Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 5 March 2008

The Premier League percentage game

Isn't it amazing how the three-horse-race in this season's Premier League has shown Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United to be equally as fallible? Very rarely have any of them got together a long run of wins to get them ahead of the chasing pack. What we see at the moment is Arsenal at the top of the table on 65 points, Man United a point behind on 64 with Chelsea in third on 58 points but with a game in hand on the other two.

So with all three teams dropping points with some regularity, is there any way to tell which will prevail in the battle to win the Premier League? Hopefully there is thanks to a nifty little graph we've created which shows the form of all three clubs on a month-to-month basis since the start of the season.

What we've done is calculate how many of the available points Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United collected for each month since the season started last August and shown the figures as percentages on our graph. So for instance, if during September Arsenal won three games and lost one, that would mean they picked up 9 points from a possible 12 which in turn means Arsenal picked up 75% of the available points for that month… clear? Good.

So here's the graph and the main thing to note is that the red line represents Arsenal, the white line represents Man United and the blue is for Chelsea (naturally).

(click image for bigger version)

And while you're looking at that, let's track how the three teams did throughout each month.

August 2007
Man United's start to the season was a pretty poor one by their standards. Only one win in their first four games, along with a defeat away to near neighbours Man City, left them with a success rate of only 41.7%. Chelsea, meanwhile, won three out of four of their games with only Liverpool stopping them from winning in a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Arsenal played three games, two of which were wins - the other being a draw away to Blackburn.

September 2007
A much better month for Man United. Following their only August win at home to Tottenham, they won all four of their matches in September including a 2-0 victory of Chelsea at Old Trafford. Arsenal also won four out of four, of which two were against London neighbours Spurs and West Ham. Chelsea, however, had an absolute shocker of a month. Only two points from a possible twelve left them with a success rating of only 16.7%, causing Jose Mourinho to leave the Stamford Bridge club.

October 2007
Man United's amazing run of wins in September extended right through to the end of October as well. They scored four goals in all three of their games against Wigan, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough leaving them level with Arsenal on points and goal difference at the end of the month. Arsenal's lead at the top of the table was wiped out when they dropped their only points in October in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool. Chelsea, however, were doing much better under new manager Avram Grant. They won three out of three including a 6-0 win over Manchester City.

November 2007
Chelsea and Arsenal kept their campaigns ticking along as both teams won two games and drew one, giving them a success rating of 77.8%. For Man United, however, November saw a return to the poor form of August. After a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Arsenal, they earned a 2-0 home win over Blackburn before a shock defeat to Bolton left them three points behind Arsenal in the title race again.

December 2007
A busy month for all teams, particularly Arsenal who had a game in hand to fit in along with the six matches already scheduled for the festive season. It was in fact Manchester United who came through it best, though, winning five consecutive games before ending the year with a surprise 2-1 defeat to West Ham. Arsenal won four and drew two of their seven ties, losing only to Middlesbrough, but Chelsea lost further ground in the chase for the title despite losing only one of their six games in December against fellow challengers Arsenal.

January 2008
The new year saw excellent form on the part of all three teams, especially Man United and Chelsea who had a 100% record after their four games. Arsenal managed to win three and draw one during January, Birmingham being the only team to take points from The Gunners all month. Once again, Arsenal's slight slip allowed Manchester United to draw level with them on points, but this time United topped the table due to a superior goal difference.

February 2008
Having clawed their way back to within four points of the leaders, Chelsea saw all their hard work undone during February. Admittedly they played only twice last month, but both games ended in draws at the hands of Liverpool and Portsmouth. Arsenal pulled away from Man United at the top of the table once again thanks to two wins and yet another draw against Birmingham, but Sir Alex Ferguson's men had to endure their third bad patch of the season. A second defeat to Man City and a draw at Tottenham was only offset by another convincing win against Newcastle.

…and that brings us almost up to date. There has, of course, been one match so far this month and that resulted in Arsenal's three point lead over United being reduced to one, but look at the graph. Notice how Arsenal's line is much straighter than Man United's which has a distinctly alpine look. Does that suggest The Gunners are much more consistent and therefore more likely to win the title come May? Can Chelsea make their game in hand count and mount a decent challenge of their own?

Your thoughts, as ever, will be interesting to hear…

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