John McCormick: working on the data

Now this is not John McCormick at his most upbeat – not, at any rate, at the start of his review of the season so far. He’s been comparing and contrasting statistics again and what he comes up with would scare the living daylights out of most Sunderland supporters – if he hadn’t also identified a great SAFC tradition of making a nonsense, one way or the other, of the early season numbers …

It might have been MON, it certainly was someone this season and therefore not Steve Bruce, who said judgements should not be made before 10 games had been played.

So here we are, 10 games in; a quarter of the season is gone. We should have a settled team, a sense of direction, and an overall feeling of progress being made. Do we? More importantly, perhaps, does our league position reflect progress? How does it compare to the same stage in our previous seasons?

Well, we have made a horrible start. We do not compare well with the previous five seasons, even the last one, as you can see:

SAFC position after 10 games:

year position W D L GF GA GD PTS
2012-13 16 1 6 3 7 11 -4 9
2011-12 14 2 4 4 14 12 2 10
2010-11 12 2 6 2 9 12 -3 12
2009-10 8 5 1 4 18 15 3 16
2008-9 10 3 3 4 9 11 -2 12
2007-8 16 2 2 6 11 19 -8 8

The only bright spots are that we have lost fewer games than at this point last season and, at least for SAFC, early season form is useless at telling the future.

Jake gets MON's point

The table above does nothing to indicate how the season will go, nor will manipulation of the data, though you’re welcome to give this a go and pass on your opinion.

For my part, I’ve multiplied the points after 10 games by 3.8 and rounded up or down to give a projection of the points we will have by the end of the season. This is shown in the next table, to which I’ve added columns for the actual final points and position attained each season:

 

year

position after 10 games

Points after 10 games

projected final points

Actual final points

Actual final place

Who was in charge

2012-13

16

9

34

?

?

MON first full season
2011-12

14

10

38

45

13

MON appointed Dec 2011,Bruce sacked Nov 2011
2010-11

12

12

46

47

10

Steve Bruce
2009-10

8

16

61

44

13

Bruce appointed June 2009
2008-9

10

12

46

36

16

Sbragia left end of season
Keane resigned Dec  2008,
2007-8

16

8

30

39

15

Keane kept us up

Again, you can see little relation between where we were after 10 games and where we ended up. Last season shows the MON effect, where we improved after a poor start.

The year before that we performed much as expected, and you will remember our optimism. This came after two seasons where we had underperformed after reasonable starts, dicing with death in one of them, and one season where having got up we stayed up and were all happy little bunnies.

For the past three seasons we’ve ended out of danger in the low forties and this year it looks like we’ll be hoping to do it again.

Monsieur Salut, by Matt

Catch up on Monsieur Salut’s articles at the ESPN Soccernet site: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739

There are other indicators we can look at, such as goals. Again, there doesn’t seem to be much to say. There’s no significant pattern of year on year improvement in goals scored, goals conceded or goal difference (we might just have been moving into positive territory but you’d have to be a real optimist now) except that we’ve suffered a dearth so far this season and that is worrying.

With a quarter of the season gone we have as many points as we had in our post- promotion season. Since then we haven’t always (often?) been as comfortable as I would have liked and sometimes our safety has depended on other teams being even worse than us. However, we’re still here.

And that has to be my starting point when thinking about the future.

Management consultants will tell you, often at great expense, that any managerial change is likely to bring about short-term improvement but not necessarily sustain it, which is where we appear to be.

Our early results or final places over the past 2-3 seasons do nothing to demonstrate conclusively that MON is a better prospect for the future than Steve Bruce would have been.

Jake still looking for visions of plenty (of points)

Of course, neither results nor gurus tell the whole story. Looking at the trading which has gone on and the finances of the club I’d say we were in a stronger position than in the Bruce days.

MON did say give a few games for players to get fully fit and the fun will start, and we have recently had some returns from injury, so maybe we’re ready for lift-off.

There were some signs of that at Goodison. O’Shea and Cuellar seem to have a good understanding and are forming the backbone of a solid defence. Gardner was busy and managed to move the ball forward, especially to Johnson who beat some determined defenders and scored a well-executed goal which should do his confidence some good -now let’s see a few more crosses. Sess was prepared to commit and get stuck in and found players in forward positions on both sides of the pitch.

However, our attack looked lightweight after Fletcher went off, and in this lay the origin of Everton’s first goal. We had possession and put the ball into the general area of the Everton goal.

After packing up their sandwiches and stowing them away their defenders formed an orderly queue on the edge of the box and awaited its arrival. A nonchalant header out, more nonchalance in midfield and the ball was with Fellaini, whose amble upfield had been untroubled by any notion that he might be needed elsewhere.

Maybe putting on Campbell, whose pace could have made him a target for balls into channels would have allowed Sess to stay further up and forced Fellaini to play further back. I, for one, was disappointed to find Campbell wasn’t even on the bench. I’d rather have him playing than Saha, whom I thought did little, or even McClean, whom I think needs a rest.

So there we are, 10 games in. We’ve been to Arsenal and Man City but we still have Man Utd and Chelsea to go. We managed a decent show against a high-flying bogey-team but remain goal shy.

When we have McBardsley, Cattermole and Brown fully fit and fighting for a place I can see us holding out the likes of Everton who, it has to be said, never stopped trying and never looked like settling for a point, and AJ will create chances for Fletcher.

That should make for an interesting end of season, when we’ll see how this year’s points tally stacks up. I hope that’s “interesting” in terms of “exciting” and not in terms of the old curse “may you live in interesting times”.

I think it will be the better of the options; we have enough quality to ensure we stay up. So keep the faith, dear reader, keep the faith.



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12 Responses to “Ten games in: Man City, Arsenal visited but Man Utd and Chelsea to come” Subscribe

  1. vince richardson November 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Some useful data there, thank you for posting this it is very useful.

    I always say wait till 10 games in and that about decides where you will finish by the end of the season.Comparing our 10th game position against our actual finish position, is about a good an indicator as there is.

    In seasons 2008-09 and 2009-10 we have what I would consider anomolies,(-5 positions down and -6 positions down by season end).In both seasons there was good a reason for such a decline,Keane left midway through one season and we did not get a proper manager in, then the next season Bruce’s team went on that horrible run around Christmas, the like of which I have never seen.

    In the other 3 more “normal” years we finished +2 places one year and -1 place in two seasons.

    Based on that, my guess is( assuming no major managerial changes)that we will finish anywhere from 17th to 14th.

    You can quote me.

  2. Jeremy November 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    Its a frightening analysis. Were this not MON in charge there would be a lynch mob gathered already.

    John said “I, for one, was disappointed to find Campbell wasn’t even on the bench.” I would have to disagree here John. I would have been very disappointed to see him even on the bench, because he is quite frankly an abominable footballer; completely useless, although I don’t care (and never have in fact) for Saha.

    Neither of them is the answer to our goalscoring problems. When did Campbell last score?

  3. Goldy November 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Do fixture lists make a difference? People say they don’t but I think they do. Also, we’d have won that Reading game- we just would have. Wel be reet.

  4. Goldy November 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    And agree on Campbell. Championship bound – surely!

  5. John Mac November 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    I have to disagree about Campbell. I don’t think he’s had the chance to come back after his injuries and show whether or not he can cut the mustard.

    If not him, and not Saha, then who? Surely both Ji and Connor need to go out on loan to get match fit, if nothing else, before they could be considered

  6. Bill Taylor November 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I hope McClean keeps getting picked and starts playing blinders, for that way lies redemption…

    • John Mac November 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

      instead of playing blindly

  7. William C November 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Pretty scary stats. I think that survival might rest on the fact that there are still 3 or 4 teams who are worse than us. Fortunately we have shown some resilience in defence, and you always have a chance when you don’t concede. The January window is, I think, critical. If MO’N can pick up a creative, controlling central midfielder and another striker, we could have a decent second half to the season. If not, I fear we will struggle.
    On the subject of Sunderland’s present striking options, I feel that Campbell, Wickham, Ji and Noble might all be ultimately lower division players, and I suspect that MO’N will move them on as soon as he has alternatives. I found Bruce’s explanation that the purchase of Wickham and Ji was ” for the future ” incredulous at the time, and cannot understand why the SAFC Board sanctioned the transfers. It was obvious [ to everyone except Bruce it appears ] that we needed a couple of dependable PL strikers. This is still the case.
    Finally [ since he seems to have crept into the discussion ] I also suspect that McClean will find his level in one of the lower leagues. He is too predictable, and top class FBs will have sussed him out by now. IMO Sessegnon, Johnson or Larsson are all better LW’s, and all offer variety that he simply dosen’t have.

  8. Matt F November 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Right,

    The stats’ don’t point to it and current form screams out against it but looking at the division, I don’t think there are more than 8 teams better than us so I’m going for 9th as our final position.

    Ridiculously positive but what the heck!

    On the subject of statistics, have a look at this:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/zachslaton/2012/11/13/premier-league-table-predictions-post-match-day-11/

    We aren’t even in the ‘EPL’ according to that (or is it mid- table mediocrity not worthy of mention?)- Americans on ‘soccer’, don’t you just love them!

    • Matt F November 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      http://transferpriceindex.com/sample-chapter/

      provide further reading on managers and their relative success (transfer fees per point). O’Neill and Bruce are mentioned consecutively. Here is the relevant bit (hope it’s okay to reproduce it?):

      ‘Martin O’Neill is perhaps regarded as the ultimate overachiever, but even he hit a brick wall at Aston Villa. A decade earlier, at Leicester, the Ulsterman had averaged 51 points in four top-flight seasons, at a cost of £453,849 each, and, rather impressively, had won two League Cups for the Midlanders. By contrast, his 59-point average at Villa came at almost £1m each; and the 64 points of what turned out to be his final season came at one for every £1,133,892 of the £XI – higher than the average (albeit only fractionally). On the whole, he pretty much punched his weight at Villa Park, and it has to be noted that he took over a club that was struggling at the time and got them to the level where they ‘should’ have been. However, even his purportedly great powers of motivation could not get Villa to overstretch themselves; at times they broke into the top three, only for his team to hit a wall in the spring almost every season (perhaps because he was not rotating his XI anywhere near as much as his rivals). He did a good job, but no more, as the side became increasingly expensive.

      At both Birmingham and Wigan, Steve Bruce’s £XI averaged £25m, and he won points at a virtually identical rate: £617,985 and £613,370 respectively. Historically, Sunderland are bigger than both (based on honours, points won in the top flight and average attendance), and Bruce’s current employers have provided the funds for him to field an £XI (£52m) more than double that of his previous clubs. The result? In his one full season to date he won points at a rate of £1,176,778; a very poor performance for a team towards the bottom of the table.’

  9. Jeremy November 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Matt. Does that analysis take into account the profit made on players sold I wonder? For example, both Downing and Young who were relatively big money buys were sold for a considerable amount more than they cost. I realise that there is also a negative on the balance sheet when you look at some of the others he signed for big money who turned out to be lame ducks, and indeed those he sold rather cheaply, and were then sold again for a tidy profit (I am thinking about Gary Cahill here).

    As for Campbell John, he has been given far more chances than either Wickham or Ji since returning to fitness and has done nothing more than create the impression that he’s a Sunday morning pub footballer. I would prefer to see Ji given a chance ahead of Campbell but if they aren’t going to feature then you are absolutely right about getting them out on loan to get match fit. The problem we have is that we seem to be one suspension or injury away from recalling anyone we let go for a month or two. Bare bones of a squad.

    • Matt F November 14, 2012 at 7:02 am #

      Jeremy,

      I’m not sure but judging by the level of mathematical input into the concept, I imagine it would. I expect they want us to buy the book to find out.

      However, it seems that we have stepped up in managerial performance (statistically) over our previous three bosses so that can’t be a bad thing.

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