I like spreadsheets so when faced with the new season’s premier league fixtures, I was delighted to translate them into numbers and create a table – which I have shared with you above. At the very least I’ve made a reasonably nice-looking heat map.
The games are all shown 1-38 in the current published chronolgical order. We all know this subject to change – but this is the current expected fixture order.
Those of you looking critically at the table will have some questions, so I’ll outline the simple methodology I used – which will either allow you to accept the flawed process or shake your head in mild irritation and carry on with your day.
I split the league into quintiles, which was easier said than done outside the top 4. Spurs could have had a case for being classed as a ‘top 4’ team, perhaps Everton and Liverpool too – considering Everton’s excellent home record last season and Liverpool’s excellent last 19 games. But I stuck with the quintiles rigidly. This gave me a dilemma as to who should be in each pot outside of the top 4 – I solved the dilemma by considering bookie’s odds for relegation and various club ranking systems.
Those of you who know I am a Newcastle fan will scoff at the fact that they are in the 5-8 group (and I do feel guilty about their position) but their odds for relegation were longest after the ‘big 7’. Also sorry Norwich fans for placing your team in the bottom group alongside the promoted teams – blame the bookies for that.
I scored match difficulty in a rather simple and linear way, allocating higher points to away games and matches against the top teams – the scoring chart is below:
I don’t actually think that team abilities in the league will sit on a linear scale – looking at last season’s table will show the big points gap between 7th and 8th, then a group of teams separated by 9pts between places 8-16. So I might add a new table based on a more considered scale for this reason in a later post.
Below is a 5-game average difficulty chart for the fixtures throughout the season:
Man Utd have away games at Man City, Liverpool and Swansea in their first 5, along with a home match against Chelsea – hardly an easy start for Moyes (their other match is home to Crystal Palace – arguably more straightforward).
As for fast starts, don’t be surprised if Spurs, Man City, Arsenal, Norwich and West Ham get a few good early results to shoot towards the top of the table.
We can also see the likely pressure points of the season – Arsenal’s season could be over unless they can navigate games 15-19 safely (Everton home, Man City away, Chelsea home, West Ham away, Newcastle away). And if Mourinho’s Chelsea are still in the hunt for the title with 7 games to go few should bet against them.
Lastly I’ve added the range and standard deviation to the chart to attempt to give some insight into how consistent the difficulty of each team’s games is through the season. It suggests that we might expect Fulham and Arsenal to fluctuate more between hot and cold streaks (e.g. headlines might read ‘Jol is a genius’ and ‘sack Jol’ at various times, ditto Wenger) whilst Newcastle are a bit more likely to achieve a more constant haul of points during the season (expect to hear ‘sack Kinnear’ regardless throughout the season!).