EPL Projections, Week 28: Arsenal in (a little bit of) trouble?

Mike Hewitt

As Liverpool pull away in the top four race, a new path to 4th place for Tottenham Hotspur appears. Sort of. It's still a long shot, but they're all long shots at this point.

The big result of the weekend was Stoke City's home victory over Arsenal. This match may have done irreparable harm to the Gunners' title hopes, as I have them dropping from about 1-in-10 down to 1-in-40 for their chances to win the league. Arsenal were toothless in the attack, attempting only two shots from the danger zone not assisted by crosses. They added a pair of off-target shots from the wide areas of the box. A nil-nil draw might have been a fairer result, as it's not like Stoke City created much of their own, but a mistake by Laurent Koscielny and an unfriendly official gave the Potters their goal.

Arsenal's defeat was a result that had probably been coming. Ever since the turn of the new year, Arsenal have been in a deep slump. A 4-1 victory home to Sunderland last week stood out as a lone bright spot, but overall the numbers are not good. Where Arsenal's underlying stats through 2013 suggested a possible title contender, their numbers since New Year's are barely above average.

This table splits Arsenal's season into the first twenty matches (through New Year's) and the next eight. Stats are listed per match, based on my shot matrix statistics.

  • S DZ: Shots from the danger zone, the center of the 18-yard box.
  • S Wide: Shots from the wide area of the 18-yard box.
  • SoB: Shots from outside the 18-yard box.
  • S Cr: Shots assisted by crosses.
  • S TB: Shots assisted by through-balls.
Arsenal S DZ S Wide SoB S Cr S TB
Up to 1/1 (att) 6.6 2.8 5.4 2.6 1.1
Up to 1/1 (def) 3.2 2.1 6.4 1.6 0.5
Since 1/1 (att) 4.6 1.9 5.6 1.8 0.6
Since 1/1 (def) 4.9 1.4 4.3 1.9 0.4

Arsenal have gone from doubling their opponents' danger zone shots to being outshot from the highest expectation areas. They're attempting half as many shots assisted by through-balls. While obviously the loss to Liverpool hurts these numbers, in eight matches Arsenal have played mostly clubs of the "threatened thirteen" plus the loss at Liverpool and the draw home to Manchester United. It's tough to say schedule is an issue here.

Now, it's very possible this is just a normal slump. My projections still treat Arsenal as a top side with significantly stronger underlying numbers than Everton, United, or Tottenham Hotspur. A eight-match run of mediocrity does not outweigh the excellent football that Arsenal played in 2013. Especially as their schedule clears up after likely Champions League elimination, the Gunners will probably return to form.

But if Spurs fans are looking for hope, I think this is it. While there are still few signs that Tottenham Hotspur are a legitimately good club, Arsenal have not played like a legitimately good club for over two months now. My stats rate Spurs' chances of overtaking their North London rivals at under ten percent, which is not great but still far better than the one or two percent shot at catching Liverpool.

Projections and Power Rankings

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 %Eur
Chelsea 25 8 5 83 +39 147 99.5% +0.5 0% 0 42% +4 0.5%
Manchester City 26 5 7 82 +55 158 99% +0 0% 0 35% -2 1%
Liverpool 25 6 7 80 +46 158 98% +1 0% 0 20% +6 1%
Arsenal 23 7 8 76 +29 131 88% -7 0% 0 3% -7 12%
Tottenham Hotspur 20 8 10 68 +6 112 9% +3 0% 0 0% 0 77%
Everton 18 12 8 66 +16 119 5% +2 0% 0 0% 0 67%
Manchester United 18 9 11 63 +16 123 1% -0 0% 0 0% 0 38%
Newcastle United 17 6 15 57 -3 100 0% 0 0% 0 0% 0 3%
Southampton 14 12 12 54 +8 113 0% 0 0% 0 0% 0 1%
Aston Villa 11 9 18 42 -10 85 0% 0 2% -4 0% 0 0%
Stoke City 10 12 16 42 -16 77 0% 0 3% -8 0% 0 0%
Hull City 11 9 18 42 -7 85 0% 0 3% +1 0% 0 0%
Swansea City 10 11 17 41 -6 92 0% 0 4% +1 0% 0 0%
West Ham United 10 10 18 40 -12 69 0% 0 7% +1 0% 0 0%
West Bromwich Albion 8 16 14 39 -9 92 0% 0 11% -1 0% 0 0%
Crystal Palace 11 6 21 38 -23 77 0% 0 20% -4 0% 0 0%
Norwich City 9 10 18 38 -28 73 0% 0 26% +6 0% 0 0%
Sunderland 9 9 20 36 -24 72 0% 0 43% -1 0% 0 0%
Fulham 9 5 24 31 -40 64 0% 0 87% +6 0% 0 0%
Cardiff City 7 9 22 30 -39 54 0% 0 94% +3 0% 0 0%

  • With Manchester City's victory in the League Cup final, another Europa place will almost certainly be given to the 6th place league finisher. I have changed the "5th place" column in the table to "%Eur" and that column now lists a club's chances of finishing either 5th or 6th. It's highly likely now that two of Spurs, Everton or Manchester United will qualify for that competition.
  • At the top of the table Chelsea won big, dominating Fulham with 14 shots from inside the box, nine from the danger zone and two assisted by through-balls. Even given the expectations on a club facing Fulham, this was a positive performance that bumped up Chelsea's projections.
  • Liverpool did not dominate away to Southampton, but they made the most of their chances for three points. Given the difficulty of the fixture, I had Liverpool projected to take only about 1.7 points on average. The added 1.3 points they won at St. Mary's take Liverpool solidly into the title race.
  • Between Chelsea winning big and Liverpool winning a big one, Manchester City saw their top two competitors gain ground even while they did not play a league fixture. Next week will be another week off for Manuel Pellegrini's club, and Chelsea have another real opportunity to gain further if they can take all three points home to Tottenham.
  • My take on Tottenham's win Sunday is pretty simple. Spurs didn't play a great match, but they did enough, especially in the opening half-hour or so, to earn the three points. What was most notable to me was the barely-there defense of Cardiff City, who apparently couldn't be bothered to close down the ball in the final third. A 1-0 win with reasonable control of the stat sheet (6-3 in DZ shots, 4-0 in DZ SoT), while fine enough, is really the bare minimum you expect.
  • Which goes to one of my points from last week's projections. We should not treat all matches against the threatened 13 equally. In a home match to Cardiff, a good club can sleepwalk through 60 minutes and still win easily. Away to Stoke City requires another step of quality. One of the reasons that Spurs rate as having one of the easiest remaining schedules in the EPL is that we still have most of the very weakest clubs in the league remaining, with most of the mid-table accounted for. With Cardiff out of the way, Spurs' advantage drops a bit, though.
  • Because Cardiff are terrible.
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