The Form Of Opponents: Premier League, 2015/2016 to date

Aston Villa have been unable to take advantage of weak visitors to Villa Park. Interestingly, the benefits of playing at home are less obvious in the Premier League, with teams displaying consistently good away form.

Following on from the previous posts looking at the form of the Football League opponents to discover who has had the ‘easiest’ first half to the season, this post continues the theme by looking at the Premier League. The full explanation of why and how this has been done can be found here, but in short I have looked at the form from the last (up to) six games of the opponents of Premier League clubs, home and away, and assigned a points-per-game (PpG) average based on the form. Using this, we can rank clubs from favourable (e.g. their opponents have a low PpG, or poor form) to difficult (their opponents have a high PpG, or good form).

This data includes games up to and including 3rd January.

Home Games: Aston Villa have squandered home advantage

Premier Home

Aston Villa, Manchester City and Manchester United have had the most favourable home fixtures so far this season, with visitors to their respective grounds displaying average away form of 0.88 PpG. Whereas Manchester City’s home form has been befitting of a team with their level of wealth (80% wins, Manchester United less so with 50%), Aston Villa are without a win in their nine home games this season. Villa’s problems are well documented, but the fact that the club have been unable to take advantage of opponents in weak form heading to Villa Park provides further evidence, if any more were needed, that the club will struggle to retain their Premier League place for next season.

At the other end of the table, Everton are notable for having visitors to Goodison Park in good form (1.44 PpG) and with a 27% win rate at home it appears that this is telling. With a solid squad and some of the season’s form players, this data raises the question of how well the club could be doing if the fixture list had been kinder to them at home.

Away Games: Home form is not as imperious as in the Championship

Premier Away

West Brom have been the biggest beneficiaries of poor form of their hosts when travelling. When playing away from the Hawthorns, the club have been playing teams with an average of 0.87 PpG. At the other end of the scale, Manchester United have been cursed with visiting clubs in good form, with their hosts averaging form of 1.45 PpG.

What is notable about these data is how low they are; Aston Villa and Manchesters City and United – who have the most favourable home fixtures – are facing teams in (very) slightly better form than West Brom do when they play away from home (0.88 vs. 0.87 PpG respectively). By the same token, Manchester United’s away day experience is tougher than any other teams, but even that is almost the same as Everton’s home experience (1.45 vs. 1.44 PpG). When compared with the Championship, the ‘easiest’ away experience, bestowed upon Bolton, is up at 0.99 PpG, higher than four Premier League teams, and the worst away day – for Brighton – is a full 0.28 PpG higher than the worst Premier League experience for Manchester United. What this means is that the distinction between home and away is less apparent in the Premier League and its impact is felt less than in the division below.

Rankings: Crystal Palace excel despite tough home and away fixtures

The below graphic shows the rankings for both home (horizontal) and away (vertical) games, ranked from 1-24 against the other teams in the division; a ranking of 1 in both, towards the bottom left of the chart, represents poor form of opponents in both home and away games, whereas the further to the right and top of the chart the harder the opponents become based on form.

Premier Chart

The data above shows a cluster of teams in the upper right corner, indicating tough home and away fixtures based on the form of the opponents. Most notable is Crystal Palace, who have had the 2nd toughest home fixtures and the 6th hardest away fixtures this season. It is therefore greatly to their credit that they sit 7th in the table with a thin squad. Perhaps more impressive still is the performance of Watford, newly promoted and with the 3rd toughest home fixtures and 8th hardest away fixtures yet still able to more than hold their own and rest currently 9th in the table.

There are not any Premier League teams who have had very favourable fixtures both home and away. The closest to the lower left corner are Chelsea, Stoke and Sunderland. Considering the favourability of the fixtures, the failure of the reigning champions to capitalise is another in a vast collection of sticks with which to beat Chelsea’s reputation this season. Additionally, Sunderland, like Aston Villa, have been presented with opportunity but have not taken it, currently stuck in the relegation zone.

Premier Chart II


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