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Jan 17, 2013

Shipping forecast; festive fortune

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

Since the introduction of the Premier League, I noticed that Liverpool are the only club not to concede five goals in a league match. In fact, their biggest defeats have been 4-0 twice only - by Manchester United and Tottenham - and 4-1 by Chelsea. Are there any other Premier League team to have done better than that? Wesley from Malaysia asked.

Well, in the 21 seasons of the Premier League, Liverpool have actually conceded four goals in a game 11 times, to Arsenal (twice), Aston Villa, Blackburn, Chelsea (three times), Leeds, Manchester United, Southampton and, most recently, Tottenham. By the way, they did not lose one of those matches: the 4-4 draw with Arsenal at Anfield in 2009, when Andrei Arshavin scored all four goals for Arsene Wenger's side.

What that means is that there is only one instance of an entire team proving more prolific against Liverpool than Arshavin was on his own. In 1992, in the first few months of the division, Coventry were struggling. Nevertheless, they managed to beat Graeme Souness' Liverpool 5-1 with braces from Brian Borrows and Mick Quinn, plus a goal from Kevin Gallacher. By the way, Liverpool have conceded six goals in a game, comparatively recently too in 2007, but that was in the League Cup, when Arsenal won 6-3 at Anfield.

So there are only two clubs never to have conceded five or more goals in a Premier League game. Both have played rather less top-flight football in that time. Swansea City conceded four goals in their debut Premier League match and have done so four more times, most recently when Norwich won 4-3 at the Liberty Stadium, but no opponent has managed a fifth goal.

The others may be more of a surprise. Sheffield United have spent three seasons in the Premier League and been relegated in two of them (1993-94 and 2006-07) but they have only conceded four goals three times, the last to Liverpool in 2007, and never five.

Cardiff City are on top of the Championship table at the moment and looking like they will gain automatic promotion to the Premier League and it is highly unlikely Swansea will be relegated from the Premier League. So I was wondering: have there ever been two teams from Wales in the top division at the same time? Keith Cruse from Australia asked.

No, there haven't. Swansea are in the second season of their second spell of top-flight football - the first was from 1981-83 - and seem certain to spend a third year in the Premier League. Cardiff, meanwhile, have had three spells in the old Division 1 - 1921-29, 1952-57, 1960-62 - but never at the same time as their Welsh rivals. The other Welsh clubs to have played in the Football League - Methyr Tydfil, Newport and Wrexham - have never been in the top flight.

The recent talk about 100% winning records during the festive period has had me thinking about how rare it is to lose all four matches instead. Are there any such cases, if any? Louis from Singapore asked.

There was one in the Premier League this season. Norwich City lost 2-1 at West Brom on December 22, followed by back-to-back home defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City, before going down 2-1 at West Ham on New Year's Day to emerge from the four Christmas and New Year Premier League fixtures pointless.

In that respect, they emulated the West Bromwich Albion team of 2010-11. Under the future Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo, they were beaten by Bolton, Blackburn, Manchester United and Fulham between December 26 and January 4.

Those are the only examples in the last decade in the Premier League. However, it is worth pointing out that in some seasons, either because of weather-related postponements or the dates of the FA Cup third-round fixtures, there are not four league games in such close proximity. There are instances of clubs losing three consecutive league matches and an FA Cup tie in the same period, as Stoke did in 2008-09.

What is the longest distance a team needs to travel for a league game? The furthest I could find is when Zenit went to Vladivostok to play their league game, where they won 2-0. Another example for this year is when Perth Glory have to travel to Wellington Phoenix to play a league game. Are there any further than that? Yong Sheng from Singapore asked.

Vladivostok is the most easterly major city in Russia and their team, Luch Vladivostok, were in the Russian Premier League until relegation in 2008. Their meetings with Zenit St Petersburg meant the away team travelled 4,061 miles (6,536 kilometres) to get there (and, of course, the same to get back home).

But Luch are now in the Russian First Division, which involves an even longer trip. As the name indicates, Baltika Kaliningrad are on the Baltic coast, between Poland and Lithuania. That is 4,567 miles, or 7,351 kilometres, from Vladivostok. It is just further than the 4,358 miles (7,014 kilometres) from Kaliningrad to Khabarovsk, home of another club from the same league in the world's biggest country.

Wellington to Perth, a rare example of two clubs from different countries in the same league, is a mere 3,266 miles (5,257 kilometres), which, in comparison, is just a short hop.

By the way, all distances have been calculated using mapcrow.info which, as the name suggests, is the mileage as the crow flies. There are other sites where it is added up using road or rail routes and which produce still longer distances.

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