Experiment: form tables
Form is something that I’ve wanted to tackle for a while, as most of my graphics are “snapshots” of a particular point in time and don’t tell us much about the direction of travel. What I’ve done is to combine basic information on each club’s last six results with the ‘expected goals’ data that I use to measure chance quality in my match timelines and dashboards. Like many of my graphics, this is very much a “first pass” and may be refined as time goes on.
For each club there are two elements:
The first, headed “Match performance” is a row of six colour-coded circles: dark for a win, light for a draw and hollow for a defeat. However, the circles don’t all sit in a neat line: their vertical position is based on the balance of chances in the match: higher means they created more, lower means they created less and there’s a horizontal line behind each row of dots to indicate where a perfectly balanced match would sit. The point of doing this is to identify whether a club’s performances are in line with their results, and also to pick up any potential trends in performance that the results alone may be masking.
The second, headed “Expected goals”, totals up and compares the quality of chances across the last six matches using two bars. The upper bar is darker and counts up the ‘expected goals’ value of all the opportunities created and the lower, lighter bar counts up the quality of chances allowed. This is intended to give a broader picture of what’s been going on at both ends of the pitch and how attack and defence compare, which I found was hard to glean from the bubbles alone.
In each graphic the clubs are sorted first by points earned in the last six matches and then by their ‘expected goal’ difference.
Below I’ve created form tables for each of the top four English divisions, along with some illustrative comments:
Starting at the top, Chelsea are unsurprisingly in the best form. Six dark circles means six wins out of six and – with the exception of the most recent one – they’re all above the middle line, which means that the Blues created better chances than their opponents according to my model. Their ‘expected goals’ bars bear this out: they created 10 goals’ worth of opportunities and allowed just 4.4 in return.
Watford have done pretty well recently, with three wins and a draw in their last six games, but only one of those was above the line and they’ve created fewer than a goal per game’s worth of chances. Burnley‘s two wins and a draw look even more fortunate given that they’ve allowed opponents a whopping 16 goals’ worth of opportunities.
The current top two of Brighton and Newcastle are unsurprisingly top of this table too, although the Seagulls have hardly been dominating. Reading‘s matches have also looked closer overall than some of the scorelines, which ties in with my model remaining sceptical of their promotion credentials.
Bristol City games look consistently close – their last six are all hugging the central line – while below them Huddersfield have been lurching from front foot to back foot on a game-by-game basis and with far fewer chances created at either end.
Sheffield United have been impressively dominant lately, outcreating their opponents at a rate of 5:1 in their last six matches, while the two sides above them in both the form table and the actual table – Scunthorpe and Bolton – have had some closer encounters of late.
I’ve been banging on about how Oxford should be higher in the table and you can see why here: they consistently create better chances than their opponents but haven’t been getting the results to go with their performances.
At the bottom there’s no surprise to see Bury struggling given the huge number of chances they’ve been allowing, although they did have one good performance four games ago that they weren’t rewarded for (against Southend).
Stevenage‘s good recent form looks to have owed something to fortune considering that they’ve been out-created in all of their last four wins and heavily overall. Meanwhile Portsmouth‘s heavy overall dominance isn’t being proportionately rewarded with results, although they did at least win the one match in which they were out-created.
At the bottom of the form table we have Notts County, who have been overrun lately, and an Accrington side who are having some horrible luck this season: they regularly have the better of games but are struggling to turn that control into points.
Using colour and position together in this way is something that I’ve seen Constantinos Chappas – one of the more creative analytical folk on Twitter and well worth a follow – do in charts such as this:
While searching through Constantinos’ timeline for this example, I realised that I also belatedly owe him credit for inspiring a couple of the other charts I produce regularly, the memory of which must have been bouncing around just below the conscious part of my brain when I was building mine: