Goal and Sure have partnered to create the Pressure Index, the only way to measure how players are handling the stress of the most competitive league
Southampton were on the slide. The thrill of securing a League Cup final had provided a respite, but it was time to address a run of form that had seen them lose six of their last seven Premier League games.
Down in 13th place, they suddenly sat just seven points above the drop zone.
The pressure was on. And this weekend, against a Sunderland side which had just roared to a stunning 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace, there could be no more slip-ups.
But Saints fans needn’t have worried, not with new signing Manolo Gabbiadini leading the line.
The Italian kicked on from his debut Premier League goal the previous week to score an impressive 97/100 on the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which provides the first ever system to measure and rate a team and player’s performance under pressure.
The Goal Pressure Index uses more than 750,000 data points as well as factors including league position, point in the season and the opposition to calculate a rating out of 100 for every Premier League player every week.
Southampton arrived in the North East as one of three Premier League sides yet to collect a point away from home in 2017, while Sunderland appeared to have addressed their defensive deficiencies by keeping as many clean sheets in their last two league outings (2) as they had in the previous 22 games under David Moyes.
There weren’t supposed to be goals up for grabs at the Stadium of Light. But Southampton needed some. So, all eyes were on Gabbiadini, who had just been brought in from Napoli for a fee likely to rise to the club’s record signing.
He’d made a fine individual start to life on the South Coast, but his debut goal versus West Ham had counted for nothing as the Hammers hit back to stroll to a 3-1 win.
A period of adaptation to a new league looked inevitable. And anyway, not since Henri Camara in February 2005 had anyone found the net in their first two games for Southampton.
“I think step by step he learns different possibilities with the tactics, to defend together, and also in attack he gives good solutions,” said coach Claude Puel.
“There is always little space, with little time to turn and play. He is an interesting player for the future.”
Southampton didn’t need the 'future', however, they needed the now. And that meant goals: all three of Southampton’s away Premier League victories this season had seen them score at least three.
It took Gabbiadini just 30 minutes to get his first, providing a 'solution; when he darted in at the near post to deflect a whipped cross inside the near post and give his side the lead.
And by half-time he was in dreamland. This time, he found that 'little space inside the box', that 'little time to turn', and span to bamboozle Sunderland defenders Lamine Kone and John O'Shea before sending his finish inside the far post.
“It's a good start, a very good start, of course,” said Puel, after Gabbiadini became the 16th player to score three goals in his first two Premier League appearances, and the first since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in August.
His second that afternoon was created by team-mate Dusan Tadic, who himself scored an impressive 94 on the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure, after an influential performance that saw him grab two assists.
There were no less than five Southampton players among the top 14 on the Pressure Index this week, all scoring over 90.