I know that earlier this season Man City went to White Hart Lane and won 5-1 with 4 goals from Edin Dzeko. I know there are probably a whole slew of statistics that can put this match-up in to context, probably that even suggest City will come away with a big win. More importantly, I know that this is the biggest game of the season for Man City. A friend of mine told me that the champion will be determined this weekend. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, he has a point.
Of course, this is a big game because Tottenham lies 5 points behind Man City in the table, just waiting for City to slip up and make their move. With a Tottenham win, they would be just 2 points behind.
There is something more to this game, though. Man City are at a crossroads. Starting at a break-neck, unstoppable pace, they have now begun to fall back to earth. As City fans, we can make excuses and say our captain and best defender Vincent Kompany is suspended after a questionable red card. We could say we’ve lost the Toure brothers to the African Cup of Nations, one of which had begun to play well at center back, and the other who was the anchor of our midfield. We could say David Silva, our play-maker, the man who orchestrates the entire attack, has been hurt. But these are just excuses. Injuries, questionable suspensions, and missing players playing for their national teams are all part of the EPL. We knew these things would happen eventually.
This is a stats blog, after all, so I’ve made two graphs to illustrate the importance of this “crossroads” game. They show the goals for per game, goals against per game, and points per game, for City and Tottenham this season.
While City’s goals against per game has stayed about constant through the last 15ish games, their points per game has been gradually declining for about 8 weeks now. Even more distinct, their goals for per game has been on an almost linear decline for a while now. I’m sure people will point out that it may be declining because of City’s unsustainable out-pour of offense in the beginning of the season, and that averaging almost 3 goals per game is in no way bad. You get the picture though. City’s offensive form is in no way what it was at the beginning of the season. And don’t forget, the last time City and Tottenham played this year was at the beginning of the season.
Now, we can contrast that graph with the one created for Tottenham. Their goals for per game peaked in round 14, and now have also been gradually declining since. Tottenham’s points per game have plateaued at just above 2 after seeing a huge increase from the beginning of the season. Finally, and most importantly, their goals against per game have been on a steady decline ever since the beginning of the season. Tottenham has essentially been settling in defensively.
And this is why I didn’t want to use statistics from the earlier encounter. These are two entirely different teams now. Man City has faced some adversity, and has seen their goals for per game steadily drop. Tottenham has found a nice rhythm, and has been slowly decreasing their goals against per game throughout the entire year. What I mean to say, is I don’t think this game will be 5-1 again.
These two graphs illustrate how big this game is. One team near the top of the table, the other right behind them, waiting for a mistake, an opportunity to grab the lead. City is a team whose scoring has been steadily falling. Tottenham is a team whose defensive has been steadily improving.
In my mind, there are two routes: Man City can continue their steady offensive decline and Tottenham can continue their defensive improvement, or Man City can turn it around and return back to their old unstoppable scoring form, disrupting Tottenham’s trend of defensive improvement in the process. I’m sure you can guess which road is more likely to lead to City being crowned Premier League champions.