Monday, September 28, 2009

English Premier League - September 28

The obvious place to start this week is with Chelsea who lost 3-1 at Wigan. Wigan went up 1-0 on a Titus Bramble header off a short corner in the 17th minute. That lead held for the first half. Two minutes into the second half, Malouda made a nice short run and through traffic found Drogba well inside the area. Drogba shot it on his first touch and it looked like the Wigan goalkeeper had it, he certainly should have, but it managed to squirm in. The match really turned on its head 4 minutes later when Petr Cech was sent off after he took down Rodallega who was running past him after doing the same to the Chelsea defense. Rodallega converted the penalty and Wigan never looked back. Chelsea actually went down to 9 men because they had used up their subs and Cole went off injured in the 86th minute. Wigan got the dagger in stoppage time when Scharner tapped in a cross from Figueroa. That and Burnley 1 - 0 Manchester United are surely the two surprising results of the short season. This was the first Premiership win by Wigan over the four big clubs.

The other results quite frankly were not surprising. Manchester United went top of the table with a 0-2 win in Stoke-On-Trent. That kind of win is big as City are looking like an actual Premiership side and will probably get some results against the big clubs at home. Berbatov and O'Shea were the scorers. Arsenal got a similar result with a 0-1 win against Fulham. Van Persie broke the deadlock early in the second half. Liverpool thrashed Hull City 6-1. Torres got a hat trick, Babel got two and Gerrard also made the scoresheet. Keane did one better than Torres, getting 4 goals in a 5-0 win for Spurs over Burnley.

In the match that delayed this report for a day, Manchester City beat West Ham 3-1 on Monday. Tevez put City up early. Petrov got through on the left and near the goal line just inside the penalty area played a great ball across to Tevez who was standing 5 yards in front of the goal. It went just in front of the keeper and would have been harder for Tevez to miss than make. The next few minutes it looked like it would be all over as Tevez had a couple great scoring chances, but neither shot went on goal. Despite getting thoroughly outplayed, West Ham managed to score a 24th minute goal off a set piece when City couldn't clear the ball out of the box. 7 minutes later Petrov put City back in front with a shot to the far post on a set piece. The goalkeeper may not have had a great view, but really should have done better as he got caught cheating to the near post. While there wasn't much in doubt, Tevez sealed it with a 61st minute goal on a header off a set piece. It was close, but in my view he was offside.

Other matches:
Birmingham 1 - 2 Bolton
Portsmouth 0 - 1 Everton
Blackburn 2 - 1 Aston Villa
Sunderland 5 - 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Power Rankings

GD Rank: offensive ranking
GA Rank: defensive ranking
EGD: expected goal difference if all teams started over and played a full season at the level of play of the results so far.

A couple teams I want to comment on. Firstly, I think the model underrates Everton. The reason for this is their schedule. They lost 6-1 to Arsenal, and since then have given up 4 goals in 5 matches. The model rates them as the worst defensive team because other than Arsenal they have played teams that are weak offensively. As a result of that, the model sees 10 goals conceded, a number around average, against what is easily the weakest set of opponents in terms of attacking strength that any team in the league has faced. This reveals a drawback of the model I touched on before - it considers all goals equally because it uses aggregate data. I'm still working on a better model on that end of things. Based on the results, I'd say Everton are a mid-table club. Chelsea is a bit surprising at 6th considering they are tied on points for first in the league standings. Their schedule has been the weakest of the top 6, so it makes sense.

If you are a fan of any club other than Manchester United, you can't like the rankings much as they look head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. They are the best attacking and defending team according to the model and have an expected goal difference that is 15 goals higher than second-best Arsenal. They'll definitely slip up and the expected goal differential will be somewhere more reasonable. It's also clear, however, that Arsenal and Liverpool will slow down and their incredible scoring rates will drop as well. I'm certainly not calling the league for Manchester United right now or anything close to that, but they have been the best team in the league over the seven matches.

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