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Race For The Prize--The Mancunian Battle For The 2011/12 EPL Title

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Hello and welcome. As we build up to the start of the 2012/12 EPL season I thought I'd take a last look back at some of the numbers behind the 2011/12 season.

As the title of the piece suggests this post will only be about Man City and Man United and their underlying numbers and the how's and why's behind one of the closest fought battles ever for the Premier League title.

I shall take a look at home form and away form. Everything from shot totals to save %, possession to pdo in an attempt to uncover just how Man City pipped Man United to the Title by goal difference.

At the start of the 2011/12 EPL season Man City were given a +6 points rating by the bookies. Man United were 0 and this means that Man City were expected to finish 6 points behind. So what happened in order for Man City to render that +6 point handicap redundant.

Firstly, we have talk of some of the exceptional circumstances behind each team's EPL form. For Man United we can only talk of injuries and what was in all probability the wort injury list of any premier League team. Fletcher and Vidic were lost for the season, Anderson, Cleverley, Valencia, Smalling, the list ends up fading toward the horizon of the number of players who missed significant time. Other players stepped in and performed admirably for United, and this is testament to their overall squad depth.

For Man City, the opposite scenario was true. A virtual clean bill of health and definitely the best Premier League record in terms of fewest man games lost to injury. Although, an argument can be made that we were missing Tevez, a brilliant striker, due to reasons too familiar to mention, and Balotelli seemingly on a one-man mission to cause sensation and mayhem around the club.

These are just a few of the non-statistical factors for the Manchester clubs during the 2011/12 season. Now for the numbers!

Points and Goals

Points goals Goals Against
Man City 89 93 29
Man United 89 89 33

These are the raw numbers for the 2011/12 season. Points are obviously the same, more goals scored for Man City and less conceded, but not by a margin considered large enough to question points totals of either club.


Overall Home Away
Man City 58.13 59.73 56.52
Man United 57.78 60.1 55.47

Here are the 38-game possession numbers. These two clubs are very similar to each other. United were better at home and City were slightly better away, a reversal of what actual points gained form looked like.

Total shots


These are total shots per game which include shots off target or on target.

Man City are in blue and United in red. We see overall, home and away totals. Man City were the higher volume shot team overall, were slightly better at home and significantly better away from home. Man United had the better away form despite registering almost 5 shots less per game. So were Man united a more efficient team in getting shots on target?

Shots On Target Per Game


So Man City were the better team overall at getting shots on target per game. United edged the home shots on target graph. This is understandable as both teams registered similar shots totals.

But when we look at Away shots on target numbers we see United quite close to Man City in terms of shots on target and this is surprising when we look at the shots numbers. Man City registered 17.52 shots away per game and Man United only 12.53 per game. Once we know these numbers we can start to say Man Utd were far more accurate in getting their shots on target away from home. Was this a reason for Man United's staggering away form?

Scoring percentages


As discussed above we saw Man Utd have a far lower away shots total but a similar shots on target total away from home in comparison to Man City. The graph featured above starts to tell us why United gained so many points away from home.

Man United had a 38.5% away scoring %, this was higher than Man City's away scoring % and it needed to be as United registered less shots and less shots on target per game away from home.

Man City were better than United in terms of shots on target at home by a fair amount, 3%.

League average scoring at home was 31% and away it was 29%. We can see both teams are far above the league mean.

Shooting Efficiency


Shooting efficiency tells us how many of a teams total shots ended up being on target. Once we know this we can talk about a team being efficient or wasteful in their shooting skill.

The two Mancunian clubs are quite similar at home in terms of shooting efficiency. But away from home Man Utd are a far far more efficient team in getting shots on target from shots attempted.

This is another little clue, along with away scoring %, as to why Man United registered such great away form.

Let's now look at shots conceded.

Shots Against


Right, so this isn't even close. Man City were a far better team at restricting opposition shots. Overall Man City had a tighter defence overall by almost 3 shots per game, by 4 shots per game at home and by two and a half shots per game away from home.

Are shot totals against important? Yes, in terms of not wanting to give the opposition too much opportunity to shoot at net, but restricting shots on target against is a far more important skill.

Shots On Target Against


Again we see Man City are the better team in terms of shots on target conceded. Better overall, significantly better at home and slightly better away.

We know Man City had the best home form in the league but the away form is interesting. Man United gained far more points away from home than Man City, but in every category we have looked at so far Man City have been the better team by the stat counts.

So what gives, were Man United just a luckier team away from home or was something like save % more important than anything in terms of helping Man United to gain all those away points?

Save Percentage


So here we go, this may be the real issue behind Man United's excellent away form.

Man United were the league's best team in terms of save % away from home and a full 5% better than Man City's away form. Man United gained 9 clean sheets away from home including 4 one goal to nil away wins.

Save %, not the restriction of shots or shots on target was the main reason for United's excellent away defensive record and thus excellent away points total.

Can United repeat the trick next year? Maybe, but that excellent away save % looks likely to be liable to regress toward the mean. Save % average was 70%.

PDO Average


Here is a stat called PDO. It's a method borrowed from Ice Hockey and adapted here. It's the combination of scoring% + save%. Each individual game has a 200 number that is divided up by the 2 teams depending on how they performed in scoring% and save%. PDO is expected to regress toward the mean (100) over time.

Man City slightly edged the home pdo chart and we expect this given 18 wins and a draw at home. Away pdo looks a lot different, Man United are over 7 pdo points better away from home than Man City were.

It is extremely unlikely that Man United will top that 120 pdo away score in 2012/13. In fact I'll go out on a limb. There is absolutely no way Man United will top 2011/12's pdo score.

Man United's 38 game PDO map


So here is Man United's 38 game pdo map. It tells what their pdo score was in every single game and every result. Green is a win, yellow a draw and red is a loss.

It's not too difficult to see that if Man United's pdo score fell below their own average pdo that they were less likely to get a positive result.

Man United had 23 results above their average score and had 21 wins and only 2 draws when their pdo was above 115.4. United had 15 results below their own mean line with a record of 7 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses. Man United win % when pdo was below their own average was 46.6%.

What did cost Man United the EPL crown was the terrible 4 game spell within the last 6 games of the season. It started with an away defeat to Wigan where Man United registered only 1 shots on target. Then came the Everton home collapse and the tactical submission away at Eastlands. It was a collapse, a squad running on empty and if the collapse had come from any other team the press would be talking of Fergie's mind games forcing the opposing manager to crack. May it be fair to say Fergie cracked under the pressure of Mancini's mind games? That would be sacrilege.

Man City's 38 game PDO map


This is Man City's 38 game pdo map. City had 23 games above their own pdo mean of 116.2 winning 22 and drawing 1 game.

When having a pdo score below their mean line Man City had a record of 6 wins, 4 draws and 5 losses. Man City's win % when below their pdo line was 40%.

We can see Man City's two spells of poor form. The first being the Liverpool to Sunderland spell of 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses and the near catastrophic late season spell of 1 win, 2 draws and 2 losses which culminated in that disastrous Arsenal defeat and Balotelli's suspension. A consequence of that suspension was a more focused Man City squad and the prodigal return of Carlos Tevez to the starting line up in the home game against West Brom.

Both teams had virtually identical pdo records along with their actual EPL records. So in the end what were the only differences between the 2 teams?

Man United had some superior luck and some superior goaltending away from home which enabled them to post so many away points. Man City were the better team by nearly every statistical count and probably deserved to win the league and in the end it was only goal difference that separated the two teams. So just how important was the scoring of goals when the a fixture was probably already won?

Goals scored beyond a single goal win

Man City

Home 25

Away 16

Man Utd

Home 24

Away 15

So there isn't too much of a difference between the teams here. But when we consider the league was won by only an 8 goal margin it's hard not to think of just a single game as the reason for that 8 goal margin. A lot of football was played after that famous derby day win at Old Trafford and there were opportunities to wipe out the effects of that particular result, but at the end of the season, an Aguero winner meant the league was won by only 8 goals.

Man Utd 1-6 Man City. That is a 10 goal swing. 3 of Man City's goals were scored in injury time. That is a six goal swing. The margins were so fine in this years EPL title race that we could find many such pivotal moments over the course of the season and for me Vincent Kompany's goal against United was the most important league goal scored this past season.

In the end Man City deserved the title, they played excellent football, were less likely to be blessed with luck and won nearly every Man City v Man Utd stat battle.

I shall leave you with this.


And this. Play this modern masterpiece loudly! race for the prize by The Flaming Lips

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