And so, as we start to approach the Christmas period, I want to bring out a tradition I have at this time of the year. No, not festive trees, overpriced presents or mince pies, it’s my annual ‘race of the nation’.
The race analogy started last year and is a great way of highlighting just how each of the premier league teams are performing. The premise is that this season is actually a race from the most southerly point in the UK to its most northerly point. Whilst I have to apologise to those outside of the UK if they don’t know the locations, I’m sure you can all use Google Maps.
The route I use isn’t the most direct one, instead it travels the 965 miles via the M25, the M1 and the M6 and M80 to make place names a little easier. The end point works on the basis of a title winning run of 86 points, the average for the last five seasons.
So where is everyone?
Well, the disappointing news for Aston Villa fans is that they have barely made it into second gear and have travelled a very disappointing 56 miles putting them at about St. Austell – still in Cornwall. Bournemouth & Newcastle are twice as far along the road, loitering around Launceston – also still in Cornwall. Between there and Yeovil, which is at least in another county, are Sunderland, Norwich, Swansea & Chelsea. Those are four teams I’m not used to listing together. From Yeovil to the M25, London’s ring road, is a massive traffic jam incorporating West Brom, Stoke, Watford, Southampton, Everton West Ham, Palace and Liverpool – Anyone who knows the M3 motorway will expect nothing less! For those Londoners out there, the next stretch might sound a little confusing because Tottenham are just below Arsenal who are nearing Watford – the place, not the team. Manchester United are well into their trip up the M1 having just passed Luton Airport. Finally, Manchester City and Leicester are driving past the Milton Keynes turning, and funnily enough my house. I’ll give them a little wave!
So, what can we learn from this analogy? Well for starters, Aston Villa are really far behind but the 226-mile stretch between them and London includes 14 teams so they are by no means stuck facing relegation at this point, no matter what people say. I’d certainly like to see them stay up as one of only 7 teams who have been in the Premier League since it started.
The next most important factor is that there really isn’t a pack pushing forward yet with the average gap between teams a paltry 14 miles. No team’s position is anywhere near set in stone. This is especially relevant considering that the teams aren’t even close to half way yet, City and Leicester have only completed 325 miles of the 965-mile slog. To put it another way, Leicester are still 5 points short of getting to Leicester and City are 13 points south of their home town.
Maybe I’ll run things again as the leaders start to approach the Scottish border. Let’s move on to the predictor.
This week Southampton stand out as the massive favourites even though they suffered badly at the hands of Manchester City last week. I can’t see anything good for Villa here. As you can see, Southampton have scored 5 more goals over the last six weeks at home than they’ve conceded whilst Villa have conceded 11 more than they’ve scored. I have to fancy Pelle, returning after a weeks rest.
Next up is Arsenal vs Sunderland which has banker written all over it. I know that fellow NBC writer Steve Rothgeb decided to bite the bullet and drop Sanchez over the weekend but I think that was a bit rash. Assuming that he isn’t rested then he should be a great pick.
Then comes Chelsea, yes Chelsea. I remain unconvinced personally but this prediction is more of a comment on Bournemouth’s -8 goal difference than anything good from the Champions. Will Costa play after bib-gate? Personally I hope not but that’s just me.
Watford and United round out the final two favourites this week with goal difference variances of 7 from their visitors. That should be enough, especially as West Ham look to be suffering without Payet and Norwich….well, they’re Norwich. I especially like Ighalo this week – I think that the odds of 5-1 on first goalscorer might be too tempting for me.
Let’s have a look at the Poisson
Well there don’t seem to be many clean sheets on offer this week with Norwich the best on offer with pretty much a coin flip. Even Arsenal at home to Sunderland only rate a minuscule 37%. Ignoring the figures for a second, in an effort to suggest where you should be selecting your defenders, I’d go Watford, Southampton & Arsenal personally.
As for goals, well they seem to be all over the place but who would argue with Barkley and Lukaku for Everton or Ulloa and Vardy for Leicester?
As a final comment, you’ll see that the Poisson suggests that Norwich are favourites to beat Watford. This is because the Poisson works on average number of home or away goals for the whole season. Watford have a tiny 0.6 at home however I really don’t see much of a contest here.
See you next week.