The race to 38, 68, and 87, 10th January edition

Back in November I introduced these races to shed a bit of light on which teams were on track to a) avoid relegation, b) get a champions league place and c) win the Premiership, based on the historical performance of Premiership teams over the past 12 seasons (link).

The race to 38 corresponds to the average number of points that the 17th placed team has achieved since the 2000-01 season, where my data begins, with 68 and 87 corresponding to the average number of points scored by the teams finishing 4th and 1st respectively over the same time frame.

Hitting these targets is no guarantee of finishing in a given position (ask Man United fans from last season or West Ham fans about 2002-03), but will provide us with a line in the sand by which we can judge a teams progress during the season.

The method is explained in the aforementioned post, and there’s also a recap at the end of the post. In short, the ‘teams’ column refers to the number of teams in the past 12 seasons who’ve had a span of ‘x’ games (the number a given team has remaining in their season) in which they’ve scored ‘y’ points (the number required to reach 38, 68, and 87 respectively). The percentage of the 240 teams that do this will be recorded in the % teams column.

The ‘spans’ column is a little different, breaking down each of the 240 seasons into groups, where games 1 to z = sample 1, games 2 to z+1 = sample 2 etc., and determining how many of these spans of ‘x’ games see the team achieve ‘y’ points. At this point in the season the sample size exceeds 5,000.

And so firstly, the ‘Race to 38′

There’s been a some movement here – at the top end there are now three teams who are safe, and a further four who would require historically bad runs to be relegated.

At the other end of the table things look a little brighter for QPR in terms of the proportion of teams that have achieved the 25 points they need over a 17 game span, but when considering all 5,000 spans (the measure I think is going to be the one to watch) they’re actually worse off than they were 7 games ago. Things are drastically worse for Reading, and Wigan are starting to wander towards dangerous territory.

At this point it seems that, barring a pretty spectacular collapse, everyone from Fulham upwards are in good shape.

How about the ‘Race to 68′

Two teams have been eliminated and a further four will follow suit with their next defeat. In fact by this measure the field is realistically down to eight teams. United are pretty much a lock at this point, and it’d be a huge surprise if City didn’t join them. The final two places are pretty much a toss up between Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Everton, although those extra points in the bag that Chelsea and Spurs have right now may prove crucial come the end of the season.

Finally here’s the ‘Race to 87′

Of the six teams remaining we’ll lose four in the very near future. It hadn’t occurred to me just how early in the season this would happen. Chelsea are going to have to do something very special to get there, and we’re essentially in two horse race territory. It goes without saying that 7 points is an enormous gap. Despite their relatively mediocre showing so far and the regression we can expect from their sh% (link) they have to be favourites for the title. Maybe not to the extent suggested here, but favourites nonetheless.

P.S. I’d also recommend checking out Simon Gleave’s piece today looking at the odds of Manchester’s United and City winning the title (<link).