We have previously mentioned that ‘sometimes the league table does lie’. Football is a low-scoring sport, which invariably means that luck does play its part and teams do not always necessarily get what they deserve from a game in the short term. This can be extremely frustrating for loyal fans, club management, the players, and everyone else involved in the club. When things aren’t going your way, it can be difficult to stay calm and take an objective view of events. It can be equally hard to look beyond the league table and realise that results don’t tell the whole story.
We ran this piece in October 2021 when the DSTV Premiership was just six games into the season. It was too early to properly tell a story of each team’s performance vs results. Whilst game state has a big impact on how teams attack and defend, a few scenarios can explain the way we can look at the expected points table:
- Whilst a team may have been getting results (points), their performances have not been up to par and thus they may sit higher in the league than they would here.
- A team may have had good performances in their games but their results have not been able to match that.
- They are as good as the underlying data suggests they are.
The 2021/22 xPts Table
Focusing on a team’s performance helps to achieve a true gauge of the underlying, sustainable strength of a team. During this time, using a unique model that assesses the team’s effectiveness at critical attacking and defensive moments during games, it is possible to calculate where a team should sit in the table.
A few quick hits:
The champions have scored at a rate they have been creating all season. Defensively, their early-season run of not conceding for 10 games shows that opposition teams were in fact creating chances but due to goalkeeper actions, defensive impact or opposition shooting, Sundowns have conceded far less than what they should have.
Orlando Pirates & Kaizer Chiefs
Both Soweto giants have been on par with their attacking creativity as well as being defensively solid based on chances they have taken and given to opposition teams. We covered Kaizer Chiefs in the early season where they were struggling to score despite having a wild ability to create enough chances to score a ton of goals.
The team had a big clearout of players and some staff over the break. Many people may question their methods but Royal AM have been solid up front and John Maduka has done a terrific job managing this huge squad. An important aim of the window was to keep star striker Victor Letsoalo (9 goals), which they managed to do. Generally defensively solid with a few moments of sloppy defending in some games so will be interesting to see how this clearout will affect them for the remaining 13 games.
Cape Town City FC
The Citizens have always been a top attacking team but struggled for goals in the first half. Now with Ralani and Lakay gone, there will be questions as to where the goal threat will come from? Mduduzi Mdantsane to the rescue? One repeated issue just cannot seem to go away – defensive vulnerability.
Stellies have perhaps been the standout teams in the first half of the season. They have completely transformed their ability to play from the team who narrowly avoided the relegation play-offs. They are innovative in every approach and may soon be the team to beat in the Cape.
Matsatsantsa have been solid in the first half of 2021/22 (as they did in 2020/21) and their star striker from last season Bradley Grobler has barely featured this season. At the back, they continue to bring through young exciting prospects who are very capable of playing at the highest level domestically.
It’s been a strange season for Usuthu. 12 draws for Benni and his team this campaign. Their attacking creativity has lacked this season whilst defensively they really seem to struggle to contain teams with a difference of 10 goals (xG to actual goals). Let’s see if 2022 brings with better fortunes for them.
This is how data can tell a story of why your team is in X position on the log table. However, in the long run, a model such as this is able to suggest that “performances that measure process over the outcome is a better predictor of league table positions than results are”.
We will run this data again towards the end of the season to determine where/if any teams turned the tables on themselves or their abilities.
Note: Unfortunately, whilst some games are not televised, there is no access to statistical information from those games.