Never have I seen a season where the race for the title is so open and inconclusive after 10 matchdays. I suppose it was to be expected with 4 managerial changes in the top 7 . Then came along the inevitable exodus of the best midfielder in the league from a club which was arguably as dependent on him than Rebecca Black was to the music industry. Perhaps it was to no surprise that the two clubs with some sort of stability suddenly looked like early contenders for the title. Of course, there was 😯
After 10 games, I thought it would be a good time to gauge where they stand in the title race. Now you may argue, I’m biased as a Chelsea fan who can’t stand the sight of Arsenal sitting 5 points ahead of the rest. Or that, I’m really excited to see United no where in the vicinity of the title. Both may well be true, but I decided to investigate.
My main assumption in this simple model is that 86 points will win the league this season. It maybe a tad lower than the average required to win the league in the last few seasons but I think even 86 points will be tough to achieve for any of the clubs, given the competitive nature this season.
My other assumption – Top 7 from last season are title contenders. I’m going to add Liverpool and Everton in the group of title contenders, as their performances have warranted to do so. Of course, its likely it won’t happen, but they’ve got to be placed in this elite pool. Now, let’s look at how a potential title contender could amass the 86 points.
Top 7 – As these are the big guns, a title contender can be given leeway to lose away yet win their home clash. That gives us 18 points (6 x 3)
Mid 5 – Its tricky to pick this but based on previous and current season’s performances, I’m going to include Southampton, Swansea, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Hull City in the mid-table. I agree this just based on a personal opinion rather than anything. Hull City is arguable as some may believe West Ham or Stoke warrants a place in the potential “banana peel” group. You’d think a title contender would be expected to win at home yet given some leeway to be able to draw the away fixture. That gives us 20 points (5 x 3 + 5 x 1)
Bottom 8 – A title contender is expected to win all their fixtures against this group, home and away. That gives us 48 points (8 x 3 x 2)
Yup, so that achieves the total of 86 points., which should guarantee the league this season.
That gives us a chance to assess how each of the title contenders have deviated from their target. For example, Spurs losing to West Ham at home meant a deviation of -3, while Chelsea drawing at Old Trafford meant +1. Also, I’ve added in the next 6 prospects for each team.
And….wait-for-it….here’s how the league performances so far could be read.
Deviation = +1 ; Actual Points = 20 ; Target for Next 6 = 18
Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise after all 😉 Our home record has been excellent this season, as opposed to the previous two seasons where home felt like an away fixture. Perhaps it is the Mourinho factor, perhaps not. We’ve had pretty difficult away games against Man United, Spurs and Everton.
Looking ahead to the next 6, it just goes to show important this period is for the Blues. Historically, November has been our bogey month, but Mourinho has got an early warning after the upset at Newcastle. It’s going to be key how Mourinho adds more width to Chelsea to break up defences, which has been our standing problem for the last few seasons and continues to be so. We don’t have full-backs who are capable of overlapping and delivering quality crosses anymore (well we do, but Cesar no longer plays).
Key Players – Schürrle and Terry
Deviation = -1 ; Actual Points = 20 ; Target for Next 6 = 10
Surprise, surprise. Given Liverpool have had an easy schedule, but they’ve started extremely well. What seemed to be their issue in their last few seasons – finishing off games against easy opponents – no longer seems to be. Lucas has been phenomenal this season especially against Man United. The jury’s out on the ability of Liverpool’s midfield to be able to compete against the elite clubs as we observed against Arsenal, although I wonder if any other team can compete in midfield against Arsenal. Ahead of a tough schedule, they will look up to the leadership of Stevie G (who’s been rather underwhelming thus far) to provide some stability in midfield. As we head into the hectic winter months, I also fear for their squad depth, which I believe could cost them dearly over this schedule.
Key Players – Suarez and Gerrard
Deviation = -2 ; Actual Points = 20 ; Target for Next 6 = 15
Barring a hammering at home from the Hammers, they’ve been s(t)olid thus far. Many doubted AVB’s skills at Football Manager, but he’s done ok so far. Much to everyone’s surprise, Townsend has somehow sealed a place in the “first-team” (mythical concept it seems) over record signing Erik Lamela. Eriksen has been all foreplay, no end product. Whatever happened to Emmanuel Adebayor. They, like Chelsea however, are struggling to break down defences without much width (Bale gone, what do you expect?) and bringing Soldado into the game. Walker, who used to be so good at providing width, suddenly thinks he’s the main forward at Spurs cutting in all the time. The return of a fully fit Lennon will help, I think. But AVB needs to find a way to integrate Lamela into their squad quicker than he thinks.
Yes, Spurs had a very decent fixture list to start off. Yes, they’ve had Lady Luck on their side with the 1-0’s. At the end of the day, they’re still very much in the hunt and have the quality and depth to continue challenging (especially with their average fixtures). Spurs fans will believe their best is yet to come and I agree, but it needs to happen for them very soon.
Key Players – Lennon and Walker
Deviation = -3 ; Actual Points = 25 ; Target for Next 6 = 12
Arsenal fans must be livid to see them featuring at 4th. Still undefeated after the horror show on opening day against Villa, the Gunners have rocked the league not just by producing results but the manner in which they’ve dominated them. Football nirvana. What has gone right? I would say more than any one player or Arsene, it’s just been a matter of increased self-belief after the signing of Özil, that they’ve produced some delightful football. And then, there’s Welsh Fabregas. Almost as if Bale handed the baton to him, Ramsey has arguably been the player of the season thus far. The model’s a bit harsh on Arsenal as it probably doesn’t reward home wins against an in-form Spurs and Liverpool as much, but just points out how there’s some way to go yet before the Gunners can consider themselves favorites. There’s the glaring issue of no back-up striker (sorry, Nicklas). No doubt Giroud has done a good job so far. But with Arsenal typically so dependent on their striker, I wonder if Giroud has the class to sustain his form and fitness. Sure, Arsenal could purchase a quality striker in January. But with an upcoming hectic schedule and stiff fixtures I wonder will it cost them the title by then?
Key Players – Arsenal Medical Team
5) Manchester United
Deviation = -5 ; Actual Points = 17 ; Target for Next 6 = 13
Giddy up United fans, see how close the model rates you to Arsenal. United are starting to gel as David Moyes finally realizes the likes of Kagawa and Januzaj are on his team roster and the lack of Young thereof. Finally, we are able to see some spark of creativity that can be attributed to a typical United attack. No doubt, the fixture list has been rather harsh to Dave as he had absolutely no time to settle down but the squad has a bundle of issues. The other big issue has been the defence. Whatever happened to good ol’ Rio. Vidic and Rafael’s fitness continues to be an issue.
The striker duo will be expected to keep United alive in the hunt for the title, while they buy some time to upgrade their squad in January. Massive credit to Dave for signing their potential player of the season. Will it be in Wayne?
Key Players – Rooney and RVP
6) Manchester City
Deviation = -6 ; Actual Points = 20 ; Target for Next 6 = 16
It’s been a classic case of a new manager taking his time to settle down to the competitive and unique nature of this league. No excuses for losing to Cardiff and Villa away. Finally though, we’re starting to see what City can be all about. Agüero is in the form of his life, Silva showing signs of a comeback, Yaya ever-reliant. With a lot of quality and depth in the squad, Pellegrini will be hopeful of gaining some momentum in this title race. City’s defence is a slight worry with Kompany struggling for fitness and Clichy/Zaba not able to match their over-achieving seasons under Mancini.
Key Players – Agüero and Silva
Deviation = -6 ; Actual Points = 19 ; Target for Next 6 = 12
Yep, probably silly to refer to the Toffees as title contenders. But I’m just amazed how quickly Martinez has got Everton clicking with a lot of fresh faces in the squad too. Having defeated Chelsea at home and providing a stern test to Spurs at home, I think they still lack the ability to compete away against the big clubs to be able to considered a legitimate title contender. Much of it is due to a lack of a world-class player in their midst and arguably, lack of ambition due to budget. However, I thought Everton should be included in this elite group as they continue to impress against the big teams at home and against the rest away.
Key Players – Lukaku and Jagielka
Although Arsenal may be top of the table and starting to be touted as favorites, I just wanted to bring out the point that it’s much closer than the points table suggests. Curious to hear what your thoughts/predictions on the title race are or if you have any feedback on this simplistic model.
I’m sure you’ll agree it’s going to be a fascinating season, possibly with several title contenders until March. So I’m hoping to revisit this again at the halfway stage of the season.
PS – Sometimes, it’s okay to be sick I suppose.