Back to business – The EPL 2011/2012 Season Visualised!

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By DogFace

After last night’s brave show of spirit I thought it was about time to regain some focus and get back to the business at hand, and that is, of course, the Champions League… or more to the point – the qualification thereof via a top four spot in the EPL.

A veritable trophy in itself!?

I have taken the liberty to poke my database for some… well – not ‘statistics’ exactly – this is more a visual representation of what has passed and that might provide some hints as to what is yet to come.

I originally did this for my own curiosity and as a semi-experiment into the accessibility and rapid visual consumption of rafts of league data (numbers can be so fiddly) but I found it so interesting that I’m going to share it with you. If you don’t like this sort of thing or find it confusing then I apologise profusely but it’s worth a look I reckon; even if it is just reiterating something that you already know.

The visualisations, you will see, use league position snapshots of each EPL match day combined with bookmaker odds data (pertaining to the betting line or ‘Asian Handicap’) to gauge relative performance – this is the same kind of calculation that I use in my infamous RefWatch series in which I try and sniff out the wafts of refereeing style and/or bias pre-match and make a prediction as to how it the match could play out, on the field, off the back of that.

I have covered the entire league here from the struggle to the windy summit to the doldrums of the relegation battle – so something for anyone here with an interest in the EPL. With these graphs I will attempt to demonstrate how the season has fragmented teams into various strata of ambition and created four distinct bands (or leagues) within the Premier League proper.

We will start with the first two bands that contain the top seven teams in the EPL – this will be the ‘Struggle for the Title’ and the ‘Race for Champions League Riches’ (Click to zoom in):

Race for Riches - The Champions League

Title Contenders and the Race for Riches – The Champions League Places

We can see here that there is a definite 2 horse race between Manchester City and Manchester United going on – I would say that the blip United experienced around match 18-20 might well have cost them the title; but they are still firmly snapping at the heels of Manchester City and will no doubt look to overtake them should City have a similar stumble.

Tottenham appear to be still dining out on the cracking run of form from around match 3 to match 13 – but since then, their performances – although still very good points wise, have become a little more erratic in terms of relative performance and are now showing signs of dropping off the pace. This has all but taken them out of the top band and dropped them into the no-man’s land between the race for the title and securing a Champions league spot.

Arsenal have been all over the place this season with spurts of great form intermixed with patches of misery. However, recently we have picked up the pace and, if we can show half the desire we showed in last night’s game, are looking to kick on and establish a top four spot.

If both Arsenal and Tottenham’s trends continue it will set the teams up for a “to-the-wire” battle for London’s top team – so keep going the way you are going Tottenham and no more slip-ups please Arsenal and this could be a season for North London to remember!

Chelsea cannot seem to find the form expected of them at all this season and their erratic under-performances are showing them trending right off the pace – if ever was a time for ‘new manager syndrome’ to have an effect then this is it, for Chelsea, if they have any hope of being in the mix for top four spot. Other than that – I would say that this team is showing its age and requires some new talent to push through the ranks/banks and rejuvenate the performances on the pitch.

Newcastle are a surprise package and are showing remarkable resilience in their mini-league, after dropping off the pace from games 13-17 they have clawed their way right back into the mix, astounding work from a team that’s just bounced back from the grave.

It should be noted that Liverpool has a game in hand so their flat drop-off at the end is currently in flux and not representative of their 27th match day. Other than that they were doing well up until game 19 and from there we have seen them tail off a bit. Their game in hand against Everton will be crucial.

Staying Safe - mid table obscurity

Staying Safe – mid table obscurity

As you can see – band three is as tight a group as you could imagine. West Brom looks to be on a good upward trend after a poor start and Norwich City are definitely targeting the points they need to keep a strong position in the pack.

This mid-table pack know exactly what they want from the season and I think it is going to be very hard for the chasing teams to break into this mini-league as they will guard their position tooth and claw.

Note: Everton, like Liverpool (only blue), also have a game in hand so a good win could see them top their mini-league.

Points are Precious - The relegation battle

Points are Precious – The relegation battle

At the bottom of the EPL we have a right scrap developing ; at the moment it’s so tight that you can barely see light between them. Wigan and Bolton look to have been in real trouble all season and are showing no signs of improvement. Bolton are struggling from a very poor start and showing some spirit to gain a little ground on their opposition – where as, after a promising start, Q.P.R. and Wolverhampton have slowly sunk back into the mix…

It’s definitely ‘squeaky bum time’ in mini-league that is ‘division four’ of the EPL!

The 2011/2012 Season visualised

The 2011/2012 Season visualised

And here we have the big picture and this demonstrates, I think, quite clearly the various strata (or leagues) within the league that is the EPL.

I know I’m a data-junkie, and I make no apologies for it, but looking at it like this – I can appreciate that each crunching tackle and exquisite goal, each dive and bad decision and each character filled performance to win against the odds has been abstracted and boiled down to simple the mathematics of the league table and the market positions of the Asian bookmakers – yet these dull numbers, so far removed from the metronomic binding of steel studs in sticky wet turf or the strain of muscle and sinew, stretched to the excitation of the spindles, can reflect, when dunked in coloured pixels and smeared across a virtual canvas, something that is almost as strangely chaotic and enchanting as the beautiful game itself…

…like ribbons in the wind.

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15 Replies to “Back to business – The EPL 2011/2012 Season Visualised!”

  1. DogFace, this is a great article.

    I would suggest teaming up with an HTML5 designer or similar to make the last graphic interactive, so that people could ‘hover’ over a data-point and get the team name, the opposition, expected points, actual points, and any other data you’ve used to create the graph.

    In an ideal world, readers could look at the graph on its own and draw their own conclusions, without any supporting article – but currently it’s a bit difficult to see which team is which, and how exactly the ‘fatness’ of the line is calculated.

    Great work! (Just trying to give some constructive suggestions)

  2. @Mare St Gooner – Ahhh, I see you have a taste; you would like to dig a little deeper into the numbers… this is good – and if possible I will try and find a way to grant your request.

    Thanks for commenting – all suggestions are welcome!

  3. Amazing Dogface.

    Like the comment also from Mare St Gooner. That would be awesome…

  4. @Walter – you can get full interactive functionality for these whenever you like via my report server. You have a login I think?

  5. Daily Mail reporting Arsenal have agreed 10.8 million deal with Cologne for Podolski.Don’t know whether it’s true but they seem to have a few details.BTW,Messi,5 goals tonight,8 overall in the tie,he really is now the best player i have ever seen.I don’t think he’s human;i reckon he is a human/alien hybrid because he truly plays football from another planet.

  6. Wonderful graphs, Dogface. Great visualisation.

    Is it possible to extrapolate the ribbons over the remaining games, based on trends in the games so far, to get a rudimentary indication where every team will end up at the end of the season? I know football is unpredictable – for various reasons, but would still be interested if you could magic such a graph on our screens.

  7. Dogface
    Ribbons in the wind or ripples on a river, which would make them “flow” charts? Sorry, maths geek joke 🙂 It’s just been reported on BBC breakfast that Poldoski had agreed to move in the summer for around £10.9m and has been texting Per about the club. Doesn’t make it true but its very unusual for BBC news to put their neck on the block so to speak, they tend to be a lot more cautious with transfer speculation than the papers. I rarely induldge in transfer talk but this one has really piqued my interest.

  8. @Kentetsu – funnily enough, I have thought about this but it will take some clever maths to extrapolate the curve from the underlying trend. I’ll look into it or if there are any clever buggers out there who want to give me a hint then please feel free!

    It could be a new feature… LeagueWatch!

  9. Dogfact – awesome!! Please note the deliberate mistake!

    One point, why Manure in blue? Surely the colours should be swapped?

  10. @Notoverthehill – SQL Reporting Server assigned the colours automatically… it would be a bit of a ball-ache to set up team colours.

  11. Nice one DogFace!I think the extrapolation will not be a straightforward affair. Too many variables involved i guess. Maybe a model with player weightage,stadium,referees,betting odds,form could be used as a rudimentary predictor. It would be an interesting project much like predicting the stock market I guess which as you know no one has done! (Assuming it is not all fixed that is! )

  12. @Mihir – it should be a fairly simple quadratic equation to predict the trend:

    y = ax^2 + bx + c

    Athough I would first have to find a, b and c from the existing data… i.e. treat the x/y’s of the points/matchday as a scatter graph (per team) – I’m sure someone must have written some formula for that somewhere?! I’ve not done any of this shit since I was 15 – and even then I wasn’t really concentrating.

  13. @DogFace. Creating that equation would be the biggest challenge. Although I am not a stats major, these kind of problems do evoke my interest. If you are interested in tacking this problem I can definitely help you out. 🙂

  14. 🙂 As I said – no doubt this has been done before… I’m going to do some research I think. Let me know if you find anything useful.

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