“With hindsight, it’s easy to look at it with hindsight” – Glen Hoddle
Little did we suspect midway through the season that the Premier League would turn into a 2 horse race. Poor starts by both Man Utd. and Chelsea were transformed into a consistent run of good form which would extend the drama to the very last day of the season.
With one game left to play, the top two were level on points with Manchester having a superior goal difference. If Chelsea could achieve a better result than Manchester, then they would clinch the league in the final game…
The English Premier league currently has 20 teams requiring a total of 380 games per season. The results of sporting leagues are usually displayed in a league table format. During the course of a season we see teams occupy different table positions. The standard table format however leaves out the important historic story of the league.
This is how soccerstats.com shows the final league table.
The final 8 games are summarized as a colors encoded Win Lose chart. The table found at the web site above provides helpful links to each team’s performance and a snapshot in time regarding table position for each month of the league. It is also possible to rank the teams with respect to their home or away performance and overall is a very powerful tool for analyzing statistics of the league. Some historical information is also given with the results for the last 8 games being displayed in the last column.
Statistics are like miniskirts; they give you good ideas but hide the important things.” – Ebbe Skovdahl
However, there are a number of things about the table in that I think could be improved and all of them are centred on the “Last 8” column. The table author is attempting to describe win-lose information graphically and has dedicated approximately one quarter of the width of the table to it. With a quarter of the table dedicated to it, we should expect more than 8 out of 38 games to be described. The author has chosen to invent a chart type which encodes the results using colored squares with more empty space than data. The whole season can easily fit into this width if we choose an appropriate display technique such as a win-lose chart.
My least favorite aspect of the “Last 8” column is the non-standard use of a 1 dimensional plot. I come from a physical science background and so I am used to diagrams telling me certain things in certain ways. One of these things is (in the absence of an axis or some other visual guide) that time should go from left to right! In this 1D plot the knowledge of which way time is going is fundamental. The links at the top of the same table used to break the table down into months, go in chronological order from left to right. This sets up my brain to expect the rest of the table to behave in the same way. So why don’t the last 8 games do the same? Unless you actually have some knowledge about how the season ended, you might not actually realize that time is going from right to left. I happened to know that Liverpool and Arsenal didn’t lose their final games of the season. This made me double check what the table was actually telling me. Without some knowledge of how the Premiership ended I would have interpreted the information presented wrongly. The fact that time is going from right to left isn’t wrong. The fact that the rest of the table is telling me to expect it to go from left to right is.
“Well, Clive, it’s all about the two M’s. Movement and positioning” – Ron Atkinson
So what improvements could we make to the standard table format to get more information into the table? To tell the story of the 2007-2008 league we need to include the historical context.
The Excel table below uses sparklines to summarizes the season for each team in terms of relative positions in the table and a win lose chart for the entire season.
Now we get a feeling for the true drama that occurred during the season. The Position column shows how the each teams position changed over the course of the league. Those of us that followed the 2007-2008 Premiership will be able to look at the performance curves and remember the situation for a given time. For example:
“I never make predictions, and I never will” – Paul Gascoigne
It is interesting to directly compare the performance of teams together. Adding an Interactive Bumps Chart in allows us to see how Man Utd and Chelsea faired over the season. To compare two team click the sparklines in the ranking table or click the data label on the Bumps Charts.
In the next post I will talk about the techniques used to produce the ineractive ranking table within Excel. Until then why not check out a live web version, published from Excel to our website.
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