A quick look at game states, 1 Mar 2016
Something I haven’t looked at yet this season is “game states” i.e. the how much time a club spends winning, drawing and losing. There’s lots of detailed analysis that can be done with this data (like seeing how clubs react to going ahead or behind) but to start with here I’ve kept it pretty simple: splitting the minutes that each club has spent on the pitch by whether they were ahead, level or behind to see if anything surprising jumps out.
For each of the top five divisions in England I’ve built a graph which lists the clubs in descending order of the percentage of time that they’ve been in a winning position this season, and also split out the time spent drawing and losing alongside.
Taking the first row as an example, Leicester have spent 34% of their league playing time in a winning position this season, 52% of it drawing and the remaining 14% of it losing.
The current top four in the Premier League table are also the four sides to have spent the most time in the lead, and in the same order, which at least reassures me that I haven’t made a horrible mistake in my coding. Of the four, Man City have spent by far the most time losing: almost a quarter of their time on the pitch this season, which is worse than more than half of their fellow top flight clubs.
Crystal Palace (fourth from the bottom) are interesting: only three sides have spent a smaller percentage of time winning, but only five have spent a smaller share losing. They’ve instead spent a large proportion of their playing time with the scores tied – almost two thirds – far more than anyone else in the division.
It’s not a shock to see Aston Villa at the bottom here with less than 8% of their playing time racked up while winning, although Sunderland have spent a marginally greater share of minutes in a losing position. The Black Cats have actually spent the largest percentage of time losing in the top five divisions.
There aren’t too many surprises here, although it’s interesting to see that only four clubs have spent a larger percentage of playing time in a winning position than Wolves. However both they and Brentford – who have also been in the lead for longer than their league position would suggest – have spent an almost identically large share of time losing.
The draw specialists here are QPR, with an even larger proportion of time spent drawing than fellow Londoners Palace in the division above. In fact these two are the only clubs in the top five divisions to have been drawing for more than 60% of their playing time so far.
Three sides – Wigan, Gillingham and Millwall – have been leading for over a third of their minutes on the pitch: a noticeably longer share of time than the rest, although the latter have spent a fair chunk of it behind compared to their promotion rivals.
Port Vale have spent a smaller proportion of time trailing than everyone outside the current top four, but also a larger share drawing than all but two clubs in the division.
Despite having spent the smallest percentage of minutes in a winning position, Crewe haven’t actually been losing for that much of the time they’ve spent on the pitch: nine other clubs in the third tier have been behind for a bigger share.
Runaway leaders Northampton have spent a ridiculous amount of time winning this season: they’re the only club in the top five divisions to have been in the lead for over 40% of their league playing minutes. The Cobblers have also spent around half as many minutes losing as nearest rivals Plymouth.
A club I didn’t expect to see so far down the list is Portsmouth, who look to have had trouble breaking deadlocks judging by the large chunk of time they’ve spent drawing. Only three teams have been losing for a smaller share of their time on the pitch this season, with Luton also registering a similar overall pattern.
While it’s unsurprising to see Cheltenham clear at the top as the side with the largest proportion of time spent winning, I wasn’t expecting to see Braintree in second. They’re also second only to the Robins when it comes to not losing, although nobody in the top five divisions comes close to the ridiculously small share of minutes that Gary Johnson’s side have been trailing. In total Cheltenham have been trailing for just 178 of the 3,367 minutes they’ve played in the National League this season i.e. fewer than two matches’ worth of time across 35 games.
It’s been an entertaining season for Woking, who have spent the smallest percentage of minutes drawing of any club in the top five divisions so far: the only side to have been tied for under 40% of the time they’ve spent on the pitch.