Premier League Projections and Power Rankings, Week 13: Fourth Place Race

Michael Regan

Tottenham Hotspur played reasonably well in a home draw against Manchester United, but after that happened, Manchester City and Chelsea stomped upstarts Swansea and Southampton into the dust and staked strong claims to the top three places. That leaves, right now, a developing fourth place scrum below them.

In general, I'd say that Tottenham Hotspur created the better chances against Manchester United yesterday. In the 29th and 31st minutes Spurs created two shots from inside the box with through-balls, first Paulinho's inch-perfect pass that Roberto Soldado mishit into the stands, then Aaron Lennon's shot from a Soldado through-ball that he sadly put right into the chest of David De Gea. Shots off through-balls from the center of the box are goals roughly 30% of the time, and SoT are converted roughly 45% of the time. So in under three minutes, Spurs created about a half to two-thirds of an expected goal. Even though the attack didn't produce anything nearly so good in the remainder of the match, just the fact that those three minutes happened gives me hope.

Manchester United generally didn't create good opportunities so much as convert chances handed to them by Spurs mistakes or just dumb luck. Kyle Walker appeared to be unsighted for just a minute on a cross, and his clearance fell to Wayne Rooney in the middle of the six-yard box, from where Rooney was never going to miss. A nice run by Danny Welbeck looked to create a good chance, but Hugo Lloris made it academic by mistaking Welbeck for a much slower and skillful player, giving up a cheap penality coming off his line. And then in the final minutes, Lloris nearly gave away the match in added time when he came out too aggressively to claim a cross, was beaten to it by Chris Smalling, who headed down for Patrice Evra, but Lloris reacted incredibly quickly, crawling into position to shut down any space for Evra to knock it around the French keeper. He seized the ball to end the threat and preserve the draw.

Both clubs created a couple of half-chances off set pieces and Spurs took their usual passel of long-range shots. The best Spurs chances, then, were created by skillful play in the final third, while United depended more heavily on important errors or good fortune. How you evaluate the overall numbers depends on how you weight penalties, but I have it somewhere between a slight advantage to Spurs to a medium-sized advantage to United. Our errors were slightly worse than our best attacks were good, but I think it's still a generally positive outcome. Maybe my standards have been lowered a bit, but whatever.

And of course there were the shots outside the box. Spurs had converted just one of 43 shots on target outside the box before this weekend, and that one goal wasn't really a shot in the first place. Yesterday they were two-for-three on SoBoT. Obviously that's no kind of a sustainable rate, but it does suggest that anyone who expected Spurs to fail yesterday because they would continue to struggle to convert chances would have been wrong. Spurs outperformed expected goals by a bit, instead.

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 77 +54 160 93% +3 0% 0 44% +5 4%
Arsenal 23 8 7 77 +33 139 88% +1 0% 0 34% -0 6%
Chelsea 21 10 7 73 +29 136 72% +14 0% 0 12% +3 12%
Liverpool 19 10 9 67 +22 131 39% -18 0% 0 3% -6 18%
Tottenham Hotspur 19 10 9 67 +14 136 36% -9 0% 0 2% -3 18%
Everton 18 13 7 67 +20 128 35% +13 0% 0 2% +1 17%
Manchester United 18 12 9 66 +19 128 31% -0 0% 0 2% -1 17%
Southampton 15 12 11 57 +7 105 4% -4 0% 0 0% -0.5 5%
Newcastle United 15 9 14 53 -4 90 1% +0.5 0% -0.5 0% 0 2%
Swansea City 14 10 14 52 +2 109 0.5% -0.5 0% 0 0% 0 1%
Aston Villa 12 12 14 48 -4 90 0% 0 2% -0 0% 0 0%
West Bromwich Albion 10 14 14 44 -8 84 0% 0 4% +1 0% 0 0%
West Ham United 10 12 16 42 -9 85 0% 0 8% -13 0% 0 0%
Stoke City 10 11 17 41 -14 79 0% 0 12% +4 0% 0 0%
Norwich City 11 9 18 41 -22 78 0% 0 13% -7 0% 0 0%
Hull City 10 9 19 39 -19 65 0% 0 17% -16 0% 0 0%
Cardiff City 9 11 18 38 -23 68 0% 0 25% +2 0% 0 0%
Sunderland 7 10 21 32 -31 68 0% 0 65% -0 0% 0 0%
Fulham 8 7 23 31 -34 60 0% 0 70% +21 0% 0 0%
Crystal Palace 7 8 23 28 -33 61 0% 0 82% +5 0% 0 0%

  • As I mentioned above, the performances by City and Chelsea home against good mid-table sides (Swansea and Southampton, respectively) moved the needle significantly for both. City continued their ridiculously dominant home run, holding Swansea to a single shot on target inside the box while notching six themselves. Chelsea were even better. Southampton's only shot on target all match came off Michael Essien's tenth-second back pass that Jay Rodriguez turned into a quick score. After that the Saints were mostly toothless and Chelsea created chance after chance, finishing with six SiBoT to match City.
  • Those two huge results meant that Arsenal's merely good defeat of Cardiff City on the road didn't improve their projection relative to their competition in the title race. A one-in-three chance at the title is pretty good, though. Beats the crap out of 30-to-1.
  • A gap between third to fourth developed a bit out of nowhere. With Everton winning big and the other clubs outside the current big three dropping points, we now see a four-team scrum for fourth place, with no one over 40% or under 30% to make the Champions League.
  • Hull City continue to get results despite producing basically nothing in the final third. David Meyler's shot from wide in the box in the 72nd minute was pretty nice, but otherwise it was all shots outside the box and half-chances from crosses, plus an own goal for Hull. Liverpool did very little in response, and obviously you have to give Steve Bruce's men some credit there for defending, but I still project them as a very poor side. The points cushion is enough to probably keep them up, but a bad streak is just as possible as the mostly random hot streak they're on currently, and that could tumble the Tigers into the drop zone pretty quickly.
  • Of course, to fall into the drop zone someone else needs to be climbing out. In a season composed mostly of rock bottom, I think Fulham hit rock bottom rock bottom this week. It's not just that they fired their manager after failing to notch a shot on target against West Ham United. Fulham took only one shot inside the box in the entire match and none from the danger zone. They conceded to West Ham's generally blah attack seven SiBoT, six from the danger zone, as well as a bunch of shots outside the box and some missed shots from close range. Odds are against Fulham playing this poorly against Spurs on Wednesday, but they could improve a lot and still be terrible.
  • Crystal Palace traveled to Norwich City and did nothing interesting. The projections hate them so much that this loss barely moved the needle. It expected them to lose to Norwich most of the time anyway. That's a club that's getting relegated.

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