So Chelsea had quite a good season in 2011/12, all things considered. There was an FA Cup win and I think something happened in Munich, but I don't really remember the details. The upshot of this is that, following a rocky start (and that's being diplomatic), the Premier League was all but abandoned from April which resulted in Chelsea taking only two wins from their final six games and a disappointing sixth-place in the final league table.
The league table is probably the most efficient way of conveying all of the information when teams haven't all played the same number of matches, but it doesn't make it particularly easy to see how much of a points-gap there is between the different teams. For that reason, I've taken the liberty of plotting the final 2011/12 points totals on a single axis in an attempt to things better.
When plotting this graph, I noticed that the teams seemed to fall into 5 distinct categories, highlighted on the graph itself.
I think everybody knew that the Manchesters were considerably better than the rest of the league this season, but I think showing it in this format really hammers home just how much better they were. The point gap between second and third place was only one point smaller than that between 7th placed Everton and 18th placed Wigan.
Behind those two, was a second group of teams that were quite close together and spent the majority of the year embroiled in a battle for the remaining two Champions League places.
The third group, the aptly named 'mid-table obscurity' is headed by the Liverpool teams and consists of those teams that were pretty irrelevant over the course of the season (but at least they've got history, eh?).
Group 4 were those that spent most of the season fearing for their lives; some of whom failed to survive the drop. And then there was Wolves; so bad that I decided they needed a category all to themselves.
Next season will probably see the teams in each of these groups reordered slightly, but the most interesting topic for predictions (to me, at least) is to think about which of the teams are likely to move from one group to another. In order to make this a little easier to picture, I decided that a second graph plotting point total against goal difference (with the group divisions from before included) might be helpful.
There is a good correlation here between goal difference and point total and it's reasonable to think that teams finishing a good distance above the line are likely to finish on a lower points total next season, and those finishing below the line could be expected to improve. The one team that should be jumping out at everybody is Newcastle; they're a long way above the line and I would expect a big regression from them back into Group 3 next season.
So what does this mean for Chelsea?
We finished on pretty much exactly the points total our goal difference suggested we should've done, so we can't really analyse much there, but I don't think anybody can argue that we've improved already so far this offseason and the suggestion is that there's more to come [EDIT: Apparently some can argue after all. I'm still not sure I agree with them, but maybe I was a little overzealous in my phrasing at the first attempt]. Couple that with the fact that we'd pretty much given up on the league towards the end and I think we can comfortably be the top team in Group 2 next season. Unfortunately, there's still a massive gap between us and the Manchesters and, barring a significant drop in quality from either of them, I think it's unlikely that we'll make it up to the 'Title Challenge' category next season.
What do you guys think? Big regression from the Manchester clubs? Big improvement from Chelsea? What about the other teams in the league?