Everton and Southampton doing equally badly

Burnley’s win over Newcastle lifts Burnley to 7th, above Watford, in both the ‘official’ league table and also the alt-3 league table.

Keen-eyed visitors to the alt-3 table will see that Burnley’s win also caused Everton and Southampton to switch places. As I mentioned in Sunday’s blog post, Everton were then placed 16th in the alt-3 table (with Southampton in 15th). But now, after Burnley have beaten Newcastle, the positions of the Toffees and the Saints are reversed. How can that happen?

Well, it does make sense! Let me explain it briefly here.

The first thing to say is that in terms of their alt-3 points — which after 10 matches played is the pts|10 value shown in the table — Everton and Southampton are very close to one another. They really are doing about as badly as each other, this season so far. So we should not be surprised when a change in either club’s assessed schedule strength results in a change in their alt-3 league position.

Looking at the schedule strength graphs for Everton and Southampton, then, tells us why Burnley’s win over Newcastle has the effect that it does. Everton have already played Burnley, but have not yet played Newcastle; whereas Southampton have already played Newcastle, but have not yet played Burnley. So Burnley’s win last night caused Everton’s assessed schedule strength to go up a bit, and Southampton’s to go down a bit — the changes being fairly small, but enough to cause Everton and Southampton to swap places in the table.

So it all makes perfect sense.

Probably the key thing to see, though, is that there is still not much difference between Everton and Southampton, in terms of their results so far this season.

This is despite the fact that the standard league table, based only on accumulated points to date, currently puts Southampton in 10th place, seemingly doing much better than Everton in 18th. But the standard table neglects the fact that, whereas Everton have played relatively tough fixtures so far (their schedule strength is currently +2.3, joint highest with Liverpool’s), the opposite is true for Southampton whose relatively easy start to the season accounts for their current schedule strength value of −2.8 (the easiest start of any club in the league). That’s a whopping 5-point difference between their schedule strengths.

If all clubs were to continue performing as well or as badly as they have done so far this season, then, we might expect to see Everton doing better soon (mainly against relatively weak opposition), and Southampton doing less well (in the relatively hard fixtures they face in the coming weeks, which include the likes of Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea).

But that’s a big ‘If’, of course. It’s just a way to reason about how well teams have really performed so far — definitely not a prediction!