ANALYSE THIS: Premier League title race all but over?

FOOTBALL - With the Premier League returning this week after taking a break for the FA Cup, the focus will be back on the  title race between the two Manchester clubs. However, it is well worth asking whether that title race is actually all but over. Head of Analysis at the Infostrada Sports Group Simon Gleave has looked at the top three in the Premier League from a variety of different angles and presents his findings here.



At approximately 9.25pm GMT on Wednesday, 2 January, Chelsea’s slim title hopes were finally being declared dead by the media and many of their own supporters. As I wrote here back in November, I never really believed in Chelsea’s title challenge and my lack of faith tended to be borne out in the data (see here and here). I am now going to say something similar about Manchester City’s title challenge.

Manchester City’s chance of winning this season’s Premier League currently stands at around 6% according to the latest computations from our predictive analytic engine, the Euro Club Index. We would therefore expect a team in Manchester City’s relative position to win the league about once every 16 seasons. This is already less chance than the Euro Club Index gave Chelsea when Benitez took over in November.

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Manchester United’s chance of winning their 20th league title is currently around 93% according to the Euro Club Index so we would expect a team in their relative position at this stage to become league champions around 15 out of every 16 seasons. To be complete, Chelsea’s chances have declined to 0.6% or one league title every 160 seasons given the current records of the clubs, their relative strengths and the schedules remaining.

The Euro Club Index predicts Manchester United to finish on 89 points which, if they achieve it, will probably give them the Premier League title. Getting 89 or 90 points is almost certainly a bridge too far for Manchester City as only six clubs have taken 45 points from a sequence of 17 matches AT ANY TIME during a Premier League season over the last 12 years. Even if we make it 44 and a possible goal difference title win for City again, only nine clubs have done this. Looking only at the final 17 matches of a 38-match Premier League season, only three clubs have taken 44 or more points from their last 17 fixtures and it hasn’t happened since Manchester United did it in 2002/2003.

Those figures come from the excellent James Grayson whose blog and Twitter feed I heartily recommend. I asked James to provide me with the teams who have taken at least 40 points from a sequence of 17 matches at any time (so not only the last 17 matches) during the last 12 Premier League seasons in order to see what Manchester City would need to do if it is possible to win the title this season with 85 points. Below is a table of the clubs who have managed 40 or more points in a 17 match streak during that span of seasons. I have also added those that produced this sort of streak during their last 17 matches of the season.

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The first key number in the table above is Manchester United’s 43 points in a sequence of 17 this season as this can improve if they take at least four points from their next two matches. Only one of the nine teams in the last 12 seasons to have recorded a sequence of 44+ points in 17 matches during the season has failed to end the season as champions and United could join that group.

To have any hope of winning the Premier League title, Manchester City will need to add themselves to the 26 times above that a team has taken 40+ points in a 17 match sequence at any time during the season. Even then that will only give them a minimum of 85 points which may well not be enough. Only 11 of the clubs listed in the table managed 40 or more points in their last 17 fixtures.

A final thing that we can look at is the ISG coefficients for the two clubs which I introduced in this post. Manchester United are currently four points ahead of their total from the exact same fixtures last season whereas Manchester City are two points down on theirs. This is a net improvement of six points for United on last season in comparison to their rivals when they finished the season level on 89 points.

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Click on the graphic to see the full interactive version.

Looking at the remaining fixtures for the two Manchester clubs and where they can gain and lose points in comparison with last season, we get the following picture:

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Manchester City took 42 points from the exact same fixtures which are remaining last season and United took 41 from theirs. If this is repeated, Manchester United will still win the Premier League by six points as shown in the earlier graphic. The question for Manchester City supporters who believe in a second successive Premier League title is where can City gain those six extra points from or, more importantly, where will United lose them?