Monday, November 9, 2009

French Ligue 1 Rankings and Analysis

I have to admit that I have not seen a single match from the French Ligue this season. Having said that I have seen several matches involving French clubs in European competitions. I watch their top clubs in Europe a lot because I like their style of play and find them entertaining. Other than Spanish, I think French teams are my favorite to watch. I definitely plan on seeing more domestic matches as well as the season moves along.

England and Spain look to have 3 teams with a decent shot at competing for the league. Italy really has one but I'll be generous to Juventus and say it's a two-horse race. In contrast, the Ligue 1 is wide open. 12 matchdays into the season there are 4 clubs within 3 points of the leaders and 4 more within another 3 points. That is amazing and there's nothing close in the other top leagues. Other than lowly Grenoble, the league is pretty competitive top to bottom.

Here are the rankings:

O Rank - rank by goal-scoring ability
D Rank - rank by ability to prevent goals
EGD - expected goal differential if they played a new season and all teams played at level shown by results thus far

Bordeaux third shows why especially at points this early in the season it is handy to have a model around. They sit on top of the table and have the highest goal differential. My rankings are based on goal differential, but, importantly, take schedule into account. Bordeaux have played an incredibly easy schedule. Just looking at the table, in just 12 matches they have played every team in the bottom 7. Adding in their match with Nice, two-thirds of their matches have been against teams in the bottom half of the table. I'm not sure a team has ever played an easier schedule this far into the season when you look at how where their opponents are in the table.

Other than that, a look at the third column confirms my suspicion that there isn't a lot in it at the top. There are 7 other teams within 10 goals in the rating system! Things are wide open. Other than Bordeaux which I discussed above, the other standout in terms of where they are in my rankings compared to the table is Paris Saint-Germain. I think they are 12th in the table for a few reasons. The obvious one is that they still have a match in hand. They also have played a somewhat tougher schedule than average (incredibly tough compared to what Bordeaux have dealt with). In addition to all of that they have had slightly below-expectation luck when it comes to getting points for a team with their goal differential. I expect Les Parisiens to make a surge and at least get back into the fight for the European positions.

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