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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Lies, Dammed Lies, and Statistics

Well we have a nice long rest now before the Chelsea game on Monday, an opportunity for the team to rest some very weary bones, to regroup and regain our focus for a simply vital game. Chelsea, under Jose, will always be a tough game for us but we shouldn`t go into the game with fear, this Chelsea side is only a pale imitation of the side of a few years back and they don`t have the mental strength nor the legs that they may have once had. A scout report on them will follow but just fill the time I`ve had a look at the table as it stands and also how it will shape up on current trends. Keep in mind that this is not to be taken as a prediction from me so don`t go putting your house on statistical trends to last for the season, its a bit of fun no more for someone who is obsessed with data.

Currently all teams have played 16 league games out of a 38 game schedule. Now while 16 games is not completely conclusive it is a pretty big sample size making up 42% of a complete league season. It will be interesting to see what changes in the numbers occur when we reach the half way point and everyone having played everyone else once (either home or away). But for now let`s deal with what we have.

Table below showing the current standings after 16 games, each teams points returned per game and what points tally they would finish on should they carry the same form over of the remaining 22 games of the season. (Simple maths here, we have 35 points after 16 games or an average of 2.19 points per game played. Trend this 2.19 out over 38 games and we get the 83)

 photo Stat1_zpsd00ba755.jpg

Good news for us is that we finish a comfortable first, let`s crack open the champagne! You can see that while the league table is very close now over a bigger sample of games the gaps between the sides slowly grow. So while United, for example, are currently 10 points off first should all teams continue to form then they would finish a whopping 23 points behind first place! Is this likely? Well while we may not finish first I think that the gap between United and the eventually champions will be around this level.

Now let`s look at the race for the top 4. Over the past four seasons the average points required to finish in the top 4 has been 70 (73, 69, 68 and 70) and only once in the past 4 years has a total of 70 points not been enough to secure top four status. For the record that was last season when Spurs missed out of 4th by a single point (to us) despite hitting 72 points for the season.

Taking 70 points at the marker to hit we can look at where each team lies in relation to that marker and what they need to do to hit it.

 photo Stat2_zpsa6312d45.jpg

As you can see in order to reach the 70 point mark, Arsenal need to average 1.59 points per game over the remaining 22 fixtures. Based on current performance we could allow ourselves a 27% drop in performance (or at least in points haul) and still hit the 70 point mark. Picking on poor old United again you can see that they need to increase their current return per game by a massive 31% in order to qualify for the Champions League and that my friends is a big ask, far from impossible but very tough none the less. The new man at Spurs will also require a significant increase in the clubs performance in order to reach their target for the season of Champions League qualification (despite much early season talking up their chances I think most Spurs fans have long since given up the ghost on the league title).

Speaking of the title the Champions have hit 86 points on average over the past 4 complete seasons. Interestingly no team is currently on target to hit that goal with ourselves on the top of the pile currently trending towards a final total of 83 and the past 2 title have both been delivered with 89 points but let`s assume that 86 is the golden mark the champions will eventually hit.

 photo Stat4_zps483e7010.jpg

As no team is currently on target to hit the 86 total all teams need to improve, it`s now simply a question of by how much. Is there a further 6% increase in results from this Arsenal team? Can Man City find a further 23% improvement (made even harder as their home form is 100%), can Liverpool not only maintain their current performance but actually go a step better and grind out an extra 17% that should allow them to become champions?

Frighteningly for United they need to increase their current average point return from 1.56 a game to a whopping 2.77 in order to match last season`s title march. Put in perspective that type of form over a season would top 105 points and is a simply unachievable 77% increase in their current performance level. With only 42% of the season gone I`d say it`s as close to a statistical impossibility as possible that United will retain their crown. Sometimes you get numbers that buck the trend but not in this case.

Now I know there are countless variables involved in this. Teams can come into and out of form, players can pick up knocks and even referees can influence results. And while unfortunately for us, they do not hand out any league titles in December three points won in August is worth the exact same as three points won in March. The final tally is what teams are working towards, which may or may not involve going on an unbeaten run towards the end of the season. We were the most in form team in the league from March to May and that didn`t help us finish top did it.

Final table, (I`m obsessed with data I know I know) below shows each teams current average point haul over five games, and then what they need to reach every 5 games between now and the end of season to reach both the top 4 and also claim the title.

 photo Stat5_zps99f41b6f.jpg

Ask yourself Gooners, is our team good enough to do this? 4 wins out of every 5 league games between now and the end should be enough for us. Can we look at our final 22 games and see 4-5 losses and the rest all wins (I`m ignoring draws purely for ease of calculation)? We have until now and Monday to figure it out. If we beat Chelsea not only does that improve our probability but it also reduces theirs. Fine lines I know but 4 wins out of ever y five games is doable.

It`s a big ask, but at the start of season all teams are asked the same question.

Only champions can answer it.

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The Journalist

Writer: Galway Gooner Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday December 17 2013

Time: 6:57PM

Your Comments

We've navigated some tricky fixtures and some easy ones, the stats show us doing well overall during this 16 game period. I think we will continue this form up until about February/March when we have arguably the hardest part of our season on paper. GG the stats do not lie and they can to a certain extent prove how a team might do but as you say there are so many variables in football from minuet refereeing decisions to a striker playing out of his skin, anything can happen literally. I said at the start of the season that we traditionally finish strong and it will be key to get a good start, we've got that good start and so we must continue that up until May which we have done in seasons past albeit under pressurised conditions and a bad start to the season as Wenger calls 'negative pressure'. Either way this has been an enjoyable and promising season so far solely because we are actually challenging for the title something that has been missing recently and I'm sure what all Gooners have wanted from the start. Naturally anything other than a trophy win will be disappointing this season as I feel this team has something special to them even if they don't show it in the in games! ha
Entertaining contemplations but only really valid if each team had played the same 16 fixtures. They haven't of course. But just as goals change games points in hand also encourages belief. Whether we've done enough to carry us beyond mere CL qualification remains to be seen but quite right to point out that there're far too many variables to make simple extrapolations from the season so far.
Just done a spot of Vital page jumping because, well I can! Vital Spurs hilarious as always but I went to Vital City and fair play Galway on the post Arsenal City game comments. They beat us considerably well but their comments were quite nonchalant in dismissing of Arsenal as a team and also contender in the league. 'We score loads of goals, more than anyone else'. I suppose people do the same with Vital Arse on the other hand ....'Hu do dose Arse's fink they r by sayin ther gonna finish bove us dis season wif got Soldado an avb innit!' (Average Tottenham simpleton, 2013)
Amos already highlighted the problem with sampling and the interesting way the equation is specified (selected variables etc) as a way of looking into the future. I would add two more. Why the past four as opposed to five or more seasons in determining points targets for top four and the title? What is the statistical validity? The sentiment expressed in the piece though --- fun with numbers --- is appreciated. And we are as good as City or Chelsea to be crowned champions except that against those two the numbers would make them the favourites.
Appreciate the feedback boys.

The idea with only comparing like with like fixtures is that playing a team in August can be very different than playing them in Dec. We played Southampton when if they had beaten us they would have got top of the league. They had the best defence in the league and were a team on the up, the game was rightly regarded as a very tough fixture. Could you say the same of it playing them today? I personally don't think so.

On the picking the last 4 seasons, well you have to pick something, if I had picked 5 you could rightly have asked why not 6 and so on. Teams change all the time and most teams starting eleven changes by about 15% each season, after 4 years the team is about 60% different which is borderline making the analysis no longer valid. Four seasons was just the number I went with and I think is a decent sample size.

Galway Gooner
Here's another statistic I'm going to miss 5 games over the Christmas period. West Ham (A). Newcastle (A). Cardiff (H) Spurs (H FAC) A Villa (A) Lets hope I can grab some streams somewhere!
Brady's Left Peg
Galway nice read mate as always. Many thanks and here is another couple of observations: Pellegrini is really Burt Campbell from "Soap". AVB Is really Arnold Judas Rimmer (without the "H" on his head)
Brady's Left Peg
GG, statistically-speaking it is permissible "to pick something" only if the conclusions would hold under relatively similar time scale. In other words, it is expected that the analyst would have at least looked at and concluded that statistically there is no difference whether 4, 5, 6, or 7 seasons are used in determining the baseline. I was just wondering whether you did otherwise --- notwithstanding the numbers --- it becomes purely a conjecture that x amount of points are needed for top four or to win the title.
To elaborate: would the difference between 2006 - 2009 (4 years) and 2010 - 2013 (4 years) be negligible?
NYArse - taking this season (based on current rates) and the past four years as one group and then taking the previous 5 years as another group the differences between the two are that overall positions 1-3 have dropped by 3 points from then to now, so teams finishing 1st-3rd place do so on an average of 3 points less than teams from 6-10 years ago.

But the points required for 4th place have climbed by an average of 3 points over the same time period.

This would suggest that the league is getting more competitive at the top (the emergence of City and Chelsea) and that top teams are finding it more difficult to beat so called lesser teams (teams like Spurs, Everton and then new clubs to the league like WBA, Southampon etc).

The Premier league is getting more competitive and while the top teams will win and lose against one another with fairy predictable regularity its the team that wins all the games that it is expected to win (such as United last year and so far Arsenal this season) that will eventually come out on top.

While there is no exact model for success would I put money on our current approach (consistency, predictability and repeatability) or City (smash the big teams than lose unexpectedly to a small team) I would go with our model.

Galway Gooner
Galway Hi, coming onto VS you always come across as knowing your football. Since AW took over you have had harmony within the squad, we talk about the loss of Bale on VS, but as I mentioned to a Arsenal mate of mine, look at the players who have left Arsenal and every time you come back stronger, we have again got into a situation of the manager off down the high road, I said this weeks ago, take a win as a bonus, to paper over the cracks is a understatement, we have problems AVB did not now what his best X1 was, the 6-0 loss was in the end just funny at City, then they put 6 past you lot and i never thought that would happen, sunday pool come and stick 5 past us, the best thing to happen is we need about 5 or 6 more wins and at least we will be safe, missing out on CL and the europa next season might be a blessing, who know's. The results at the moment in the prem is why bookmakers take bets. We have turned into a jigsaw puzzle, someone needs to find the box lid with the picture on it, then we might just be able to put it all together, we are in a better position then some in the league and just not as good as others, but hey life goes on and I can't change any of it. We just enjoy the football, when ever that is and maybe Tim can beat the bubbles tonight, it wil be interesting, well to some.
spu 4 life
Oh and just to ask, Rocky knows the score why I ask, how is Pat Rice, I hope he is making progress
spu 4 life
OT. So, the FA's 3 wise men could easily decide the Ref would have given a red for Jack's finger gesture but failed to see Yaya Toure's potential leg-breaking tackle on Giroud? Plus, setting a new precedent with a 2 game ban is laying down the law; I do hope they remain consistent or we can carry on with the conspiracy theories.
No real problem with the ban Naijagunner, Jack was an idiot to do what he did and I hope the club come down on his as heavily as the FA have, missing over a vital period could cost the team. While Suarez only go a one game ban I've no problem with it increasing, as long as any future offenders are treated as harshly.

The tackle from Yaya was a far more serious offence in my eyes and really the FA have, yet again, ignored something that happened in plain sight!

Galway Gooner
spu 4 life it seems to be a trend for Spurs over the last 20 years or so, some of your supporters do NOT deserve this current debacle. I wish you well till we meet again no doubt. In my honest opinion you need to be rid of Levy and Enic.
Brady's Left Peg
Stats are just stats , don't pay much attention to them.

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