Talking Tactics

Season trends: Comebacks on a high

By Adrian Clarke 10 Jun 2023
Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp celebrate a Crystal Palace goal v West Ham

Adrian Clarke sees a big jump in teams fighting back from a goal down in the 2022/23 campaign

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The 2022/23 season will be remembered in part for its dramatic comebacks.

Across 380 matches an incredible 229 points were earned from teams who conceded the opening goal.

Putting this into context, across the five previous seasons the average was 198 points, so we witnessed a healthy jump in the number of sides who fought back from losing positions.

Showing true never-say-die spirit, five teams came from two goals down to win matches.

Points earned from 1-0 down
Season Points
2017/18 196
2018/19 172
2019/20 206
2020/21 221
2021/22 195
2022/23 229
Is a two-goal lead dangerous?

While it may still be a stretch to describe a two-goal lead as “dangerous”, we did see an unusually high number of dropped points from that position.

In fact, this season bore witness to the joint second-highest number of times a team fought back to claim a point or even all three from being a couple of goals down.

Most comebacks from two goals down
Season Comebacks
2015/16 20
2000/01 19
2022/23 19
2010/11 18
1996/97 17
1993/94 15
1998/99 15
2002/03 15

It is hard to accurately pin down the reasons behind this trend, but the use of five substitutes may have been a factor.

Statistically there was not a tremendous impact from individual replacements in 2022/23.

Despite a 35-minute rise in the minutes played by substitutes, we only saw a minimal 7.8 per cent climb in goals and assists from those sent on from the bench. 

However, the ability to freshen up the energy levels of a side with five new players instead of three cannot be ruled out as a contributor to this high proportion of comebacks.

Drama follows Cherries 

It was unusual to witness five wins from two-goal deficits in 2022/23.

In 31 seasons of Premier League football, it has only occurred on 62 occasions, averaging two per campaign.

Gary O’Neil’s AFC Bournemouth were heavily involved in a lot of those dramatic contests.

In his first away game in charge the Cherries produced a stunning 3-2 comeback victory at Nottingham Forest.

Trailing by two goals at half-time O'Neil brought on Ryan Fredericks and switched from 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-2-1, to inspire an amazing response that earned the Dorset side three valuable points and the Premier League’s Most Improbable Comeback award.

Bournemouth also found themselves on the receiving end of two amazing fightbacks.

In November they gave up a 3-1 lead at Elland Road to lose 4-3 to Leeds United in a frenetic encounter.

Then in March they led Arsenal 2-0 before the Gunners staged an unforgettable comeback to win 3-2 in added time, courtesy of a Reiss Nelson screamer.

Manchester City also showed the spirit of champions, fighting back from 2-0 down twice at the Etihad Stadium, breaking the hearts of Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace to win both contests 4-2.

Palace the comeback kings

This season also featured the second-highest number of victories earned from 1-0 down in Premier League history, 55 in total.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal made a habit of chasing down wins from a slow start, but it was Crystal Palace who earned the most comeback triumphs, clawing back 1-0 deficits to win seven matches.

Only two teams conceded the opener more often than the Eagles, which regularly put them at a disadvantage but even so, it was remarkable that seven of their 11 wins were of the comeback variety.

Wins from 1-0 down
Clubs Wins
Crystal Palace 7
Arsenal 5
Bournemouth 4

Three of those successes arrived under Roy Hodgson during the final two months of the season.

Most turnarounds (team conceding first win)
Season Turnarounds
2020/21 56
2022/23 55
2012/13 52
1992/93 48
1993/94 48
Also in this series

Part 1: Favoured formation emerges
Part 2: Record low number of red cards
Part 4: Corner goals on the rise
Part 5: How fast breaks produced a goal rush

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