2-team

Liberté, égalité, fraternité and two-team leagues

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.

Qq

24 thoughts on “Liberté, égalité, fraternité and two-team leagues

  1. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    As a North American, one of the bigger hurdles for me as I was falling in love with The Beautiful Game was the absence of playoffs. This not a sport where a team like the New York Giants can hit their stride in Nov//Dec., sneak into the post-season as wildcard and end up winning it all. Steelers did the same thing a few years back.

    I’ve always liked the uncertainty of an underdog coming in and shaking things up . Anyway it’s a subject that’s been discussed ad nauseam, so I won’t go on about it.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      I hear you, but on the other hand, I’ve just watched my beloved (but universally hated) Vancouver Canucks win the President’s Trophy for being the top team in the NHL, and then get dumped out of the only hockey competition that really matters: The Stanley Cup playoffs.

      I just find it baffling that finishing first after 82 games per season against 29 other teams means absolutely nothing. Zero. Zilch.

      The playoffs are glorious, and they will always have a special magic, but there’s something wrong when topping the league means nothing (so much so that the President’s Trophy is seen as a curse for the playoffs).

      1. Vote -1 Vote +11niltothearsenal

        As resident of the worst team in the supposedly “best” hockey market, I wish I could sympathize. Anytime you’re feeling bad about the Canauks feel free to poke fun at my Leafs.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Nayeem

      Well, that’s what Champions League is for, isn’t it? Talk about underdogs shaking things up, how about Chelsea reaching the CL final after the shitty start they had to the season..

    3. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

      That’s what the cup competitions are for. Upsets that might lead to an unfancied champion.

      At least the Ottawa Senators are hanging on for a seventh game against top seeded NY Rangers. The only ones talking hockey here are those of us in Canada!

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Me

    That’s actually the beauty of our sport;you’ve got to be good all year round.
    I always had problems with notions like the draft system,no relegation and the whole conference thing,it really does harm the experience.look at the bobcats for example they’re quite happy to be shite for another year and wait for a miracle in the draft.

  3. +3 Vote -1 Vote +111cannons

    Tim, not being facetious, I was under the impression you kept your own personal log of statistics. I also realize what an undertaking that would be, having at one point considered doing that myself because I encountered a similar lack of reliable data. Then I shelved the idea because of the time investment. [Instead I do meticulously hand-rendered drawings that I just crap out in no time. Not.]

    All of this is to say that I appreciate the enormous amount of work you put into your blog on a daily basis, especially in light of just how many regurgitating, link-accumulating sites exist in the world of Goonerdom, and what little thought they offer in exchange for the zillions of share/RT requests made on their behalf. Thanks for all the hard work and unique content. Looking forward to the RVP numbers when they become available.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    Tim, I know how you like stats, but I believe that in this case they paint a slightly different picture.

    No one can dispute the fact that United are dominating the EPL , but in almost all of their trophy seasons, the point difference between the 1st and the 2nd team in the end has never been bigger than 10 points.

    In fact, in most of them the title was decided by a couple of points, practically a single game, meaning that there was a battle until the very end, whereas in the Primera, Real Madrid or Barcelona are already 20 points ahead of the 3rd placed team at halftime in September.

    As for the other comparison, even though they are a two team league, I have to admit that those two teams have always been stronger than the 5 strongest teams in the EPL. Of course, I’m basing this only on account of their respective successes in the CL, but until UEFA creates a model where each team has to spend a season in a different league, I don’t think there is any other way of measuring this.

    Although this last part is not a bad idea, I must say. First.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Man U won last year by 9
      Man U won in 09 by 4
      Man U won in 07 by 6
      Man U have won 4/5 titles in 5 years.

      It’s a one-team league.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

        And this despite a more equitable tv revenue sharing agreement than some others over this period. How to explain this? I doubt this level of dominance will last when Fergie retires. I think he has been the reason.

        Over the last decade, ManU have become more dominant despite Chelsea spending and ManCity’s entrance into the spending stakes. That’s rather scary. I wonder if FFP will help cement their financial position ahead of the rest.

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

        Well, that was my point, in the end 4 and 6 points is practically 2-3 games that brought them 2 titles. They are winning, but far from it that they are wrapping them up easily.
        Never mind, I guess it’s just a matter of perspective and no one could argue about their titles, but given how each of the last 5 seasons ended with the last couple of matches being decisive, I’m seeing United more as the strongest from a three teams than a shoulders above-the-rest dominant force.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Teampossible

    Tim, I know how you like stats, but I believe that in this case they paint a slightly different picture.

    No one can dispute the fact that United are dominating the EPL , but in almost all of their trophy seasons, the point difference between the 1st and the 2nd team in the end has never been bigger than 10 points.

    In fact, in most of them the title was decided by a couple of points, practically a single game, meaning that there was a battle until the very end, whereas in the Primera, Real Madrid or Barcelona are already 20 points ahead of the 3rd placed team at halftime in September.

    As for the other comparison, even though they are a two team league, I have to admit that those two teams have always been stronger than the 5 strongest teams in the EPL. Of course, I’m basing this only on account of their respective successes in the CL, but until UEFA creates a model where each team has to spend a season in a different league, I don’t think there is any other way of measuring this.

    Although this last part is not a bad idea, I must say. First!

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    It’s all down to Ferguson imo. The man is as Mourinho would have put it, a winning machine. How many times have we seen Man U winning a game by 3 clear goals, then see a midfielder make a silly error or a flamboyant backheel, and promptly observe Ferguson lose his rag like an authority figure in Les Miserables? And then the midfielder will be dropped for some games. He just wants to win, and at the first sight of any of his players making errors that will impede him in doing so, he cuts them. That and astute purchases in defensive positions. How many titles would we have won with a keeper who didn’t look more like an Ibiza narcotics middleman or a scruffy pole who, however well he dances (f*cking brilliantly, btw,) is the biggest disaster in goal since Fabian Barthez. We meandered along with Almunia and Fabs for the better part of four years, Man U spent 20 million on the werewolf the year VDS retired (in mitigation though, we did make an identical offer for Reina.) And Ferdinand, collossal idiot he may be, still looks well worth the 30 million GBP United parted with to get him. Merciless perfectionism in management and astute defensive purchases, combined with the inherent bias of the officials who look at old red nose as something of an ingenious manipulator to be feared and revered, contribute to making United what they are. When Ferguson leaves, I imagine City, Arsenal, Chelsea, and maybe Tottenham will get more of the titles. Not Liverpool though. Not ever Liverpool!

  7. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    So glad that RM now join Barcelona on the CL sideline. I’m so glad that so many big money transfer players came up small when it counted. In the end it was all about the players who were mentally tougher and that was epitomized by Schweinsteiger. No flash, no dash, just a solid player.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

      Perhaps not on the same level as RM in transfer spending but Bayern have shelled out big money over the years too–Robben, Ribery, Gomez, Neuer were all pretty big purchases and Bayern pays pretty big wages too for its top players. They aren’t exactly the little engine that could either. It’s not like Basel making it!

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1BrkiMarin

        Regarding Bayern spending,

        http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2012/02/bayern-munich-opportunities-lets-make.html

        its pretty obvious that they like Man Utd (pre Glazers) are basing they spending on vast income, and higher brand value. I have nothing against
        spending if u earn that money trough clever investment.

        “Given the consistent small profits, even as revenue has risen, it looks very much like Bayern make their suit from the cloth available. In other words, they have a deliberate policy of operating at a profit, but budget to use all available funds on strengthening the squad.”

        And for me thats how a club should operate, by upgrading your squad every season to be competitive.

        And if the numbers in that article are correct theirs wages/turnover ratio
        is even better then ours. Compare squads and it is obvious that their model for wages is better.

        Basically Bayern please win xD

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    Can’t wait for May 19th. Come on, Bayern! Or, how shall I say it… “Come on you Bayerns!” Uh…

  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Just learned that I will be in Munchen on the 16th and 17th! I’m trying to stretch it into the weekend. Saturday stay overs are always cheaper – hope the powers that be agree to it. Would love to be in the city on the day of the final rooting against Chelsea.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1DF

    The final will be a scrappy and physical game, unlike the 4 semi finals.
    Ze Germans will win….unless Chelsea is given a 1goal lead and plays with 10men. It wont be a show of football artistry like last year when Barca
    bedazzled utd…

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1McNabber

    Good point(s) on the Fußball-Bundesliga. It is a great league. The bottom two finishers are relegated, and the top 2 finishers in the second tier are automatically promoted, but they have a play off with the the 3rd place and the 3rd to last place. It is actually a great system.

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