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Newcastle exceed early season expectations

4 October 2011

With an arguably straightforward fixture list, Newcastle have still progressed on last season (Flickr: World of Good)

Perspective is always in short supply in the opening weeks of the season, but last week Liverpool fan Dan Kennett provided an interesting take on the race for fourth.

He suggests that based on last season’s results, Liverpool and Spurs are exceeding expectations, whilst Arsenal are faltering. The measurement is simple: what is the difference in points between results this season and the exact same games last season?

The metric somewhat accounts for difficult fixture lists to start the season (see Bolton), and is essentially a simple way of assessing a team’s progress.

For example, Blackburn have won four points from seven games this season. From the corresponding games last season, Rovers collected nine points, a negative difference of five. We get the relative points change by dividing this by the number of games Blackburn have played, ignoring matches against promoted teams.

Across the division, we get a sense of who is improving and who might be going backwards.

The table highlights Newcastle as the overachievers thus far; whilst this is already indicated by the regular league table, it contradicts criticism that they have had it easy so far. Alan Pardew’s team has managed to improve in beating ‘weaker’ teams when they may have stumbled last season, a sure sign of progress.

At the bottom, Arsenal’s reversals against Liverpool, Blackburn and Spurs were all worse results than the corresponding fixtures in 2010/11, leaving them rock bottom in this regard.

Title contenders Chelsea and Man United may have made strong starts to the season, but this is perhaps no more than we’d expect given the games they’ve played. Equally Bolton’s home point against Man United last season was the only difference between results over the two seasons thus far (ignoring results versus promoted teams).

Needless to say there are a number of factors unaccounted for, not least form, injuries and ‘freak’ results – should Wolves’ win at Anfield last season work against them in the league table above? – but it’s an uncomplicated way of quantifying results relative to expectations. The numbers shouldn’t be interpreted for any serious analysis, merely act as food for thought.

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