Only ten games remain of the Premier League season. Looking back at the previous 28, it’s hard not to use ‘unpredictable’, ‘close’, ‘bloody weird’ as part of your assessment. It’s as if someone or something has grabbed hold of the league and its mechanisms and shook it really hard. Like a world-wide pandemic, maybe.
That being said, let’s examine just how the teams battling for Champions League and Europa League spots might fare in the closing stage of the season.
Where might they finish on the league table, by comparing their form, match schedule, new injuries and returning players, previous results and analytics like xPts and more?
Every little advantage matters
Seeing as Leicester, Man United and Man City have a 5-point head start, or more, they won’t be included in this estimation.
For the rest, every little advantage will matter. If that’s playing two games less than a rival in the run-in or hoping underperforming analytics like xG finally turns to their benefit.
Will Arsenal make the Europa League? Can Aston Villa? What about West Ham and Chelsea and that juicy 4th spot? Where on earth will Liverpool land?
- Match schedule
- Games left vs top/bottom teams
- Results from previous meetings
- xG and xPts
- Who’s got an injury problem?
Here’s the data, what do you think?
Form: Arsenal best – Villa a worry without Grealish
This table displays the teams from positions 4 (Chelsea) to 10 (Arsenal) and their recent form considering their past 5 league games:
|Win||Draw||Loss||Goals For||Goals Against||Goal Diff.||Points|
|5 West Ham||3||0||2||8||4||+4||9|
|9 A Villa||1||2||2||3||4||-1||5|
None of the teams are dominating and the points are mostly close. But Aston Villa, without their star player Jack Grealish, are in trouble, struggling to score goals. A lack of goals is an issue for Liverpool, too. Though their mountainous injury list contains mostly defenders, scoring goals is a bigger issue at the moment.
If we multiply their points per game from the last 5 games with how many games they have left of the season, we get this league table to conclude the season:
|Position||Points Current||Points per game||Points After|
|5 West Ham||48||1.8||66|
|10 A Villa||41||1||52|
If current form continues, Chelsea will take the 4th spot just ahead of West Ham.
Arsenal will miss out on a Europa League spot unless they win it this year. Liverpool will miss out on European football altogether unless they win the Champions League.
Tottenham will have to beat Man City in the League Cup final to qualify for the Europa League next season. (A maximum of seven Premier League teams can qualify for European competitions.)
It should be noted that there are about 30 points to win for most teams in this section of the league table. Getting into the right groove now – or losing your rhythm – will have devastating effect.
But of course, it’s far more complicated than that, so here are some more graphs.
Match schedule: Chelsea fighting on all fronts
Playing 14 or 11 games from now until the end of May, one or two matches a week, will have a substantial impact on players’ fatigue and injury proneness, especially for slimmer squads like Aston Villa and West Ham’s. On the other hand, the more league matches they have left the more points they can win.
Who has the toughest schedule?
|# of League Games Left||CL or EL?||Cup Games||Total # Games|
|Arsenal||10||EL ¼ final||No||12 or more|
|Everton||10||No||FA Cup ¼ final||11 or more|
|Liverpool||9||CL ¼ final||No||11 or more|
|Chelsea||9||CL ¼ final||FA Cup ¼ final||12 or more|
Chelsea and Liverpool have one fewer game left than the others and will have to make them count. Additionally, Chelsea are also fighting on all fronts, which could make or break their season.
Aston Villa, with most league games left to play and no cup games, are in prime position to make a push for European qualification, if it wasn’t for their dreadful form.
Games left against top/bottom teams
The quality of your opponent is of course important, too. Some have an easier path than others in that regard:
|# Games vs Top 10 (Traditional Top 6 Teams)||vs Bottom 10 (Bottom 3 Teams)|
|Arsenal||4 (2)||6 (3)|
|A Villa||8 (6)||3 (2)|
|Spurs||5 (1)||5 (1)|
|Everton||6 (3)||4 (1)|
|Liverpool||3 (2)||6 (1)|
|West Ham||4 (2)||6 (1)|
|Chelsea||5 (2)||4 (2)|
On paper, Arsenal have the easiest schedule of league games, playing all the bottom 3 teams and only 2 ‘traditional top six’ teams (Liverpool, Chelsea).
Aston Villa have by far the toughest run-in, playing all the Traditional Top Six teams and only 3 from the lower half of the table.
Results from previous meetings
In this segment we look at how many points a team earned from their previous match-up against the same teams they will now face in their remaining league games.
(I included this because of the argument that some teams are set up in a way that fares better against certain teams, or one coach can exploit an opponent’s weakness better than others.)
|# of Games Left||Points from prev. meetings|
Again, the numbers favour Arsenal, who have done really well against their upcoming opponents. Everton and Tottenham, too.
The same cannot be said for Liverpool and Chelsea. However, since Thomas Tuchel arrived at Chelsea they have improved, especially defensively, as shown in this next part.
xG for/against + xPts
Here we see each team’s xG (Expected Goals) for and against and how many goals they actually scored or conceded from their past 5 league games. As well as xPts (Expected Points) from those matches.
|xG For – # of Goals||xG Against – # of Goals Against||xPts (entire season)||Actual Points|
|Arsenal||9.06 – 10||5.2 – 6||43.17||41|
|A Villa||5.74 – 3||5.98 – 4||43.15||41|
|Spurs||7.63 – 11||4.99 – 5||40.14||45|
|Everton||6.81 – 5||6.55 – 4||36.78||46|
|Liverpool||6.36 – 3||6.68 – 4||48.96||46|
|West Ham||8.19 – 8||5.51 – 4||43.79||48|
|Chelsea||7.39 – 4||1.76 – 1||57.24||51|
What sticks out here is Chelsea’s impressive defensive record, only conceding 1 goal in their last 5 league games. They’re also underperforming in regard to scoring goals. If they become more efficient in front of goal, they’ll sweep their opponents.
Liverpool should also score more, according to xG. While Tottenham, as they have all season, are overperforming the xG big time.
(Impressive xG conversion can describe a team with great finishing, like Tottenham with Harry Kane, or a team that’s overperforming and scoring above what is expected which rarely is sustainable, or both. The same goes for xPts)
Injuries: Few long-term worries
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is injuries. The severity of each team’s injury list is categorised as such: LT (Long-Term), ST (Short-Term) and Doubt for the upcoming match.
|First Team Injuries|
|A Villa||Wesley (Short Term) – Grealish (Doubt)|
|Everton||Douncoure (LT) – Pickford, Olsen, Gbamin, Rodriguez, Delph (ST)|
|Liverpool||Van Djik, Matip, Gomez, Henderson (LT) – Origi (ST)|
|West Ham||Yarmolenko, Ogbonna, Fornals, Randolph, Musuaku, Fredericks (ST)|
|Chelsea||Abraham, Silva (ST)|
Interestingly, there are very few long-term injuries.
Besides Liverpool, who will struggle with their injury crisis throughout the season, most of these players could be ready or close to ready after the international break.
Aston Villa will be eagerly anticipating captain Grealish’s return for the upcoming game or two.
Arsenal and Tottenham have almost no injury concerns. Advantage north London.
The game is on
We can only look at the information and guesstimate how it’ll all end. But for Arsenal, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Liverpool, too many poor results have made the chase for European qualification very long.
It’s likely only a great surge of form can catapulte them into Europe.
As for the others, the game is on.
Sources: Understat, club websites