Monday, October 21, 2013

Premier League Points Segmentation

While much has been made of Arsenal's good start of the season so far; they lead the table by 2 points after 8 (yes just 8) games, there have been certain unique circumstances that have resulted in this position. Michael Cox has pointed out certain statistical quirks and interesting anomalies here which demonstrate that Arsenal's position at the top of the table might just be false or misleading. Not only that, the fixture list has ensured that Arsenal have played mostly teams in the bottom half of the table and have had a relatively easy start to the campaign. While Manchester Utd (admittedly struggling in David Moyes' first season) have already played against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, Arsenal have only faced Spurs at home so far and hence it is too early to say whether Arsenal will be able to replicate their early season good form against the better teams.

And this brought me to look at how Arsenal and indeed the other top teams in the Premiership have done against different types of teams. For this (rather rudimentary) analysis, I picked five teams to focus on - Manchester United (Utd), Manchester City (City), Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs (Spurs) and Arsenal. These five teams have all finished within the top six over the last three years; Utd winning the title twice in that period and City once. I classified the teams in each season into three categories based on their finishing position in the league for that season: Top 6, Mid Table (Positions 7 to 12) and Bottom of the League (Positions 13 to 20). The Top 6 essentially covers all matches between the 5 sides plus one additional who made it into this bracket (Everton, Newcastle Utd and Liverpool - have all been once in the top 6 over the last three years). So do we get any interesting patterns from this data shown below ?
Note: Cells in Green indicates best in class for that category and season combination. Cells in Red indicate worst in class for that category and season combination.


1) Each of the teams winning the league over the last two seasons has been the best in 2 out of the 3 segments. Utd (2010-11) were best in class in Top 6 clashes and Mid-table. City (2011-12) were best in class in matches against the Top 6 and Bottom of the league. Utd (2012-13) were best in class against both the mid table teams and the Bottom of the league. In fact Utd were perfect (48 points out of 48) when playing against the bottom 8 last season.
2) Each of the 3 squads winning the league over the last season were the best in class that year when it came to playing against the bottom 8. Essentially the team that was the best minnow basher won the league. And this gives me some hope for Arsenal - if the current squad continues to be clinical against weaker teams they should be in with a shout.
3) So what can each of the individual teams do to improve or maintain their good performances: Quick thoughts:

a) Utd: Continue being the best minnow bashers in the league. 
b) City: Can improve on their output against the Bottom half of the table. Keep winning the top of the table clashes.
c) Chelsea: Have struggled against mid-table teams. Mourinho should be able to sort of their complacency (?) against these teams.
d) Arsenal: Very poor against the top teams. Grab a few more points against the big boys and continue to remain clinical against the weaker teams.
e) Spurs: They appear to be a good team against mid-table teams but struggle against teams from either end of the table. Can surely be better minnow bashers now with so much more quality inducted into the squads. 

That's it for now - will add more commentary and perhaps data into this stratification. Would love to hear your thoughts too.

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