Premier League projections and power rankings, Week 16: It gets really really bad

Paul Gilham

Two huge matches this last weekend had the expected large effects on the projected races. The two leading title contenders, Arsenal and Manchester City, met at the Etihad, while what were previously the two clubs most closely battling for fourth place met at White Hart Lane. And we know how that turned out.

If you wanted to create the theoretical match that had the largest possible impact on the projected table, here's where you'd start. You'd want two clubs who were competing for the same goal, say a top four place. That way the outcome of the match is a "real six-pointer," where the points taken by one club are directly snatched off the other. You'd want two clubs who are both in the range of 40% to 60% to finish 4th, so that there's as much room as possible for one to improve in the projections and the other to lose ground. If a club is just on 10%, they can't lose much. Then you'd want the game to be a massive, historic blowout, so that the winning team doesn't just gain three points, they also hugely improve their projection overall. And vice versa. To put a cherry on top of this, you'd finally want the blowout to happen on the home pitch of the side blown out, just to make the effects that much greater.

What I'm saying is, I don't think it would be possible for a game to affect the projections any more than did Tottenham Hotspur's home loss to Liverpool this weekend. It was the perfect storm. You may not want to see the stats, but they were about as bad as stats can be. For terminology and shot quality methodology, see my Shot Matrix articles and the links within.

Club xG DZ S DZ SoT Wide S Wide SoT SoB SoBoT
Liverpool 3.1 11 5 2 2 7 3
Tottenham 0.3 4 0 3 0 2 0

Fun fact. Spurs four Danger Zone shots overrates our attacking performance by quite a bit, because two of the four were headers off crosses from Zone 3, which are barely any better in expectation than shots from outside the box. For Liverpool, by contrast, both of their shots from wide in the box were assisted by through-balls, which means they were as good or better than a typical shot from central positions in the box. The Reds also had a shot off a through-ball from the central area of the box, which is pure gold.

This is all prologue to the projected table, which as I said has changed a lot from last week. Let's get to it, it can't look any worse than the game data table above.

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 24 6 8 79 +55 161 95% +2 0% 0 47% +4 3%
Arsenal 23 8 7 77 +33 141 88% -3 0% 0 26% -10 7%
Liverpool 22 8 8 74 +38 145 83% +25 0% 0 17% +10 9%
Chelsea 21 8 9 71 +25 133 60% -1 0% 0 6% -2 19%
Everton 18 13 7 68 +22 125 38% -1 0% 0 2% -1 23%
Manchester United 18 10 10 65 +19 130 19% +4 0% 0 0.5% +0 18%
Tottenham Hotspur 18 9 11 63 +3 122 13% -26 0% 0 0.5% -2.5 14%
Southampton 15 12 11 56 +9 109 2% -1 0% 0 0% 0 4%
Newcastle United 15 10 13 55 -4 92 1% -0 0% 0 0% 0 2%
Swansea City 13 12 13 51 +3 106 0.5% -0 0% 0 0% 0 1%
Aston Villa 11 11 16 44 -12 82 0% 0 4% +1 0% 0 0%
Stoke City 10 13 15 42 -12 80 0% 0 8% -0 0% 0 0%
West Bromwich Albion 10 12 16 42 -9 88 0% 0 9% +3 0% 0 0%
Norwich City 10 10 18 40 -25 72 0% 0 16% -0 0% 0 0%
Hull City 10 10 18 39 -18 67 0% 0 18% -0 0% 0 0%
Cardiff City 9 11 18 37 -25 65 0% 0 32% -10 0% 0 0%
West Ham United 8 12 18 36 -17 76 0% 0 33% +9 0% 0 0%
Fulham 9 7 22 35 -29 68 0% 0 52% +4 0% 0 0%
Crystal Palace 8 8 22 33 -27 66 0% 0 62% +0 0% 0 0%
Sunderland 7 10 21 32 -29 71 0% 0 68% -6 0% 0 0%

  • I haven't even talked about the top of the table clash yet. It was sort of a weird one statistically. Manchester City certainly had the better of the chances, with 10 Danger Zone shots, four on target, to 7/2 for Arsenal. But the 6-3 scoreline was a function of some truly incredible finishing on both sides (plus whatever exactly happened on that first goal by Theo Walcott). Of 12 shots on target on both sides (excluding the penalty), there were eight goals scored. The usual rate of G/SoT in the Premier League is a little under 30%, this was 67% for the match. And it wasn't random chance, seven of the goals were beautifully struck. That just happens sometimes, but it's never been sustainable, and in their next games we can expect both City and Arsenal to put some catchable balls on target. That's just how football works.
  • This means that one of Arsenal's calling cards this year, a freakishly low rate of goals per shots on target allowed, has been mostly wiped out. Based on the quality of shots on target, you would expect Arsenal to have allowed about 22 percent of shots on target to have scored. Their rate of G/SoT allowed is now 19 percent. That's very slightly better than expected, but by a margin of about one or two goals. In general, a club with weird G/SoT rates should not expect to see the trend continue.
  • As I mentioned in my piece on the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, the man who appears particularly hard done by in the recent round of managerial sackings is Steve Clarke. His Albion have been close to league average and have had some bad fortune in drawing games they could have won, plus that awful match last week against Norwich where they dominated the shot chart but couldn't buy a goal. I expect West Brom should move out of the relegation zone under their new manager, whoever he is, regardless of what he does.
  • With Spurs, the situation is more complicated. With this awful performance, on the heels of about five weeks of mediocre to bad football, Tottenham have tumbled down in my ratings to a hard seventh. It is not clear what we should expect from the new manager, but it's not crazy, I don't think, to have a little bit of optimism that Spurs have more talent than a club projected 7th on 63 points. Even if we are better, our chances at a top four finish can't really be better than one-in-five or one-in-six, but that's better than nothing.
  • For Liverpool, of course, that win did as much for their projections as it hurt ours. With a dominant away win against a competitive side, on the back of a hot run of form, Liverpool have edged their way into the title race. Manchester City saw a smaller than expected bump in title chance not because the win home to Arsenal wasn't a big one, but because Liverpool suddenly emerged in the projections as a third side with a good chance at beating out City.
  • Sunderland are slowing moving up the table at the bottom. They had the better of their away draw with West Ham, with four SiBoT to the Hammers' one. The bottom of the table is a right mess, with Fulham improving massively under Rene Meulensteen, Crystal Palace pulling out some results and a solid performance in a loss at Chelsea, Cardiff City grabbing an unexpected win, and West Ham falling into danger. I don't really have any idea which, if any of these clubs are terrible. The moment is right for Hull City to start tumbling and take up the mantle, but they're probably too defensively capable for that. Still, we can dream.
  • I do find Fulham fascinating. I've been talking about their terrible defense for a while now, and I expected that the one thing a new manager might do would be to shore up the back line, get the midfield in order, tell the attacking players to track back more, and establish at least some marginal defensive solidity. But instead, the improvement has all been in the attack. Meulensteen's Fulham have allowed nearly as many shots in the Danger Zone per match as did Jol's Fulham (7.7 to 8.2) but they've doubled their number of shots taken from the Danger Zone. Expect goals as Fulham, that's my projection right now. Goals for whom, who knows, but goals. There were five in the Everton match, and there could easily have been more than the five combined in the Cottagers' clashes with Aston Villa and Spurs. There's a whole lot of football, good and bad, being played at Fulham right now.

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