Can you describe teams from league tables?

Right, thought experiment.  What can you tell about teams from league tables?

These things are rarely as simple as they first look, but I want to get the better of the game’s history.  I want to be able to identify the best players from past seasons, to understand teams more.

So I want to be able to decode league tables better.

Below are a few to get you thinking.

Leeds, for instance, were a good team who would shut up shop when they went ahead.  So theirs goals conceded totals are very low.   And they didn’t really have conventional ‘star forwards’ (arguably they got worse, or at least a little less machine like, when they did) – the quality in this side was in the midfield.  Can you tell that from the league table?

What about Arsenal in the early 90s?  What does this league table tell us?  Again, that team was pre-Wright, and arguably the team declined when he signed.  This team was extremely well balanced, with a fine new goalkeeper (Seaman) a legendary defence and a well mixed up midfield (Limpar, Thomas, Davis) supporting the likes of Alan Smith and Paul Merson.

Huddersfield?  Sheffield Wednesday?  What do these league tables tell us?  Can you describe teams in these tables, which are good in defence not attack, which are good in attack not defence, which look good in defence because they attack so much, which look good in attack because they don’t defend as a team?  What am I looking for?

Genuinely interested in your thoughts here so please chime in.

2 thoughts on “Can you describe teams from league tables?

  1. You don’t want to know much, then………

    Table 1 was 1968/9 (the season after Fulham were relegated and Allan Clarke, who joined Leeds in the ’69 close season was at Leicester). In those days it was two points for a win and Goal AVERAGE not goal DIFFERENCE separated teams level on points. i.e. Goals For divided by Goals Against. So if you were at the top of the table having a low divisor (Goals Against) was more use than a high dividend (Goals For), and there was more of a premium on not losing as drawn matches were relatively more valuable.

    I have a vague memory of a post you did on CCN (probably earlier this season) which made the point that competition winners tend to be the teams that have to graft week in week out for their results rather than those who regularly annihilate their opponents but then lose it when they find themselves unexpectedly under pressure. Well Leeds certainly knew how to play under pressure. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t win them many friends. They could play sublime football (and any Fulham fans who have not read how Johnny Haynes influenced and inspired the young John Giles should just google the two names), and they could be as dirty and cynical as the worst. They also developed the haranguing of referees into a high art form.

    As for the merits of teams holding different positions in the league, I have long held the opinion that the distribution curve is not even, so that “mid table” teams (that’s us, isn’t it?) are actually closer in standard and achievement to those at the bottom than the ones at the top. However I have never done the maths to prove it.

    Finally top players are now much more heavily concentrated in the leading clubs for the obvious financial reasons. Haynes established himself as an England regular while Fulham were in the Second Division. Bedford Jezzard was also capped as was John Atyeo of Bristol City. They were not the only ones from outside the top flight to play for England.

  2. Thanks, Nick – very interesting. I had hoped people might chime in and say “Yep, that Sheffield Wednesday side is clearly a defensive one, Huddersfield must have been quite balanced, Everton look like they might have been the better team in 68/69, etc. Big ask I can see!

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