Categories

Archive

The Dynamics of Relegation in the Premier League: Early Warning Signs and Seeing the Forest for the Trees


(c) 2011 mirrorfootball.co.uk

In hindsight, relegation often seems inevitable. If you had asked the pundits, Blackpool’s demotion to the Championship last year was all but a done deal in August. But do the data agree? And what can they tell us about the inevitability and predictability of relegation ahead of time, rather than after the fact?

It’s not an easy question to answer. The trick to avoiding what psychologists call hindsight bias is to spot trends before they become facts. But that’s a hard thing to do in the middle of a season when the weekly performance of teams varies for all kinds of reasons and the hoopla and grind of the season make it difficult to see the forest – the real performance of a club – for the trees (some examples are here). Moreover, there are so many different and variable data points to consider – match outcomes, individual player form, injuries, you name it – that normal data analysis techniques aren’t always ideal for assessing what is really going on. And finally, to avoid seeing relegation as inevitable requires analysts to be on the lookout for early warning signs – but how would we know what those signs might be and when they might show up?

To explore how these challenges can be dealt with, let’s look at what happens to relegated clubs during the course of an entire season with data from 2011-12. Some obvious questions you might ask of the data are these:

  • How did relegated clubs perform?
  • Were there obvious trends in performance early in the season – did relegated clubs get better or worse over the course of the season?
  • Were the trends in performance radically different between relegated and non-relegated clubs?

Answering these questions means looking at data over time – trends in performance. It also means cutting through the thicket and noise that is inherent in any performance data that vary across teams, and especially from week to week. Analytically, this means that we are interested in both the long-term (season-long) and short-term (week to week) trends in performance. A nifty technique called lowess smoothing regressions - also known as locally weighted polynomial regression – can provide some answers. While it may sound fancy, it’s actually quite simple. Lowess smoothing is a regression technique that allows us to drill down to the true underlying trends in the data in a way that is sensitive to short-term fluctuations and allows curvilinear relationships. Simply, instead of fitting one straight line through the data for, say, a whole season, the technique takes so-called localized subsets of data (weeks) and runs many (in our case, literally hundreds) of regressions to weed out the outliers and identify the shared trends in the short- and the longer-run.

But enough of the econometrics – how does it look in practice?


To understand how clubs’ fortunes are different, as a first step, we can take match data for clubs that were relegated and those that were not, and compare their performance over time. This allows us to establish their trends – but the key to the lowess analyses is that it allows us to pick out the underlying signal in the data around which clubs’ performance profiles vary.

Offensive Production
So first, here are the trends in goal production among relegated and non-relegated clubs over the course of 2010-11 season, as described by the best fitting lowess regression lines.

As the graphs show, in terms of goal production in 2010-11, all clubs declined somewhat over the course of the first 10 weeks of the season and recovered to the early season levels by Week 20. However, clubs that were relegated steadily declined in their offensive performance (by about 10-15%) after Week 20. In contrast, as a whole, the clubs that were not relegated improved offensively over the course of the season (starting around Week 12). The numbers show that relegated clubs started at a lower level of performance and then deteriorated after passing the season’s halfway point, while clubs that stayed up got better. By the end of the year, the gap between the relegated clubs and the rest of the league was sizable (compare performance levels in early weeks to the last few weeks).

Defensive Production
What about defensive production? Here’s what the picture looks like (recall that more goals conceded are a bad thing on this graph).
Looking at the clubs that stayed up, their levels of defensive performance was very consistent during the course of the season (and better than that of the relegated clubs). In contrast, after about Week 12, clubs that were relegated rapidly declined in their defensive performance (by a whopping 60% or so). The strong U-shaped curve to the trend tells us that the relegated clubs defended poorly early in the season, improved to levels roughly equal to the rest of the league about a third of the way through the season, but then saw a massive and steady deterioration in performance as the year wore on to the tune to about a goal per match by the end of the year.
One objection that could be raised to the analyses is that they compare apples and oranges since we are comparing the three relegated clubs to all clubs that stayed up – strugglers and eventual champions. As a result, perhaps the picture would be different when we compare like with like. To see if that is the case, the next graph shows the defensive production of the three clubs that were eventually relegated as well as that of the three clubs right above them that barely beat the drop (Blackburn, Wigan, and Wolves). 
To see if their performance trends look the same or different from those of the relegated clubs, take a look at the next graph.

As we saw already, the left side of the graph shows that clubs that went down got worse on defence after Week 12. But in stark contrast, as a group, the clubs that barely beat the drop actually improved on defense in the second half of season – their goals conceded trends point down, not up. So while the relegated clubs and their most direct competitors looked fairly similar at the season’s halfway point, their performance profiles radically changed in the second half of the year.
So what do we make of these results? As always, a major caveat is that these are data for only one season; and for the sake of simplicity, we are looking only at goals scored and conceded, rather than more finely grained data. But if we take the results at face value, they tell us that clubs’ performance profiles undergo significant change over the course of a season – and that playing well and being safe in December may have little to do with a club’s fortunes come May. In fact, some trends start taking shape about a third of the season in. As importantly, the data clearly show that there is significant room for improvement (and deterioration) in the second half of the season, so improvement over the course of the season and especially after the January transfer window is likely to be key to a successful drive to stave off relegation. Finally, if we look carefully at the data for clubs relegated in the 2010/11 season, we see that the deterioration in offensive performance was much less than their deterioration in defensive performance – it surely looks as though poor defense is what has West Ham, Blackpool, and Birmingham fighting for a chance to rejoin the Premiership this year.

Read more ›

The Lure of the January Fix: A Data-Based Review of Bolton’s, Everton’s, and QPR’s Transfer Strategies

By Laban Scott Libby

In a world of unrelenting pressure for results, the January transfer window offers the tempting opportunity for the quick fix. For clubs contending for the championship or Europe, it encourages the hunt for that one piece of the puzzle that will make the club complete; and for clubs fighting relegation, that one special player may seem like the difference between another year among the world’s top or a long year of away games at Barnsley and Peterborough. Because of the lure of the fix, January transfer window activity by clubs also provides a window into what management sees as the club’s weaknesses and strengths.

A couple of weeks ago, SBTN provided some benchmarking of clubs’ offensive and defensive performance during the first 20 weeks of the season. Below, I spend some time reviewing the transfers clubs in fact made to see if and what kind of insight they provide into clubs’ thinking and strategies. To start, total transfer expenditure by Premier League clubs had reached £59m as of February 1st. This made it a window of relative austerity compared to last January’s bumper sales record £225m. With the numbers flying around considerably less heady than 2011, significant outlays by Chelsea (£20.5m), QPR (£10.5m) and Newcastle (£10m) represented well over half of all the money spent during January. Gary Cahill and Papiss Demba Cissé represent the only permanent first-team signings made by clubs in the current top eight, with loan deals the preferred choice of many teams throughout the league.

In the bottom half of the table, clubs employed a variety of transfer approaches. Both West Brom and Wigan apparently decided that Birmingham City was the one-stop shop for survival saviours, plundering the promotion hopefuls for Liam Ridgewell and Jean Beausejour, respectively. But most clubs were more reserved. Stoke chose not to make a single signing; Swansea and Wolves both opted for loan deals and small transfers under £250,000; temporary loanee Robbie Keane was Aston Villa’s sole addition; and Fulham’s main signing, striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, was helped along by Bobby Zamora’s last minute move 3 miles north to QPR. Blackburn, meanwhile, seemed to be hoping that a successful transfer window is just as much about whom you keep as whom you buy, and if they can somehow lift themselves out of the relegation zone come May then holding onto an unhappy Chris Samba may prove a masterstroke.

Of those clubs deciding that significant reinforcements were necessary, Everton and QPR featured heavily in the Deadline Day transfer activity; together with Bolton (£6.5m), the Toffees (£6.5m) and Rangers (£10.5m) spent the most amongst clubs outside the top six.*

These are the basic facts. But what do match data tell us about each side’s performance levels this season and how the performance of the players they brought in may or may not help them improve in the remainder of the 2011/12 season? To get a handle on these, I take a look at each of the three club’s and player’s performance stats to diagnose what, specifically, ails the clubs and how the players’ performance profiles may rectify gaps in performance. As you will see below, the numbers and transfers tell very different stories about each of the three clubs.**

Toffees Target Goals

Everton bought striker Nikica Jelavic from Glasgow Rangers and attacking midfielder Darron Gibson from Manchester United, whilst loaning wingers Landon Donovan and Steven Pienaar. With fans perennially protesting at the club’s lack of expenditure, Everton’s outlay is notable, despite the signing of striker Nikica Jelavic hinging on the income from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov’s return to Russia. So why did Everton decide to loosen the purse strings at this point in this season, and will it give them a new edge?

All four players are attack-minded reinforcements, and the reasons behind this are obvious. At the time of writing (about a week after the closing of the transfer window), Everton lie tenth in the Premier League table (11th on goals scored) – below expectations for a club who have finished in the top eight in each of the last five seasons. Defensively, the Toffees have been the 6th most secure in the league, conceding only 27 goals to date. As these numbers and other analyses show, their current position in the table reflects their inability to impose themselves sufficiently at the other end of the pitch, scoring just 24 goals in 24 Premier League matches – the third lowest in the league. Clearly, Jelavic’s return of two goals every three games in the Scottish Premier League this season clearly proved too tempting to pass up.

Beyond Everton’s modest goals total, it is worth noting that only about half of them (54%) have been from open-play, with seven coming from set-pieces and four from penalties. This despite the fact that 74% of their shots have come from central areas, and three-quarters of their attacks have come from the flanks – equally from both sides despite Leighton Baines’ prominence. This correlates with their production of the second most crosses per game in the league (26). Clearly, Everton have not produced as many open play goals as they should have. Donovan has fit in well to this style of play since his two-month loan began at the turn of the year. He has produced more than five crosses a game and created 14 scoring chances in his six league games so far. With the American’s loan soon to end, Pienaar has presumably been brought in to play a similar wide role, as well as looking to improve upon his previous scoring record at Everton (4 goals in 30 matches in 09/10).

Taken together, Everton’s lack of goals is thus not due to a dearth in shots (14 per game; 8th most in the league). However, quality seems to be lacking, with only 29% of Everton’s shots having found the target and just 7% resulting in a goal. For Rangers, Jelavic put up stellar numbers; he worked the keeper with 46% of his shots, and converted 1 in 4 of his shots into goals. The caveat, of course, is that he played for the best side in a much weaker league. But any returns anywhere near his Scottish numbers will surely help to boost the Toffee’s scoring record.

Goal scoring contributions from midfield would also be welcomed given the hole left by the decline of Tim Cahill. Here, the onus is on Darron Gibson to produce more strikes of the kind that recently beat league leaders Manchester City. With Phil Jagielka soon to return from a six-week lay-off, Everton’s strong defensive form should continue to improve as it did throughout the first 20 weeks of the season – as discussed previously on this blog. With new attacking additions in place, and alongside attacking full-backs Baines and Hibbert, Steven Pienaar will look to help provide chances for top man Jelavic, especially once Landon Donovan returns to MLS. Frequent shooting is likely to remain a part of Everton’s game and Darron Gibson will hope to improve their long-range success rate. If Nikica Jelavic can successfully translate his form in Scotland to the Premier League then the swap-shop deal following the exit of commentator’s-nightmare Bilyaletdinov could well prove the biggest boost to the Evertonian cause.

Surely, the winter transfer window’s surprise were Everton who altered their recent transfer approach in order to bolster their attack. At the moment, Sunderland in eighth and Norwich in ninth both have a 40% greater goal-per-game ratio. Moyes and the Toffees’ fans will be hoping their goals tally will receive a boost as a result, and if there is no let up in their defensive rigidity a climb back up into European contention come May could well be in the cards.

Balancing the Books Might Tip Wanderers Over the Edge

Despite their precarious position in the relegation zone and performance issues at both ends of the pitch, Bolton followed a book-balancing approach to the winter transfer market. Given the club’s books, this may not be a surprise, but the question is whether this strategy will pay off on the pitch. Of the £7m they received for central defender Gary Cahill, £2.5m went back into buying another central defender, Tim Ream, from American side New York Red Bulls. But Ream is not exactly a one-to-one replacement for Cahil. In the short term at least, the void left by Cahill is more likely to be filled by David Wheater teaming up with Zat Knight. Although they have made the most interceptions per game (19.4) and the fourth highest number of tackles per game (20.3), Bolton have conceded the second-most shots per game (17.5) this season and have the highest percentage of shots conceded within the penalty area (63%). For a team with that kind of defensive record, the loss of an England international who has won the most offsides in the league and makes more than 9 clearances per match is likely to hurt Bolton’s survival chances significantly.

Despite ranking well in the goal scoring stakes for relegation strugglers, 13th with 28 goals in 24 games, the Wanderers reinvested the majority of their transfer income (£4m) in England U21 striker Marvin Sordell from Watford. With a Championship record of 8 goals in 25 starts Sordell (20) is clearly an investment for the future, but Owen Coyle may also hope he can support and provide some relief for Bolton’s predominant attacking threat, Ivan Klasnic, this season – he is both top goal scorer (7) and top assister (4).

Given Bolton’s defensive struggles so far this year, it is not a great leap to suggest that selling their best defender will not help their survival fight, even if USA international Tim Ream makes a significant impression during his first few months in the Premier League. Although the data available on both Ream and Sordell are insufficient for a full picture, it is unlikely that either of Wanderers’ January investments will have enough impact to improve the side beyond where it was on January 1st. So Bolton look weaker on defense – their primary Achilles heel – and stronger on offense – where they had been doing reasonably well, as a result of their recent transfer activity. If they do survive, the relegation battle won’t have been won by the moves they made in the winter transfer window.

QPR Overhaul to Steady The Survival Ship

Queens Park Rangers have taken a different approach still, following the appointment of Mark Hughes as manager. Unlike Everton who sought offensive reinforcements and Bolton who sought to balance the books, Rangers looked for help on both ends of the pitch. Spending over £10m, the Premier League new-boys have put down a marker of their intention to remain a top-flight outfit. As recently discussed on this blog, Rangers have consistently underperformed on defence, whilst their attacking form has also been disappointing and deteriorated between matches 10-20. As a result, QPR brought in no less than six players in various positions during January, three of whom were permanent signings. This is a substantial overhaul of the squad half-way through the season.

The data show that the Hoops have done well on shot creation, accumulating the 10th most in the league (323). However, this has not resulted in an equal goal return as they lie 16th in the goal scoring charts with 25 in their first 24 matches. Contributing heavily to their poor chance conversion rate of 8% could be the fact that 56% of all their shots have been from outside the penalty area – the highest in the league. Clearly, QPR have taken more of a direct approach to offense, making the third fewest short passes per game (299) and playing one in five passes as a long ball.

If bringing in Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cissé is a direct attempt to remedy QPR’s lack of finishing quality, the available statistics suggest that there is room for argument whether these were the wisest moves.*** These arguments should revolve around quantity and style of play. On the quantity side, Cissé has scored one goal with 48 shots in 18 appearances (13 starts) for Lazio this season. Even factoring in the low scoring nature of Serie A, this is still a very low level of chance conversion. For his previous Premier League sides, Cissé averaged less than a goal every three appearances at both Sunderland and Liverpool. For Fulham, Zamora has scored 5 goals this season having taken only 31 shots in 15 appearances (14 starts). This chance conversion rate of 16% could be construed as promising, considering QPR’s challenge of finishing chances off. However, Fulham have actually created almost two shots more per game than QPR this season (15.3 v 13.5), suggesting that Zamora’s low shot rate is unlikely to improve at Loftus Road unless Rangers also find a way to create more chances and more chances inside the box.

In terms of style of play, both Cissé and Zamora have performed well on assists, with 6 and 5 respectively, and have reasonable pass success rates, 71% and 75%. These metrics indicate both players have performed more of a second-striker role with their old clubs. At QPR, Heidar Helguson has been the main striking threat this year, scoring on 8 with a chance conversion rate of 20%, whilst also winning four aerial duels per match. His low pass success (58%) and assist number (2), suggests that he is definitely better suited to being the main striker. Helguson’s goal rates have dropped recently, as Rangers’ have too, and the 34 year-old may struggle to sustain his early form throughout the rest of a long year.

This could prove costly for Mark Hughes. Cissé and Zamora are undoubtedly high profile signings who have already notched a goal each for QPR. But performance data indicate that both are better suited to a supporting role alongside top-man Helgusson rather than providing the answers to Rangers’ finishing problems. At a minimum, it suggests significant tactical challenges for Hughes and his staff.

Further back, the signing of defensive midfielder Samba Diakite on loan from Nancy seems to be a direct replacement for Alejandro Faurlin following his season-ending injury. As QPR’s top tackler and top interceptor, as well the top tackler in the league (4.5 per game!), Faurlin will be a difficult act to follow, especially in front of one of the most porous defences in the league. With Diakite having conceded more fouls (41) than tackles (33) in Ligue 1 this season, Hughes may also need Shaun Derry to plug the Faurlin-shaped hole in QPR’s midfield.

In defence, not only are QPR fifth in terms of goal concession, but they rank fourth for shots conceded (16.2 p.g.) and only 18th for interceptions (13.8 p.g.). Coupled with Rangers ranking fifth for tackles per game (20.3) and centre-backs Danny Gabbidon and Anton Ferdinand ranking second and third respectively for clearances per game across the whole league, the data certainly suggest that QPR’s defending is often last ditch and ineffective. In response, Nedum Onuoha has been drafted straight into the back four, at a cost of £2.5m. If he can flourish with regular football as he did on loan for Sunderland last season, he may prove an astute buy to help patch them up at the back. Taye Taiwo has also been brought in at left-back on loan from AC Milan. Having only played 4 Serie A games this season, the data are not sufficient to render judgment about his performance this year. But Taiwo’s impressive form at Marseille in previous years indicates the Nigerian could significantly improve the Hoops, both in defence and in attack (4 goals and 3 assists in 10/11). Both Onuoha and Taiwo plug important and obvious holes for the club.

Owner Tony Fernandes showed his support for Mark Hughes with significant monetary backing in the winter transfer window, with the six signings reflecting QPR’s need for improvement to avoid relegation fears. A lack of finishing prompted the arrivals of Zamora, Cissé, and Macheda, but absent significant changes in form or style, these men face an uphill battle to improve Rangers’ poor chance conversion rates. Defensive reinforcements Onuoha and Taiwo were much needed, given QPR’s woeful defensive record thus far. Perhaps the task of standing in for the injured Faurlin in defensive midfield will be most critical and could prove too much for Derry or Diakite, at the risk of nullifying the positive strides made at the back. QPR might have to rely on clubs beneath them failing to improve rather than on their new signings driving them upwards if they are to repeat the Premier League adventure next season.

Prosperity Through Austerity?

The January transfer window again proved most popular with those sides facing the bottom of the league. Bolton’s long-term planning for Gary Cahill’s departure amounted to the signing of American international centre-back Tim Ream and young striker Marvin Sordell. And while both signings may prove valuable in the future, it is unlikely that either will prove decisive during the relegation battle they are currently embroiled in. QPR were very active in the market, seeing room for improvement all over the park and bringing in six new faces. Whilst the defensive additions could well help to shore up their leaky back-line, their choices of striking options are more surprising, given the distinctive playing styles of Zamora and Cissé and the distinct quality of finishing that Rangers dearly need.

Although their Premier League status is not at stake, Everton felt compelled to temper their recent austerity measures and bring in a number of attacking options – and at great prices. Donovan’s impact has been positive, but he is shortly to depart. In his stead, Steven Pienaar should maintain the service to the forwards, whilst the hope of Toffees fans must be to see the arrival of Nikica Jelavic as the best contribution Diniyar Bilyaletdinov could made to their cause. The impetus of several new attacking players, on the back of a string of good recent results, could well be what Everton need to clamber back up into the top 8 and may prove the most astute dealing done in January 2012.

* However, Rangers’ net spend under new manager Mark Hughes was around £9.5m, whilst the Toffees were left about £1m down and Bolton came out of January with a £500,000 profit.
** Premier League / Serie A/ Ligue 1 data: whoscored.com; Scottish Premier League / MLS data: soccernet.espn.go.com
*** Loan-singing Federico Macheda seems likely to be mainly a squad player following the arrivals of Zamora and Cissé.
Transfer Values: telegraph.co.uk

Read more ›

Norwich, QPR, and Swansea: How Are the Promoted Clubs Faring This Year?

Now that the January transfer window is closed, clubs are gearing up for the rest of the season. It’s a particularly intense time for the three promoted clubs. Before the season, many observers had them on their list of likely candidates for relegation… Read more ›

Everton and Fulham, Quo Vadis? Data From This Season

On this side of the Atlantic, the football news that received quite a bit of attention over the past few days was Friday’s FA Cup tie between Everton and Fulham, featuring Clint “Hat Trick” Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard. Everton won, and as S… Read more ›

Manchester City’s Offensive Production: A PS

Here’s a short PS to my earlier post about Manchester City’s offensive performance so far this season. It provides a summary of shot creation and finishing for the first and second 10 weeks of the season. Dots mark the club’s performance in an individu… Read more ›

What’s Ailing Arsenal? Diagnosing the Gunners’ (Offensive) Weakness With Some Data

Arsenal have had a most unusual season of highs and lows. After a rough start to the campaign, the ship seems to have steadied. Robin van Persie is on pace for a record setting season; his 19 goals so far are only one less than last year’s 20 scored by Golden Boot winners Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov. And iconic legend Thierry Henry has been signed on loan to lend some offensive firepower, experience, and spirit. At the same time, the 36 points Arsenal have accumulated at this point in the campaign are the fewest during Arsene Wenger’s reign. This Arsenal season has been anything but boring for outside observers and surely nerve-wracking for supporters.

But what do the numbers tell us about what the Gunners are producing on the pitch? Have Arsenal improved? What have they been doing well? Is it offense, defense, both, or neither?

To start, let’s take a look at the trends in the stuff that ultimately matters the most: scoring and conceding goals. The graphs below show the numbers of each, with a best-fitting trend line superimposed to see if there is a pattern to Arsenal’s performance over the course of the season to date.

It only takes one quick glance to figure out that Arsenal’s offensive season has been one of a significant up and a notable down. Arsenal started the season without much offensive success but saw a significant increase in offensive output all the way to Week 10. But that high point didn’t last; instead, it gave way to a steady slide in offensive output all the way to the halfway point of the season. As it stands now, Arsenal’s offense is not doing nearly as well as it was 8-10 weeks ago.
In some contrast, Arsenal’s inconsistent defensive displays that marked the start of the season seem to have been overcome over the course of the last three months. Halfway through, Szczęsny & Co. managed to steady the ship, put in consistent performances, and produce 7 clean sheets in the process.

Taken together, this produces a mixed picture of where Arsenal stand at this point in the year. On the offensive end of the pitch, after improving significantly two months into the season, and despite van Persie’s record-setting goalscoring pace, the Gunners’ sharpshooters have been silenced somewhat. In contrast, their defense have allowed only .7 goals on average in the last 10 matches.
So what has happened to Arsenal’s offense? To answer that question, lets’ look at chance creation and finishing – two of the most critical dimensions of offensive performance for any club.


The next graph plots the number of shots per match during the course of the 2011/12 season to date, along with a trend line superimposed as before. Lo and behold, Arsenal’s shot creation did not see any strong trends one way or another. While it fluctuated quite a bit from match to match between around 10 (or less) to 20 and above, it did not reveal any clear drift up or down. While perhaps inconsistent, shot creation hasn’t gotten worse.

This pattern stands in noticeable contrast to the Gunners’ efficiency numbers, which seem to be largely responsible for the club’s declining offensive fortunes. While efficiency went from literally 0 in Week 1 to an almost incredible .4 (or 1 goal for every 2.5 shots) in Week 10, Weeks 11-20 witnessed a slide in efficiency. 
So where does this leave Arsenal? We can put these various pieces of information together in a chart of shot creation and efficiency, with each circle denoting a single match. To help orient readers, I added a blue line denoting the league’s median team (the 50% percentile).
This picture isn’t pretty if you’re an Arsenal fan. The team ended very few matches in the upper right hand quadrant – the quadrant where teams are located if they produce more shots than 50% of the league and convert those chances into goals. Instead, most of the Gunners’ matches show them to the left of the vertical blue line – indicating matches in which they created many as well as just a few shots, but also converted these at a rate worse than 50% of Premiership clubs. If you ask me, finishing seems to have become the North London club’s Achilles heel, despite van Persie’s terrific performances so far.
As with my analysis of Manchester City’s performance to date, it’s easy to make to much of these relatively simple data points, but they do beg the question of how Arsenal’s problem – if properly diagnosed here – can be solved. More consistent chance creation is one – fluctuations between 8 and 24 shots per match are significant – but finishing is the other important piece of the puzzle. For supporters (and analysts), rumors of Robin van Persie handing in a transfer request couldn’t come at a worse time for the Gunners.*
* Why that may matter in numeral terms, take a look at Andy Kriebel’s excellent analysis here.

Read more ›

Goal Trends In The Premier League: The Inverted U of the 2011/12 Season

With the pressure and excitement of each and every week’s matches, it’s sometimes easy to lose the overall plot of how a season has evolved in the league as a whole. Since we are just past the halfway point of the season, I thought I’d take a look at a… Read more ›