I have been running Premier League projections since last spring, and I have consistently rated Manchester City as the best club in the league. Their underlying stats have no equal. These are City's rankings in the league this season in a series of important stats. The "Danger Zone" is my kind of silly name for the close and central areas of the eighteen-yard box. For more on this data, see shot location and expected goals:
Danger Zone Shots Allowed: 37 (3rd in EPL behind Arsenal 33, Spurs 36)
Danger Zone SoT Allowed: 16 (6th in EPL)
Expected Goals Allowed: 10.2 (3rd in EPL behind Southampton 8.6, Spurs 9.3)
It adds up to my best 2013 Team+ rating of 160. And of course I had City as the best club in the league last year, too, so my overall team rating for City, including previous season numbers, is 156. (That's 56% better than average). City are not impenetrable as a defensive side, but there is no better attack in the Premier League. And I mean, that's not the weirdest finding. The club with Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo and David Silva and Yaya Toure is not just the most talented side, they also have produced significantly more goal threat than anyone else.
So all of this is by way of saying that I project Tottenham Hotspur to lose on Sunday. If you're looking for a little bit of optimism, I do think a result for Spurs is moderately more likely than the bookies have it listed. It's only a few percentage points, but this is so far a larger gap between my numbers and the bookies' than we've seen previously.
As Benjamin Pugsley points out in his excellent preview piece at Bitter and Blue, City are not the only club in this match whose results have not kept pace with their underlying stats. I have Spurs by a small margin as the second best club in the EPL this season (143 to 141 over Arsenal) despite their poor goal-scoring. (See this study on G/SoT conversion for an explanation.) So while I rate City as significant favorite, my numbers do give Spurs about a 52% chance of a result, compared to a the 44% chance the bookies give us. It's a few points!
Projections for Spurs-City
|TOT W||D||MCI W|
My projections have Spurs averaging about a point from this game. (.24*3 + .28 = 1.0). So if Spurs do find a way to grab all three points, it makes a real difference in their projection. Two added points are a big swing. One point dropped from projections from a loss is not good, but it's not as big a deal. Specifically, it's about half as big a deal.
I have the two most likely scorelines as 1-0 City and 1-1 (both 12%), then 2-1 City (10%), 0-0 (9%), 2-0 City (8%) and 0-1 Spurs (7%).
The Road Ahead
Spurs play two huge games against massive payroll clubs, then turn around and face two of the worst sides in the Premier League. After the home match with Manchester United next week, Spurs play back-to-back away matches with the two worst clubs in the Premier League so far this year, Fulham and Sunderland. Fulham's stats so far are a little more than 50% worse than league average. If they keep this up, they'll be worse than Reading. And Reading were terrible. Sunderland have picked up a couple results recently with notably better play, but they were still definitely fortunate to collect three points against City with only one shot inside the box on target.
I thought it would be interesting to combine the challenging next two matches on Spurs' schedule with the should-win two following in running projections. I find that as long as Spurs don't screw up on the road in December, we can survive even a one-point total against the Manchester clubs. Of course, counting on consecutive road wins, even against opponents of doubtful quality, is never a good bet in the Premier League. But it does mean we have a little bit of wiggle room going into some tough matches.
The table here lists the number of points taken from the next four matches, the chance of Spurs taking exactly that many points, and the club's Top 4 and Title chances if they take exactly that many points from the next four.
Seven points from the next four constitutes holding serve. You'd like to see one win in the next two in order to make the away matches at Craven Cottage and the Stadium of Light into opportunities to pick up ground rather than must-wins to keep pace.