rating since joining Liverpool in Summer 2018.
Whilst the current duopoly for the lead in this category mirrors the dominance Liverpool and Manchester City had over the rest of the league last season, hot on their heels are three unlikely names; Leicester’s Harvey Barnes and the West Ham duo Angelo Ogbonna and Andriy Yarmolenko, all of whom have made 5 appearances without recording any negative ratings. Ogbonna and Yarmolenko have achieved that feat by missing the Hammers’ opening day drubbing by Manchester City, though given Barnes missed out on Leicester’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea, a match when Brendan Rodgers only used two substitutions, had Barnes been introduced late on it is likely he would have broken up the duopoly.
Whilst the two winless clubs, Wolves and Watford, dominate the group of players tied for ‘Most appearances without any positive ratings’ category, there are some noteworthy differences between the two clubs. Watford have endured a torrid start to the season, and whilst 7 of their players (Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Gerard Deulofeu, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andre Gray, Will Hughes and Kiko Femenia) have made 6 appearances without any positive ratings, 19 of the 21 players they have used in the Premier League this season have not recorded any positive ratings. The two exceptions came off the bench to help salvage a point against Arsenal, Ismaila Sarr and Daryl Janmaat, who remarkably has a current Plus Minus rating of +1 in a team with a -14 goal difference.
Wolves by contrast only contribute 5 players to this list; Rui Patricio, Conor Coady, Joao Moutinho, Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota. Of the 18 players used in the Premier League so far this season, 6 have recorded positive ratings at least once, largely as a result of the excellent record Wolves have in the latter stages of matches. Nuno Espirito Santo has made 8 substitutions which have had a positive impact so far this season without making a single substitution which has had a negative impact, resulting in positive ratings for several substitutes, most notably Pedro Neto, who has a rating of +2 from his 4 substitute appearances this season.
To find the remaining 3 players to have made 6 appearances without recording any positive ratings, you have to rise up out of the relegation zone, and in one case rise all the way into the top half of the table. The fact that Moise Kean is on this list may hint at the fact that the transition to the Premier League can be a difficult one for young, foreign players, though it also highlights the distinctly mediocre start to the season for Everton. The Toffees really have not cashed in on a favourable run of fixtures which has seen them avoid playing any of last season’s top 6, and they have lost both of their matches against promoted clubs. However, Everton have a habit of starting slowly in the Premier League, and as soon as they find their form, that will help make Kean’s job somewhat easier.
Crystal Palace have had a slightly better start than Everton, especially given they have already played away against both Tottenham and Manchester United, with their 2-1 win at Old Trafford the highlight of their season so far. Nevertheless, one of their players makes the list in the form of Christian Benteke. Benteke didn’t have a great season last year, recording only 5 positive ratings from 16 appearances, 1 fewer than compatriot Michy Batshuayi managed from just 11 appearances. Andros Townsend however could easily have joined Benteke had he been brought on against Wolves, with the winger currently sitting at the bottom of Palace’s rankings with a rating of -5 from his 5 appearances.
Another former England and Tottenham winger rounds off the list, Aaron Lennon. Burnley have enjoyed a pretty solid start to the season with 2 wins and 2 draws, with their only defeats coming away against Arsenal and at home against Liverpool. Their goal difference is +1, and 12 of the 16 players they have used have positive ratings currently. Lennon however sits adrift at the bottom of their rankings with -5, primarily due to the fact that his only start was in the 3-0 defeat against Liverpool. Last season wasn’t much better for Lennon, recording only 2 positive ratings across his 16 Premier League appearances. Whether Burnley is a good fit for Lennon is a matter of debate, but if he does find himself falling down the pecking order at Turf Moor, will that be the end of his Premier League career given that he will turn 33 before the end of the season?
Fantasy Premier League Tip – Jack Stacey
Last week I went against normal FPL logic by recommending a West Ham defender, and if you followed my advice, you will have been rewarded with a solid 6 points courtesy of Issa Diop during game week 6. This week I continue to go against the grain, this time by recommending Bournemouth defender Jack Stacey. A rather overlooked Summer signing from Luton Town, Stacey was handed his opportunity against Everton following Adam Smith’s hamstring injury, and his promotion to the starting line up has coincided with back-to-back 3-1 victories. With home matches against West Ham and Norwich and trips to Arsenal and Watford between now and the end of October, Bournemouth will be hoping to maintain their excellent recent form. Whilst Bournemouth are yet to keep a clean sheet this season, Stacey did pop up with 4 goals last season for Luton, so if Bournemouth can find a bit more defensive solidity, could be a strong point scorer.