Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Tottenham's Title Credentials.

Tottenham appear to be contenders for the Premier League title.

They're five points adrift of leaders Leicester, but just two behind Manchester City and Arsenal. So are ideally placed to benefit when some, if not all of the teams ahead of them drop points in a February fixture list that pits the Foxes against their two nearest rivals.

In terms of expected goals totals from attempts created and conceded, Tottenham has the most impressive expected goal difference so far this season. They are a couple of goals ahead of Manchester City and Arsenal, who are currently neck and neck and significantly ahead of Leicester.

Simulating the season to date based on goal attempts it is Tottenham rather than actual leaders Leicester who are most likely to top the table.

However, in reality the gap that exists between the top four needs to be bridged before Tottenham can claim the title. They may have legitimate claims to be the best team in the Premier League, but luck may have not smiled on them during the first 23 matches in comparison to their rivals, notably Leicester.

League points have already been won and even if they maintain their current superiority over their rivals they only have around a 17% chance of overhauling them and finishing the season in first place.

            Chances of Finishing in a Particular Position in 2015/16 Based on Expected Goals.

Arsenal enter the FA Cup break as the most likely winners of the Premier League by virtue of a slightly easier remaining schedule compared to Manchester City. City has also already played one more home match compared to the Gunners and any January squad strengthened should be allowed to play through in actual results rather than being second guessed.

Arsenal's position however is tenuous. A swing of just a point with City from their current positions would send the odds in favour of the Manchester side and it is currently odds on that someone other than Arsenal will be crowned champions in May.

To evaluate Spurs' season so far we have the goal attempt data for Tottenham and their opponents from their first 23 matches of the season and this may be used to estimate how frequently they might have expected to win each of their league matches to date.

For the opening match of the season the bookmaker's odds suggested that Tottenham had around a 16% chance of winning on their visit to Old Trafford and a 24% chance of a draw. In terms of expected points, Spurs would on average return with 0.72 points based on the odds maker's estimation.

In reality Tottenham created chances that had a cumulative expected goals value of 0.8 of a goal during the match compared to Manchester United's slightly better 0.95 of a goal.

If these rather low goal expectations are played out multiple times, spread over the individual chances created by each team, Spurs would win around 29% of the games, draw 33% and lose 38% and their average return would be 1.22 league points.

So even in a 1-0 defeat to begin the season, Spurs had over performed compared to the expectation of the market by creating and preventing chances that were consistent with them "winning" an average of 1.22 rather than 0.72 points.

    Spurs' Performance Based Against Market Expectations in their First 23 Games of 2015/16.

In only three Premier League games has the division of expected goals in Spurs' matches been consistent with a market under performance from Pochettino's team.

They got about what their below par performance deserved in draws with Stoke and WBA and would not have been flattered if they had won a point while faltering against Newcastle instead of suffering a last minute defeat.

Most frustratingly for Spurs, they did more than enough in their two games with leaders Leicester to have ordinarily won more than the single point they did gain.

Spurs, ready to kick start their title challenge? 
However, such fluctuations between expected and actual outcomes will occur in a season and Spurs, a side that is generally considered a regular top six team by the markets has consistently risen above those expectations in the majority of their games with solid underlying shooting data in 2015/16.

A similar performance in the remaining 15 games will make them credible title contenders.

@WillTGM and @cchappas have run similar analysis on not only Spurs in the following tweets. Just click on their twitter names for the links.

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