Tag Archives: Tottenham

He was crying

Run-in with the Devil: why the NLD matters more than you already think

Both Arsenal and Tottenham have 12 games left in their season. Both teams have 6 home and 6 away games. Both teams face a mixture of tough opponents and easier opponents. Tottenham has a 4 point advantage in the table and Arsenal have a +7 goal difference advantage. Everything looks all square, just about, so which team is going to win The 7amkickoff 4th Place Trophy™?

As I like to do, I quantified the run-in. I used both Arsenal and Tottenham’s opposition’s current position on the League table to rank their difficulty. It’s a bit simplistic, I know, but to see how close I was to my gut, I first ranked them using just my instinct and then compared them to their position on the table. And it turned out that their position on the League table was pretty close to my instinct — with just a couple of notable exceptions.

Then I looked at both teams’ previous performance against these 12 teams and made a column for actual points accrued. Then I predicted an outcome for each match based on my gut feeling. I did this because frankly if I didn’t predict outcomes, someone would have called out for it and if I do make predictions someone will call me out for it, so either way I’m getting called out. I might as well make predictions because it gives you all something extra to argue with each other about!

Run-in with the DevilAs you can see from the graphic above Tottenham’s run-in has a greater difficulty of an average of 2.5 places on the League table over Arsenal. That means that their run-in is somewhere between Liverpool and Stoke City on average whereas Arsenal’s run-in is somewhere around Norwich and Sunderland.

This average difference is reflected in the actual points taken from the previous matches, with Arsenal edging Tottenham by a little less than .25 points per game over those 12 opponents. As an aside here, if you just take the total points taken from the previous encounters between the teams listed above, Arsenal only regain 2 points on Tottenham and to do that would require Arsenal to win at White Hart Lane. In the previous 12 matches against these opponents Arsenal had 21 points and Tottenham had 19.

But I don’t think that these next 12 games will shape up the way that they did in their previous encounters. For example, I just can’t see Wigan getting three points on Tottenham again and similarly I don’t see Arsenal losing to Norwich again. I also would like to point out that Arsenal have to play both QPR and Newcastle in the final weeks of the season, both of which are teams who spent enormous amounts of money in the January transfer window and radically overhauled their teams. If you remember, Wenger mentioned this very thing in a press conference a few weeks ago saying that teams who have to play Newcastle and QPR after January face a much different squad.

Admittedly, my predictions may be a little bit harsh on Arsenal. For example, I have draws in both of those games against QPR and Newcastle. I did that simply because I think QPR are going to be fighting for their lives to escape relegation, plus, that match follows on the heels of the big game against Man U and if previous seasons are any measuring stick, Arsenal struggle in the last few games after a big match. For example, there was a notable dip in form after Arsenal beat Man City last season, with the Gunners winning just 2 of their last 6.

Is that what I want to happen? No. I would rather Arsenal finish this season strong as a building block for next season. But the reality is that Manchester United could win the title at the Emirates this season and with this squad so unsteady at the moment there’s no telling how they would react if they let that happen.

That’s actually why I put that United game in red. It’s one of the two key games for the end of the season run-in. In fact, if you look at my predicted total and you change just either of those two red games to Arsenal wins, Arsenal overcome Spurs in the League table.

The other key game is, of course, the North London Derby (NLD). Arsenal face Aston Villa at the Grove next and Spurs face West Ham at the Bubble. I think that Spurms have just enough to get a draw there but that Allardyce is fighting for a new contract and he has his favorite target Andy Carroll back. That’s going to be a real tough game for them. Meanwhile, Arsenal will have to look at Villa as exploitable for all three points — the Birmingham side have really struggled with form this season and just recorded their first win in what seems like ages.

If Arsenal can win against Villa and West Ham can get a draw against Spurs, that North London Derby will be an actual battle for fourth place with just two points difference between the two teams. I predicted a draw above, but you know what? I might just change that.

Qq

That hairstyle is DEEEENCH

Wally goes for the 4th place prize

Gee, Wally…

How old am I? I’m old enough to remember Leave it to Beaver. Of course, not in first run. If I was that old I’d be looking for a retirement cottage in Stoke. But I am old enough to remember all 16 of us kids huddled around the family television watching Leave it to Beaver re-runs while mother did the washing-up in a basin, before she did the sewing, and the cooking.

Good times.

For those who never watched the show, I strongly encourage it. It’s a dystopian vision of human interaction set in 195os America. An imaginary world where gender roles such as “wife” and “husband” were forced on adults, sexual activity was completely disallowed except in the case of procreation (male and female domestic partners were forced to sleep in separate beds!), children were treated like property, and white people were kept in apartheid like conditions which the government called “suburbs”.

We live in an era, now, where vampires and werewolves have captured the imagination but I challenge you to watch one episode of Leave it to Beaver and then come back here to tell us which between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Leave it to Beaver is the more preternatural setting.

One of the many recurring themes in Leave it to Beaver happened each night typically during the dénouement of the show: “The Beav” who was the younger brother of “Wally” would turn to Wally and recite the lesson of the day in this manner:

Beav: Gee, Wally… well, I kinda-sorta, passed the ball to myself by kicking it past that smelly ape of a defender. Then I ran into the ball, fell over and was clobbered! I always try the same trick but that defender figured it out. I’m sure when Dad gets home he’s gonna holler at me for not trying something new.
Wally: Heh! It’s ok Beav! Next time gyp that crummy defender with a nutmeg and then beat the next creep with a Cruyf turn or the Zidane dribble and you’ll be a real star!
Beav: Oh Wally! Thanks! Sorry I deflowered all your desert after dinner.
Wally: HA HA! Beav… you mean devoured. Come on, let’s go brush our teeth and get to bed before dad threatens to strangle us to death in a drunken rage.

scene

That hairstyle is DEEEENCH, Wally!

Maybe it’s because I don’t subscribe to the official Manchester United news feed but reading some of the articles on the dot com makes me wonder if Arsenal aren’t kinda-sorta the Leave it to Beaver of world football. There’s all these great kids whose worst crimes are the odd end or letting their pants fall down after a night out.

I’m not saying that I’d rather have Jermaine Pennant back in the team so that he could get into a drunken rumble at 3:30am and punch a woman in the face, just… well… when I read quotes like this:

At times people just expect me to knock the ball and run but it is not as easy as you think to be honest. As soon as you start doing that, the defender knows what you are doing every time. You need to change it because you can’t just be one-dimensional.

I can’t help but envision “The Beav” sitting in the room with Theo ‘Wally’ Walcott as he tells him all about his master plan to be less one-dimensional. Which all ends when the Beav says “Gee Wally…that sounds like a boss plan.”

Maybe that just makes me old.

Châteauneuf-du-Tyne

Big day today. In fact, I would go so far as to say that today will go 33% toward deciding who will end the season with the Third Place Cup. Chelsea host Newcastle, Bolton host Tottenham and that makes for three teams fighting for fourth (or higher) all playing on the same day.

I suppose the simplest thing to hope happens is that there are two draws. That would move Bolton out of the relegation zone and keep all the other fourth/third place contenders below Arsenal by three points or more with everyone level on games.

If you’re rooting for a win, it has to be Bolton. They are the plucky little team who could and probably least deserving of relegation based purely on the “I dislike them least” scale. Also, they are playing Tottenham and Spurs losing is never a bad thing.

My gut feeling is that I want Chelsea to lose because when it comes to money-grubbing-mercenaries-who-steal-other-team’s-players-in-order-to-buy-the-League they aren’t the best around any more, but they were the first… in the last decade… in the Premier League.

But there is an alternate universe where one hopes Chelsea win: in that alternate universe you want Chelsea to finish fourth or even third, that way if they win the Champions League and Arsenal manage to fuck up the last two games of the season and Arsenal finish fourth over both Newcastle and Tottenham then Chelsea’s winning the Champions League doesn’t matter because they qualify for Europe by dint of their record.

Sorry, but hoping Chelsea win a match against Newcastle so that they can have the better record, in case Arsenal fuck up the last two games of the season, and in case they win the Champions League is like rooting for the school bully to take the lunch money off all the kids in school so he can buy himself a new bike because once he has his own bike you hope he won’t steal your shitty old bike.

As The Beav would say “Gee Wally, that’s hardly any constellation prize is it?”

Qq

94-95

When Queens were Kings of London

1994-1995.

There were 22 teams in the League and seven of them were from London: West Ham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Wimbledon, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Queens Park Rangers.

That was a crazy time in the League; Blackburn Rovers won the title on the last day of the season edging out Man U for despite a loss to Liverpool, Wimbledon was captained by none other than Vinnie Jones, and Arsenal struggled as Paul Merson missed a large part of the season getting treatment for his demons.

It would be the last time that a team not firmly established as a top four team would win the Premier League.

Oh and did I mention that Kenny Dalglish was manager of Blackburn? Oh and did I mention that they had a young player named Alan Shearer on their team? Oh and did I mention how annoying rhetorical questions are?

I was looking at the datasets on Statto.com and playing around with comparing head-to-heads between the top four clubs over various seasons when an idea struck me: what if I looked at just London teams? I mean, we hear all the time about how “the balance of power has shifted in London” and that got me wondering how true that statement is.

So, here’s 2011-2012′s table of the matches (so far!) between all the London clubs:

As you can see, Tottenham have played very well against their London rivals. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the column inches dedicated to their season. That said, they still have two matches to play against London teams — Chelsea and QPR. So their table position could actually go up quite dramatically should they win either or both games.

I think the surprise team on that list is Fulham. Clint Dempsey has been amazing this season and Fulham have seen a bit of a revival with the always underrated Martin Jol as their manager.

The other surprise is Chelsea’s position in last place. They also have two games to play, but they are against Tottenham and Arsenal. The points difference is so bad for them that even if they win both games they’d still only draw level with Arsenal on points.

Now here’s last season’s table:

Chelsea were the most dominant team in London last year amassing an incredible 2.12 PPG against their local rivals. They also conceded the fewest goals, had the best goal difference and basically dominated in all but three games. But what you should also notice is that Chelsea have dropped an incredible 1.45 PPG off last season against London teams.

Here’s the season prior:

Again, we’ve got Chelsea just cleaning up against local rivals to the tune of 2.38 PPG, +13 GD, 1 loss and 1 draw. In just about every category they were dominant — just like they were in the League that season. Remember, they scored 103 goals that year.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are bumping along never really shining but not really that shit either. If you look at the variation in Arsenal’s seasons over the last three years it’s remarkable for nothing but the consistency.

Going back another year and we see the first time that Tottenham won the London table:

Again, Arsenal are in third place but now with their lowest point per game average in the last four years. It’s actually kind of a tight table with just 0.62 PPG variation between first and fifth. The very next year that variation would be a full 2 PPG.

If you go back one more year (07-08) you find the very best London team of the decade. Not coincidentally, that Arsenal team was tipped to win the title that season until Martin Taylor destroyed Eduardo’s leg with his horrific challenge.

2006-2007, we are back to Chelsea being the top team in London.

2005-2006, the top team is again Chelsea.

Even back in 2004-2005 when Arsenal last had a dominant team in the League, Chelsea and Arsenal were tied for top honors with Arsenal just edging Chelsea on goals scored.

And, of course, if you go back one more season to the Invincibles you have Arsenal alone at the top of the London table.

So, from what I see in this series of tables is that the balance of power in London did shift. Once, in 2005-2006 from Arsenal to Chelsea. After that time, Arsenal only have a single season where they are a dominant London team (2007-2008). It just so happens that that team was actually better than the Invincibles in terms of London derbies but ended up finishing the season in third place after the horrific injury to Eduardo destroyed team morale.

What’s fascinating to me is how the stories about the balance of power shifting always focus on just North London when in reality there has been a massive shift in power all over London. In Fulham, you’ve got the Cottagers as the better of the two teams there and even as a whole, if you were to write about a switch in power you wouldn’t even mention Arsenal. Because they have been a mid-table London team for years.

The dramatic fall from power has been Chelsea. I will be waiting here, holding my breath, for the “Chelsea club in crisis” and “balance of power shifts from Chelsea to Spurs” articles.