Tottenham Hotspur got a big win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on New Year's Day. The joke running around the Arsenal twitters was that it didn't really matter what happened in that game. My numbers suggest that joke was basically correct. Spurs and United aren't in any way ruled out of contention for top four, but I have the two with a combined top four chance of roughly 20%, and a combined title chance of under 1%.
In fact, it's not just Spurs and United. My table shows a huge gap right now between 4th and 5th place. I think the best way to present this data is to go against my usual methods and present the projected table first, then explain how it's come about.
Projections and Power Rankings
Because of rounding, not all the numbers necessarily add up quite right.
|West Bromwich Albion||10||14||14||44||-6||91||0%||0||2%||-4||0%||0||0%|
|West Ham United||7||11||20||32||-23||72||0%||0||60%||+15||0%||0||0%|
I have four clubs above 80% for top four, and then a chasm before we get Everton at a little over 20%, and the clubs below Everton, summed together, have about an equal chance of qualifying for the Champions League as Everton. That is certainly a finding. I checked the bookies' lines here, and they seem to roughly agree with me. They have Chelsea, City and Arsenal as basically nailed on for top four, and Liverpool a big step down, Manchester United close behind Liverpool, and Everton and Spurs another step back. The big disagreement between my stats and the bookies' is that I have Liverpool as way better than even odds to finish top four and United as worse than even odds.
So what's going on here? The actual table is much tighter. Liverpool are only one point ahead of Everton and two ahead of Spurs, while Chelsea, Arsenal and City are only 4-6 points ahead of the Reds. That doesn't look like a top four race that's anywhere near settled.
But if you look at the underlying stats, the gap begins to increase. The following table shows the key stats in shots on target, shot location, and "big chances" for all clubs in the EPL. I list attacking numbers first and defensive numbers second.
The Underlying Stats
|Club||DZ SiBoT||W SiBoT||SoBoT||BC||DZ SiBoT||W SiBoT||SoBoT||BC||DZoT Diff||SiBoT Diff||SoT Diff||BC Diff|
|West Bromwich Albion||37||12||18||31||22||21||43||18||15||6||-19||13|
|West Ham United||27||14||20||21||43||23||30||32||-16||-25||-35||-11|
The stats have Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool as the clear class of the league. They have the best DZ SiBoT and SiBoT differences in the league. The inferiority of Spurs and United is equally emphatic. Both clubs have allowed more shots on target from the danger zone than they've produced. They have outshot their opponents from lower expectation regions wide in the box and outside of the box, but even if we weight those shots on target equally (and I don't), Spurs and United stand clearly behind the top three.
For more on United's poor statistics, see also Colin Trainor's recent article on United at StatsBomb.
Explaining Everton and Chelsea is a bit more complicated. Chelsea's very impressive shot on target difference is something of an illusion, because José Mourinho's pressing style has led to incredible SoBoT prevention while allowing a pretty good number of higher quality chances. (For more on managerial effects on team statistics, see my piece from yesterday on managers, stats and AVB.) But it appears that Mourinho's defensive style has helped in two related ways. As I laid out in the linked piece, Mourinho has Chelsea allowing shots off through-balls at a rate about 50% lower than league average, probably because of the relatively deep back line he prefers to play. A similar effect shows up in big chances allowed, where Chelsea have been the stingiest in the league.
There are three primary factors in Chelsea's placement in the top four over Everton. The first is the prevention of super high-quality chances. The second is that my projections still include some 2012-2013 data, and Chelsea outplayed Everton last year. The third, and most important, is that Chelsea have a six-point advantage over the Toffees in the table. Everton only rate about 10 points worse in my "Team+" statistic, but combined with the state of the table, that's enough to create a big gap in the projected table. Liverpool, indeed, rate as a significantly better side than Chelsea, but that only makes up 90% of the gap between the two clubs.
The above table also helps explain a bit about my bottom-of-the-table projections. West Bromwich Albion have big positive differentials in both big chances and danger zone SiBoT. They are not meaningfully at risk of relegation unless something goes terribly wrong, and their victory over Newcastle on New Year's was a nice feather in the cap for statistical projections. Despite the huge gap between the two sides in the table, the Baggies and Magpies rate as close to even in overall quality, and so given home field I had West Brom favored in that match. Which they won. Hey, I don't celebrate too many things here, let me take this silly one.
Finally, you can see how difficult it is to identify the worst sides in the EPL. Fulham had been the worst, but their nice little win last week picked them off the bottom. Cardiff City look the worst now, but they are switching managers and quite possibly going to make some purchases in the window. Crystal Palace and Sunderland have not been all that awful, especially since Tony Pulis and Gus Poyet imposed their improved systems following managerial chances. I'm holding off on calling anyone terrible until the numbers and rosters sort themselves out.
- Tuesday Morning Hoddle Of Coffee: Tottenham Hotspur News And Links For January 7, 2013
- Statistics for Managers: A Continuum of AVB
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- Monday Morning Hoddle Of Coffee: Tottenham Hotspur News And Links January 6, 2013
- On Winning Close Matches II: What about losing close matches?