- Farewell hooligans, farewell facts, hello anger. Why the football debate is now so unhealthy.
- Why the media were united over the issue of Man C players not being sent off
By Tony Attwood
Occasionally we get accused of playing with numbers when it comes to our football coverage. But in our defence I’d argue that we don’t do it as much as some, and hardly every use things like the Opta Power Rankings which considers the strength or otherwise of around 13,000 clubs and leave us not much the wiser after half an hour’s study, than we were when we started.
But we have noticed that the league programme this season does seem to be rather warped. I mean take a look at Bournemouth and the schedule they have had. True they have yet to win a league game, which makes them look sure sure-fire candidates for relegation, but the clubs they have played include Liverpool, Tottenham Chelsea, Brighton and Arsenal. That they have managed draws against West Ham, Brentford and Chelsea suggests there is still a heart-stirring in the club even if they are one from the bottom of the league.
In fact the Opta figures suggest the club once known as Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic have had the hardest start of any club
I must admit I have not noted such a disparity in matches but fortunately the Opta Power Rankings give us that. But we are Untold so we don’t just take other people’s figures, we play with them ourselves, and what we have done is combine the toughest start with the toughest upcoming schedule to see what we got.
In what follows the tougher the programme, the higher the number working from 20 for the toughest to 1 for the easiest. Thus Arsenal had a slightly above average start in terms of toughness, while Chelsea had a very easy start. Manchester City had a very soft start with games against Burnley, Sheffield United, Fulham, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, and then Newcastle United being the only real challenge, but they have some tough games coming up.
The tougher the programme the higher the number
|Club||Toughness so far||Toughness to come||Total toughness||Toughness position||League position|
So by the end of the 13th game Newcastle might well be struggling having had the toughest collection of matches of all the clubs who have been tipped to do well this season, while Tottenham and Manchester City might well not be as high up the table as they might have hoped, given who they have to play.
Of course, much of this depends on the notion that the club higher up the table will beat the club lower down the table, and obviously, that isn’t always the case. But these figures will be a warning to us all if Arsenal are sitting pretty after 13 games. This next run of five games isn’t looking that difficult, but thereafter…
For Arsenal, in the forthcoming games, Opta only count Newcastle away as a tough one to crack. Brentford and Chelsea away are considered only moderately difficult, and Brighton and Sheffield Untited at home are considered home bankers.
Opta add that “Manchester City and Everton’s schedules are also among the top four most difficult, showing how the fixture computer can dictate the narrative around a club.”
So from this data we can look at clubs that have an easier start with harder fixtures to come, and those who have had a tough start with easier fixtures now. The former we might expect to rise up the table, the latter we might expect to slip somewhat. Here’s what we find and what we expect to find after another five games.
The tougher the game the lower the number: what happens in the next five games…
Once more: The tougher the programme the higher the number
|Club||Toughness so far||Toughness to come||Anticipated change||League position||Projected position|
|Manchester United||8||9||No change||10||10|
So yes, after the next five games we could be top of the league. But if so, let’s not get too carried away. There will be harder games to play after that. Here are the next five…
- 21 October: Chelsea away
- 28 October: Sheffield United at home
- 4 November: Newcastle United away
- 11 November: Burnley at home
- 25 November: Brentford away
And if that doesn’t do it for us we could still make progress thereafter with
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences
- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying
- Where there is power, money and greed there is corruption