Tottenham Hotspur had been playing with fire for two months under Tim Sherwood, and finally on Sunday they got burned. Another match with about as many chances created as a very underwhelming opponent, and this time finishing rates did not see the Lilywhites through. For a fuller analysis, see my Hot Stat Takes piece from Monday. This looks like the end.
The clubs at the top of the table all won and continued to put up much stronger underlying stats than the chasing pack of Spurs, Everton and Manchester United. I now have four clubs rated with chances of 95% or higher to finish top four. The race for the title remains wide open, with all four clubs in the top group rated at least 1-in-10 to take the prize. And at the bottom, there's been so much insanity all season that I hate to draw any strong conclusions. Even Cardiff City in their defeat on Saturday attempted 12 shots from the danger zone against Hull. There's life down there yet. But Cardiff are probably screwed.
Strength of Schedule
One of the problems for Cardiff City, at this point. is that they still have matches against Spurs, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea to play, as well as clashes with mid-table sides like Southampton and Newcastle. Their fellow bottom-dwellers Fulham have gotten more of the tough matches done, and so stand a slightly better chance of escaping relegation.
To quantify strength of schedule, I have run a simulation of the remaining EPL season 20 times, each time substituting a team of equal quality for one of the sides. I see how many points this side takes against the remaining schedule, and I compare it to average. Strength of schedule is then rated on a scale of 100, with lower being an easier schedule and higher a harder one. You can see the results here, ordered by table position.
If you want a little ray of hope, here it is. Spurs have an easier schedule remaining than any of the top four clubs bar Chelsea. The reason for this is pretty simple. We've still got a whole lot of crappy clubs left, with very few mid-table hurdles to get through. Cardiff this weekend is a walkover, and there's still Fulham, Sunderland, Stoke and West Ham to follow. It will require Spurs don't have to play that much better than they've been recently to beat clubs like that.
Liverpool's vaunted "easy run-in" looks like a myth to me. They may be at home to Chelsea, Spurs and City, but I'd much rather have already played the best clubs in the league than have home matches against them to go. Add in tough away matches to United and Southampton, plus a visit from Newcastle, and there's too few gimmes in that schedule. If you want to see an easy schedule, check out Chelsea's run in with the mid-table trap games completed and the City match already out of the way. I have Chelsea rated as a slightly worse quality side than Manchester City or Liverpool, but the ease with which they should be able to take points down the stretch makes up the difference.
Projections and Power Rankings
Because of rounding, not all the numbers necessarily add up quite right.
- Expected Goals methodology
- Season Simulation methodology
- Underlying Statistics for English Premier League
|West Ham United||10||10||18||41||-12||69||0%||0||6%||-11||0%||0||0%|
|West Bromwich Albion||8||16||14||39||-9||92||0%||0||12%||+4||0%||0||0%|
- City and Chelsea both won, but how they won and against whom matters. City were basically guaranteed a win home to Stoke in my projections, while Chelsea picked up points against expectation by beating Everton. Further, as I went over in those Hot Stat Takes, Chelsea dominated the shot chart against the Toffees while City were limited to mostly shots from outside the box and looked unimpressive. The combined effect puts City in first place now by a very slim margin.
- You can see how difficult West Ham's remaining schedule is based on the chart above. They have done exceptionally well to run off wins against mediocre opposition in recent weeks, and the Hammers have gone from deep in the relegation mess to nearly safe in record time.
- If there's a general lesson I've taken from running these projections, it's that "saving a point" is just not that useful. West Brom managed a draw with a late equalizer, but they find themselves falling a little closer to danger. Likewise Fulham drew with West Brom on that late equalizer, and they're also down a little from last week. When you get just one point from a match in which three points was a non-crazy outcome, you lose expectation.