10 Points: Liverpool's Title Charge, Southampton's Season, Save% & Home/Away Form
1) Goal Of The Week #1: Wayne Rooney
OK, we'll ignore that the 'keeper stumbles around like a 3am drunk outside a kebab house and instead focus on Rooney's wonder hit from just inside the West Ham half.
2) Slowdive (Southampton)
What's happened to Southampton these days?A late loss away to Tottenham isn't the trigger to start a debate on Southampton's season that's for sure. But do you recall Southampton's hot start to the season and talk of a European push on the back of their defensive solidity? Yeah, well then this happened:
Southampton were cruising along at 'top 4' pace for the first 11 games and then the wins dried up. So what went wrong?
Not much wrong here. TSR has improved slightly to ~59% and SoTR has cooled to ~57%. Both numbers are pretty darn good. Still, we haven't found what went wrong, maybe we need to look instead at what went right for Southampton in those first 10 or 11 games.
This is Southampton's rolling points per game, rolling PDO and rolling save%. See the early season spikes?
Southampton were cruising at 2 ppg for the first 11 games off the back of some good shots numbers (gr. 2) but more likely is that Southampton's excellent points haul for the first 11 games was a mirage. A mirage built upon an unsustainable PDO (112.1 at game 11). That PDO was mainly driven by a bananas high Save%. Neither save% or PDO are particularly stable or repeatable metrics.
Southampton haven't done much wrong this season. The club has some excellent players, they play nice football, post excellent shots numbers but their Save%, once so kind and supposely tactics driven, has crashed. A change in tactics, L&*$, injuries, or a drastic, almost unheard of, change from where opponents shoot from could all be causes.
Linking save% to a cooling off of Southampton's points per game number is a quick and dirty analysis. Some may say overly facile, but it fits and right now, without talking about any of that bullshit like chemistry, or belief or confidence, the beautifully crashing arc of Southampton's save% may well be the the single biggest contributor to Southampton's failure to maintain early season ppg pace.
3) Premier League Save%
Speaking of Save% (goals against/shots on target against) let's look at each teams save% and visualize just how it regresses over the course of the season.
Notice the early season "noise" and then the gradual tightening of the pack. Southampton's save%, the league's best at game 11, was held up as evidence of an excellent defensive system. Southampton's save% is now the worst in the league.
Personally, I wouldn't put too much stock in save% as an evaluator of defensive performance.
4) Teams Get Wrecked. Don't worry about it.
Man City 5-0 Fulham
Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal
Cardiff 3-6 Liverpool
Aston Villa 1-4 Stoke.
Three of these results are born of similar circumastances, the other is not. Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool are likely the three best teams in the league this season and, occasionlly, these teams wil wreck their opposition. They have the firepower, the systems and the individual personnel to run up the score if the opposition is weak or having a really bad day (Arsenal). Aston Villa vs Stoke is a horrible result if you are a Villa fan, but games like this will happen with a young team who spends tons of money on players who are so bad that they pay those players to stay away from the football club.
Villa are fine, and so is Lambert, probably. Patience neeeded.
As for the other teams blown out this weekend and all across the previous game weeks by the big 3, shit happens. If you are unfortunate enough to play these hugely talented teams when they are hot, then good luck trying to hold back the tide. City have wrecked teams better than Fulham (Tottenham x2, Arsenal, Nnited, Newcastle, Norwich). Liverpool seem to wreck everyone and Chelsea have the talent, if not always the desire, to run up the score.
Arsenal fans will be embarrassed by that 6-0 but it shouldn't lead to a mass wringing of hands and pulling out of one's hair. Arsenal were terrible, Chelsea were awesome. Next up for Arsenal is Swansea. Arsenal will likely win.
Blowout's are embarrassing but they usually aren't a genuine indicator of the gap in talent between two sides. Nor should blowouts be a lightning rod for all the supposed ills that a club has. Most blowouts are a caused by hot shooting/bad defensive plays, terrible player decisions, heads dropping. Some of these things can be fixed in time for the next fixture.
As Arsenal will demonstrate on Tuesday.
5) Wish Fulfillment
Liverpool could be just 8 short, cup tie-like games from one of the most unlikely title wins in PL history. 28 points off of top spot last year, Liverpool are on course (using ppg) to record ~82 points and that my friends is some turnaround.
Reasons for such improvement in no particular order so as not to anger the (sometimes) sensitive section of Liverpool fans: Suarez, Rodgers tactics, L*$^, Sturridge, counter attacking philosophy, score effects, improvement of Henderson and Sterling, Gerrard at DM. Add all these up, plus plenty more, and you get a perfect storm of skill and circumstances that have helped smash Liverpool through all pre-season expectations and onwards toward the PL title.
Can Liverpool win it? Well, my opinion has changed over the last few months
August Top 4 would be an amazing achievement.
September Liverpool's underlying numbers are poor and down YonY. No top 4.
October Suarez returns and apes Papiss Cisse and everything he hits goes in (allow me the odd creative exaggeration!)
November Mixed bag.
December The crushing of the weaklings begins. Top 4 is likely on.
January Liverpool carry on winning, the top 4 is a real possibility now.
February top 4 cemented. Could they win the title?
March Holy shit! Liverpool may win this thing, but likely won't.
Now, we have just two months left in the season, Liverpool are just 4 points off the top (and with a game in hand) and with home fixtures against the two titans of the PL to come. It is a real, if slightly exaggerated, possibility that Liverpool may win the title. You know what, I have a problem with the usage of the word "exaggerated" in that previous sentence. I can think of reasons why Liverpool can win the title but not many reasons why Liverpool cannot win the title.
Why can't Liverpool win this thing? Is it because we don't see Liverpool as an established power with a recent history of top 4 qualification behind them? Is it because Rodgers isn't a big name? Is it because Liverpool concede too many goals or that SaS are seemingly going to run forever hot?
Yes, Liverpool may have had some of the conversion percentages run their way this year but Liverpool are also posting some amazing stats in terms of share of the shots on target at close, tied and overall. Maybe Liverpool will win this thing, and if they do they deserve credit in the places where it is due. We have all summer to pick at those other, weak places where Liverpool's "l*$^" held firm (shots locations against, scoring%, SaS conversion%.)
This section was just an excuse to post this song...
6) Points Per Position
Really simple idea this one: If we take each position in the table and divide that teams points by the number of games played we can create a points per game (PPG) number for each position. What I have then done is place each positions PPG number and placed it against the ten year PPG average for that league position.
So how does 1st place in 13/14 shape up vs the 10 year PL average for 1st place? 17th to 10 year average for 17th?
Man City (3rd) and Tottenham (5th) look of out of place in the PPG curve. The bottom 11 teams, as a group, are underperforming against the 10 year average. The top 9 teams are overperforming.
I wouldn't think about this year over/under performance too much. It may or may not be a quriky season. There may also be some levelling out of the over/under performance, but right now, with just 8 or 9 games left, I'd doubt it.
7) Home & Away Form
I could present a table listing each teams win/loss record and points won on the road, but that's too easy found in various places online. Instead, I am going to present home/away tables using each teams TSR (share of the shots), SoTR (share of the shots on target), Goal% (share of the goals) and PDO.
If a teams Goal% is significantly higher than their SoTR then the difference is shooting percentages for and against.
Man City are crazy good (~85% of the goals) and have benefited from a PDO so high it may as well be orbiting the Earth.
The actual top 4 post the 4 highest PDO's, some of this is due to things like systems, talent, score effects.
United post a crazy PDO on the road which has powered them to posting the second best away Goal% in the league.
Cardiff, Palace, Norwich, Fulham and Stoke get absolutely crushed by Goal% when on the road. Talent and tactics I guess.
8) Quick Hits
@Jair1970 wrote a roundup of his own. Go read it.
Richard Whittall also has his roundup here.
This new blog (only in Italian) is pretty good. Use Translate (Link). Go follow him/her too.
Steve Sidwell did this in the dying minutes of the Man City v Fulham game.....this is a back pass with a slow moving ball.
I tried to make a gif of this sequence but it would not process. I think that was the machine's way of telling me that this sequence was just too awful to looped and watched for infinity. Video link is here.
Newcastle v Everton I quite like Newcastle this season, they post pretty good shots numbers, they have some talent and they've been a touch unlucky at home when we compare the share of the shots they have recorded compared to the share of the goals. As always, PDO fills the gap between shots% and goals% and Newcastle's home PDO is terrible.
Everton are posting slightly above average numbers on the road, injuries are starting to ease, only 4 wins away from home all season.
Anyone for a score draw?
Manchester United v Manchester City
Manchester City are really good. Manchester United under David Moyes are not so good. That's the narrative going into this game, a game which Man City are expected to win, and probably win handily. I'm not so sure, call me a pessimist, or a mentally scarred Man City fan but I think this game might be quite close.
Aguero and Dzeko (illness) may not play, RvP is missing for Man United. If City decide to play 3 in midfield and let the big beasts, Fernandinho and Toure, roam and destroy then it could get out of hand.
Narrow Man City victory. A draw wouldn't shock me. I hate pessimism!
Arsenal v Swansea
Arsenal luuurrve teams who post middling or below average shots numbers. Arsenal tend to beat said teams with alarming consistency. Swansea are a bang average shot team overall and seem to be drifting towards another safe and unexciting end to the season. Expect Arsenal to vanquish the visitors after the usual 45 to 60 minutes of false parity.
10) Goal Of The Week #2: Yaya Toure/Alexander Tettey
Spoilt for choice this week!