Monday, October 26, 2009

English Premier League Quarter-Time Report

I'm going to mix it up a bit and post some thoughts about the league in general since we are a quarter of the way through the season.

Biggest Surprise

Positive: Burnley
I think everyone expected the Clarets to be the caboose this season. They may well be, but currently are sitting in the middle of the table four points clear of relegation. They also have the most surprising result of the season by virtue of their 1-0 win over Manchester United.

Negative: Everton
The Toffees finished fifth last year and while I don't think anybody expected them to challenge for the league title, currently sitting 14th 7 points out of the Europa League and just 3 points clear of relegation is definitely not what they were hoping for.

Some Predictions

West Ham will not be relegated. The Hammers are currently second from the bottom and have had a bad run over the last 5 or 6 matches but I think they will be safe this season. Their schedule has been brutal so far and their results haven't been bad considering. Their goal differential is currently -4. Given their goal differential they have been running below expectation for points (see this article for that discussion) and that's without having huge wins like Arsenal have had. I think West Ham will be out of the relegation zone a month from now and out of the relegation fight well before the end of the season. I'll go so far as to say that I think they'll be closer in points to the team in 11th (midtable) than 18th (relegated). While it's certainly possible that they get the drop, I will be very surprised if that happens assuming they don't do anything rash while they are near the bottom of the table.

Burnley will slide. I said they are the surprise team of the first quarter of the season, but that's partly due to variance. They have for the most part either won close matches or been beaten by several goals. That's not a good sign when it comes to long-term prospects. I'm not going to flip the West Ham pick; Burnley have a good shot at staying up. Having said that I think they'll certainly be fighting for the right to play in the Premier League.

The fight for the league will remain competitive with 4 or more teams within striking distance at the new-year break. I'm far less sure of this prediction than the previous two. It's easy to see why as a team or two falling off makes it fail. I expect Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool to be within 5 points when they take a break after the end-of-the-year push. That's about halfway through the season. Man City and Spurs could definitely be in that mix as well, but I think both will be a bit further out. This is likely to be one of the most competitive seasons over the last few years.


Here are the updated rankings:

I'm starting to think that Everton are actually a lower mid-table team this season instead of a team that will fight for a spot in Europe. I still think the rankings have them too low but I'm getting less and less confident every week that they'll move up significantly. Arsenal are an interesting case as well as they have stayed on top another week. Their defense needs to improve if they are to have a shot at finishing where I have them now. If you are an Arsenal fan you'd better hope that their goal conceding slows down when their goal scoring does, because that's inevitable.

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