Which Premier League Clubs Are Playing Better At Home This Season?

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Which Premier League clubs play better at home? Which clubs perform best away? Today on the blog Abhisar Gupta takes a look at home field advantage in the Premier League and how clubs are performing home and away this season.

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Away games are generally tougher than home ones. I doubt many will contest that statement. In this article I want to delve a little deeper into that truism and see if there is some interesting insight to gain.

The following table shows the season summaries for the last five English Premier League seasons followed by a row of the averages of these numbers.

SeasonGamesHome WIn %Away Win %Draw %Home GpGAway GpGGpG Differential
2012-2013 270 44% 26% 30% 1.61 1.24 0.37
2011-2012 380 45% 31% 24% 1.59 1.22 0.37
2010-2011 380 47% 24% 29% 1.62 1.17 0.45
2009-2010 380 51% 24% 25% 1.70 1.07 0.62
2008-2009 380 46% 29% 26% 1.40 1.08 0.32
Average   47% 27% 27% 1.58 1.16 0.43

The columns are mostly self-explanatory but I'll just read through one row to clarify things. In 2012-13, at the time of writing, 270 games have been played in the League. The home team has won 44 percent of these games, 26 percent have been won by the away team, and 30 percent have been draws. The hosts score an average of 1.61 goals per game while the visitors notch 1.24. Thus, we arrive at a difference of 0.37 goals per game in favour of the hosts.

The Consistency Of Points Won

It's fascinating that over the years these percentages have remained so close to each other. There is only a 7 seven percent variation in home wins, a similar range for away wins, and a 6 percent range for draws. Essentially, what we see here is that irrespective of factors like who wins the title, the form of various teams during the year, the identity of teams getting relegated, etc., on an average, two of the four games are won by the home team while one is drawn and one result goes in favour of the visiting side.

It's as if there's an invisible hand that's guiding the teams and keeping them within a loosely defined framework. One doesn't have to believe in the supernatural but there is sufficient reason to wonder why, say, one season doesn't have home sides winning 65 percent of the games while 15 percent are drawn and 20 go to the visitors. Surely, there should be greater variation in these numbers, no?

The invisible hand metaphor becomes all the more intriguing when we add up the total points won by all the teams. There are only two results possible in a game - it can either be a win for one of the teams, or the two sides can share the spoils. A win would add 3 points to the table and a draw would add 2 (1 each). The names of the sides or the location of the fixture and such other details are irrelevant if we are only looking at total points accumulated.

The end result every year can be calculated using the equation - 3*X + 2*Y = Total Points, where X is the number of wins and Y the number of draws and X+Y=380.

Substitute 0 for X and Y respectively, and you'll see that the least number of points all teams can accumulate is 760 (all games drawn) and the most they can tally up are 1140 (no games are drawn). The range is fairly broad, 380 points to be exact.

Now take a look at the points total over the last five seasons. The 2012-13 figure is a linear extrapolation of the current total.

SeasonTotal Points
2012-2013 1027
2011-2012 1047
2010-2011 1029
2009-2010 1044
2008-2009 1043

Spooky, isn't it?! Despite a possible 380 point range, the total points are eerily close to each other year after year. 08-09, 09-10, and 11-12 are virtually identical. This season is likely to be similar to 10-11 but the difference with other seasons is marginal given the width of mathematical possibilities.

Of course, without intending to harm anyone's religious sentiments, I think it's safe to rule out the hand of God explanation here. The simplest reason is that teams constantly try to win games and over the course of a season, and on a year-on-year basis, the number of draws falls within a ballpark range. This controls the total points figure. It's a charming curiosity but not very hard to imagine.

To generalise, we can say that the number of draws will increase when the gap between the teams is reduced. If all the teams were comparable, the games between them would all end up in stalemates.

Similarly, if the gap widens to such an extent that Team 1 is overwhelmingly better than all the others, Team 2 is clearly superior to all bar 1, and so on; we'd have Team 1 winning all its 38 games, Team 2 winning 36 and losing 2, and so on with Team 20 losing all its 38 games. In such a case, practically implausible though it may be, we'd see a winner in each game and the total points would come up to 1140.

This is just an attempt to explain how the range of points works mathematically and how the quality of teams and the closeness of games affects the actual tally on that range. The gap in quality can vary due to form, tactics, injuries, transfers, and other variables. Over a long period of time it seemingly falls into a natural order and every year we get similar number of draws.

Premier League Club Home vs Away Performance 2012/2013

The fact that wins achieved by teams neatly fall into the 44-51 percent home and 24-30 percent away ratios is harder to explain. We have to remember that these are average figures. Teams at the top do better than the median values while those at the bottom tend to do worse. Calculating the win, draw, and loss ratios for individual teams makes this point apparent. The following table shows the results of such a computation for the 2012-13 results to date.

  Home Win %Home Draw %Home Loss %Away Win %Away Draw %Away Loss %
1 Manchester United 92% 0% 8% 72% 14% 14%
2 Manchester City 71% 21% 8% 46% 38% 16%
3 Tottenham 54% 31% 15% 57% 14% 29%
4 Chelsea 54% 31% 15% 50% 21% 29%
5 Arsenal 58% 21% 21% 38% 38% 24%
6 Everton 46% 46% 8% 29% 42% 29%
7 West Brom 57% 14% 29% 31% 15% 54%
8 Liverpool 50% 21% 29% 23% 46% 31%
9 Swansea 38% 47% 15% 29% 29% 42%
10 Stoke 46% 46% 8% 7% 43% 50%
11 Fulham 43% 21% 36% 16% 38% 46%
12 Norwich 43% 36% 21% 8% 46% 46%
13 Newcastle 50% 7% 43% 8% 38% 54%
14 West Ham 42% 29% 29% 15% 15% 70%
15 Sunderland 31% 31% 38% 21% 29% 50%
16 Southampton 31% 38% 31% 14% 29% 57%
17 Wigan 15% 31% 54% 29% 14% 57%
18 Aston Villa 23% 31% 46% 14% 36% 50%
19 Reading 29% 42% 29% 8% 15% 77%
20 QPR 7% 50% 43% 8% 30% 62%

As you can see, the win percentages and other details for each individual team show little resemblance to the average numbers. Some mid-table clubs are in the same ballpark as the overall League averages but even within these teams there are sufficient variations.

If such a table is charted for each of the last five seasons we'll get similarly dissimilar ratios when compared to the respective annual averages.

There is a great deal of information in the seemingly dull numbers above. Let's compare these percentages with the averages to see how teams are doing.

  • 10 teams have a better home win ratio than the average (44 percent) and a similar number have a worse win ratio.
  • 5 teams are very close to the home win average, i.e. in the 43-46 percent range.
  • As expected, the teams at the top (United and City in particular) are way above average while those at the bottom are significantly below the media value.
  • 9 teams are doing better than the away win ratio (26 percent) while the other 11 are below that figure.
  • Once again teams at the top are doing really well but it's interesting that some mid-table teams have a very modest away win ratio.

In order to analyse the loss ratios we need to flip our perspective. Since the average home win percentage is 44, any team with an away loss ratio below that figure is doing better than average. There are 9 such teams. Similarly, clubs with home loss ratios less than 26 percent are faring above average. 8 teams fall in this category.

Wigan and Spurs are the only two teams who are winning a higher percentage of their away games than their home games. For Tottenham, the two numbers are fairly close and if they win their next home game (NLD!) they'll have the same win ratio at home and away.

For some teams the difference between home win percentages and away ones is staggering. I divided the home PPG figure for each team with their respective away PPG number to see how each side's away form compares to its home exploits. The next table provides this data.

PositionClubPpGH/PpGA
17 Wigan 0.77
3 Tottenham 1.03
4 Chelsea 1.12
1 Manchester United 1.21
5 Arsenal 1.25
18 Aston Villa 1.27
20 QPR 1.31
15 Sunderland 1.32
2 Manchester City 1.33
9 Swansea 1.42
6 Everton 1.43
8 Liverpool 1.49
7 West Brom 1.72
11 Fulham 1.76
16 Southampton 1.85
12 Norwich 2.38
13 Newcastle 2.53
14 West Ham 2.53
10 Stoke 2.89
19 Reading 3.39

The left-most column lists the club's league position and the one on the right shows the ratio of points per game at home to the same in away games.

It's immediately apparent that Wigan are getting more points away from home than they are at the DW Stadium. Spurs have virtually identical figures and on the road performances of clubs like Chelsea, United, and Arsenal are fairly comparable to their efforts in their own backyard.

At the other end of the table, the bottom five on that list are particularly of interest. A ratio greater than 2 on that table basically means a team's away points are less than half their home points. In Reading's case it's less than a third.

Smaller ratios don't need much explanation. Teams are essentially performing at the same level whether at home or away. Numbers around 1.5 can be hard to explain as a couple of results can easily bring them back down. It could simply be a matter of short-term form, fixture schedule (tougher games played earlier), just bad luck with a few vital decisions, and so on.

In contrast, further analysis is necessary and helpful when a team is consistently weak away from home. Looking at possession and passing figures provides some interesting points. For instance, Reading and Stoke are the bottom two, respectively, in both possession and pass accuracy figures. Norwich and West Ham are just above them in pass accuracy and have low possession statistics. Even Newcastle has less than 50 percent possession on average and less than 80 percent pass accuracy.

Furthermore, these are five of six teams that make the most use of long balls. That doesn't mean they play the most long balls per se, but they have a higher ratio of long balls to total passes.

One might say they're among the technically weaker sides in the League and deploy somewhat old-fashioned tactics. It works at home where they understand the pitch really well, have great support, and often get the benefit of 50-50 decisions (maybe even 60-40) from the ref in a physical battle.

Away from home they probably have to curb their aggressive style and possibly end up facing more attacks on their goal. Their physical play in the opposition box and attacking areas could also be penalised more as the ref might favour the home side in close decisions. As a result the effectiveness of their game really goes down and they struggle to find goals/points.

Unfortunately, the data here is not sufficient to form definitive conclusions. For instance, it's not difficult to imagine that Newcastle's problems this season were not related to their technical or tactical abilities but had more to do with injuries and squad depth. Nevertheless, it seems sufficient to suggest the possibility that big gaps between home and away performance are down to technical limitations of a team and refereeing tendencies in general. Looking at a team's performances at home and away over a number of years and comparing them with certain measures of technical quality should be a worthwhile exercise for those with access to the numbers.

Final Thoughts

The above data also provides useful avenues for further analysis. For instance, anyone looking at the race for the top four spots and analysing the upcoming fixtures of those in the race might notice that Wigan have to play Arsenal (A) and Spurs (H). In the normal course one would assume that home games are easier than away ones so the Latics will give Tottenham a harder game than they'll Arsenal. Indeed, the stats above show this is clearly the case for the majority of teams. However, this season Wigan have done better in away games. In fact, they won away to Spurs and lost at home to the Gunners. It's quite possible that Roberto Martinez's side troubles Wenger's team at the Emirates more than they do AVB's at the DW Stadium. In and of itself, this information is not sufficient to arrive at any conclusion but it's a very useful data point for those who like to view the same problem from multiple angles.

Spend some time with the numbers and see if you can use them to analyse other footballing posers. I look forward to your findings.

 

 

Follow Abhisar on Twitter: @goonerdesi

And read more of his work on his blog Desigunner.wordpress

Keen student of the game, or so I like to think!