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):
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.
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.
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!
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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