Is Man City's Stellar Start Down To Guardiola Or The Fixture List?

Is Man City's Stellar Start Down To Guardiola Or The Fixture List?

When Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City, it was expected that City will become even more of a dominant force in the Premier League. After all, Pep came to City with a 74.2%-win ratio in 408 games at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, accumulating on an average 2.37 points per game. He also joined a team brimming with talent, reflected by its growing silverware count over the last few years.

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So, while it was expected for them to be dominant, it is perhaps the level of dominance – not a single loss in 11 competitive games initially, almost equalling a 45-year-old record set by Spurs, who were the ones to break the winning run – that is a bit surprising. Most Man City fans, as well as many Barcelona fans, are attributing this completely to the new manager. But when we take a look at the fixtures in the first six game weeks, it is kind of clear that it is not all about the manager.

Using the excellent data compiled by these folks, I collected the pre-match win, loss, and draw odds for all 20 teams from 7 prominent betting sites. According to this data, the probability of Man City winning their first six games was 66%.

Avg. P(Win) For A PL Game Based on GW 1-6

Avg. P(Win) For A PL Game Based on GW 1-6

Out of these six, they were expected to win all but the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford. In fact, in the other five games, City’s probability of win was more than 70%. That means, they were huge favorites to win all five of them. Against Man United, City’s probability of win was 30%, so that win was a bit unexpected but all others were more than expected. Now if City won these 5 games, which they were highly expected to anyways, is it because of a charismatic manager?

To answer this question, we should look at what the expectations against these teams were last season.

Man City P(Win) by Opponent of GW 1-7

Man City P(Win) by Opponent of GW 1-7

As you can see, they were very similar last season too. Although this season, these games are in the beginning and last time, they were scattered around. Obviously the team’s form then would have impacted the expectations back then as it does now but generally City was expected to win these games comfortably last season too.

Let us also look at the seemingly tougher games – Man United away and Spurs away, which is the GW7 game this season. Against last year’s underperforming United, City’s probability of win was higher than this season’s United, while against Spurs (performing similarly as last season), City’s probability of a win was actually higher last season than it is this season.

All this, at least to me, says that while Pep definitely has had an impact on how some players like Sterling perform, the team’s invincible start is at least as much attributable to easy fixtures as it is to the man on the touchline. And while six games is a short time frame to comment authoritatively on the impact of a manager, it is also a short time to hail the manager to be responsible for everything good that is happening to the team. The manager should be given at least an entire season to stamp his class on a team, which was already fairly successful.

EDIT: Sunday’s Man City loss at White Hart Lane sort of practically stated, what I have tried to say above – that an amazing series of wins is not the result only of hiring a great manager. Such a run needs a lot of factors to come together, and every such run eventually comes to an end or at least a speed breaker. Let us see if Pep and City can show that Sunday’s result is just a bump in the road.

(Odds data sourced from http://football-data.co.uk/)