Saturday, 25 April 2015

A History Of Premier League Title Winners & What It Means For Chelsea

A History Of Premier League Title Winners & What It Means For Chelsea

During this cold and rainy evening in what is normally the mild and bright month of December in Barcelona, I decided to clean up a couple of tired and messy databases that I am in possession of. During this clean up I realized a couple of things: I only watch sports so I have an excuse to use a spreadsheet and I have data on all worlds of weird and wonderful topics.

One of the interesting topics was a database titled 'The History Of Premier League Title Winners'. This database was opened and there on the page in front of me was every Premier League title winner in the 38 game era and each teams cumulative points total over the course of the season.

Why was this database interesting? Well, let me show you....

(Bigger Link)

So, anyone see anything interesting there? I have highlighted Chelsea over the first 13 games to make it easier for you. Still nothing? Well, much to my astonishment I realized that there have been teams that secured more points over the first 13 games of a season than Chelsea have this year (33).

Three teams have achieved this feat: Manchester City in 11/12, Manchester United in 06/07 and Chelsea in 05/06. It is also worth noting that 2 other teams have matched Chelsea's haul of 33 points over the course of the first 13 games: Chelsea in 09/10 and Arsenal in 03/04.

The 5 teams mentioned were all darn good. The points totals for this gang of five range from 86 to 91 come the end of the season. We could just leave this mini-investigation here and say 'hey, teams with 33 points from their first 13 games are all really good teams and end up winning the league in that given year'. Yet this statement would ignore the teams who had 33 points or more from the same number of games who didn't win the league.

So I dredged through some old Premier League tables and found 8 teams who had 33 points or more from the first 13 games. Why did I go to such trouble? I wanted to see how those teams performed over the remainder of their respective schedules after they had gotten off to such hot starts.

Here are those 8 teams with their points totals in the first 13 games and their points totals over the remaining 25 games.

PointsFirst 13 GamesNext 25 GamesPPGFirst 13 GamesNext 25 Games
Arsenal 03/043357Arsenal 03/042.542.28
Chelsea 05/063457Chelsea 05/062.622.28
Man United 06/073455Man United 06/072.622.20
Chelsea 09/103353Chelsea 09/102.542.12
Man City 11/123554Man City 11/122.692.16
Man United 09/103457Man United 09/102.622.28
Arsenal 07/083350Arsenal 07/082.542.00
Newcastle 95/963447Newcastle 95/962.621.88

The average points haul over the next 25 games is ~54. This number is dragged down by a single point by Newcastle's famous collapse in the 95/96 season. If we look across the table we can see that every single team saw a drop off in points per game in the next 25 games of the season.

Why did this happen? 13 games is a short span where luck can run hot, injuries haven't yet taken their toll, "form" is excellent, the schedule is soft and forgiving and all these things may have contributed to a points pace that was likely unsustainable over the remainder of the season. Injuries, fatigue, cooling off of some hot luck and a stiffer schedule may have led to a drop-off of the points pace.

The average points per game pace of this group fell by 0.45 points per game over the remaining 25 games of this season. In real terms this is a drop off of 11 points from any points projections that may have been made at the 13 game mark.

11 points is a significant number: Chelsea are on course for 96 points as it stands. The above table, while not concrete evidence, at least hints at some form of regression in terms of points per game pace.

Let's say Chelsea win 54 points from their remaining 25 games to finish on a total of 87 points from 38 games. Does that sound reasonable? It feels a touch low but if true then Chelsea's record over the next 25 games would look something like this:

Win 16
Drawn 6
Lost 3

Right now it seems impossible that Chelsea would drop points in 9 of their next 25 games but 54 points is the ball park figure for a team who recorded 33 points in their first 13 games. But you know, as much as that W/D/L line looks a little crooked it still results in Chelsea recording 87 points. 87 points is a lot of darn points and good enough to win the Premier League in 13 of the last 20 seasons.

You know what else 87 points is? Almost impossible for Manchester City to match.

Manchester City currently sit on 27 points from their first 13 games. It's a decent haul but it's a ways behind where Chelsea currently sit. This is the record Manchester City would have to post to get to the 87 points I have projected for Chelsea:

Manchester City
Win 19
Drawn 3
Lost 3

Now that is a difficult ask my friends. How on earth could Manchester City pull that off? I could find only six teams in the last 20 seasons who had 60 points or more from their last 25 games. Do you want to know who one of those teams was? Manchester City in 13/14: 61 points with a W 19 D 4 L 2 record.

With Manchester City's soft schedule over the next seven or so games I'd expect the papers/media to begin talking up Manchester City and chipping away at premature bullshit like this: