- St Mary’s (Sunday, 14.05, Sky Sports 1)
The Paddy Power Blog has cracked open the history books, fired up Excel and come to a definitive conclusion on which ground is the hardest for the top four Premier League sides to play.
As this piece is a Christmas rehash of something we did earlier this season, the results might not surprise you any more. It’s St Mary’s. However, it’s a timely (and convenient reminder for us) as Jose Mourinho’s title-chasers head south on Sunday.
The stats take into account any team that has played five or more seasons in the top flight, and calculates their results at home against the top four sides at the end of each respective season. Teams such as Manchester United and Arsenal don’t make the cut as they haven’t been outside of the top four for five or more years (although by 2019 that might be very different!)
[Click or tap on the image to make it bigger]
[A big hat-tip to the folk in PP Design for another top notch infographic]
Yes, Southampton is officially the toughest away game for top four sides in the top flight. The Saints take, on average, 1.27 points off the top four sides every game they play them – which gives them the edge over heading to Elland Road, Anfield or Stamford Bridge.
Last year the Saints took just two points from their four home games – drawing with Champions Man City and Arsenal. However the 2000/01 season was a steller year for Southampton home fans as they beat Leeds 1-0, Arsenal 3-2, Man Utd 2-1, and drew with Liverpool in a 3-3 thriller. A total of 10 points taken from that season’s top four as Southampton finished 10th.
Unfortunately it makes for far less pleasing reading if you’re a Wigan fan, with the Latics losing 26 of their 32 games against top four sides, picking up an average of a measly 0.38 points per game.
Interestingly, Coventry and QPR are just as difficult an away game as Everton, and all three have been harder to take points from than Manchester City, before they became a top four side. Newcastle fans will be happy to see St James’ almost break into the top 10, while there’s more misery for the Aston Villa faithful. The Midlands side take an average of just 0.61 points per game off the top four sides, and Villa Park ranks lower than local rivals Birmingham.
Southampton are flying again this Christmas after beating Everton 3-0 (at home) and Crystal Palace 3-1 (away), and that’s reasonably troubling news for Chelsea who arrive at St Mary’s on Sunday (14.05).
Chelsea lost here, 2-1, in March 2013 when the free-scoring John Terry was on target for the visitors (he’s 17/2 anytime).
Can Saints continue their record of putting it up to the top four teams at home, and could this season’s momentum continue and actually confirm Ronald Koeman’s team as a top four side come May? They’re the underdogs for Sunday’s clash with the champions-elect, but on this evidence it certainly isn’t going to be as easy as Chelsea’s odds suggest.
- Can Southampton take three points off Chelsea? The latest odds are here >