Cann tables show the gap between Arsenal and the top is smaller than you think

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.



17 thoughts on “Cann tables show the gap between Arsenal and the top is smaller than you think

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Phil

    I think it fair to assume that soccer is like other sports: points scored v points allowed has an extremely high correlation with winning percentage. So, the GD as it is now is a stronger indicator of where Arsenal might finish than the current table. Of course, the GD could change relative to other teams…

  2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerJack

    I think your assessment is right. We’re not that far off the top teams (just look at the games against Chelsea and man city). However in a 3 points for a win system you can get punished quickly and severly. That said, conversely, you can also rise quickly with a good run of form.

    The bottom line is, we are only four wins away from topping the table, so keep the faith gooners.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1GiantGooner

    Are you familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem of baseball (also applied to football) re run differentials and how they are a better predictor of next season’s W/L than the team’s same year record? Fits with your comment on goal differential as a leading indicator. I’ve always wondered why we’ve never seen similar work done for soccer.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Phil

      Yeah, I’m familiar with it. I was going to say that soccer would probably act in the same way, so that if a team say, came in 4th in GD and finished 6th, for example, they were likely to overperform the next year.

      I was going to say that maybe soccer just hasn’t had its Bill James moment yet, but maybe that’s not true. Maybe it’s AW.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Phil

        Which based on last year, indicates Spurs and Arsenal pretty much doing what you’d expect based on GD, but Chelsea and Everton expected to finish higher than there GD would indicate and Newcastle lower.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1TT


    Thanks for describing the Cann table, which is a new concept to me. Very interesting, especially your addition of the bands.

    I think the Reading/Liverpool example is misleading, however. Even if everyone above Reading lose the next game and Reading win, they would still move only one band up. It takes two Reading wins combined with two Liverpool losses before the two teams are in the same band. Of course this doesn’t consider what happens with the other teams.

    For Arsenal, whose wild ambition is to climb to the top of the table, the teams above them have to drop points as well. Else, the number of bands between Arsenal and the leader would remain the same, even if Arsenal start winning again, which they surely will? And surely the teams above would start dropping points? :) One can always hope.

  5. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Cheers to Jenny Cann, a great Gooner, RIP.

    I had forgotten all about the alternative table. Thanks for bringing this back with your addition of the bands.

    I wish it made me feel better, but this doesn’t really tell me anything new. I know it’s a close gap, but the only thing that counts is how we manipulate the scoreboard and that can only be done on the pitch with more goals than the other team by the time the final whistle blows.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1BayGooner

    After 11 games, this season and last, United vs Arsenal:

    United 9-0-2 29 GF 16 GA 13 GD 27pts
    To Scorers: RVP (8), Chicharito (4), Rooney, Evra, Kagawa & Rafael (2ea)
    Arsenal 4-4-3 18 GF 11 GA 7 GD 16pts
    Top scorers: Podolski, Cazorla, Giroud, & Gervinho (3 ea) Theo (2)

    United 8-2-1 28 GF 12 GA 16 GD 26pts
    Top scorers: Rooney (9), Chicharito (4) Welbeck & Nani (3 ea)
    Arsenal 6-1-4 23 GF 21 GA 2 GD 19pts
    Top scorers: RVP (11), Gervinho, Arshavin, & Theo (2 ea)

    As with most stats, there is grist for anyone’s mill. I think the change in Arsenal’s GA is the most significant. Second is the reversal of offensive mix between Arsenal and United. In both seasons, the team with RVP is totally dominated by Robin, and significant contributions by the defenders. In the non-Robin squads, the offense is shared a bit more evenly, though early last season was Rooney’s best part of the year, enhanced by 2 PKs. But as we see, Wellbeck and Nani have largely vanished. And one has to wonder whether they could all step up if RVP ever got hurt, perish the thought.

  7. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    When I look back and think that Jack, RVP, Cesc, Nasri, and Song (at various levels of their powers) used to play on the same team, I get so frustrated with the state of the team. Especially when we have to get our hope from breakdowns like this/are actually not quite so bad as it looks. And then to think that it wasn’t that long ago that those Invincibles were pulling on the shirt…. argh. I get so pissed off.

    But then again, after all players lost… Arsenal still aren’t awful. That’s amazing. Makes me love Arsene all the more.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    England 2 Ibrahimovic 4 including a 25 yd overhead volley that will go down as one of the greatest goals of all time. I’m just glad that no Arsenal players were involved in the Swedish destruction of a young England team.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1TT

      Umm… actually both Wilshere and Jenkinson were on the pitch when Ibrahimovic scored his last three goals.

      I don’t agree with the sentiment of the post though. Sure, losing a 77 min 1-2 lead hurts, but it was an away friendly after all. It should come as no surprise that this Sweden team has fight in them; just look what Sweden did to Germany in the recent WC qualifier.

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Cup half full, cup half empty…or in our case no cup at all.:D

    Cann table aside, we are reliant from a number of teams ahead of us to shed points. Were it just one team, it would be a different matter, but there are at least 2 other teams that can sustain the gap ahead of us if one starts to go flat.

    That said, considering we have played 11 with 16 points in the bank, if we fix ourselves quickly (big IF) we should be aiming for at minimum 20 wins ahead of us which will deliver 60 pts.

    60 +16 = 76.

    Then it will be a question of getting something from the remaining 7.

    Likely these will be dropped points (all losses) but if we carve out a couple of draws or wins, we may be in for a more respectable finish in the low 80s although quite whether this will be sufficient for us to win the title is another thing. It will likely afford us a good chance at the 3rd place trophy though…;)

  10. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    The lowest someone has won the title is with 80 points…two seasons back…Every other season it has taken 86+ points to get hands on the cup…

    On an average it takes 88 points to be a league leader (from where Arsenal won last). Despite the competing teams getting better and ManUtd getting 89 points..they didnt win a title last season…

    At this point we should not be worried about the title race or where we will finish…because it can get quite speculative…We should only be worried about getting 3 points the next match…

    3 points next match is more important than the title race… :)

    1. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

      Agree completely, Cliffy. Unfortunately as a supporter of the 2012/2013 Arsenal I am reduced to the cliche of “one game at a time”, because there is nothing else to be build on. Hope for the future has no purchase in this campaign. If we lose against Spurs it will be more of the same – dire predictions, handwringing, calls for “Wenger out”. If we win against Spurs the club has proved time and again that it can’t turn a positive result into anything meaningful for the next.

      I don’t know what it will take to pull us out of this funk, but at times I think I’d almost feel better if we crashed and burned that live with this uninspiring mediocrity.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Well we have to improve our betting average.

    I’m assuming we beat the Spuds. Over the last 11 game period we have had :

    3W, 4D, 4L. = 16pts

    If we take Spurs maybe 19pts Not good enough form to even finish in 3rd.

    Over 2 sets of 12 game stretches, we need to average : 9W, 2D, 1L

    Tough ask but that’s the form we need to get us to around 75pts with 2 games spare.

    Avoiding draws are key needless to say.

    If we play well, I don’t think we’ll be any higher than between 68-82pts

    1 game at a time but I think we need to be aware of our broader targets, difficult if achievable.

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