The race for the Champions League places just refuses to settle. Both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have ganked opportunities to run away with 3rd or 4th, and Arsenal have stepped up their game—with the help of some good fortune, as is the case for all winning streaks—to put the race back into a toss-up position. I emphasize this unsettled situation as a way of challenging the simple "Spursin' it up" narrative that could be applied. By the same analysis, Chelsea "Blue'z it up" earlier, and Arsenal started the season by "Gunning it up." These are all flawed clubs of roughly even quality, they're all going to lose some games they should win, while winning enough to be in contention. You can compare them, perhaps, to Liverpool and Everton, also quite good clubs who have blown their mid-season opportunities to jump into real contention.
That doesn't really make me any less nervous.
I have added some columns to the power rankings this week. Along with the full-season numbers for attack, defense, and team quality, I also have a sort of "form table" based on performance since the post-holiday international break. I haven't run the full season projection based on the form table, because I had some problems with the spreadsheets this week—the central one crashed, and I had to rebuild a bunch of it—and I don't currently have time to run them with new inputs. I will get to that probably this weekend.
|Club||Team+||Att+||Def-||Form+||F Att+||F Def-|
|West Bromwich Albion||92||90||102||75||85||120|
|West Ham United||84||80||100||71||83||124|
|Queens Park Rangers||73||79||115||66||75||122|
- You can see in the "form table" how massively United have improved their defense in the last couple months. This, plus City's continuing ineptitude in converting shots on target, has been the leading reason that they are running away with the league. Sir Alex Ferguson might just be good at his job.
- Spurs' poor performances against Fulham and Everton look worse in this context. They've both been slumping since January, though this is perhaps a function of the way "form" has been defined. Fulham has played some better games recently.
- You can see "Wiganlona" and the improvement of Southampton and Villa as well. Wigan have not become world-beaters, but league average football is usually enough to escape relegation if the hole isn't too deep. Interestingly, Sunderland have not been that terrible by the underlying stats. It may be that Paolo Di Canio will get credit for "saving" a Sunderland side which was not in such bad position to begin with.
- QPR under Harry Redknapp, by contrast, have been just as terrible as they were under Mark Hughes. I think the common assumption that "there's more than enough talent at QPR to stay up" may be flawed.
- Liverpool totally Liverpool'd it against West Ham, dominating the game in terms of chances and shots on target, but coming away without a goal and with only one point.
As I said above, it's very tight for the last two Champions League places. The relegation battle has likewise tightened for the last spot, as Wigan and Villa have chased down Sunderland. They're only another week or two away from pulling Stoke City into the scrum as well.
|Club||W||D||L||Pts||%Title||ΔTitle||%Top 4||ΔTop 4||%Rel||ΔRel|
|West Bromwich Albion||15||6||17||51||0%||0||0%||0||0%||0|
|West Ham United||12||9||17||45||0%||0||0%||0||0%||-.5|
|Queens Park Rangers||5||14||19||30||0%||0||0%||0||98%||+5|
- The big results of the week were Spurs-Everton and Villa-Stoke. The Spurs match was a classic negative-sum outcome where both clubs saw their top four chances diminished afterward. Villa's dominant win at the Britannia brought them closer to safety than Paul Lambert's club has been in months and at the same time breathed real life into the dream of Stoke City relegation.
- The Manchester derby didn't do much more than postpone United's inevitable title celebration by a week or two.
- There were only 25 runs of the simulation where Reading weren't relegated. In other rounding news, there were 10 and 30 runs respectively in which Southampton and West Ham went down.
- I tracked the performance of the "nothing to play for" mid-table clubs compared to expectations, and at least this week there wasn't much. Swansea, Fulham, and West Brown did put in below-expectations defensive performances, but the Swans and the Baggies also performed well above expectations in attack, so there isn't anything striking so far in the overall numbers. Just three games tracked so far, though, so even if there had been a large effect, you couldn't conclude it meant anything. (Obviously West Brom didn't convert their big chances in attack, but that wasn't for lack of effort.)
- Spurs missing the Champions League on goal difference has now leapfrogged Aston Villa relegated on goal difference. 7.5% chance of Tottenham tying for 4th and losing out in the tie-break, just 6.5% chance of Aston Villa falling to the Championship by the same means.
- Average points for teams in the important places. 3rd place: 72 ; 4th place: 69 ; 17th: 37.
Reading are terrible.