Among the worst ever

worst ever

These are the only teams I have in my database (1888-1992) who had worse defensive SD scores than did Fulham last year.

Loosely translated, it’s a measure of how much worse than the competition a team’s defence was in any given season. So if, like last year, the average team conceded 53 goals and 1SD either side was 13, that means that the standard range was between 40 and 66. 15 of the 20 teams fell into this band. Chelsea were well below it, Everton and City were just below it, Cardiff were quite a bit above it and Fulham were well above it.

In 1963-64 the average team, playing 42 games remember, allowed 71 goals. The standard deviation here is 15, and so we’re looking at a ‘normal’ range of 56 to 86. Only three teams were outside this range: Liverpool conceded 45, Birmingham conceded 92, Ipswich melted their way to 121 (having won the league two seasons previously!).

So we’re looking at teams whose defences fall well outside the norm for the division that season. The big point here is that Fulham weren’t just outside the norm, which is one standard deviation each side of the average, Fulham were 2.5 standard deviations outside the norm.


That puts them among the worst 1% of top division teams ever.

Having spoken at length on Monday about how Magath and co are being hard headed in rationalising spending, which I believe they absolutely are, I feel I need to re-stress the obvious: we are tearing last year’s team apart because it was bad, historically bad, far worse than has generally been acknowledged.

9 thoughts on “Among the worst ever

  1. “I need to re-stress the obvious: we are tearing last year’s team apart because it was bad, historically bad, far worse than has generally been acknowledged.”

    Sure but taking the positives we were better than Glossop North End and Darwen.

    1. Hey – you leave my adopted home town out of this. They did remarkably well to get to the top division given that the town only had 20,000 people in it back then. North End were more entertaining to watch last season as well. Third in a league with only one promotion spot and a Derbyshire Cup Final. During the season Glossop succeeded in producing an unbeaten run in the league of 22 games without a loss, with only 5 draws along the way. This run stretched from 5th Nov 2013 until they were finally beaten by Bootle on 8th Apr 2014.

      I digress. I’m just defending my new local team.

  2. That is a remarkable statistic.

    Given that we weren’t a million miles from staying up with one of the worst defensive records of all time, it suggests that if we had balanced attack and defence just a little better, we might have been OK.

    1. You have it. We were historically awful defensively and yet nearly survived. How much easier to have become just very marginally less inept than it will be to claw our way back up.

      Still, we won’t be as bad again defensively, will we. Clean sheets against Crawley and DC United reserves confirm that. A week before kick-off, we can afford to sell one of our experienced goalies and have the other one outcast in solitary training on his own.

      What can possibly go wrong?

  3. That for me was the incredible point….we were rank rotten last year in most games, yet almost stayed up. They’re big IFs, but we lost twice to Cardiff, conceded last minute equalisers to WBA twice & Sunderland had a miracle escape. The single most frustrating thing is that even in our rank rotten season, it really didn’t feel like it would’ve taken that much to sort it out!

    These statistics show how wrong we got it on many, many occasions, but it didn’t feel like a Derby County/Sunderland season from years back when they were doomed from 10 games onwards.

    Onwards & upwards.

  4. It takes a lot of skill to go from ‘The Thames Barrier’ defence to one of the worst in history in a couple of years!

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