Minute-by-minute table: League 1, 2016/17

Today I’m updating one of my more off-the-wall 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, 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’ve also gone for a minimalist look to keep load times down.

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.

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 (I’ve rolled injury time into the 45th and 90th minutes to keep things simple);
  • Vertically you have league position in descending order with the top four, 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.

The Blades won the division at a canter this season but didn’t really hit their stride until relatively late in games. The 67th minute was the main turning point: if you stopped every game then they’d be 5th with a modest 75 points, which is 25 fewer than the century they ended up with. The next five minutes of their games were crucial: if we stop the clocks again in the 72nd minute they’ve increased their tally to 87 and sit top of the table.

While it was by all accounts a successful debut (some might say return) to the third tier for Wimbledon, it wasn’t until relatively late in games that they began to look comfortable. They tended to start games badly and their record at half time this season was among the worst in the division: sufficiently so to get them relegated. However they look to have gradually turned the screw as games went on and you could end games at any point in the final 20 minutes without seeing them in any danger.

Northampton have the opposite problem to Wimbledon: they tended to start games very well but struggled to protect the positions they found themselves in. If you ended every match this season on 47 minutes the Cobblers would have 69 points and be sitting just outside the play-offs, but fast forward to the final quarter of an hour and their tally has been whittled down by 20 to just 49. A slight rebound thereafter spared them an immediate return to the fourth tier.