On Sunday at 3pm GMT Manchester City host Queens Park Rangers in the final game of this unpredictable and exciting EPL season. A victory for Man City-barring a ridiculous Man Utd away win, and thus a match fixing investigation-will see Manchester City football club crowned the champions of the football league for the first time since 1968.
Champions. Premier League Champions.
The words leap out at the reader. Those words reel in my mind, for it was not only scarcely believable it was nigh impossible. I had written Man City off for the title following the abject display away at Arsenal.
At the Emirates Man City were meek and didn't register a shot on target, Balotelli was busy being an irrelevance and a shamefully bad apple poisoning the attitudes of fellow players. On that day Sergio Aguero was of bad temper, Joe Hart screamed in frustraion at the not just the dismissal of Balotelli, but the predictability and consequences of it.
It was against that backdrop that Manchester City left the Emirates stadium dejected and if we are being realistic, defeated in their quest for the Title. With just 6 games left Man Utd led the Premier League by 8 points and that seemed an unassailable lead. Man Utd were 1/33 and Man City 11/1 on that Sunday evening after the Arsenal defeat and no team has ever chased down a margin of 8 points with so few games to go.
But Manchester City did. And on Sunday with all things being equal and if the football gods will it so, your Manchester City will be crowned Premier League champions.
After the jump we'll take a look at the respective sides form, what it means, what it shows us and what it will predict for Sunday's game
QPR face an almost impossible task in Sunday's game, how does the team with lowest win % in terms of away form beat a side in Man City who boast the best home form? The answer is, it will be nigh impossible. But first a little background.
Certain media outlets have whipped up the stories about the spurned and unfairly dismissed former manager, Mark Hughes. It has merit but little of it. I was disappointed when he was sacked, it seemed unfair, hasty. We didn't want to become Chelsea mark II. I was disappointed and in conversations with Danny and in conversations with City supporting friends of mine such as Jamie and Ian, no-one believed that Roberto Mancini would have the experience or know how to succeed where Mark Hughes had failed.
But here we are, fans and pundits proved wrong at Roberto Mancini having done an excellent job. Yes, he has had luck as all good managers do, but he has also been a strong man in managing this disparate band of egotistical footballers. He has weathered the frequent storms that have gathered around individuals at the club, he has played down the sunnier spells of form and reiterated that it's a long season with up's and down's. He has calmed expectations when all was well, and he relieved the pressure on his team when the title seemed lost.
He has been excellent in the title run in and has exceeded every expectation that I had of him. In a cruel fate of the fixture list, the team he will face on Sunday is led by the man he replaced as manager. Mark Hughes laid the foundations of this squad, he has friends here still on the playing staff.
On Sunday at around 5.15pm he may well have to watch as members of his Manchester City days lift the Premier League title. Hand shakes and embraces from men such as Kompany, De Jong and Zabaletta may well be forthcoming, but it will still be difficult viewing for Mark.
This is football.
QPR Away Form
W 3 D 2 L 13 GF 17 GA 38 ppg 0.61
QPR's record is the worst in the League. Yes, worse than Stoke's and Wolves'.
For 17 Against 38
Goals per game
For 0.94 Against 2.11
Only Stoke have a worse goal differential than QPR
Shots On Target For
69 in 18 games for 3.83 per game
Considering EPL wide scoring %(shots on goal/goals) is 0.31%, these shot totals aren't the worst in the league, but there are not great either and have led to QPR scoring the 3rd fewest goals away from home this year.
Man City's shots on target for at home is 7.16 per game
Shots On Target Against
98 in 18 games for 5.44 shots against per game
This is too many shots to give up per game away, this number will only lead, eventually, to a poor defensive record and thus a poor away record. QPR have conceded 38 goals away this season, only Blackburn have a worse record. QPR giving up 5.44 shots per game is what is driving that high total of goals conceded.
Man City's shots against total at home is 3.05 per game
QPR's shot differential away from home is - 1.61 and this just isn't a good number. If they stay up, which I believe they will, this number will have to be brought up closer to 0 or a + in order to avoid another relegation battle.
Man City's home differential is +4.11.
69 shots for 17 goals is a scoring % of 0.246%
League average away scoring % 0.29
We can see this is below the League average but not shockingly so and better than many teams in this years EPL, this doesn't seem to be the problem. QPR haven't scored enough goals not because the scoring % is low but due to the shots on goal per game number being too low. If you don't shoot enough you won't score enough, you won't win enough.
Man City home scoring % 0.401
This stat shows the effectiveness in QPR's ability to keep the ball out of the net. QPR have conceded 38 goals on 98 shots which gives QPR a save % of 0.62%. EPL average is 0.69% League wide so QPR's number is a bit out of line, but again we look back on the high number of shots conceded per game coupled with the below average save % as indicators of why the team has shipped so many goals.
QPR's Defeats Away From Home
QPR have lost 13 away games this season and that is more than any other team. Let's have a look at how heavy these defeats were.
Losses by 1 goal 7
Losses by 2 goals 3
Losses by 3+ goals 2
At least we can see that QPR aren't being completely crushed in defeat. 7 losses by a single goal might have a little wriggle room for turnaround next year.
So when we take out the two brutal away losses( Chelsea 1-6 and Fulham 0-6) and adjust QPR's away goals conceded using the rest of the seasons average they project to have only conceded 32 goals, good for the 12th best record in the EPL. So QPR aren't completely horrendous, they have just suffered 2 bad defeats(a sign of bad luck/off day or a bad side?) which have skewed their numbers.
Even if we generously adjust QPR's numbers and ignore the two heavy defeats we still can't escape the fact that they have the worst away EPL record. They don't score enough, they concede too many. And although the their underlying numbers aren't too bad, they are still bad enough.
QPR don't get enough shots on target to score enough goals to win and when we add their shots conceded total for some context, the picture gets no better. Conceding 5.44 shots per game on target will usually be bad enough to concede around 2 goals per game. And that total won't win you many games away from home.
All this has to be factored against Man City's monstrous home record. They lead the EPL in goals for, goals against, shots conceded, scoring %, save %. The list goes on and a motivated Man City side against a motivated QPR side will probably result in only one winner. Man City will have far too much in front of a raucous capacity crowd, not to mention the ten thousand fans watching on big screens outside the ground.
I did say on twitter 3 weeks ago that the team with best overall home form in has won the EPL in 9 of the last 10 seasons, I also said on February 29th in Predicting the title run-in by numbers that Man City would win the League with 89 points and Man Utd would be runners up with 88 points. On Sunday evening I believe those predictions will come true (well, 1 point out on Man Utd's prediction) and Manchester City will win the EPL.
For those new fans, if we win on Sunday, rejoice in the first title. For the older fans who have stuck by the thin and thinner this will be all the sweeter.
When and if I see that Trophy lifted high by Vincent Kompany I'll be so proud, I think I will also have a series of small flashbacks at how far we've come.
I will remember Alan Ball, Kinkladze in tears. My friend Tom drinking a bottle of tequila on the day of the relegation from what is now the Championship, Danny on Sky Sports running away from the Stoke fans on that same day. Being 13th in the table of what is now League 1. The playoff final. The greatest goal celebration from Dickov and the fan in the crowd whirling his jumper in ecstasy. George Weah glowing against Sunderland in our first return to the premiership in 2001. The badness and the madness under Pearce and later under Thaksin's ownership. The takeover and subsequent deadline day when the club was purchased by Sheik Mansour. The almost chest bursting anticipation when Yaya Toure ran onto that loose ball vs Stoke in The FA Cup final, and how that scalped £350 ticket was the best purchase I ever made.
Those are just my memories. Each of you will have your own, but if, and It is an if, Man City win on Sunday we'll have a new memory and we'll all share this one. After all the up's and down's we will deserve that emotional release when that trophy is hoisted.
Just don't mess this up, City!
Prediction 3-0 odds 7/1