Both Everton and Vitesse appear to be performing above expectations according to our simple expectations model which was introduced here. However, the season is still young and I thought it might be interesting to compare the results they have achieved this term with the fixtures against the same opposition in 2011/2012 in order to see if the theory that both are doing well holds up in that way too.
Before looking at those clubs, let us first confirm that there is a relationship between the points a club attains in one season with the subsequent season. I used the last 18 seasons of the Premier League (each season with 38 matches per club) to do this and the same seasons for the Eredivisie – coincidentally the 18 seasons in the Netherlands in which three points were awarded for a victory. As the plots below illustrate, there is a strong positive correlation (0.77 for the Premier League and 0.73 for the Eredivisie) as one might expect. However this is across whole seasons of data rather than six or seven matches so we should exercise caution at this stage. As more and more teams are played, the relationship between points this season and last against those same opponents should become more robust and confirm whether these teams are really doing better. However, for now, it is just another arrow in our quiver of potential measures to judge how a team is really doing given their opposition to date.
Comparing the results of this season with last against the same opponents*, we discover that Vitesse’s 17 points in the Eredivisie to date are perhaps not so impressive given that they took 16 points from these fixtures last season. Similarly Everton’s uncharacteristic good start to the season may also be partially explained by the fact that they took 11 of the 18 points available from 2011/2012’s equivalent fixtures to those played so far.
In Vitesse’s case, there is another hard statistic from the field of play which suggests that their excellent start may be illusory. Despite having conceded just four goals, the club from Arnhem have faced 105 shots, the second highest total faced by any Eredivisie club this season (NAC Breda are the highest with 115). The four other clubs to have faced more than 100 shots this term are all currently in the bottom half of the Eredivisie.
Time will tell if Vitesse and Everton’s starts are, in fact, a case of rank journalism. Both are beginning to be talked about as potential Champions League qualifiers despite the season having only just started and this seems somewhat premature given a simple comparison with last season’s same fixtures.
* I have replaced the relegated teams with the promoted clubs in the following way – the results of the best relegated club are replaced by those of the best promoted club. So, in the Eredivisie, PEC Zwolle’s results are compared to De Graafschap’s last season, and Willem II’s this are compared to Excelsior’s. In the Premier League, Reading replace Bolton, Southampton Blackburn and West Ham Wolves.