As an Arsenal supporter, something that both concerns and annoys me is the constant, unrelenting efforts by the mainstream media to sensationalize and manipulate bits of information to form a patently false narrative about our club. It is common to football as it is to politics and economics. The primary victim of the need to “sex-up” news and information is truth itself. Ironically, post “1984”, we have realized an Orwellian world where “Ignorance is strength”.
Thus, no more than five (5) weeks ago, just prior to the last international break and close of the transfer window, the usual suspects were trumpeting a narrative of crisis and total disaster (“shambles” is now the word of choice) because Arsenal had lost heavily to Liverpool. The ignorant were being led to believe that the Scousers were on the verge of sweeping all before them, Arsenal’s British core was crumbling as Oxlade-Chamberlain abandoned the sinking ship and both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil had no desire to play in lieu of non-renewal of their existing contract.
With the passage of time and the Premier League now on pause for another international break, a look at the tables easily discredits the dishonest, simplistic narrative. Arsenal is now in 5th in position two places above Liverpool, albeit by only one point.
|Premier League 17/18 League table|
It is only 114 games between all 20 clubs and thus statistically too early to draw hard and fast conclusions. But it is evident that the runners are already separating themselves from the stayers. Not surprisingly the two biggest spenders over the past two years, City and United, having splurged at least £400 million each on transfers, are already atop the table.
Like Pavlovian mice, the pundits in the mainstream media are already salivating, preparing for the coronation ceremony of either two as league champions. The fact that similar fast starts were recorded by both clubs over the past two seasons and they thereafter flagged down the stretch have not dissuaded these intrepid representatives of the mainstream media from their premature ejaculations.
A particular feature of MSM and their echo chamber (blogs and twitter) is their refusal to present the unbiased data in support of their prognostications. Yet they have easy access to massive computerized databases and well paid interns who can generate information on the fly. This is further proof to a frequent observation that we currently live in an era where “there has never been so much data and yet so little knowledge”.
One such ignorancy the pundits currently repeat without challenge is: the title will be decided in games between the top-6. The proximate cause of this “profundity” is the fact that Man City, under their golden boy Pep Guardiola, has beaten two teams expected to finish in the top positions i.e. Liverpool and Chelsea.
Apparently the results between 6 teams are more significant than the result between 14, i.e. a maximum of 30 versus 84 points respectively. Something so patently unscientific motivated my research of 21 years of Premier League history, covering the period it became a 20 team competition, to see whether there are any observable facts to support this proposition.
Points from Top-6 teams
As evident in the above graphic, the number of points obtained by PL champions from the top-6 have meandered between 13 and 25 points. The mean is 19 points with a standard deviation of 4 pts. Statistically, therefore, a PL champion will 95% of the time earn between 15 and 23 points (between half and two-thirds of the total available) from their top-6 rivals. Assuming it takes approximately 85 points to win the title, clubs must earn between 70 and 62 points from somewhere.
Points from Bottom-14 Teams
Cha Ching! The data indicates that on average 67 points or 78% of the total are obtained from the bottom teams, with a standard deviation of 5 points. In other words, 95% of the time a club must earn between 62 and 72 points from 28 games. Contrary to the blather from the pundits, it is clear a team that seriously aspires for the title must consistently maximize points from those 70% of teams that comprise the middle and lower reaches of the Premier League.
The challenge facing Arsenal is having a squad that is at least able to neutralize the top-6 while doing the business elsewhere, week-in, week out. In Part II of this series I will present the data for and against the Gooners.
PS: Part II of this series may be substantially delayed as I am currently heading to the hurricane ravaged Caribbean and may have limited if any access to the internet. Hopefully I will have a presence in comments section of the blog. Cheers.