Minute-by-minute table: League 1, 2015/16
This is an update one of my more off-the-wall regular pieces, looking at how different the league table would be if matches finished earlier. These usually tend to generate a few comments which begin with “If my Auntie had…” but I think they’re an interesting way to identify teams who tend to start or end matches unusually well or badly.
What I’ve done is to calculate what each club’s league position would have been if only goals scored up to a certain minute counted, starting with the first minute and going all the way through to the 90th (where we rejoin reality). I’ve then drawn a line for each club to show how their league position would change if you did this.
This creates a lot of data points to visualise – 24 clubs multiplied by 90 minutes (I roll injury time into the 45th and 90th minutes for simplicity) – so rather than a static image I’ve used an animated GIF to cycle through each club in turn. This shows every club in descending order of their final league position, on an infinite loop with each frame lasting two seconds.
I appreciate that most people will want to look at their club for longer than two seconds in every 48, so if you click the graphic it will bring up a version in a new tab that can be paused, rewound etc (hat tip to Ben Huxley for showing me how to do this).
Without further ado, here it is:
Hopefully it’s obvious what’s going on: the horizontal axis is the minute at which you artificially stop the clock in every match, divided by the lines into five and 15-minute segments, and vertically you have league position in descending order with the automatic promotion, play-off, mid-table and relegation places highlighted.
Not every club’s line is particularly interesting, but I’ve picked out a few of the wackier ones below.
Burton took a while to get going
Over 90 minutes there’s little doubting that Burton were worthy of a second successive promotion, but it took the Brewers a while to find their rhythm this season. With a quarter of an hour on the clock they’d scored two goals and conceded nine, making them look more likely to exit the division in the opposite direction, but in the rest of their first halves they conceded just eight more times while firing in 20 goals of their own.
If you stopped the clock at almost any point, Millwall would be one of the top two clubs and would have finished with a division-high 86 points if you stopped every game after 89 minutes. However once you factor in goals scored in the 90th minute or later they lose five points while 10 of the 87 points that title-winners Wigan accrued were snatched at the death, with the resulting 15-point swing enough to demote the Lions to fourth.
It looks like Port Vale had a frustrating tendency to fade in the last half an hour of matches this season, as after 61 minutes they were among the six best performers in the division. The remaining half an hour saw their fortunes decline, with 19 goals scored and 28 conceded in this period – the latter only two shy of their opponents’ tally in the first hour of their matches this season.
If matches ended at half time, Swindon would have finished bottom
It looks like the average Swindon match was a replica of their season overall, in which the Robins recovered from a disastrous start to reach safety. Their nadir came just before the interval: if we were to stop every match at the 44th minute they would have just 36 points to their name, which is far short of the 59 they ended up with. It’s not surprising to learn that 70.3% of their league goals came after half time, which is the largest share of any League 1 side.