This week changed things. For most of the season, it's been expected that the Champions League places would come down to Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur. I've been arguing in these pieces that both Liverpool and Everton had non-zero chances to get involved in the race. Arsenal took the needed three points away to mid-table Fulham, while Spurs and Chelsea combined for four points against elite opposition. With the Toffees' loss to Sunderland, following on Liverpool's draw with Reading last week, the door has shut on the fringe contenders. It's a three-team dead heat and no one else in involved.
|Club||W||D||L||Pts||%Title||ΔTitle||%Top 4||ΔTop 4||%Rel||ΔRel|
|West Bromwich Albion||14||7||17||50||0%||0||0%||0||0%||0|
|West Ham United||12||10||16||47||0%||0||0%||0||0%||0|
|Queens Park Rangers||5||13||21||28||0%||0||0%||0||100%||+1|
- There are some rounding issues that make it difficult to display the race for fourth in the table. Chelsea project to 70.4 points, Tottenham to 70.3 and Arsenal to 70.2. The differences in point projection are entirely meaningless. The important thing here is that they're effectively tied. Arsenal project to 20.1 wins, 9.8 draws, and 8.1 losses, which matches their projected points nicely. Tottenham project to 20.8 wins, 8.0 draws and 9.2 losses, so the rounding pushes them to a slightly better record than I really have listed. Chelsea is the most difficult because they project to 20.5 wins, 9.0 draws and 8.5 losses. I've just rounded up the wins and losses, and cut off a draw, even though that is not the mostly likely final record for Chelsea, in order to present the data more smoothly.
- You can probably also see that Spurs have the smallest chance of making the Champions League, out of the top four contenders, despite the dead heat in points projection. This is all about goal difference. The chance of Spurs missing the Champions League on goal difference is about 8%.
- How big was Spurs' win at City? If City had maintained their lead—perhaps if they'd extended that lead by converting a chance like Edin Dzeko's first half one-on-one with Hugo Lloris—Spurs would have dropped below a one-in-three chance at making the Champions League.
- The bottom of the table mimics the top. QPR and Reading are obviously done. While a number of generally bad clubs have not yet guaranteed their own safety, none of them projects to a risk of relegation over three percent. It's a two-team race between Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, reasonably likely to come down to the final match of the season.
- Norwich City and Stoke City took necessary wins against relegation fodder QPR and Reading, while Sunderland continued their rather incredible early run under Paolo Di Canio and have nearly escaped from the relegation battle as quickly as they dropped into it.
- There was one simulation apiece where City missed the top four and where Reading survived. QPR reached safety twice. Southampton were relegated four times in 10,000 simulations. I'm going to go ahead and add Southampton to the "nothing to play for" list.
Nothing to Play For Watch
I added West Ham to the watch last week, and I'll be adding Southampton for next week. Interestingly, while West Ham won solidly home to Wigan, the underlying stats told a quite different story. With two big chances, six shots in the box and eight shots on target, Wigan projected to score about two goals based on their shot and chance production. We probably haven't had enough games to make for a useful sample, and we might not have such a sample even by the end of the season, but so far things are looking to moderately confirm the conventional wisdom. The "nothing to play for" clubs have underperformed attacking expectations and defensive expectations by 5-10% each in the aggregate. The effects of having nothing to play for, if these numbers are correct, are not enough to turn Southampton into Reading, but they might be enough to turn Fulham into Aston Villa.
|West Bromwich Albion||88||90||105||74|
|West Ham United||85||80||100||75|
|Queens Park Rangers||70||78||118||61|
- Liverpool-Chelsea was another classic Liverpool match, creating great chances and finishing off almost none of them, though in this case they just snuck in and stole a draw by the skin of their teeth. (Sorry.) Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson both chunked one-on-ones with the keeper, and Jonjo Shelvey had an open corner of the goal to hit but sidefooted smoothly into the side netting. They scored twice, but by the numbers it should have been three. It's hard to list those names and not think that the problem with Liverpool is that Luis Suarez is too damn good for his teammates, and he helps create big opportunities that mediocre to bad players like Johnson and Shelvey can't finish.
- Tottenham's performance against City really impressed the power rankings. Spurs converted their chances at a good rate, but even the two goals projected by the underlying stats would have been twice what an average club would be expected to produce against City. Manchester City have been brilliant defensively all year, and the 15 minute stretch where Tottenham's 4-3-3 tore them apart may have been the best that anyone has played against City in the league this whole season. Spurs leapfrogged Chelsea in the yearlong power rankings and both Liverpool and City in the form rankings based on this performance.
- Norwich, who have been predictable and toothless in the final third for months, managed 14 shots in the box and eight on target against Reading. Reading are terrible.