FanPost

The Title Race: Update - A rift develops

Scott Heavey

Thanks for featuring my piece on the front page- that was quite unexpected. But now it is time for an update after 15 matches.

Previous standings - after 10 matches*

Chelsea   	0pts
Liverpool -1pts
Tottenham -3pts
Arsenal -3pts
Man U -5pts
Man City -6pts

Table after 15 matches:

Liverpool   	-4pts
Chelsea -5pts
Arsenal -5pts
Tottenham -8pts
Man City -11pts
Man U -12pts

Recap of last 5 matches:

Chelsea: -5pts

Form: -5pts (-2, 0, 0, 0, -3)

Though results over the last 5 matches haven't been too good, we are still within a 1 match distance of the leaders. Dropping points to West Brom and Stoke has currently moved our end of season points total to 86pts, which appears to be sufficient the league this season. However, more importantly, most of our direct opposition has dropped points in this 5 match span, so we are still in quite a comfortable position.

Following from some of the suggestions in the comments section, I have also had a quick look on how we were performing at this stage last season based on this methodology (section below). After 15 matches last year, we were at -9pts. Therefore, the Mourinho criticisms (as in Rafa was better according to the media) seems quite unjustified (adjusting for Di Matteo's reign, Benitez within his first three matches acquired -7pts; after hist first 15 matches, he was at -13pts)

Liverpool: -4pts

Form: -3pts (0, 0, -3, 0, 0)

Liverpool have been performing consistently this season. Wins with Fulham, Norwich and West Ham were expected, as was an away draw with Everton. Fortunately, the team in the premier league, whose stadium is located in Hull, outplayed them and defeated them. They are the second best performers over this span of five matches, with a -3pts. Nevertheless, I still worry about Liverpool, as I feel they have a good chance of pushing for the title - no European football, out of the League Cup, decent depth, and they are ahead in this table.

Arsenal: -5pts

Form: -2pts (0, 0, 0, 0, -2)

Arsenal have just dropped 2 points to Everton after a lovely Deulofeu strike. In the other games, they performed in line with expectation - wins against against Cardiff, the team in Hull, and Artur Boruc, as well as a loss away to Man U. Arsenal have been the least worst performers in this round with only a -2pts.

And here is where the gap begins:

Tottenham: -8pts

Form: -5pts (-3, 0, -2, 0, 0)

Tottenham quickly dropped points to Newcastle in the first match of this round. Though they got a drubbing from Man City, as it was an away game for them, they were expected to lose. However, their non-title contender form continued as they drew at home with Man U. Two scrappy wins against Sunderland and Fulham, means they performed no better than Chelsea in these 5 matches.

Man City: -11pts

Form: -5pts (-3, 0, 0, 0, -2)

Man City have something to cheer about - they are not the worst title contender anymore. They continued their general trend of underperfomance. Man City quickly lost their first game against Sunderland, after which they defeated Tot and Swansea at home, with a West Brom away win. In the last match, Man City returned to their usual play and drew to away Soton dropping two points (Note: Soton are not considered by this methodology to be a mid-table team, ie. 7-10**). Overall, Man City have performed just like we did, yet the media make a much bigger deal out of our games.

Man U: -12pts

Form: -7pts (0, -2, +1, -3, -3)

With the worst 5 match form of the season, Man U have beaten Man City to the bottom of this table. The round began joyously for them (and everyone), as they defeated Arsenal. As it was a home game, no additional points were gained. In the next match, they showed why they are not going to win the title this year by drawing with Cardiff. Some hope was restored when they drew away to Tot, gaining 1 point. But then the slide began. Two deserved 1-0 home losses to Everton and Newcastle, was a major -6 pts for them, relegating them to the bottom of the table. Though, one shouldn't be making forecasts at this stage yet, I feel it would be a miracle for Man U to win the title, as not only will they need to be perfect, but at least 5 teams (possibly Everton and Newcastle as well) ahead of them will have to collapse.

Upcoming Fixtures:

Chelsea: Quite a challenging fixture list ahead of us. First match against Palace, and then the Arsenal fixture, which gives us the possibility to gain 3pts and take 3 from Arsenal. Note - losing this match will have no effect, so overall it's a positive match for us. The next games are tougher- home games against Swansea and Liverpool - a vital match to prevent Liverpool from building a lead. A tricky fixture in the new year against Soton away, which we are expected to win.

Liverpool: Have a very tough schedule, during which they are expected to lose 3 matches (Tot, Man City and Chelsea) and two wins against Cardiff and Hull. A potential for them to regain quite a few points.

Arsenal: a tough fixture list - Man City away, Chelsea at home, then West Ham away and Newcastle away (expectation is a draw), finishing the round against Cardiff.

Man C: Tough home games against Arsenal and Liverpool, two easy games against Fulham and Palace, and an away fixture to Swansea in which they might regain some of their lost points (expectation in this match is a draw).

Man U: First match away to Villa (potential to regain points, as they are expected to draw), three straightforward matches against West Ham, Hull, Norwich, and a tough game against Tot at home.

Tottenham: First home fixture against Liverpool, a tricky away fixture to Soton, two home games against West Brom and Stoke and the last match against Man U away.

History and interesting facts

This is how the table looked like after 15 matches last season (Note: the mid table teams then were Everton, West Brom, West Ham and Swansea):

Man U   	-1pts
Man City -2pts
Chelsea -9pts
Arsenal -9pts
Tottenham -10pts
Liverpool -14pts

At this stage last season, we were already 8 points of the leader according to this table and continued our downward trajectory from then on. Man U maintained their performance, while Man City started the first 15 matches well, and finished the season worse. It is interesting to note that the table has flipped quite considerably. The Manchesters are significantly underperforming - their manager substitutions are hurting them. Liverpool have markedly improved and Tot have been able to replace Bale quite well. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have improved by the exact same amount.

Some facts about the current season:

  • Team which has deviated the most times from the expected result: Man U - 8 times
  • Team which has overperformed the most times: Chelsea (Man U and Tot matches) and Man U (Swansea and Tot) - 2 times
  • Team which has underperformed the most times: Man U - 6 times
  • Team which has never overperformed - Man City (interesting, isn't it?)
  • Longest consecutive matches of performing in line or overperforming - Arsenal and Liverpool - 7 matches

Conclusion

Though we haven't performed ideally, we are still well within the race. One point off is a very manageable gap. In my previous post, I mentioned that I was not buying into the Manchester hype - the last 5 matches have shown that nothing has changed on that front. Man City are still quite overhyped, as they have never deviated from the expected result. Liverpool are underappreciated as a threat in my opinion, while I don't expect Arsenal to keep performing so well due to the fact that their pivot consists of Arteta and Wilshere, which gets easily overrun by any of the top ten teams, as the Everton match showed in the first half. Lastly, Man U are most likely out of it. But the next 5 fixtures might flip this table completely. I'll give an update after the 20th match (Jan 1). In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all! KTBFFH.

As always, I am looking forward to your comments.

*A quick recap of the methodology : I assume that 91pts will guarantee winning the league. To get this total - win all games vs bottom 10 (60pts), win and draw away against mid-4 (Villa, Everton, Newcastle, Swansea) (16pts), win and lose away against the top 6 (15pts). This table shows how much the teams deviate from this target (i.e. a team with -2pts is on course to get 89pts, 2 short of 91).
** After Soton's recent performances, I feel the decision to stick with Newcastle, Everton, Swansea and Villa is looking more and more justified. 

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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