There’s Still Hope For The Soccer Team That Can’t Score

Crystal Palace is making history in the English Premier League. In six games, the Eagles have conceded 13 goals and scored zero. No other team in the 129-year history of the English top flight has ever lost its first six matches without scoring a single goal.

It’s not even October, but Palace is already on its second coach of the season, having fired Frank de Boer and brought in former English national team manager Roy Hodgson after the fourth loss. It hasn’t helped. Palace suffered its worst loss last weekend in a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City. To make matters worse, the team’s seventh game will be Saturday at Manchester United, which has only given up two goals this season.

But perhaps the most curious thing about Crystal Palace is that many of the EPL’s most embarrassing campaigns belong to teams that had been recently promoted and were woefully underprepared for the top level. In 2007-08, for example, Derby won one game and finished with 11 points after making the jump (though even they scored 20 goals). By contrast, Palace has been up for four years and has high-caliber scoring talent like striker Christian Benteke (66 career goals in the EPL) and winger Wilfried Zaha (signed to a $38 million contract over the next five years). Even more unusual is this: The team’s underlying numbers this season are not really bad — despite the awful results.

With 80 shot attempts in six matches, the Eagles rank ninth in the Premier League. And Crystal Palace hasn’t just failed to score because all of its attempts were taken from long distance or hampered by heavy defensive pressure. Eight attempts were marked as “big chances,” which the shooter should be expected to convert about 42 percent of the time. And according to expected goals (xG), a stat that measures the quality of scoring chances, one would expect Crystal Palace have scored about six goals, not zero. Benteke — who is now out six weeks with a knee injury — has the most…

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