2012 Premier League Analysis

The table below shows the current Premier League clubs’ average points-per-game (PPG) achieved in the league in the last two calendar years. The Change column represents the difference between a team’s ppg between 2011 and 2012, while the % Change column represents the percentage difference. A team with positive change will have improved in 2012 from the previous year, whereas a team with a negative change will have declined during the same period. The league is ordered by the points-per-game earned in 2012, and so reflects how the league would look over the calendar year.

2012 Premier League PPGNeither Southampton nor Reading have a comparison with 2010, and to use their Championship performances would be flawed due to the obvious difference in quality between the divisions. Their points-per-game for 2012 is still listed, but it should be noted this is only based on roughly half of the games of the other teams, just as Swansea, Norwich and QPR, newly promoted in 2011, played a smaller number of games in the previous year. Newly promoted West Ham, relegated in 2011, have a comparable sample of games across both years, albeit roughly half the number of other teams.

A new ‘Big Six’?

In 2011 the top six sides in the country were evident by the fact that they were the only teams to average over 1.50ppg. In 2012 the same is true, except that Liverpool have been replaced by Everton in the elite group. David Moyes’ side have finally started a season strongly after years of slow starts and post-Christmas recovery. This is reflected by an increase of 15.5% to 1.70ppg. Everton’s improvement has taken them above Tottenham in the 2012 table who have slipped from 1.84ppg to 1.62ppg, although this is less a reflection on new manager Andre Villas Boas and more a sign of how much Spurs collapsed in the second half of the 11/12 campaign under Harry Redknapp.

Last season’s beneficiaries of Tottenham’s decline were Arsenal who crept up into the third, and ultimately final, Champions League place, a decent achievement for a team that constantly finds itself dismissed as being in decline. For the second consecutive year Arsenal’s average points-per-game has barely changed, suggesting that any supposed decline is actually relative, more a failure to improve rather than an actual regression. Chelsea’s fall from 1.87ppg in 2011 to 1.77ppg in 2012 reflects poorly on former manager Roberto Di Matteo, in charge for the majority of last year’s games yet failing to outperform the outgoing Carlo Ancelotti and the under-fire Villas Boas reign of 2011.

The Premier League’s top two sides are once again the Manchester clubs, United and City. They are also the only teams to average over 2.0ppg (2.38 and 2.15 respectively), and following Chelsea and Spurs’ decline now have an advantage of over 0.3ppg over their closest rival, which equates to 13.68 points over a season. United’s improvement in 2012 has seen them set a pace this season that City have struggled to keep up with, and given their usual improvement in the second half of the season the title already looks theirs to lose.

‘Mid-Table’ improvement

2012 saw ten Premier League clubs falling into the mid-table category earning between 1.05ppg (required average to achieve the accepted survival target of 40 points) and 1.50ppg. Notably there has been a general improvement in performance – the club at the top of the mid-table cluster, West Brom with 1.45ppg, finds itself only 0.17ppg away from the bottom club of the top six, compared to a gap of 0.32ppg in 2011. More interesting is the movement away from the relegation mark – West Ham at the bottom end of mid-table are still averaging 0.10ppg more than the survival rate of 1.05ppg, whereas Swansea and Sunderland both found themselves within a 0.01ppg gap in 2011.

Individual performances have also been impressive. West Brom (1.45ppg), Swansea (1.41ppg) and Norwich (1.28ppg) have all made notable improvements in 2011, WBA for the second season in succession. This is particularly remarkable when you consider that all three clubs appointed new managers in the summer with less than twenty Premier League games experience between them. Steve Clarke, Michael Laudrup and Chris Hughton all took over from successful predecessors, so to continue their respective team’s improvement is a fine achievement. Despite winning promotion in recent seasons all three clubs have thrived under sensible governance and already appear to be settled in the top tier of English football.

Three other teams to markedly improve are Sunderland (1.23ppg), Wigan (1.18ppg) and West Ham (1.15ppg), although all three have done so under less impressive circumstances. Sunderland continue to struggle for consistency and have only improved under Martin O’Neill when compared to the woeful final months of Steve Bruce’s management. West Ham have done well for a newly promoted side, but their 29.4% improvement is largely due to their relegation form of 2011. Nevertheless both teams have shown enough in 2012 to survive, whereas Wigan are once again in danger of relegation. Like Everton, Wigan have a history of drastically improving after Christmas which distorts their yearly average. Last year was no different, with Wigan finishing the season strongly to escape relegation, and it was this run of form that has given them a 21.1% improvement. Roberto Martinez will hope his team can match their 2012 average to avoid relegation once again.

Newcastle, Fulham and Stoke have all performed with a degree of consistency. Newcastle and Fulham may have slipped down the table this year but their yearly averages of 1.41ppg and 1.36ppg are in line with recent standards. Newcastle have suffered this season from a number of injuries and should be capable of climbing the league once key players return, but Fulham have had to adapt to losing three first team midfielders in the summer. Stoke’s average points-per-game has fallen for a second consecutive year to 1.23ppg, which again may reflect their opponents becoming familiar with their direct and aggressive style of play.

Finally Liverpool now make up the mid-table category having fallen 34.3% to 1.18ppg in 2012. If confirmation was needed of the club’s demise from title challengers surely this is it. The second half of the 11/12 season saw the team struggle under Kenny Dalglish who was then replaced by Brendan Rodgers in the summer. Rodgers arrived to much acclaim but has struggled to improve the team’s performance, and his first half season in the job does not compare favourably to the other managerial appointments in the league last summer. Rodgers is a technical manager who is determined to transform the team’s style of play, meaning progress may well be slow. Yet to fall 0.44ppg behind the sixth best side of 2012 works out as 16.72 points over a full season, whereas on current form they would finish only 5 points away from the survival benchmark of 40 points. Liverpool fans seem prepared to be patient for silverware, but they may be worried at how far from the top the club is falling.

Battle for survival

This leaves four teams that appear on course for relegation judging on 2012’s average points-per-game. Southampton (0.90ppg), Aston Villa (0.85ppg), QPR (0.77ppg) and Reading (0.65ppg) all averaged less than 1.04ppg, the necessary level to achieve the 40 point target to ensure survival. Newly promoted Southampton and Reading have found life difficult in a higher league, with the latter needing to almost double their points-per-game average to stand any chance of survival.

QPR’s plight has been well documented. Mark Hughes was hired as a managerial upgrade to Neil Warnock midway through the 11/12 season, but his 11 months in charge resulted in a lower points-per-game average than his predecessor, a 14% drop to 0.77ppg in 2012. Hughes has since been replaced by Harry Redknapp, and the new manager will have to achieve better results in the Premier League than the club have had in the previous 18 months.

Finally Aston Villa have continue to decline since the departure of Martin O’Neill in 2010 and the budgetary constraints seemingly implemented following the £24m signing of Darren Bent in January 2011. Paul Lambert’s arrival in the summer following his excellent record with Norwich suggested Villa may have the manager to rebuild the club, but results haven’t improved as hoped. Villa’s 0.85ppg is a 37% decline on their 2011 results, the largest in the league, meaning that performance has regressed considerably in 2012. Lambert has attempted to overhaul the squad by introducing young players into the team at the expense of some senior members of the squad, and this lack of experience has been identified as the reason for the club’s regression.

Summary

Certainly a mixed year for new managers. West Brom, Swansea and Norwich all continue to progress following a summer change in management, whilst Liverpool and Aston Villa have continued to struggle. Both Rodgers and Lambert will need to improve their results dramatically in 2013 if they want to stay in their jobs, and in the case of Villa stay in the league. QPR changed manager at the beginning of 2012, yet regressed under Mark Hughes and now have a new manager for 2013. They too are battling to avoid relegation.

At the top Manchester United have demonstrated yet again an ability to raise their level when threatened, with Sir Alex Ferguson inspiring another year of progress in the club’s pursuit of a 20th league title. By raising the bar even higher, United have made their title rivals appear to be in decline, yet Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea’s results have barely changed from 2011 to 2012. Once again it demonstrates the significance of relativity in football and the importance of progression. Yet club’s hoping to challenge for the title will certainly be wary of the gap opening up between the third ranked side and the Manchester clubs.

However the biggest development of 2012 has been the number of teams that achieved a points-per-game average that would usually guarantee their safety. In 2011, five teams had a points-per-game average of under 1.05 (required for 40 points), with two more within 0.01ppg, suggesting seven clubs should be wary of relegation. In 2012 only four teams averaged less than 1.05ppg and none are a whisker away – although Newcastle and Wigan’s results are heavily weighted towards the second half of the 11/12 campaign – suggesting that the relegation places will be filled by three of Reading, QPR, Villa and Southampton. Ultimately fewer teams have shown relegation form over a sustained period. However, 2012 also saw two clubs, Reading and QPR, achieve points-per-game averages lower than anything seen in 2011.

Gaps appeared across the league in 2012, notably between the two genuine title challengers and those chasing European places, and between the clubs struggling to stay in the league and those that are able to pick up points on a regular enough basis to survive with a degree of comfort.

Click here for the 2012 Premier League, Primera Division, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 Review.

Click here for the 2011 Premier League Analysis.

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