Premier League Projections and Power Rankings, Week 10: Arsenal, yup, Arsenal

Chris Brunskill

The Gunners' big win home to Liverpool, combined with points dropped elsewhere by Chelsea, Spurs, Everton and Southampton puts our North London rivals in their best position all season. So that's fun!

Tottenham Hotspur took a deserved 0-0 draw at Everton. There are any number of tactical and subjective analyses possible here, but I want to just put them in perspective with a few numbers. These are the shots in the box on target and close/central shots in the box on target by Everton in their first five home league matches.

  • vs. WBA: 7 SiBoT, 4 close/central
  • vs. CHE: 4 SiBoT, 3 close/central
  • vs. NEW: 5 SiBoT, 3 close/central
  • vs. HUL: 6 SiBoT, 4 close/central
  • vs. TOT: 1 SiBoT, 0 close/central

Everton have consistently produced multiple good chances in home matches against a number of solid defensive opponents. Against Spurs they were basically entirely stifled. Any account of this match needs to consider how well Spurs' high line, counter-pressing and retention of possession prevented Everton from producing almost any real threats on Hugo Lloris' goal.

In attack, Spurs put six shots on target. That sounds great, but five were from positions outside the box, and the other was Lewis Holtby's from a wide position at the very edge of the box that prompted a basically routine save from Tim Howard. In general, shots inside the box from wide positions aren't much better in terms of goal expectation than shots outside the box that aren't totally speculative. So with the Tottenham attack just taking a series of potshots from outside the box, we might have hoped for a goal from seven attempts, but zero is also a perfectly normal total for a club that didn't really threaten in dangerous areas.

I think that stats can provide a useful context for discussing tactical issues and real football analysis. The question for people making tactical analyses of AVB's choices, I think, is (1) what sort of changes will enable this club to create high expectation chances, but also importantly (2) whether there are trade-offs that would hurt the club's dominant chance prevention rates, and how these trade-offs are weighed.

For instance, I think that Spurs need better quick passing in attack, as there were several moments when Roberto Soldado or Paulinho worked himself into space and the man on the ball waited an extra 15 seconds to feed him the ball, by which time the chance was gone. My memory is that the passers who missed these opportunities were Andros Townsend, Jan Vertonghen and Lewis Holtby. One change Spurs could make would be to bring in players with better vision and quick passing skills like Christian Eriksen, Gylfi Sigurdsson or Erik Lamela for Holtby and Townsend. The question that needs to be asked, however, is to what degree the counter-pressing activity of Townsend and Holtby was integral to our chance prevention, and what might be lost with them out of the game. I don't know the answer to this question, and I tend to think erring on the side of powering up the attack makes sense with a home match to Newcastle next. Against Manchesters City and United after the break, though, I'm less sure how to balance these concerns.

Projections and Power Rankings

Do remember that because of rounding, not all the numbers necessarily add up quite right.

Club W D L Pts GD Team+ Top4% ΔT4 Rel% ΔRel Title% ΔTitle 5th
Manchester City 23 8 7 77 +47 156 89% +11 0% 0 40% +12 6%
Arsenal 23 8 7 76 +32 139 85% +14 0% 0 31% +10 7%
Tottenham Hotspur 20 10 8 71 +22 136 61% +7 0% 0 10% -1 14%
Chelsea 20 10 8 70 +24 131 54% -17 0% 0 8% -13 16%
Liverpool 20 9 9 69 +22 129 47% -8 0% 0 6% -6 17%
Everton 18 12 8 65 +15 123 28% -4 0% 0 2% -2 15%
Manchester United 18 10 10 64 +12 125 24% +2 0% 0 2% -0 14%
Southampton 15 13 10 59 +10 109 9% -3 0% 0 0.5% -0.5 7%
Swansea City 14 10 14 53 +5 111 2% -2 0.5% +0.5 0% 0 2%
Newcastle 13 10 15 49 -7 92 0.5% +0.5 2% -3 0% 0 0.5%
Aston Villa 12 11 15 47 -6 89 0% -0.5 3% +1 0% 0 0.5%
West Bromwich Albion 11 13 14 46 -7 86 0% 0 4% +1 0% 0 0%
West Ham United 10 12 16 42 -9 82 0% 0 12% +2 0% 0 0%
Stoke City 10 12 16 41 -12 82 0% 0 15% +4 0% 0 0%
Hull City 10 10 18 39 -18 67 0% 0 19% +1 0% 0 0%
Norwich City 10 10 18 39 -24 77 0% 0 25% +13 0% 0 0%
Cardiff City 9 11 18 39 -20 68 0% 0 24% -13 0% 0 0%
Fulham 9 9 20 37 -22 70 0% 0 34% -6 0% 0 0%
Sunderland 7 9 22 30 -32 67 0% 0 76% +2 0% 0 0%
Crystal Palace 6 8 24 27 -36 60 0% 0 87% +0 0% 0 0%

  • The average title winning side took 82 points. Average for 4th place is 70 points, 35 points for 17th place and safety from relegation.
  • Newcastle didn't just beat Chelsea this weekend. They dominated the match in terms of chance creation and finishing. Chelsea held possession for most of the match, but their only real chance before the last ten minutes was John Terry's set piece header off the bar. Newcastle played on the counter to produce six SiBoT, three central, to Chelsea's two. The big jump for Newcastle's projection is as much the improvement in their underlying team rating as from taking three unexpected points. Tottenham will have their work cut out for them if Newcastle show up in this kind of form to White Hart Lane next weekend.
  • The Arsenal match just wasn't all that competitive by the numbers. Arsenal put seven shots on target from inside the box to Liverpool's two. This fits with my experience watching the match, as Arsenal controlled possession in midfield and showed the more dangerous attack producing higher expectation chances.
  • But Arsenal's dominance was nothing compared to Manchester City's over Norwich City. Manuel Pellegrini's side had 10 shots on target, all from inside the box, and allowed only one SoT against. And it was from a long distace outside the box. My projections give full credit for stompings like this. One of the big reasons that City still stand atop the projected table is that while they have had a few stinkers, their average performance is still completely excellent thanks to matches like this. One thing I'd like to study in the future is to what degree some clubs are good at running up the score, and to what degree running up the score correlates with overall excellence. Speaking as a fan of a club that has shown exceptionally little capacity to run up the score, my tendency is to think that it speaks to the underlying quality of the attack quite directly. But it's an open question, worth studying.
  • I've been talking up Southampton and Swansea City, but this was a bad week for both. In road matches against entirely beatable edge-of-relegation competition, the Saints and Swans combined for two shots on target inside the box (one each) and one quite fortunate deflected goal. These are the kind of matches that need to be won if an underdog club is going to make a run, and as you can see my stats think the chances of such an underdog run have dropped significantly.
  • I talked about bad wins with regard to Manchester United last week, and I've got the same story to tell today. They allowed a stupid number of good chances to Fulham on Saturday. Nine shots from inside the box, seven from central positions. Five shots on target inside the box, four from central positions. 1-3 looks like a good road win for United, but when you contextualize it with (1) the fact the Fulham are the worst defensive side in the league and (2) the underlying stats suggest a draw would have been a fair outcome, this did not help United much. I still think they're in serious trouble even for a top four finish.
  • I keep talking about close/central SiBoT, even though I haven't introduced the stat officially. I'm still building the shot matrix database and I'm currently not happy with my sample size for all the different shot types. So I'm sorry for being vague about these shot values, I'll hopefully be prepared to write it up with specifics in a couple weeks. As I said above, in general shots on target from inside the box in close/central positions are the true high expectation shots, with conversion rates running from 30% to 60% depending on a few factors. Everything else is under 20%. I look forward to being clearer on this in the future.
  • Crystal Palace are getting relegated.

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