What’s a Cann table? The Premier League table is a type of ranked data visualization which gives you an ordered list with the teams having the most points ranked from top to bottom. What it lacks, however, is the context that is presented by the gaps between the ranks. So that, after 11 games if United have 33 points and are on top and Arsenal have 23 points and are second, you see them ranked 1-2.
What Jenny Cann created was a visualization of the League table which allows the reader to quickly assess how big the gaps are between teams in the League ranking. She did this by assigning a slot to each point. Thus in the example above, Arsenal are 10 slots below United, and when presented on a Cann table the gap looks much bigger than when you see it in the League table as 1st and 2nd.
This gap between finishes is a complaint that many leveled about Arsenal last season. Arsenal did finish third in the table but a whopping 19 places below 1st and 2nd which, on a Cann table, is a pretty big gap.
That’s why from time to time I like to use the Cann table to check out the gap between Arsenal and the rest of the League. So, without further ado, here’s today’s Cann table.
I’ve added a slight change to the traditional Cann table and included 3-point banding. I feel this is useful in that it provides a visual that shows how many wins a team would need to jump a band. So that, for Reading to get into the Liverpool band they need Villa and Sunderland to both lose on the weekend that they get a win. For Arsenal to move up a band, they need four teams to lose on the day that they get a win. And so on.
As you can see, the reason so many people have furrowed brows over Arsenal’s form this season is that the club are firmly in mid-table with 11 points difference between the League leaders (four bands) and 10 points off relegation (four bands). The positive Gooners would point out that just three wins will put the club into the top band but remember, that’s three more wins than all 7 of the clubs above them. Meanwhile, the people who really feel that Arsenal are at all close to relegation should keep in mind that there are 9 clubs who would have to have multiple wins for Arsenal to drop down those bands.
The other table I like to create is a Cann table for goal difference. I find goal difference to be a very useful counter-measure to a team’s performance when compared to the League table. Essentially, I feel like the League table can lie during a season but that goal difference shows the gulf in class between teams.
As you can see, based on goal difference, Arsenal are a fourth place team. And remember, goal difference is significantly more difficult to generate than points on the table: a 1-0 win, moves you three places on the regular Cann table but just one place here. In this case, Arsenal’s goal difference is a bit misleading since the the Gunners got +5 in just the one game against Southampton and if you remove that result, Arsenal drop considerably. All the way down into the Tottenham realm. But conversely, the reason they scored 6 in that game is because they aren’t crap. And double-conversely (that’s where you wear one yellow Converse sneaker and one black Converse sneaker) the results against Norwich and QPR are more painful in the context of the table here which shows those two teams as among the most picked on goals wise.
For me, it’s clearly been a see-saw season with Arsenal showing some moments of brilliance mixed with some moments of dire play. That is reflected in both Cann tables here.
However, being more hopeful than negative, I look at the goals-difference table and see a way back for this Arsenal team. After all, that 4th place so far this season might not be a trophy (HAR HAR, now you get to tell me I’m settling for the “4th Place on Goal Difference Trophy!”) but it shows that this Arsenal team are not as far off the pace as the League table indicates.