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Dundee United’s first Championship quarter in numbers: Shutouts, set-pieces and star men

Courier Sport looks at the stats underpinning a super start to the Tangerines' promotion push.

Dundee United players celebrate a late leveller against Dunfermline.
United have had plenty to cheer about so far this term. Image: SNS

Dundee United have surged to the summit of the Championship following an unbeaten start to the league campaign.

That Tangerines have now faced every team in the division and stand four points clear of Raith Rovers — one of only three teams to take points off the Terrors — albeit the Fifers have a game in hand.

With the first round of fixtures in the books for United, Courier Sport examines the stand-out statistics, emerging patterns and key performers*, in collaboration with StatsBomb.

Dundee United boss Jim Goodwin addresses the media at St Andrews
Jim Goodwin has every reason to be delighted with United’s first quarter. Image: SNS

Deadly deliveries and outperforming xG

United are starting to find their groove in the final third, rippling the net 10 times in their last three Championship fixtures.

Unsurprisingly, their goal tally of 22 is the best in the league. Only Falkirk (25) and Celtic (23) are more prolific in the SPFL.

Fourteen of the Tangerines’ league goals have come away from home. Only the Bairns (15) have scored more on the road.

More surprising is the fact Partick Thistle actually boast a better non-penalty xG (expected goals) of 14.23. United’s stands at 13.21, underlining how clinical the Tangerines have been when half-decent opportunities present themselves.

The xG of Scottish Championship clubs
Partick Thistle’s open play xG is superior to United – but they have scored five fewer goals. Image: StatsBombs

High, attacking wingers and regular deliveries into the box have been a pattern this season. United have put 105 crosses into the penalty area — eight more than Queen’s Park — as they seek to feed their forwards.

Louis Moult tops the scoring contribution charts (goals and assists combined) with eight.

The excellent Glenn Middleton boasts the most assist in the league with six, while his combined xG and xG assisted is 4.32 per match (p/m); only behind Jags attacker Brian Graham (6.77 p/m).

Set pieces have been key — at both ends

United’s improvement from set-pieces has been stark.

Having only scored FOUR league goals from dead balls in the entirety of last season, that tally already stands at six in the Championship — with 75% of the campaign still to play.

Ayr United, Arbroath and Dunfermline share second spot with three goals.

United’s xG from set-pieces is 0.42 p/m, level with Morton as highest in the league. Dunfermline (0.39 p/m) and Arbroath (0.36 p/m) follow.

The scatter chart underlines United’s Championship dominance from set-pieces, in creating chances and converting them. Image: StatsBomb

Kevin Holt alone has found the net three times in the Championship from set-piece deliveries, not including his penalty against Thistle

While much hard work on the training ground has gone into the planning and implementation of United’s corners and free-kicks, they would not be half as effective without potent deliveries.

And United have ample options.

Middleton boasts a league leading tally of two assists and 12 key passes from set-pieces. The winger’s proficiency with a dead ball is illustrated in the radar below (all values p/m).

Glenn Middleton set-piece based performance radar
Middleton’s effectiveness from set-pieces has been peerless in the Championship. Image: StatsBomb

And Declan Glass is top of the pile for set-piece xG assisted, with 0.13 p/m.

At the other end, United are yet to concede a league goal from a set-piece and their xG conceded from dead balls is just 0.16 p/m — the lowest in the league.

United: The best defensive league record in Britain

United have the best defensive record in British league football, conceding just four times. They have only shipped ONE goal on their travels in the Championship.

Organisation from set-pieces, as outlined above, is a key part of that.

Despite being the favourites for every fixtures and having the majority of possession, the Tangerines also rarely allow themselves to be caught on the turnover, aided by the intelligent industry of Ross Docherty and Craig Sibbald.

A scatterchart showing Championship clear shots and shots on the break
Pictured: United neither allow many clear shots, nor are they vulnerable to shots on the counter-attack. Image: StatsBomb

Goodwin’s men have conceded just six counter-attack shots all season, the joint-lowest in the league with Arbroath. That contrasts sharply with the way United were carved open on the break on an almost weekly basis last term.

They have allowed the second-fewest clear shots altogether, with nine. Only Morton (eight) have a better tally.

United’s xG conceded, predictably, is the lowest in the Championship at just 0.63p/m.

Centre-backs Declan Gallagher and Holt have been imperious, with their proficiency in the air particularly impressive.

Gallagher’s aerial duel win percentage is 83%, the highest in the division. Holt — complimenting his eye for goal — is joint-second with 81%.

xG conceded graph of Scottish Championship
There is no surprise to see Dundee United’s xG conceded as the lowest in the league. Image: StatsBomb

Docherty is third in the list of possession adjusted tackles and interceptions, with a combined 5.53 p/m. Liam Grimshaw is sixth with 4.81 p/m and Scott McMann completes the top ten with 4.52 p/m.

Docherty (6.91 p/m), Glass (6.82 p/m) and Kai Fotheringham (6.75 p/m) are 5th, 6th and 7th, respectively, for ball recoveries in the opposition half as United seek to win possession in dangerous areas.

Allied with the steady, calming figure of Jack Walton between the sticks, United have crafted a solid defensive unit in double-quick time.

*Statistics only include those who have played a minimum of 300 Championship minutes.