It’s worth analysing the previous season as it gives an indication as to how the current one is likely to play out.
Let’s focus on the top end of the table from the 2016/17 season, and look for points of interest.
Analysing The 2016-17 Season Using Squawka
Here’s Squawka’s performance rankings for the top 7 teams.
Does Anything Surprise You There?
What this table suggests that United were good enough to make the top 4 of the Premier League (they didn’t). It even ranks them 3rd, above rivals City who (pretty) comfortably earned a Champions League spot.
Chelsea, Spurs and Everton don’t overly interest me, because their ranking positions are precisely where I expected them to be. I am more intrigued as to what could’ve determined the ordering of the other rankings — for Arsenal, City, United and Liverpool.
Intuitively, I’d have thought the stats would’ve supported the notion that Liverpool and Arsenal are a stronger outfit than Man United. But that’s not what I found. Why?
Let’s take a closer look at these 4 teams and find out…
Team Comparison Between Arsenal, Man City, Man United & Liverpool
The squawka comparison matrix for four selected teams
I also selected some of the relevant football stats.
From this matrix, you can very quickly you can deduce that City and Liverpool aren’t as well balanced as Arsenal, who are good ‘all-rounders’. It seems that Arsenal fell flat in the League because they failed to excel in any department. Even in attack — their main strength — they didn’t quite match Liverpool or City.
With regards to Man United there’s something that’s made very apparent:
- They were superior defensively to both Liverpool and Man City, and were rated significantly higher than Arsenal for this stat, too.
- They were inferior to all three of their rivals in attack. Arsenal, Liverpool and City all shared a similar, superior attacking strength stat.
I wrote at the start of the season that having a good attack/weak defence combination is preferable to having a weak attack/strong defence. I also stated my belief that teams with either of these combinations won’t win the Premier League. This is backed up by the fact that:
- Chelsea and Spurs finished at the top — they were the only 2 teams with both attacking & defensive strength.
- Man United lost out to both City and Liverpool despite having a much better defensive record.
Delving a little deeper into the football stats revealed more about Man United’s attacking performance:
- Their total shots stat suggests that they created a lot of chances.
- Their shot accuracy stat confirms they were just as accurate with their chances as their 3 rivals. But…
- They scored less goals from penalties than their rivals, and significantly less goals from set pieces (percentage wise, that is).
So in summary, United appear to have played well in general. They were defensively solid, but failed to convert their high number of shots (24 more than Arsenal, in fact) into goals. Hence why their goal tally was much lower. In particular, converting from set pieces seems to have been a notable weak point compared to their rivals.
Arguably, United may still need to create slightly more chances inside the area. The stats allude to the fact they had less close-range (dangerous) goal scoring opportunities than their 3 rivals. Expected Goal stats provide more insight into the likelihood of converting those chances — check it out.
So What Do I Predict for the Top Teams In 2017/18?
After looking at the data, I’m going into the new season expecting to see an improvement in Man United. But I don’t think they’re anywhere near winning the league. Here’s what else I predict:
Man City and Liverpool will have to sort their defences out if they want to seriously compete for the title.
They will struggle to beat Chelsea or Spurs over the course of a season if they don’t. Both City and Liverpool could benefit from buying steadier Goalkeepers; for evidence use Squawka to compare their GK’s to the first team choice at Spurs, United, and Arsenal.
Of the two teams, I’d fancy City to step it up a notch — partly due to their inevitable big money signings this summer.
Spurs will adjust to playing at Wembley. It’ll be challenging, but I don’t see them missing top 4 because of some “hoodoo”.
In fact, everything points towards the fact they’ll compete for the title again. Could they win it? It’s possible, but it largely depends on Chelsea’s consistency and Man City’s level of improvement.
Arsenal will struggle.
Granted they shouldn’t be written off for top 4 as they only need to slightly raise their overall stats across the board. After all, there’s no standout weaknesses in their game.
But their problem is that their success is partly hinged on whether their most influential player, Alexis Sanchez, stays at the club. He’s Squawka’s #2 rated Premier League player for the 2016/17 season. If he leaves, they’ll struggle in attack.
I don’t see Everton breaking into the top 4 this season.
There’ll be hype about their new signings, but losing Lukaku will come as a blow.
Chelsea are likely to retain the title; there’s no doubt about that.
This puts Chelsea, Spurs, United and City as my predicted Top 4 (in no given order).
It’s interesting to play around with football stats. Just remember that they’re only a guideline for what to expect in the future.
To analyse football in more depth, I recommend reading my post on Expected Goals (xG) statistics. It enables punters to better judge teams and players, reduces bias, and helps to more accurately predict future results.
Alternatively, you may prefer to trial one of my recommended tipster services to help strengthen your selections.
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