By Tony Attwood
One of the central themes that Untold has worked on in the past 11 years is that of having evidence of a statistical nature upon which analyses can be built. Sometimes the amount of evidence is not that great of course, but generally speaking there is evidence of some sort available. Sometimes indeed there is quite a bit of evidence – such as whether one can judge how a club will do at the end of the season, by its position after just eight matches – as we looked at recently. (The answer was no, in case you missed the piece).
Here I’d like to look what appears at first light to be an analysis which was produced by the Daily Mirror recently, under the banner headline
All-time Premier League power rankings: Rating all 49 clubs on present-day performance
Now the word “analysis” doesn’t actually appear in the headline, but the phrase “power rankings” and the phrase “Rating all 49 clubs” suggests that some sort of analysis has been undertaken.
After that headline the Mirror goes on to say that its figures “are based on how the club is performing in relation to its size and what they would generally be expected to achieve.”
Suddenly this looks a bit more suspicious with the use of the word “expected”. As in “expected by whom?” and “expected on what basis?” I mean expected goals is pretty bonkers, but expected by Mirror journalists, that really makes me wonder.
It does raise the question of what we as supporters might expect of Arsenal, and what that is based on.
We might base our expectations on history for example. Arsenal are the third most successful club in the history of professional league football in England, having won the league 13 times, as opposed to 18 for Liverpool and 20 titles for Manchester United.
If we start measuring success since Arsenal became a successful team in 1930 then that is 72 years (omitting the years when the league was not played). So 13 wins in 72 years meaning we should be winning the league once every five or six years. So obviously we are currently underperforming. Liverpool started winning titles in 1900 so have had 26 more years (removing the four lost to the first world war). Again that is once every five or six years. But they have not won the title since 1990, so they are way under performing.
But what we also note is that all teams have phases of winning. Arsenal had a dreadful time between 1953 and 1971 for example and although Man U won the league twice before the first world war, then didn’t win it again until 1952 – a huge long run without a win – far bigger than Arsenal’s.
So both Liverpool and Arsenal are not keeping up to their average at the moment, while since 1993 Man U have won the league 13 times in 26 years – once every two years on average. A quite astonishing set of results, based, we must also note, on their foresight in setting up world wide marketing while clubs like Arsenal until regimental inward-looking management were retreating and contracting. Indeed, it was Manchester United who looked at the model of a successful profitable club that Henry Norris evolved, and brought it into the modern era. Arsenal sadly went backwards under the Hill-Woods to the old system.
Anyway, back to the Mirror. How does the Mirror can work out how any “club is performing in relation to its size and what they would generally be expected to achieve.” The words “generally” and “can be expected” without any other detail is the key – they are making these things up.
Here are their top 20 clubs in reverse order… If you are standing up, you might want to sit down.
20. West Bromwich Albion
18. Swansea City
“Thankfully for them there is plenty of time to prolong their longest Premier League spell which is in its fifth term.”
16. Norwich City
“Will have a big job on to stay up in their fifth Premier League spell. Beat Man City but got hammered by Villa last time out.”
“… have fought off the drop in the last two campaigns and look set to have another battle on their hands this term.”
14. West Ham United
“A top-half finish should be more than attainable.”
13. Aston Villa
” Slow-ish start but great result last time out and should have enough to stay up.”
“No title since 2004 and their third successive season out of the Champions League – but signs the Gunners are starting to turn the corner under Unai Emery. A top-four finish should be attainable this time.”
So Arsenal are in 12th place and if you look down you’ll see that the likes of Palace and Brighton are above Arsenal in the Mirror’s chart.
What this suggests is that Arsenal are, by their estimations (the details of which are hidden) “performing in relation to its size and what they would generally be expected to achieve.”
Given a change in manager last season, and endlessly antagonistic media and bloggers, critics in the crowd calling for the manager’s head, and an expenditure level in recent years that is behind the clubs above them, I would suggest that Arsenal in third place are performing above expectations.
Indeed for us to be higher than third would mean overtaking Manchester City with the limitless income based on a sovereign wealth fund and Liverpool who have had a perfect start after winning the Euro Cup last season – both of which seem unlikely at this stage in our evolution.
The criteria, remember, are about a club “performing in relation to its size and what they would generally be expected to achieve.” Arsenal in size of stadium are third, in size of countrywide support are probably third, and in the league are third. How can Arsenal be 10th unless it is one of the regular attempts to slight the club.?
11. Crystal Palace
“Now enjoying their seventh successive top-flight campaign.”
10. Brighton and Hove Albion
“A third consecutive year in the top flight in one of the best new stadiums in the country. Will be looking for a more comfortable top-flight survival this term.” Sadly the goodness of the stadium was not in the original criteria.
9. Sheffield United
“The Blades are back in the big time after two promotions in three seasons under a terrific manager in Chris Wilder and are making a decent fist of things with their fancy centre-backs.”
After this it gets so bonkers I can’t actually go through each rating and manage to keep my fingers on the keyboard but here are the rest of the entries..
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Now actually I will report this one in full… “Dodgy start this season but in the Champions League for the fourth campaign in a row and got all the way to the final last term. Could do with some clarity over the managerial situation.”
Tottenham, you will recall, spent most of last summer and last season being talked up as the new sensations, until they let in rather a large number of goals at home in the Champs League, got knocked out of the League Cup by Colchester, are ninth in the league, and are behind an unpronounceable Serbian team in their Champs League group, being equal bottom. Oh yes, and they have what is I suspect the biggest debt burden of any club in the 92.
3. Wolverhampton W
2, Manchester City
My point is twofold. One is that the criteria for selecting club positions is rather bizarre but second that even with those criteria, this is utterly nonsensical. The “analysis” doesn’t even abide by its own criteria!
And yet it has all the flavours of looking like a series piece of analysis.
We are, once again, being treated as pathetic idiots who can’t smell gibberish when it is thrust in our faces.
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