The headline is Capt. Obvious; especially when the League Table sees both these teams beginning to separate themselves from the others.
The question for most is who qualifies for Europe in positions three and four while Man City and Chelsea go toe-to-toe for the League Championship.
Too early you say? Not for me.
By Week 19, the Composite Possession with Purpose Index, in Major League Soccer had already nailed the League Champion, LA Galaxy, as being best in overall team attacking and defending performance.
Of course that didn’t translate to the Supporter’s Shield winner, but, then again, Major League Soccer doesn’t have an equal schedule, so the only real measurement to go by is the Champion crowned after the Playoffs are finished.
With that said, there were some teams who did move up and down in the CPWP Index (and MLS League Tables) after the halfway point. So I suppose it’s possible Man United, Arsenal, or someone else could close the gap, and make it a three horse race?!?
In moving on though I’m not seeing that – at least not yet. Why? Well given my CPWP Index after Week 17, just below, it seems pretty clear both Man City and Chelsea are performing much better than the others:
Given that my main focus today is sorting out the picture for the two remaining spots for next years UEFA Champions League.
I’ll call them my Bubble Teams (lacks creativity most likely, but hey… it’s late).
I see five with a chance.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Southampton (really?), West Ham (really?), and Spurs (really?).
At this stage, all five of these teams are within five points of each other at near the half-way point.
Others like Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle, and Swansea aren’t shut out (yet)… but I sense those teams probably need more than one player to give them that edge and Everton blew their chance this weekend in getting thumped 3-nil by Southampton…
As for Liverpool – they need more than a striker in my opinion (they need another defender too) and I just don’t think they have the money to upgrade.
Brendan Rogers can go on all he wants about his team getting their form back – but in my view – he’s giving lip service to save face after that debacle in signing Balotelli.
So with that said – three new diagrams for your consideration; the first being the Game to Game CPWP Index outputs for the five teams under consideration:
The diagram itself – you’ll probably be seeing more of these (with just one or two teams more likely in the future). You can click to enlarge.
The line graphs – most should know by now the CPWP Index is the difference between the Attacking PWP Index and Defending PWP Index. As is always the case with the CPWP Index – Higher is Better.
Note the frequency of change from game to game in some cases. To get a better understanding of how much variation there is for each team, week to week, I calculated the Standard Deviation.
Those numbers are provided at the bottom – in this case the lower the number the better. In other words the lower the number the less deviation a team had, from week to week, in how they performed (in total).
I’ll not offer that Lower = Better Team; at least not yet – but in this case I am going to assume that lower means more consistency. Sometimes being more consistent doesn’t mean better. Chivas USA were one of the most consistent teams last year – sadly that consistency was centered around consistently losing…
With that being the case; West Ham is most consistent (.36) with Spurs next (.52), than Man United (.54), followed by The Arsenal (.58) – then Southampton (.67).
Next up the Attacking PWP Index for my Amber Bubble Bar Teams – I suppose that is a goofy name – I’ll change it next week… suggestions are welcomed!
It’s interesting to note that all five of the teams here are pretty much even at this stage – trending up is Southampton (after that lull for three weeks) while Man United seems to be taking a bit of a dip.
From a consistency standpoint – West Ham again lead the pack here (.24) while Arsenal sits at (.29), Spurs at (.31), followed by Man United (.34) and Southampton, again the least consistent, sitting at (.40). Again – lower is better…
With APWP – I tend to believe that consistency in attacking is a good thing; especially given that rotation of home and away games – for me that shows a team is comfortable in how it attacks.
But…. the drawback here is that consistency in attack also sometimes means a lack of vision in changing things up a bit to play less predictable.
A great example of that this past weekend was The Arsenal going into Liverpool and almost taking three points while playing to an attacking style most would normally attribute to Sam Allardyce…
Moving on to the Defending PWP Index:
In the case of the DPWP Index – Lower is Better; to remind those – this number is the Attacking PWP number of the Opponent as they attack you – if higher is better when you attack – then it stands to reason a good defending team performance means a lower number.
After Week 17 it would appear all but The Arsenal are near each other – that two goals conceded against Liverpool no doubt had influence.
With respect to consistency West Ham (AGAIN) lead the pack in being most consistent (.27); with Spurs next (.37), followed by Man United and The Arsenal tied at (.41) and last (AGAIN) Southampton at .47.
For me, consistency here is good, very good, provided points are being earned in the League Table.
By the way – it’s this deviation or consistency that I also look for in viewing Home and Away games to see if a team changes it’s style.
For example the Standard Deviation for West Ham in Away games is .18 while for Arsenal it’s .42 – indicating that Wenger will change their tactical approach depending upon their opponent while Allardyce won’t.
Since all five of these teams are within five points – it seems reasonable that all these teams are getting points.
So what, in the end, are my thoughts after taking this info in?
Before offering that here’s my traditional Indices starting with the APWP Index:
Spurs are consistent in attack – but not consistent in being strong.
Southampton are not consistent in attack – and they are dropping back further and further compared to about 5 weeks ago.
Man United and Arsenal remain dangerous in attack – and remain consistently dangerous as well.
West Ham continues to remain high up this Index – a challenge to be sure – but what bodes well is they are also consistent in that attacking performance.
Now the Defending PWP Index through Week 17:
A few observations…
While Southampton is not very consistent in team defending – at least for now they are not very consistent in a good way – what happens if that inconsistency begins to swing towards the opponent performing better? A likely slide I’d expect.
West Ham are not only consistent – they remain consistently good – again can that pattern hold?
The Arsenal and Man United remain near the best in team defending performance – quite an achievement given the new approach in Manchester and the injuries in London…
Like in APWP, Spurs lack in overall performance compared to many teams lower in the league table. The real test comes when they entertain Man United and Chelsea at White Hart Lane, on short rest, just after Christmas.
I think all of these teams will be in the mood to shop for a player, two, or three come January.
Who do I think each team looks to add – from an individual, player standpoint, I haven’t got a clue…
But from a team standpoint here’s my initial expectations:
West Ham looks to add another midfielder and another defender – they are solid and the Allardyce style is working – but do they have the legs to compete the entire season? I don’t think so – at least not without at least one more defensive thinking/positioning type player given the Allardyce style of football.
Man United looks to add a defender – most probably a center-back who can handle playing 3 or 4 at the back. But can they afford to? Lots of money spent already but I’d expect at least one new signing during the transfer window.
Southampton looks to add some more firepower by adding an attacking winger and/or striker – goals will need to be scored to keep them afloat if their defending remains inconsistent. I also think they could do with another defender if they really are intent on making a run for Europe.
Spurs – hmmm… tough one here – I could see them adding a defender (maybe two?), and a midfielder/forward – they have points in the league table but their team attacking and defending performance lags far behind many other teams with fewer points.
Arsenal – I’ve already opined I think Arsenal need a new Central Defending Midfielder – I also think they need another Center-back and perhaps some more depth at Fullback.
Finally, I will take another look at the bubble teams in about 3 weeks time – there are plenty of games this holiday season and at least a nine point swing could occur.
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