So, here’s a frustration that I frequently have. I’m working on an article which is heavily sourced from a single data point, say The Premier League web site. I get into this data, look around, find some neat gems to pick up, like number of goals scored off the Penis of William Gallas, and think everything is good so I start to craft my story. About a half-hour into that, I realize that there is something seriously wrong with the dataset that I am using to tell my tale and I get this sinking feeling.
The next step then is to compare datasets and see what’s wrong and if I can fix the error. So, I go to a known good source, say Arsenal.com. There I compare data and realize:
Huh, the Premier League ‘stats’ portion of their web site lumps all of the League games and League Cup games in together with no discernible method to extract either set of data, thus rendering all of my previous computations moot.
This is the point when I look up at the clock, see that it’s now 6:30am and the article I have been working on for the last 90 minutes is fucking ruined. All because the folks who run the Premier League web site A) have shitty data which doesn’t include the data points I’d like to compare thus forcing me to source from multiple locations and B) have conflated data sets of Premier League and League Cup for some unknown reason, possibly in order to retain some fucking ridiculous notion of proprietarity or uniqueness to their data but actually rendering all of their data uniquely useless.
Imagine if Tolkein had written the Hobbit entirely in Elvish and then didn’t give you the decoder ring. It sure would have made the Hobbit a lot more inaccessible, though I’m sure some nerds would have figured it out eventually.
Me, I’m going to take another day with my Premier League to English decoder ring to figure out what they are up to and if I can create a useful Robin van Persie By the Numbers column.
In the mean-time, you get THIS!
Have you ever wondered why people say that La Liga is a “two-team league”? Have you ever argued that “la Liga isn’t a two-team league because three teams ousted so and so from the Premier League”? Have you ever wondered which Leagues actually have the most parity in terms of how close their title races have been over the last five years?
Wonder no more.
I offer you the simplest possible way to quantify which leagues are two-team and which leagues are not: take the points earned by all teams in a league over a five year period and show the difference between league positions from 1-5.
Looking at the graphic above, you can see that the Scottish League and La Liga have something in common: the gap between first and second place in their respective leagues is 10 points or less while the gap between second and third place is over 120 points.
“AH HA!,” you will say “But five years is unfair because Valencia won the league in 2002 and 2004!” To which I reply, the gap between Real Mad and Barcelona over the last ten years is 13 points and between Barcelona and Valencia is 160 points.
La Liga is a two-team league and despite the fact that some other team beat a team in the Premier League in a tournament, has been a two-team league for over ten years.
And if La Liga is a two-team league then what is the Barclay’s Premier League? Well, the sad fact is that it’s a one team league, just like the Bundesliga. The gap between first and second is largest in the Premier League and the Bundesliga because Manchester United and Bayern Munich are so completely dominant in their respective Leagues.
I don’t think anyone will argue that Manchester United aren’t the only team in the one-team Premier League. They have won 4 of the last 5 titles and look like they might win another. Going back 10 years, the Premier League remains largely the same with Man U at the top of the total points haul and almost the same number of points difference between them and Chelsea, despite “only” winning five of the last ten titles.
The Bundesliga is a bit trickier because over the last ten years ,the gap between Bayern and second place (it’s actually Werder Bremen who are second over the last ten years) is a massive 124 points. This, plus the fact that there have been three different champions (Bayern, BvB, and Wolfsburg) in the last five years shows that the Bundesliga is moving away from a one-team League and toward a much flatter model where many teams compete for the title.
Many writers credit the financial monitoring system in place in the Bundesliga which doesn’t allow teams to overspend and buy a title as easily as Manchester City and Chelsea are trying to do in the Premier League. Add in ticket prices being the most accessible of the top leagues, a very loyal fanbase, and you can see why the Bundesliga is the hot television property this summer. Expect to see more Bundesliga games on TV next year.
Serie A is interesting too because one of the two Milans has dominated the Scudetto for all five of the last five seasons. But the title races have been some of the closest in Europe with Roma three-time runners up, missing out on the title by a combined 8 points in those three years. Juventus are in the lead this year with 5 games remaining and if they win, would be the third different champion in three years.
One other thing to note about Serie A, it’s really a four-team league. Poor Udinese is 5th, but has never really challenged the hegemony of the top four.
But the league that is the most egalitarian is from the country with which gave English the word and which has “egality” in their motto: France.
Oui oui oui!
If you take a five year look at Ligue Un, France is so egalitarian that to get to a similar difference between teams as you have in La Liga between Barcelona and Valencia (120 points) you have to go from 1st place (Lyon) to 14th place (Sochaux) — which is a 124 point difference. Not only that but if either first place Montpellier or second place PSG win this year’s title, they will be the fifth team in five years to lift the trophy.
Something like that has not happened in England since 1970-1974 when the champions of England went: Everton, Arsenal, Derby, Liverpool, Leeds.