Season Review (part 2): A bit of statistical analysis

In a recent issue of FourFourTwo, there was a very interesting article about a company which has started analysing the results of the Premier League, and is using this information to advise clubs about what they should do to improve. There were several interesting results to come out of this analysis, particularly that Chelsea’s very strong home record wasn’t as much of a help as previously thought, as it was built on more draws than a title-chasing side could really afford. The most interesting thing, however, was the Power Table. This was a table which split the league table into ‘tiers’, and assessed a particular club’s performance against each team, and also each tier. The detail that these analysts went into was quite incredible, and I won’t be going that far, even though I am stealing their idea and creating an ‘Effectiveness Table’ (one aspect of the Power Table) for Forest’s season.

(I apologise for the rather unattractive tables, my HTML skills are very basic)

Position Team Home points Away Points Home effectiveness Away effectiveness Overall effectiveness
1st Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 0 0% 0% 0%
2nd Birmingham City 1 0 33% 0% 17%
3rd Sheffield United 0 1 0% 33% 17%
4th Reading 1 3 33% 100% 67%
5th Burnley 0 0 0% 0% 0%
6th Preston North End 3 0 100% 0% 50%
7th Cardiff City 0 0 0% 0% 0%
8th Swansea City 1 0 33% 0% 17%
9th Ipswich Town 1 0 33% 0% 17%
10th Bristol City 3 1 100% 33% 67%
11th Queens Park Rangers 1 0 33% 0% 17%
12th Sheffield Wednesday 3 0 100% 0% 50%
13th Watford 3 0 100% 0% 50%
14th Doncaster Rovers 0 1 0% 33% 17%
15th Crystal Palace 0 3 0% 100% 50%
16th Blackpool 1 1 33% 33% 33%
17th Coventry City 3 1 100% 33% 67%
18th Derby County 0 1 0% 33% 17%
19th Nottingham Forest
20th Barnsley 3 1 100% 33% 67%
21st Plymouth Argyle 3 0 100% 0% 50%
22nd Norwich City 0 3 0% 100% 50%
23rd Southampton 3 3 100% 100% 100%
24th Charlton Athletic 1 3 33% 100% 67%

For the next table, I have split the league table into four ‘tiers’. My tiers take the final league placing as the criteria, whereas those of the proper Power Table use things like annual turnover and average attendance as criteria. Obviously, there is a major difference between the two divisions, in that six teams change every year in the Championship, as opposed to only three in the Premier League, and therefore you don’t get the equivalents of Manchester United competing in the Championship every season.

  Home effectiveness Away effectiveness Overall effectiveness
Tier One 28% 22% 25%
Tier Two 50% 6% 28%
Tier Three 39% 39% 39%
Tier Four 67% 67% 67%

Now, the thing that stands out immediately is the effectiveness away from home against teams in Tier Two. 6% is a very low number (one point from a possible 18 – a draw at Bristol City). There could be several reasons for this; Forest might be more adventurous since they aren’t playing one of the really big teams, and yet the opposition is still good enough to take advantage of this adventure in Forest’s play and hit them on the break. Either way, it’s no surprise that these the away matches against these Tier Two sides occurred at the same time as Forest’s two major spells of bad form (late October-mid/late November and late January-late February), though this is very much a chicken-and-the-egg situation – did Forest’s bad form mean they lost to these sides, or was their weakness against Tier Two sides combined with the sudden flurry of matches against these sides the reason for the spells of bad form?

The other significant number is the low effectiveness at home to Tier Three sides. While 39% isn’t too bad, given that Forest managed to pick up just as many points away from home against these sides, when in theory they should be at a slight disadvantage, there is an argument for saying that Forest should have taken more points at home. As it was, they took seven points, and lost at home to Doncaster Rovers, Crystal Palace and Derby County.

Obviously, there are flaws in my approach. Given that Forest have greater resources than the likes of Doncaster, Barnsley, Plymouth, Blackpool, and even some teams like Watford and Crystal Palace, it could easily be argued that they should be in a higher tier than these sides, and this would change the perception of the club’s performance.  I fully expect the club to be considered a Tier Three or even Tier Two side next season, whether using my league position criteria or a more complex one involving financial measures.

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