REVIEW: Ajax equal record with fourth straight league title

FOOTBALL – Ajax have equalled a Dutch record by winning their fourth successive league championship. This had previously been achieved by HVV (1900-1903) and PSV (1986-1989 and 2005-2008). Frank de Boer has now won the Dutch league in each of his first four seasons as a head coach, something that had never previously been accomplished.

ANALYSE THIS: Eredivisie after 6 matches: Above or below expectations

PEC Zwolle are top of the Eredivisie after six matches with Heerenveen a surprise third and Feyenoord still languishing in the bottom three. Are these teams really performing above, or in the case of Feyenoord below, expectations though? Head of Analysis @simongleave had a look at the numbers. 

PEC Zwolle lead the Eredivisie after six matches and are clearly performing above expectations currently but by how much? There are three methods which we can use to take a look at this question; the first is something we used last season; simply compare the results this season with the exact same matches last term. We called this the ISG coefficient. The other two methods are similar to one another; using the percentage chance of each result from the Euro Club Index or from the bookmakers. In the case of the latter, the odds have to be adjusted so that they add to 100%.

image

PEC Zwolle’s 13 points from 18 is unsurprisingly regarded as a major overperformance according to these three methods. The club have between five and seven points more than expected at this stage but a note of caution; it is still early in the season and this can change quickly with a poor run of results.

The methods generally agree with one another in terms of whether a team is over or under performing. There is one exception – FC Utrecht – who incredibly took maximum points last season from the six fixtures they have played to date in 2013/2014. Compared to last season’s results, FC Utrecht are therefore the biggest underperformers. The bookmakers’ odds however assess Utrecht as overperformers with a point more than expected at this stage.

Last season’s top three of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV have all taken three points fewer from their six fixtures to date than they did last term. All three are also underperforming in comparison to the Euro Club Index or bookmakers’ odds. Perhaps the final points required to win the title will be down on last year’s?

Finally Heerenveen, who could reasonably have expected to be in mid-table at this stage but actually find themselves in third position. Marco van Basten’s team are overperforming on all three measures but will need to continue in this vein to challenge the bigger clubs. Heerenveen finished 27 points behind the top three last term and it seems unlikely that they can make up this sort of gap to challenge. The club’s forthcoming fixtures are not overly challenging though and it will be interesting to return for another look at Van Basten’s club after another six matches have been completed. 

ANALYSE THIS: Can Ajax do it again?

imageFOOTBALL – The Eredivisie begins again this weekend with PSV and FC Twente on 40 points, three points ahead of Ajax and Feyenoord who meet in this weekend’s second “Klassieker” of the season. Vitesse are a further two points back in fifth. Ajax have come from behind to win the Eredivisie title in the last two seasons and also nearly did so in 2009/2010, falling just short after closing the deficit with champions FC Twente from nine points to one in the last 16 matches. Can Ajax repeat these feats?

Ajax have been the best Eredivisie club over the final 16 matches of the season in each of the last three seasons. Last season appeared spectacular as they made up so much ground, overtaking five clubs along the way, but it was the 2009/2010 season which was the best last 16 matches by any Eredivisie club since three points for a win was introduced in the 1995/1996 season. Three years ago, Ajax took 46 of the last 48 possible points but this was not enough as they lost out on the title by one point.

image
Click on the graphic to see the full size version.

Looking at their two most recent title winning seasons, Ajax improved on results against their last 16 opponents on each occasion as the tables below show. In the 2010/2011 season, Ajax took two points more despite only having five opportunities to improve. Last season, despite winning their last 14 matches, their improvement in their results in the exact same fixtures was only eight points as they had also won nine of those the previous season.

image

* RKC Waalwijk compared to Willem II, ** De Graafschap compared to Sparta Rotterdam, *** Excelsior compared to RKC Waalwijk 

Moving onto comparing this term’s remaining fixtures with last, Ajax took 37 points from these 16 matches in 2011/2012. They won 11 of those matches and have five in which they can improve this term, starting with Feyenoord this weekend, a match which was drawn a season ago. That match is the only one remaining at the Arena which they didn’t win last time around. Ajax still have to visit Vitesse, PSV and Twente, venues at which Ajax took seven out of nine points last season so there is little room for error.

image

Ajax have averaged 34 points from their last 16 matches over the last 17 seasons but repeating that is unlikely to be enough this time around. They are likely to again require at least 37 points which is something they have managed to achieve in eight of those 17 seasons including each of the last three.