Now that all the turkey leftovers have been consumed, and a long football lull has descended upon us, restless minds wander off in strange directions. Me, I spent some time gathering numbers and drawing charts.
The season is more than half gone, and, to the delight of Arsenal fans around the world, our team is still Top of the League. The difficult Christmas period is over, and each Premier League team has played twenty football matches, ten home and ten away. There are eighteen remaining fixtures, nine home and nine away. The end is still far away, but I cannot resist (can you?) contemplating: Will Arsenal remain TOTL at the end of the campaign?
As it stands, the top five teams are: Arsenal, ManCity, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton. My numbers and charts tell me the following stories.
Good away form, but not so good home record. Nonetheless, if they continue with this performance, they should be in contention for that last, coveted CL spot. I predict they will continue with this level of play to place themselves within striking distance of fourth. Projected 72 pts, predicted 72 pts.
[The left axis shows the number of points gained in a match. The right axis shows the point total. Solid lines are last year's results. Dotted lines are my predictions. Stars mean home games.]
A team with a very good home record, but their away form is the worst of the five teams. If they do not improve, they are looking at a fight for fourth. My prediction is that they surely will raise their away form. Unfortunately for them, in the second half of the campaign Liverpool will host all four of their competitors, which will surely deteriorate their fine home record. As the result, I see them finish firmly out of the top three, and it could be worse for them if Everton create a surprise. Projected 74 pts, predicted 73 pts.
So far, Chelsea has gotten the same point results in the equivalent fixtures last season. If they continue to replicate last season’s results, which saw them dropping points to lower teams, including a home draw against Spurs, it might just get them third like before. Judging by this year’s form, which comprise a formidable home record and a decent away one, Chelsea will be in contention for the title. I see them performing slightly worse at home and better away for a close second place. Projected 82 pts, predicted 83 pts.
Ten home wins, a perfect record, marred by a pedestrian away form. Amazingly, compared to the point results from the equivalent fixtures last season, they are +10 and would be the darling of the Swingometer, if it were updated. Furthermore, if they continue to replicate last season’s results, they would saunter off with 88 points and the title medals dangling around their necks. With their current away form, the projection puts them just short in the fight for first. In my view, they will improve their away record slightly, but at the same time, I cannot see them continuing their perfect home record. I’ve marked them down as dropping points to Chelsea, and some lower team, with Southampton the strongest challenger. However I must admit that, with weak conviction, I have marked them down in a few places. They are a strong team, but in my dream world they fall surprisingly to third. Projected 84 pts, predicted 82 pts.
A red hot away form, but that home opener loss and the draw to Everton weakens Arsenal’s claim to the title. Even so, if they continue to perform like they did in the first part of the campaign, the projection gives them first place. More realistically, I think their away form cannot continue. With trips to Chelsea, Liverpool, and Everton to come, the away average will fall. On the other side, with the exception of the ManCity visit, the remaining home games should be winnable, including the one against ManU. If—and this is a big “if” I admit, especially considering how Arsenal performed at home last year—the Arsenal manage to turn their ground into a fortress, the long awaited silverware will be arriving this year. Projected 86 pts, predicted 85 pts.
Putting it all together, Arsenal stay on top when one uses the home+away form of the previous twenty matches to project the final standings. But as discussed, I don’t think the current form will hold. In my predictions, I have conservatively made all head-to-head matches between the top five to be draws, which might be too conservative. All the nuances aside, I see Arsenal remaining on top at the end as well. (Wouldn’t be an Arsenal fanatic if I didn’t.)
For all that, in both the form projection and my guesstimation, the title race appears extremely tight between the three teams: Arsenal, ManCity, and Chelsea. With the projected/predicted gap no more than four points between first and third, if there are no surprises in form, the final games will again be the deciders: Arsenal at Norwich, ManCity hosting West Ham, and Chelsea visiting Cardiff. The two latter matches seem likely wins for the favorites, which will mean many chewed fingernails for Arsenal fans on the last day.
What do you all think? Am I realistic with my game-by-game predictions? Let the argument begin :D
TwentyTwelve (aka TT)
(*) For comparison, the last column in the table gives the expected point total, if the teams replicated their point results from the ’12-13 campaign for the remainder of the season.