The relegation battle

At the top end of the premiership almost everything has been decided. We almost certainly know the teams that will finish 1st, 4th and 5th, and we know Chelsea and Arsenal will occupy 2nd and 3rd, probably in that order.

Things are much more open at the other end of the table. At first glance it appears to be three teams from five or six that will be relegated and with games running out the teams currently in the bottom three have to be the favourites. To try and assess which teams have the best chance of staying up I’ve produced the table below. The first three columns are the traditional numbers. These are followed by some of the statistics I’ve been talking about lately, quality of competition (QualComp), shots on target ratio (SOTR) and PDO. I’ve also put a ranking in brackets. For QualComp 1st is the toughest opponents, and for SOTR 1st is for the highest (best) number.

Team GP Pts ± QualComp SOTR PDO
Birmingham City 34 38 -17 .494 (2nd) .351 (6th) 1044
Blackburn Rovers 34 35 -15 .489 (3rd) .361 (5th) 1053
Blackpool 34 34 -22 .529 (1st) .396 (4th) 1010
Wigan Athletic 34 34 -23 .470 (4th) .499 (1st) 897
Wolverhampton Wanderers 34 33 -23 .429 (6th) .414 (3rd) 966
West Ham United 34 32 -22 .465 (5th) .419 (2nd) 975

What’s interesting is that the three teams with the best SOTR are in the bottom three and they also face the weakest opposition going forward. This being the case means there is more potential for movement amongst the teams.

Starting from the top we have Birmingham City. I wasn’t going to include them initially but then I saw their SOTR and it’s something that I think I wanted to highlight. It is atrocious. To put it into context there are only 2 teams (of 220) since the 2000-01 season that had a SOTR that is worse than .351. Fortunately for them they’ve had luck on their side and now look to have enough points to be safe.

Blackburn have been nearly as bad, with an SOTR barely better than Birmingham. They also have to play opposition that are significantly better than they are so they could be in trouble. That being said the extra point and better goal difference that they have could be enough at the end of the season.

Blackpool are sitting 18th and are in real trouble. They have to play some quality teams on the run in and have a pretty poor SOTR as well.

Wigan look to be the real surprise, with a SOTR that suggests they should be safely mid table but a truly terrible PDO that could well cost them their premiership status*.

Wolves and West Ham are in a similar boat. Both are pretty poor teams who have to play pretty poor opposition so there results could go either way. Realistically they both deserve to be in the bottom 5 or 6 teams so seeing them at the propping up the rest of the league shouldn’t be too surprising.

So at the end of that who are the favourites to go down? I think West Ham (too far behind) and Blackpool (poor SOTR, tough QualComp of remaining opponents) have to be the two favourites and then it’s a toss-up between Wolves (poor points and ± but easy QualComp remaining), Wigan (excellent SOTR, poor ±) and Blackburn (points and ± on their side but terrible) for the final place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Birmingham dragged straight back into trouble though.

*Wigan are an interesting case because they’ve had a good SOTR and poor PDO every season they have been in the premiership. That’s pretty suspicious and I think there is some sort of scorer bias (the excellent JLikens looked at this for the NHL, parts 1, 2 and 3) at the DW stadium that affects their totals. I’m suggesting that their shots for are being overcounted and shots against undercounted, leading to a bias in the results giving a high SOTR and a low PDO. Scorer bias is on my list of things to look at in the future.

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