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What a strange season it is

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By Walter Broeckx

What a strange season we are seeing this time around.  In fact when you take a look at the league after the same number of games compared to now you can see a few surprising things.

Let us start at the top. I will give you first the current league table and then the one from one year ago.

United were on top last season and they are also on top now. Last season they couldn’t keep it up to the end so let’s hope they do the same again this year.

1 Manchester United 30 18 9 3 64 30 +34 63
1 Manchester United 30 21 3 6 70 24 +46 66

A first thing we can see is that in their first 30 games MU couldn’t win as many games as last season. Last season they won 21 of their first 30 and now only 18. They also scored less goals but on the other hand conceded many more goals.  But when you are top of the league these things are not a real matter for concern. For the moment I would say.

Let us move on to the team in second place. Arsenal that is.

2 Arsenal 29 17 7 5 59 29 +30 58
3 Arsenal 29 19 4 6 69 32 +37 61

Last season we were in third place. We also have 3 points less, just like United. And just like United we managed to win more games then and also had scored more goals. In fact the only difference, and this could come as a surprise is the fact that we actually conceded fewer goals so far.

Move on to Man City

4 Manchester City 30 15 8 7 45 27 +18 53
5 Manchester City 29 14 11 4 55 37 +18 53

Now we have Manchester City in fourth place and in terms of their position in the table this is better than last year when they were fifth after 29 games. And they are one of the few teams in the top of the EPL that have managed to get as many points this season as last season.  And also their goal difference the same.

Let us take a look at the team that just overtook Man City on sunday

3 Chelsea 28 16 6 7 53 24 +29 54
2 Chelsea 28 19 4 5 65 26 +39 61

And then you see a huge difference. A negative difference.  Last season they were in second place and now only in 3rd – and that only because of the win on Sunday.  And they have fewer points compared to last season. And also their goal difference has gone down drastically.  Their win ratio has gone down big time.  It all has gone down a bit over there one could say.

Let us move to 5th place and this concludes the teams that are in the running for a CL place one could say.

5 Tottenham Hotspur 29 13 10 6 41 34 +7 49
4 Tottenham Hotspur 29 15 7 7 53 28 +25 52

Our neighbours from North London are currently 5th and this is one place below their fourth place last year.  And just like the other teams in the top and who are fighting for a CL place they have 3 points less. But we have to admit that their goal difference is much better compared to last year. Yet they are a place down and with Chelsea beating Man City there is a bit of a gap between them and the couple of teams scrapping over 3rd and 4th place.

So all the teams in the top 5 have fewer points compared to last season apart from Manchester City who have the same amount of points. All the teams have won fewer games compared to last season apart from Manchester City who have won one more game.

To see this all a bit in perspective and to understand why this trend of the top teams not getting as much points as last season we have to look at the bottom of the league.

9 Sunderland 29 9 11 9 33 35 -2 38
10 Stoke City 30 11 4 15 36 38 -2 37
11 Newcastle United 30 9 9 12 44 45 -1 36
12 Fulham 30 7 14 9 33 33 0 35
13 Blackburn Rovers 30 9 6 15 39 51 -12 33
14 Aston Villa 30 8 9 13 37 51 -14 33
15 Blackpool 30 9 6 15 45 60 -15 33
16 West Bromwich Albion 30 8 9 13 41 56 -15 33
17 West Ham United 30 7 11 12 36 49 -13 32
18 Wolverhampton Wndrs 30 9 5 16 35 49 -14 32
19 Birmingham City 29 6 13 10 28 41 -13 31
20 Wigan Athletic 30 6 12 12 29 51 -22 30

And the most surprising thing is that last year around this was almost the points won by the teams fighting against relegation AT THE END OF THE SEASON!

So when we see the teams at the top struggling to get more points (they actually get fewer points) we see the teams of the bottom win many more games and points.  And in fact the team actually in 12th place (Fulham) is only standing 3 points away from dropping in the relegation zone. And even Sunderland who have a 6 point gap with the team in 18th place must keep an eye at the teams below them. Because losing 2 games could bring you right in the relegation zone.

The league is also very compact if you look at the bottom teams. And all teams do have something to fight for.  And this makes it more difficult to win a game. Which we have seen lately and not just by Arsenal. But other teams like Tottenham could not win their game at home against a team fighting for survival.

So the loss of the top teams is the gain of the lower placed teams.  There are no easy games to play for the moment. All the bottom teams are capable of winning any game, even against teams fighting for the title. We have found this out the hard way but also the other top teams have discovered this during the season.

So we are in to a very exciting end of the season. Be it at the top or at the bottom… a lot to fight for and this goes for any team in the league. Will we have the first champion with hardly 80 points this season? Will we have a team going down with 40 points behind their name? It all is possible.

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23 comments to What a strange season it is

  • I think this piece is the perfect answer to those who write in and say, why are we looking at other teams, we should ask about ourselves. Or why worry about the ref, we should be good enough to beat everyone.

    Well done Walter – an excellent analysis.

    Tony

  • Marc

    The reason you need to look at other teams is it’s no good finishing with 100 points if another team finishes with 101.

  • Dark Prince

    I think the only reason why the bottom placed teams are so near to each other is bcoz the top clubs have played poorly as compared to last season. ManU, Chelsea and Arsenal have underperformed this year. City though are maintaining their level.

  • In the Tottenham part, it says they have a better goal difference than last year, when actually it’s lot worse. I think this mistake went under the radar when revising the article.

    Anyway, very interesting point of view.

  • walter

    Guillem,
    I admit I made a big mistake in this. To punish myself I just kicked myself around the room a bit. 😉 what a mistake to make…… Still can’t believe it.

  • Mark Nicoll

    Walter, a great piece and very very interesting. Puts things into perspective nicely. A strange season indeed but one in which a trophy is well within our grasp. Thank you for the time and effort in preparing this. Best regards.

  • gooner80

    up until this point last year we had TV5 and gallas both playing and all the talk was on hoping they don’t get injured.

    I cant seem to take any positives on comparing seasons. Chelsea have got all their players back and they are going to shoot up the league, we have half our first team out and in my estimation we can only lose maybe 3 more points and they cant be to UNITED, if we cant win the league the very least we need to do is finish 2nd anything else is not satisfactory IMO

  • FinnGooner

    This was really good one. I think last part of season will be more interesting. That 1 point that WBA got meant a lot for them (got them above relegation zone). Thing that lot of Arsenal supporters should remember even 4 th place would be huge disappointment at least we are not in fear of dropping out of the EPL…

    I was looking the points between 1st and last today while reading news paper at work. then again I ended comparing points in EPL and La Liga. Wigan would be 4th or 5th from bottom in Spain while MU and Arsenal would be 3rd. (in both leagues them that is 3rd had all exept goals same).

  • Andrei

    Actually your data for Chelsea is incorrect. This year they have 54 points after 29 games. Last year they had 64 points after 29 games and +42 goal difference. This is _the difference_ and under performing Chelsea is the main reason why the title race is between United and Arsenal. Had Chelsea performed on par with their last season or within one game difference as United or Arsenal it would have been same old story. Chelsea would go on and win the title with Arsenal and United deciding who finishes second.

    So much for the improved Arsenal this season 🙁 The data is unfortunately not supporting this notion.

  • Archimedes

    Good article. From here sick bed really counts, ManU, Ars, Tott basically crippled, Chelsea, Liverpool much better shape. And with Arsenal GK clown playing, forget the title. He singlehandedly responsible for dropping 4 pts in the two WBA fixtures, and lots more stupid points will be dropped. Based on his stats from this year, he’ll likely to concede 4-5 more goals than Szczesny would have. So drop DM hope that Nasri Wilshere can control MF despite being outnumbered and play 4 up top from the first minute. It worked against Barca at home, 2h last weekend. I pick Chamakh/Bendtner over Denilson/Diaby even when the opposition has the ball because the ability of the latter to break up play is overrated and they don’t pose any threat to opponents when Arsenal has the ball.

  • Andrei

    Continuing with this number crunching exercise. Let’s assume that in the remaining games each top five team gets the same amount of points as the last season. Given the current standings we would have:

    1. United 82 (63 + 19)
    2. Chelsea 76 (54 + 22)
    3. Arsenal 74 (58 + 16)
    4-5. City 67 (53 + 14)
    4-5. Spurs 67 (49 + 18)

    Chelsea had very strong finish last year and it looks like they are on the rise at the moment. But even if they finish strong they are not likely to overtake United. Arsenal on the other hand imploded (for number of reason) at the end of last season. And if it is to happen again they will finish third behind Chelsea. And based on the last season it is going to the wire between City and Spurs battling to the 4th spot.

    On one hand it looks not that bad for Arsenal. If they simply avoid last year meltdown they still have a very good shot at the title. On the other hand if the game against WBA is any indicator I’m afraid Arsenal will be playing United at Emirates just for the pride.

  • Waleed

    Andrei, Arsenal have improved this season. It’s just been harder this season to get results.
    However, we still should have done better. I think if we hadn’t thrown away the few points that we have we would be comfortably in 1st place.
    But I think referee decisions and injuries have unfortunately played a big part as well. Fabregas, for example, has played very few games at 100% fitness.

  • Andrei

    Waleed, Arsenal improvement is pretty much a sentiment coming from the fans. It will continue to be just a sentiment unless Arsenal can show tangible improvements either in points earned or trophies won. So far the hard data suggests the opposite. As for thrown away points or injuries how is it different from the last season?

  • walter

    I think it could be the bottom teams that decide the title this year. And as so many teams at the bottom can get in the relegation zone they will be playing like made dogs to stay in the EPL.
    All the teams and I really think Sunderland can be one of them will have to fight for their lives.
    So forget about the easy run in for any team. It will come down to fighting the hardest.

  • walter

    And I also think that for the first time in a few seasons “friendships” between managers will not count for anything. Because some “friends” will have to fight for their own survival and will not be that motivated to allow their team a day off.

  • Andrew Chua

    Waleed, I don’t think you can say we would be comfortably in pole position if we had not thrown away points. Same argument could be applied to Chelsea at the beginning of the season. Everyone thought they would run away with the title after the first 7 games. Dito for MU. MU threw away a number of points during injury time. On the whole, MU and Arsenal sort of average out the luck. The only unlucky one is probably Chelsea.

  • goooner80

    I would love birmingham to go down, but hope blackpool stay up

  • remember we have players coming back after international, Cesc, Theo, Alex so we will be much stonger.

    and if we win all our remaining games we have won the league regardless of what others do

    so I would say we are in a very strong position and we just need to get behind the team and encourage them.

  • Wrenny

    The international break has come at a good time for us, and not for the first time this season. In the past they always seemed to come at the worst time, disrupting our rhythm just when we were getting a run going and damaging our players. This year they’ve been quite helpful in buying us more time to get back our injured.

  • AGooner

    Andrei,

    You must try to put the above statistical analysis in the context of the new 25 man squad rule which also required 9 of the first team of 25 to be home grown.

    Given the 25 man squad rule effect on the top teams, they were bound to lose ground in terms of points. Chelski for example, had to let go of Ballack, Deco, etc. etc. This means Chelski no longer have the advantage of such experienced players when the injuries and suspensions start to bite. The same applies to all the top 4 teams from last season.

    Arsenal have actually improved in the sense that they have not suffered as the other teams from the same rule. However, when a direct comparison is made with last season we have lost ground i terms of points, but does this means we have regressed?

    The top teams are dropping points and will continue dropping points against the lower table teams because the lower teams can now compete better when the top teams suffer from injuries and suspensions. Chelski and the others just do not have the quality replacements seating on the bench on high wages like last season.

    I am hoping Manure drop more points with their injuries just as we have dropped points with key players out. Hopefully, the end of the break sees us start with some players back for the final title charge.

  • todd

    A big difference from last year is the timing of our Barca tie. Last year those two games precipitated the end of season implosion. This year we’ve played those two legs, faltered, and now have a chance to regroup. I hope the end result will be different than last year.

    Remember that Manu/Chelsea have to play each other 3 times in April/May, and have midweek games almost every week in April. We have 1 midweek game to play from now till the end of the season. Our players will have time to recover, and be fresh for each game. I really think part of the reason for April being so rough was the previous two months fixture lists.

    I can see either/both Manu and Chelsea faltering due to fixture congestion. Chelsea plays 8 Games in April, ManU plays 6(plus us on May 1st) and whoever advances in the CL has two additional Semi games in early May.

    No matter what, It’ll be an interesting finish to the season. Fingers crossed for no injuries during the international break…..

  • harrish

    Wenger’s second-half performance was uncharacteristically brave too. Removing Denilson at half time time took balls, as did playing three out-and-out strikers and a trying to win the game with a midfield duo of Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere. That it worked was no surprise really and we can only hope the positive outcome of the manager’s changes encourages him to be more proactive in the final games of the season.

    Speaking of the rest of the season, there are just so many things to consider at the moment.

    We go into a well-timed international break five points behind Manchester United with a game extra to play. The current leaders still have to play us at The Emirates and taking all of that into account the ability to win the league remains in our hands. It seems ridiculous after the last weekend and indeed, the last month of frankly dreadful results, but that is the state of play.

    However, fact that we fell just short of completing a miraculous comeback and Manchester United stole the points at Bolton from an equally improbable, if completely different, situation seems to represent the difference in mentality between the two sides at present. I may be looking into things too deeply — after all it was only a terrible Jussi Jääskeläinen error that allowed United to score their winning goal — but at the end of the day they won and we didn’t.

    Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and perhaps even Johan Djourou (rather freakishly) may yet return at Blackburn in a fortnight’s time but with twelve of the current squad called up for International Duty it would be churlish to think it will go to plan. Our season may yet be defined by who manages to stay fit over the next fortnight and which starting eleven steps out to play at Blackburn on the 2nd of April.

    To hold our nerve over the final stretch we need mentally strong, reliable players and that is exactly what the likes of Song and Fabregas provide. Our midfield against West Brom contained a young player starting his first game for the club in over a year, another young player woefully out of form and the youngest of the lot carrying them. It is not good enough and it will not win us the title.

    But put Song and Fabregas in there, maintain van Persie and perhaps get a lucky break with Djourou’s fitness and we all of a sudden look formidable, even despite our nightmare goalkeeper situation.

    There’s still a long way to go and even after a shocker of a weekend we’re still in with a good chance of winning the league title. However, with all the variables at play it is almost impossible to figure out just how good of a chance we have.

    I fear it is going to be a very long couple of weeks.

  • Shard

    @Andrei
    Good job collecting that data and pointing out some things. However, I do not agree with all of your conclusions.

    The feeling from the fans is based on something that we see every week, but also on a tangible improvement. We’ve conceded fewer goals (despite the 4 at Newcastle). We’re higher up in the table. We still have the title in our hands (however improbable it may appear)I also think that our injury situation while bad, isn’t as horrific as last year, and that is partly down to our squad, at least on paper, being stronger. (I say on paper because certain individuals haven’t performed)
    As AGooner pointed out, the 25 man rule has meant that top teams have lesser leeway in manning their squad. Chelsea had an ageing squad and were always going to regress at some point, especially if they couldn’t just go out and buy.

    But, in any case, I find this argument of other teams regressing rather than us improving to be a moot point. It really doesn’t matter. Being the best (or better if you prefer) is only a comparative scale and never an absolute one. To try and compare it with numbers from the seasons past might lend some patterns and trends exhibiting improvement/regression but will never accurately reflect the true standing of the team.
    The league table itself, is just a statistic. But it is treated as tangible because it is the basis on which we operate, making it the most relevant, if not valid, statistic that we have. So even the tangible evidence that you seek, is based on intangibles.