In one of my first posts I introduced the idea of rank journalism and now that eight matches have been played in the Premier League, it is interesting to look at the league table and try and get behind what it is telling us at this early stage. Are Chelsea really genuine title contenders or is the table not revealing the full truth?
In order to investigate this question, we must first look back to last season, a season in which Chelsea managed just 64 points, finishing 25 points behind the two Manchester clubs. We can also assume that Chelsea will need at least 86 points to have a chance of the title this term as this has been required in all but one of the last nine seasons.
Chelsea have managed a massive 10 points extra from their first eight fixtures in comparison with the same matches last season (the encounter with Reading is compared to the match with Bolton in 2011/2012 as best promoted and best relegated clubs respectively). This seems to confirm Chelsea’s current league position but the problem for the Londoners is that they need to keep this up throughout the season to turn around the 25 point deficit they had with the Manchester clubs in 2011/2012 or the Manchester clubs need to fail to do as well as they did last term. It is also likely that Chelsea will need to increase their points total by at least 22.
Manchester United have picked up a point fewer from their eight fixtures than they did last season but neighbours Manchester City have taken four more than they did in 2011/2012. City’s four extra points have come from their matches with West Brom (+2) and Sunderland (+2) and Fulham (+2) whilst the Citizens lost two points on last season when they drew with Arsenal. Their other four matches have finished with identical results to 2011/2012.
So, when it comes to potential champions, Manchester City’s start to the season is looking pretty decent. The bookmakers are also very well aware of this, keeping them as favourites ahead of Manchester United with Chelsea third in the betting currently despite 21 points out of 22 and a four point lead in the league table currently.
Other potentially misranked teams at the moment include Everton who will be lauded for a rare good start to the season but have only taken two points more than last term from the same fixtures. West Brom’s three points extra is also less impressive than appears to be the case when looking at the league table. West Ham are looking good on 14 points but relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers took 10 against the same eight opponents last term.
Finally, Sunderland are an interesting case. Their eight points so far looks unimpressive but they have actually taken three more than they did last season from the equivalent fixtures. Given the toughness of their schedule to date, it is also unsurprising to see that the expected points model also confirms that Sunderland’s points total is better than initially appears. Along with Stoke City, the Black Cats are the only team outside of the current top eight who are outperforming the bookmakers’ odds.