EPL 2010-11: Did the Best Get Worse or the Rest Get Better?
Posted on May 18, 2011 2:40 am
We’ve heard it all season – “The Worst EPL Field in Years”, “Manchester United Ordinary”. You’d think the neutrals would enjoy a less predictable field wouldn’t you? But alas no. Too eager to shake their fists at the elite, it’s been all naysaying and no appreciation for the positives.
So I did a bit of research. I pulled out the spreadsheets and worked out some totals. My rationale was that if the top 4 had indeed regressed, there would have been more points collected against them.
With that in mind, I worked out the points that positions 5-20 racked up against the Champions League qualifiers. Last season, when all was said and done, those fellas racked up 82 pts against the top 4. This season – 90pts with a game left to play. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean all the top 4 did worse this term. Who then, were the culprits?
Well of course, United have been shite this year, haven’t they? An ordinary side, feasting on the woes of others, surely? Shockingly, based on their results against the non-CL qualifiers, no. With all this dismissal of the newly-crowned Champs and their undoubtedly appalling away record, we’ve lost sight of how remarkable they’ve been at home. With a mere two points dropped, with one game left to play, United have conceded a total of 16 pts against teams in positions 5-20. That’s three less than last year, so even a shock defeat against Blackpool will see them break even.
Chelsea are one win, or three draws worse so far, while Manchester City have currently conceded one point less than their equivalent party-crasher from 2010, Spurs. So Everton could dent Chelsea’s total significantly, while City are more-or-less on par with Spurs, whatever happens.
The big underachievers are surprisingly Arsenal. Last season they conceded a mere 18 pts against the bottom 16 – the best in the top 4. This term, they’ve had an incredible 27 pts scored against them by teams in the same positions.
So what does this all mean? It might suggest that the front-runners are a bit worse this season, but I’m not so convinced. Chelsea’s situation won’t be worse by more than a couple of defeats or a handful of draws, while United has seen it’s home form account for some lacklustre travels, meaning the’ve evened out overall. Only Arsenal have shown a marked drop in performance against the league at large and that can probably be attributed to their recent implosion.
Meanwhile, the increase in performance for positions 5-20 hasn’t been purely against the top dogs. Not only have they amassed more points against the CL qualifiers, the spread from fifth to twentieth is significantly narrower.
The first hint is in the relegation positions: this time last term, all three teams in the drop zone would already be clear. West Ham are already 3pts higher than last seasons 18th placed Burnley, while Blackpool, Wigan and Birmingham would have been well home and dry weeks ago. As it is, 42 pts might not be enough to secure safety.
Meanwhile at fifth, Spurs are only 26pts ahead of last place. Last season, Man City ended up (if you use Portsmouth’s total without their points deduction: 28pts) 39pts ahead.
I’m sure you’re thinking “Well yes – but they scored those extra points because the top teams handed them more…”. Again, not entirely true.
If you discount the points gained against the top 4, the difference between the highest scorer (Spurs, 54pts) and the lowest (still West Ham on 33) is 19pts. Last season, the highest points scored using this criteria last term was by Liverpool (57pts), who were not only still further ahead of Portsmouth’s 28, but were 34pts ahead of the lowest team based on this criteria (Burnley, 23pts).
So there you have it. I’m probably going to see my totals torn to shreds by some actual statisticians, but for now, it does appear that while the top teams did see some wobbly form, there’s enough to suggest that their woes were caused at least as much by a stronger overall field, than any regression in quality at the head of the table.
Thanks for reading…