Can Manchester City win the Premiership?
March 2, 2016
If I had asked the question when I first started supporting MCFC, I would have been laughed at. In recent years, the season has always started with a cautious “Yes, but it’s a funny old game”. Right now though, I’m more calculating when thinking about it.
Here’s the top half of the table as it stands this afternoon before the Liverpool game:
As it stands right now, most people would argue the competition is likely to be limited to the top half dozen clubs. That said, nobody is seriously considering West Ham as contenders (they are 960.0 on Betfair right now, so if you disagree, get a tenner on it). The only clubs given more than a 1% chance of winning by the betting exchange markets are in fact, the top 4.
When I look at this table, I immediately want to start thinking about these statistics in terms of what each team “earned” per game, how likely it is they will continue to earn those things at that rate given squad make-up, and to look at what their run-in looks like and if that might be tougher than what they have faced previously.
When we look at the per-game numbers, we get this:
Straight away there are a couple of stand-out numbers for me. Firstly, I know that historically goal difference tends to be a good predictor of where the league will settle in the long run - if you are consistently building up big goal differences, over time the points slot behind you and you overcome the “unlucky” losses.
On that basis, Tottenham is fully outperforming everybody else, including Leicester by a 47% higher goal difference, and should be feared.
The other number that struck me, was Manchester City’s GF column: they’ve been consistently scoring more than any other team in the league, but that hasn’t translated to points because of the number of losses. How can you be scoring more goals per game than anybody else, but be down in 4th?
Putting aside the two games in hand, a poor run of results in the middle of the season this year for City can be explained by the lack of Vincent Kompany who has been injured since the 8th November, and is only now back in the squad.
I can tell you as a fan watching that this has had a massive impact, and we’re all pleased to see he’s back playing again looking after that defensive back line and keeping the team shape in check.
Before he was injured we conceded on average just 0.75 goals per game in the Premiership. With him missing, that rose to 1.36 goals per game. How does that translate into points? With him, City won an average of 2.17 points per game. Without him, City have managed only 1.5 points per game.
Now let’s look at the run-in.
If Leicester continue as they have done so far and nothing changes, they will likely pick up around 20 points netting them 77 points 11 This would be the lowest winning total number of points in the Premiership since Manchester United won the title with 75 points in the 1996/97 season. That would - if everybody else continues unchanged at the same averages - be enough to get them the title. Tottenham are on target for 76 points, and Arsenal will be doing well to get to 70 points.
City have 12 games left, and if they simply return to their form with Kompany they can expect to get around 26 points, bringing them up to 73 points: that’s just third place, on this model.
However, I think as well as Kompany’s return, City have a relatively easy run-in.
They are the only club in the top 4 who have won a title in the last decade 22 Arsenal last won in 2003/04 and came second in 2004/05 - the best performance of any of the other clubs in the top running and they know how to hold their heads under pressure33 The fans, however do not. This video makes me cry every time.. That has to count for something.
Also, the only team in the top 4 that City have to play on their run-in is Arsenal. In fact, 8 of their remaining 12 games are with teams in the bottom half of the table.
It’s true that Leicester have a similar run-in with 8 of their 10 fixtures being with clubs in the lower half of the table and none of them against a top four club. They are also free of distraction - there is no Champions League to consider for the Foxes. Can they hold their heads though? Tottenham looks more troubled - they have a Europa run to think about, with 6 of their 11 remaining matches being with clubs in the top half of the league.
I think on balance, Leicester have to be favourites to win the League still. I don’t think Tottenham can do it and expect their points/game to come down over their final 11 games. Nothing has shown me Arsenal or Manchester United can improve their form enough to get up there.
Manchester City right now are game on for second or third, but perhaps no better.
There is a way they can win it though.
I’m assuming above that they will pick up 26 points with Kompany back, which boils down to 8 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses. They would be just 4 points behind Leicester, so if they can convert one of the losses to a win, and the other to a draw, they would be level-pegging, at which point goal difference would win out.
If City don’t lose and don’t settle for draws, they can win. Get more than 2.5 points per game on average on the run-in, and the title is theirs.
At odds of 6.0 on Betfair to win it, it looks to me like City might be a value bet and I’d expect that price to come down a lot if they win at Liverpool this evening.