As promised, here is the Premier League three-quarter season report. Just like the half season report, the table below shows which teams are over and under performing versus the table position expectations set by their transfer expenditures, goal differential, and points. Teams' table positions are determined by taking their current points and goal differential, multiplying them by the inverse of the proportion of matches they've played in relation to the full season's 38 matches, and then sorting points first and goal differential second in descending order. A team's metric colored in red indicates underperformance, while a metric colored in green indicates over performance. Click on the table to enlarge it.
The following observations can be made based upon the table above:
- Manchester United's projected point total has fallen from 80 points at mid-season to 79 points today. This would represent the lowest point total for a champion in 12 years, and the 4th lowest point total of a champion in the history of the Premier League. This drop off is synonymous with Manchester's losses against Liverpool, Chelsea and Wolverhampton. If they had converted any one of those to one of the many draws they've achieved this season, they would still be on pace for 80 points.
- In second place, Arsenal has closed the projected gap from six points to two over the last quarter of the season. This sets up a tantalizing May tie between the two teams at the Emirates. If they keep on the same pace of acquiring points, the winner of that match is the Premier League champion.
- The projected goal differential between Manchester United and Arsenal has also been narrowed to two goals. In a season with the top two teams so close in points, the championship may be decided by goal differential. Since the half season report, Manchester United has been averaging a 1.0 GD per game while Arsenal has averaged a 1.3 GD per game. Meanwhile the competition they face the rest of the season is pretty even - Manchester United's opponents have averaged a 0.14 GD this year while Arsenal's opposition has averaged a 0.6 GD. Again, one team beating the other in May gives the winning team a reasonable leg up. A draw, and it all comes down to who can score more and maintain winning form.
- As mentioned here, Arsene Wenger is trying to do the highly improbable in winning the Premiership with an average starting XI cost below the league average. No team in the history of the Premier League has won it with an M£XI less than 1.26, and only three have won it with one lower than 1.85.
- While the Premier League championship looks to be a two horse race, the spots for Champions League and Europa League look a bit up in the air. Tottenham Hotspur is only four points back of Chelsea and Manchester City. Liverpool is too far back to make things interesting for the fifth position, but how disappointed would Chelsea or Manchester City be to not make Champions League next year?
- Fulham has moved up the most of any team in the league, going from 18th to 11th. Liverpool has also continued their upward movement, climbing three spots under Kenny Dalglish and playing much better soccer.
- Blackpool has backslid the most, dropping from 7th to 16th and is now at risk of being relegated. There GD continued to worsen in the second half of the season, and they now only outperform expectations when it comes to their squad cost.
- The race to avoid the drop will be just as entertaining as the one at the top of the table. There are seven teams projected to be within five points of each other in positions 13 through 19. Included in that group is Aston Villa, who are at risk of losing their special place as one of the seven clubs never relegated from the Premier League. They should be doing much better given their transfer expenditures suggest they should be competing for 10th.
This is the business end of the season that is just too much fun - the title and relegation races turn on the outcome of every match. Enjoy the next ten weeks of soccer, and I'll check back in at the end when the dust has settled!