A Statistical Look At Man Utd's Away Form

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City tackles Paul Scholes of Man Utd during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON semi final match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on April 16, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)


The Manchester Derby this coming Monday night is arguably one of the biggest games in Manchester City's recent history. A case can be made for the Division 2 playoff final and the domino effect it has since had on Manchester City.

A case can also be made for the League Cup semi final against Manchester United. And there was the momentous FA cup semi Final against Manchester United and of course the glorious release of winning that first trophy in all those years.

But Mondays game is potentially for the Premier League title. If Man Utd can be overcome, if we can beat them, if we can finally stamp the authority that our talented squad has on a single game of this importance and win, then we can really believe that a first League title since 1968 can be ours.

After the jump I'll take a look at Mondays opponents and their outstanding away record this season

Man Utd 2011/12 Away Record

W 12 D 3 L 2 39 points 2.29 ppg

This the best away record in the EPL this season by a long way with 39 points.

Man City are the 2nd ranked team with 31 points. Naturally, this is where Man United will have won the League if they do win it. The kicker is to actually win this years EPL, they are going to have to continue their # 1 ranked away form at the Etihad.

Goals

Goals for 36 Goals against 13

Goals for per game 2.12

Goals against per game 0.76

+/- + 1.36

Man Utd are tied for 1st in goals for and are ranked 1st in goals conceded.

Shots On Target For

85 shots in 17 games for 5 shots per game

(League away average 4.20)

United's slightly higher than League average shots total per game is to be expected with the talent they have. Arsenal had the highest shots per game with 6.41 and Stoke with 1.83 shots per game was the lowest total.

(As a quick note Stoke's away numbers for shots on goal, scoring % were, if we're completely honest, disgraceful. They have been completely outclassed in terms of the normal metrics we use to judge the balance of a game.They have the 4th worst away record and have scored only 11 goals. Away from home they are not a EPL standard team.)

Shots On Target Against

77 shots in 17 games for 4.35 shots against per game.

Man Utd's shots differential is only + 0.65.

Consider Man City's away shots totals are 5.44 shots on target per game and 4.00 against per game for a +1.44 differential and we can start to think of luck in regards to United's shooting %'s for and against in comparison to City's. Also, note United's-although slight- relative inability to stop a certain quantity, if maybe not quality, of shots being on target on against them.

Scoring %

85 shots 36 goals 0.42 scoring %

League average away scoring % 0.29

As we can see Man Utd are shooting at 0.13 above the League average % for away teams. A part of this can be attributed to having better players and this theory holds up when contextualized by having taken a high number of shots on target (bigger relevant samples sizes).

Newcastle and Everton have the EPL's next highest scoring % at 0.39.

Fulham at 0.18 and Arsenal and Liverpool at 0.20 have the lowest numbers for away form.

A part of me still thinks that Man Utd's high number, 0.42 coupled with 5.00 shots on target per game is what is really driving Man Utd's terrific away form. I believe that to a slight extent that number will regress to the mean when talking of Man Utd's away form next season.

Bear in mind also that United are giving up a fairly high number of shots on target per game at 4.55, yet have only conceded 13 goals for 0.83 save %.

This again points to luck and possible regression to the mean in the future, or, either an other worldly goalkeeper or a defense that has has a unique ability to reduce the quality of shots on target against.

Man City's numbers are 4.00 shots against per game 17 goals conceded for 0.77 save %.

Away form season to season for an individual team can fluctuate wildly. Man City and Man Utd both have seen this in effect in the last two EPL campaigns. And part of that fluctuation is scoring % combined with shots on target, these being the two stats that drive a teams playing form, along with good players, naturally.

Away Form By Qual Comp

This is a new concept here on Bitter and Blue and one that I haven't seen before ( If you, the dear reader have seen something similar, let me know). This will be the first of many new statistical and advanced football metrics ideas that myself and Danny will be posting on here in the coming weeks and months.

This is a breakdown of Man Utd's away fixtures and form taking into account the difficulty of opposition that they have faced.

Now, I hear you say every team plays the same fixtures in a 38 game campaign. But not all teams face the same quality of competition.

An example, playing Wolves in the one of the first 7 games of the season when the were in the top 8 of the table is a very different proposition to playing Wolves in one of the last dozen or so games when they have been rooted to 20th and taken 2 points from their last 39 available to them.

This is an attempt to quantify that statement.

A quick note playing the 20th placed side will have a 1 difficulty rating (the easiest game), playing the 5th placed side will have a 16 difficulty rating, playing the 2nd place side 19 difficulty rating. You get the picture.

The games are weighted from league position into a game difficulty rating.

Manchester United have played 17 games away from home and every team except Man City and Sunderland. Man United's game difficulty rating is 9.95.

To give that number some context here is the EPL Away table in order with each teams average qualcomp game difficulty rating.

Not all teams have played the same number of away games

Man Utd 9.95

Man City 9.55

Arsenal 10.59

Chelsea 10.53

WBA 10.48

Newcastle 12.44

Spurs 11.30

Liverpool 10.12

Everton 10.50

Norwich 10.77

Villa 11.89

Bolton 9.94

Wigan 10.56

Sunderland 8.89

Swansea 9.34

Stoke 9.84

Fulham 9.75

Wolves 11.12

Blackburn 10.84

QPR 10.12

A couple of things stand out. United's is the 13th most difficult set of games by the Qualcomp difficulty. Newcastle's has been a really tough schedule yet they have done well in spite of it.

As a teaser for the Home schedule, Man Utd have had the easiest in the EPL at 8.78 Qualcomp difficulty.

Conclusion

After a lengthy ramble there I shall return to the title of this piece. Manchester United's away form this season has been spectacular with 39 points gained so far. Manchester United had just 25 away points in 2010/11.

It's this special away form driven by an extremely high scoring % ( and some luck /great goalkeeping) that has been the main reason in Man Utd sitting atop the EPL table.

They are a truly dangerous team on the road, they score goals, they don't concede many and they are capable of seeing games out (six games won by a single goal) and of giving a team a thrashing (three 5-0 wins). They are a team, quite frankly, capable of beating any side away from home. The numbers and their points haul tell us that. Capable even of beating Manchester City.

On Monday the best away record meets the best home record and I just wonder if Manchester City can capitalize on Man Utd's propensity to allow over 4 shots on target per game. Especially so when Man City average at home 7.5 shots on target per game and have a scoring % 0.40. This is the only real- when not talking negatively in terms of luck-weakness that Manchester United have in their away form.

In games Man Utd have failed to win away from home, which have seen 3 draws and 2 losses they have conceded 5.2 shots per game on target and only registered 3.2 shots on target for.

Manchester United have been outshot on six occasions this season resulting in won 2 drawn 2 lost 2.

Tomorrow A statistical look at Man City's home form

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