Alternative EPL Data Visualizations: The Cann Table

In all of my writing about the visualization of this season’s run-in, I thought it would be good to remind myself and everyone else of one of the more classic alternative visualizations: the Cann Table.

It’s a relatively straight forward and non-complex way to view how teams are performing relative to each other. It uses all the same data as a normal league table, but instead of arranging the positioning of clubs based upon table position it arranges them based upon point total.

This provides another perspective on the data that makes relative performance between clubs more visually clear.

Talking about table positions makes sense.

It’s a way to provide a consistent comparison between seasons when the point totals required to secure a specific table position can change greatly from year to year.

It’s also how confederations grant positions to clubs in their super-league tournaments, and it’s often used by fans to judge whether their club is making any progress season over season.

The challenge is that the traditional table is not the best tool for viewing what’s going on within a single season, and how much of a gap there really is between one’s favorite club and the clubs around them. Enter the “Cann Table“.

The Cann Table is named after Jenny Cann, who popularized it until her untimely death in 2003. In it’s simplest form it gives one line of text to each point total, and then lists the clubs next to their corresponding point totals.

If a point total has no corresponding clubs assigned to it, the column where a club would go is left blank. Consecutive blank rows communicates the size of the gaps between two teams in a very effective and straightforward manner.

To aid in identifying tie breakers or differences in the total number of games played, each club’s goal differential and any games in hand are displayed next to their names. As the season goes through its twists and turns, the Cann Table provides a great word picture of the true gaps between clubs that a table position-centric view might hide.

The graphic below is the EPL’s Cann Table through Match 33. Normally I wouldn’t produce my own chart, as The Football Project’s site often has a very good one.

However, they have not updated theirs since April 2nd, and when we’re this close to the end of the season having the latest data is key. So, I went over to Ian Eliowart’s site that updates automatically and borrowed his data. He not only has Cann tables for the Premier League, but also every division of association football on the British Isles.

Take a look at the table below, and tell me that it doesn’t better communicate the dominance of the clubs from Manchester, the large gap between the top six clubs and the rest of the league, the fact that Wolves are clearly bound for relegation, and that it’s really only a battle between four clubs to avoid the remaining two relegation spots. Combine the Cann Table with the publicly available forecasts over SportsClubStats.com or the Euro Club Index, and one has a very powerful set of tools with which to judge their club’s relative strength within a league.