“I use statistics the same way a drunk uses a lamp post — for support rather than illumination.”
Those were the wise words of Scottish rugby coach, Scott Johnson. Whilst he may be better seeing if that same lamp post could win a line out in the Six Nations, his approach is interesting.
Football fans are fickle animals. One day their on top of the world, the next their slumping, calling for change and throwing in the towel.
To take a different approach, I thought I would illuminate the current position of the top teams in the Premier League as they break for an FA Cup weekend.
Here’s the current table in a Cann Table format:
In order to take a look and compare the strength of team’s schedules moving forward, I need to take a look at how good teams are playing at home and away.
Here’s a look at the league table with home and away performance. Black signals a team that averages 2 or more points (either at home or away), grey shows teams that average between 1 and 2 points and white is less than a point/game.
Having figured out where teams are dangerous (i.e. Spurs away more than home), I put together teams remaining schedules and categorized each game as tough, average or easy based on the points the opposition team picks up either home or away.
Click to enlarge
So where do I go from there?
Well I was curious how the teams stack up based on their remaining schedule, based both on the average points of their opponents (either home or away) as well as the average league position of the teams remaining.
Here’s that info as the teams stand in the league:
Here’s the strength of schedule rank based on average points/game of the opposition. Once again, this is based on where (home or away) a team will face their opposition.
For example, if you’re playing Stoke City at home, they average just 0.46 points/game away from home. Whereas they average 1.62 points/game at the Britannia Stadium.
Seems like good news for Cardiff and Fulham, but how does that change when you look at it based on the average league position of the remaining opponents:
Possibly good news for Mourinho, and it doesn’t look good for Poyet and Sunderland.
But let’s take a closer look at the top teams and see how their schedules shape up moving into the final third of the season.
Somewhat under-the-radar they find themselves top of the table, thanks in large part to their performances at StamfordBridge. They are unbeaten at home, winning 11 of their 13 matches. Impressive, but don’t forget Mourinho hasn’t lost any of his 72 home league fixtures as Chelsea boss.
Chelsea have a surprisingly straight forward schedule from now on. Visits from Spurs and Arsenal as well as an away match at Anfield are the “tough” fixtures remaining. With just 5 of their 12 games versus teams in the top half of the table, expect Chelsea to be in the hunt come May 11th.
Key Matches: Spurs (H), Arsenal (H), Liverpool (A)
It seems many are ready to jump off the Gunner-bandwagon and call quits on Arsenal’s title hopes. One win from four has dropped them out of fourth and with their upcoming schedule; many believe their title bid will suffer:
Next 10 Games:
Vs Liverpool (FA Cup)
Vs Bayern Munich (Champions League)
Vs Sunderland (Premier League)
At Stoke City (Premier League)
Vs Swansea (Premier League)
At Bayern Munich (Champions League)
At Spurs (Premier League)
At Chelsea (Premier League)
Vs Man City (Premier League)
At Everton (Premier League)
Perhaps the best thing for their titles hopes would be to be blown away in the first leg of the Champions League matchup with Bayern Munich. Following that they have the key string of games in their remaining schedule facing Spurs, Chelsea, City and Everton… in consecutive league matches.
However, they will look to continue their consistent form that sees them as the only team that average 2 or more points both home (2.31) and away (2.0).
Key Matches: Chelsea (A), Everton (A), City (H)
The goal-scoring juggernaut has struggled of late. Three hours of goalless football has seen them drop to 3rd. In fact, Liverpool have now scored just two goals less than City this season, albeit in one more game (City’s last game vs Sunderland was postponed).
They may have the best home record in the league, but their away record is the worst in the top-4 and with away fixtures at Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Man Utd still on the schedule, it will need to improve. 9 of the last 10 Premier League champions have finished with a points tally of more than 85 points. If City were to just average a point from those four away games, and win their other 9 remaining games, they would finish with 85 points exactly. Would that be enough? Away form for City is crucial.
Key Matches: Arsenal (A), Liverpool (A), Everton (A)
After 89 minutes of their last game, popular opinion was that Liverpool were playing for 4th. But after a 90th minute winner, they are now title-contenders. Bookies favour them at 8/1 more than Arsenal at 10/1. Why? Their remaining Champions-League-less schedule may have something to do with that.
Liverpool are one of only two teams that have no away fixtures remaining versus the current top-6 (other: HullCity). By points average and average position their schedule seems pretty… well, pretty average. A closer looks shows that they are one of only a handful of teams that have no “tough” games in their final six matches (others: Spurs, Cardiff and Fulham).
Based on average points from opponents (specifically home or away), the toughest game Liverpool have remaining is Spurs at home. However, many will see the City and Chelsea games at Anfield in April as the tipping point of their season.
The majority (7 of 12) of Liverpool’s remaining games are against teams currently in the top half. Upcoming matches against Swansea and Southampton will be crucial to keeping any title aspirations alive.
Key Matches: Spurs (H), City (H), Chelsea (H)
It’s been a strange year at White Hart Lane. Sherwood has inspired some good recent form post-AVB, but Spurs home form has let them down. 15 goals in 13 games at home has hurt their chances of returning to the Champions League.
Saying that, their away form has been incredible: 21 goals and just 2 losses. In 13 games away from home they’ve picked up enough points (29) to be in the top half of the table, above Swansea.
The good news moving forward is that despite some European football they have the easiest schedule in terms of opponents average league position (11.83).
They have fewer games versus the big-7 (Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Liverpool, Spurs, Everton, Utd) than anyone else in the league, and a soft finish to the season should see them make a late charge for the top-4, if not more.
Key Matches: Liverpool (A), Arsenal (H)
Is the Martinez Mojo running low? Having started the season in dazzling form, losing just 1 of their first 17 matches, they’ve now lost two in two weeks to their closest rivals (Liverpool and Spurs).
According to points average, they have the 4th easiest schedule left, with just one “tough” match in their final dozen matches, and even that’s at home (Arsenal).
8 points out of fourth currently, they would need to repeat the form of earlier in the season to make a charge. With Lukaku out, they will look to rely heavily on Mirallas, Deulofeu and potentially their new 6’7” forward, Lacina Traore.
Key Matches: Arsenal (H), Man City (H).
– Cardiff have the easiest remaining schedule based on points average of opposition (1.19).
– West Ham face the toughest schedule based on points average of opposition (1.56).
– Sunderland have the toughest schedule in terms of opponents average league position (8.92).
– Spurs have the easiest schedule in terms of opponents average league position (11.83)
– Man Utd are 11 points back. No team has ever come back from 11 points this late in the season to finish fourth.
– Only one of Liverpool’s remaining 12 games is considered “easy”.
– Sunderland still have to play five of the current top-6 away from home.
– Norwich City’s final four matches: vs Liverpool, at Man Utd, at Chelsea, vs Arsenal.
– Four teams have picked up more points away from home than at home (Spurs, Newcastle, Villa and Sunderland).
– Stoke have the biggest difference between home and away form, averaging 1.62 pts/game at home, but just 0.46 away (worst in the league).