State of the Liga: Christmas Break 2009-2010 Edition

la_liga_logoAfter you’ve checked out Kevin’s holiday post, read this here discussion. But not before, do you hear me?

Fifteen games down, sixty percent of the season still remaining. That’s an awful lot of football to be crammed in between now and the middle of May, when the final jornada is played. But let’s talk about the past for a little bit, rather than dwelling entirely on the future. There has been some amazing stuff going on and it’s well worth discussing.

The very top of the table is not particularly surprising at this point, with Barça leading Real Madrid by 2 points (39 to 37), but what is surprising is the astonishing gap that has opened up between second and third place. Sevilla sits in third with 30 points, seven back of RM and Valencia, in fourth, are a point back of that.

The surprise of the season so far has been Mallorca, which sits in fifth with 27 points to its name. The other surprise, but of the negative variety, is that absolute horror show that is Xerez, who have amassed just seven points in fifteen matches and are on pace to end with 17 or 18, a dismal 15.56% of the available points. Atletico Madrid’s inability to get their season started should also be mentioned. A team that I predicted would finish fourth, Atleti is currently humdrumming away in fifteenth, with a paltry 14 points to their name. That puts them only two points from the relegation zone; ridiculous. The only silver lining for Atleti is that they can really only go up from here and they’ve got 69 points left to play for.

According to Pythagorean Expectation (using 2 as our exponent), Barcelona should be almost exactly two points ahead of Madrid, with 42.4 and 40.7 points respectively, so it’s Sevilla’s underperformance that is causing such a massive gap at the top (they should have 36 points instead of 30, the worst difference in the league). On the other end, Xerez is actually overperforming according to the calculations. They should only have five points for the entire year, according to PE, so they’re doing a bang up job despite their obvious deficiencies.

For those of you doing the calculations at home (feel free to request my spreadsheet), I’ve adjusted my Pythagorean Expectation to consider prior numbers of points earned (so that it can’t tell me that Xerez should be getting 5 points when they already have 7). So I’ve done points previously earned (Pts) plus the Win % (goals scored squared divided by goals scored squared plus goals allowed squared) times points remaining (PtsR in this case 23*3 = 69), expressed as Pts + (Win% * PtsR). With this new calculation, Xerez is expected to pick up 3 more points for a grand total of 10.

If PE is right, the three bottom clubs come May 16 will be Xerez (10pts), Real Zaragoza (24pts), and Espanyol (28pts), with current relegation zone stalwart Malaga ending up at the lofty heights of 13th place. The reason PE hates Espanyol so much isn’t some hidden awesomeness of the calculations, but rather because Espanyol doesn’t score any freakin’ goals. They have 10 after 15 matches, which is second worst only because Xerez is somehow more awful at sticking the ball into the net. A segunda, I say, though the likelihood is very small as they’re currently on pace to end up with 40 points, which should be enough to see them safe***.

The top of the table is expected to look exactly the same as it does now, with Barça going over the 100 point mark and ending up with almost 104 points while Real Madrid trots in with a lowly 99. FCB is on pace to earn almost 99 points while RM is on pace to earn almost 94. Again, the likelihood of either of those two scenarios happening is very unlikely, especially considering Real Madrid will lose three points to us when we visit the Bernabeu in mid April. Sevilla and Valencia will be battling it out for third and fourth and Mallorca should ease into a Europa League spot (though they too will lose their perfect home record come our visit in late March and that could rearrange the table a little bit).

To the awards:

Most goals scored: Real Madrid (40)
Fewest goals scored
: Xerez (6)
Fewest goals allowed
: Barcelona (9)
Most goals allowed
: Real Zaragoza (34)
Best goal difference
: Barcelona, Real Madrid (+27)
Worst goal difference
: Xerez (-22)
Best Home Record
: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Mallorca (100%)
Worst Home Record
: Racing Santander (19.05%)
Best Away Record
: Valencia (79.17%)
Worst Away Record
: Tenerife (4.76%)

And the individual awards:

Pichichi: David Villa (12 goals, none from penalties or freekicks)
Pichichi Redux
: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11 goals in 13 matches, aka best sustained scoring rate)
: Víctor Valdés (0.60 goals per match, or 9 in 15 appearances)
Newcomer of the Year
: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (see above)
Youngster of the Year
: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao, 17 years old, 2 goals, 2 assists, awesomeness)
Most Ninja-like
: Roberto Soldado (you never realize he’s there, until it’s too late—what, you thought it’d be Ibrahimovic again?)
Most Hlebtastic
: Raul (for obvious Isaiah-doesn’t-like-Raul reasons)
: Bojan “Banjo Crickets” Krkic
Least Cuddly
: Weligton (who can go to hell and die**)
: The Yaya

Now to compare my predicted final table versus what is currently going on:

Predicted Actual Correct?
FC Barcelona FC Barcelona Yes
Real Madrid Real Madrid Yes
Sevilla Sevilla Yes
Atleti Madrid Valencia No
Valencia Mallorca No
Villarreal Depor La Coruña No
Malaga Athletic Bilbao No
Depor La Coruña Getafe No
Mallorca Villarreal No
Getafe Sporting Gijon No
Rac Santander Valladolid No
Espanyol Osasuna No
Real Zaragoza Espanyol No
Athletic Bilbao Tenerife No
Almeria Atleti Madrid No
Xerez Rac Santander No
Valladolid Almeria No
Osasuna Malaga No
Sporting Gijon Real Zaragoza No
Tenerife Xerez No
Total correct 3

Obviously I’ll still be right later, but if you take the above table and give me 3 points for a correct call (thus 60 total) and 1 point for being within one table position, I end up with 11 points and that’s not so shabby, I don’t think. PS, design a table prediction game for me (say, for the second half of the season) that I use for the site and I’ll write you a lovely poem. Not an epic one, mind you, but a lovely one nonetheless. It can be for your significant other, if you like. Just design the damned thing, okay?

Okay, here’s some league-wide information and comparisons. (You can find a ton of the information here)

Total games: 150
Total goals scored
: 415
Average number of goals scored
: 20.75
Mean number of goals scored
: 20
Average goals per match
: 2.77
Goals scored by home teams
: 240 (57.83%)
Goals per match scored by home teams
: 1.60
Goals scored by away teams
: 175 (42.17%, obviously)
Goals per match scored by away teams
: 1.17
Number of home wins
: 72 (48% of available points)
Number of away wins
: 42 (28% of available points)

Of those 415 goals scored, Barcelona accounts for a paltry 8%, but you know, that’s not so bad if you think about it, seeing as they’re 16 goals above the mean, which, if you’re Xerez, is something to be downright jealous about. Obviously it is far harder to win away, so the more points you steal while not at home, the better your shot at, say, winning a title is. Oddly, Valencia, the best team away from home, earns a paltry 47.62% of its home points (partly thanks to Barcelona stealing a point at the Mestalla), which means that the teams capable of winning all their points at home (Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Mallorca) have quite the advantage.

So, going into 2010, the goal for most clubs is to avoid relegation while only a couple of teams have title or European aspirations. I’ll be back with another league-wide wrap up in March, when things are a bit more figured out.

*“Pace” here means current rate of winning points. That is, Espanyol has earned 35.56% of the available points (16 of 45) and thus can be seen as “on pace” to earn 40 of the total 114 available in a season (35.56%).
**Not really, I wish no harm on anyone. Except maybe like a paper cut or two for him because he can go to hell and die.***
***Please see first sentence of second footnote.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. HAHA I agree with the Weligton comments. Merry Christmas, even if I wish that dude a world of hurt delivered by The Yaya.

  2. Isaiah, you should’ve ended your second footnote with 2 asterisks. That would’ve created an awesome self referential loop.

    Valencia’s unexpected home form is owed to some very late equalizers, specifically against Atletico, Sporting and Mallorca. The other two home matches where points were dropped were against Barca and RM.

  3. Madrid will definately give up 3 points when we go there.

    p.s. finally got fifa10 for the 360, crankybombadier is my gamertag, hit me up I should be on toward the end of the weekend.

  4. can you explain the stat

    “Average number of goals scored: 20.75”

    as compared to

    “Average goals per match: 2.77”

    1. 415 goals / 20 teams = 20.75 average goals scored

      415 goals / 15 games per team / 10 (20 teams / 2 (2 teams per game)) = 2.77 goals per match

  5. Every time I read one of Isaiah’s epics, I thank the heavens that somebody likes numbers. Great stuff, and I hope that your Pythagorean thingamabob is right. 😀

    What must be scary for the rest of the world is that we have really played well for only two matches that I can recall: The 6-1 mauling of Zaragoza, and the 2-0 Inter beating. Yet we’re top of table, and in the last 16 of Champions League.

    What will happen when we start playing well? 😀

    1. That last sentence feels strange coming out of a soci.. I’ve heard Madridistas whine about their best a couple of million times..

      The real question is ‘Is this as good as it gets’?

    2. 😀

      I don’t think it’s as good as it gets, Vj. I think that when we start playing well, we’re going to kick the crap out of everyone and everything. This club has the mojo to repeat the triplete, even not playing at its best.

      But if (when) we start playing well, it’s a lead-pipe cinch.

  6. off topic, with the elections coming up in mind. Can we have an analysis of the people running for presindency and what each one can bring to the table? I’m completely clueless with most of the politics in the club.

    1. That, by the by, is Pep’s site (of fcbtransfers fame). I was wondering what he’s up to now.

      And Eduard, there is definitely a post planned on that very topic. Because it will affect so much, I think. Part of why Guardiola hasn’t re-signed, is I think that he’s waiting to see how the elections go. Don’t forget that he’s Laporta’s choice.

    2. Follow @barcastuff on twitter. He took about a month hiatus after he decided he didn’t have the time to maintain fcbtransfers but he’s been doing his traditionally excellent job since then posting and translating just about everything relevant about the elections.

    1. Thanks for that one, skyislm. What’s interesting is that one of the most recent entrants in the presidential race is saying that our finances suck, and vote for me because I will put the club on the right path.


  7. Hello from Toulouse and happy Christmas to everyone!! Yeah, I know I’m late.
    The other day I was visiting this city and came onto a street called Allée de Barcelone. Wow.
    Happy new year in advance!! 😀

  8. You know you are a barcelonafootballblog geek if:

    1. You sit down and construct a detailed pythagorean expectation analyzing and predicting barcelona results

    2. You sit down, read and hang on to every word of the said expectation and it excites you when the results are favorable to Barcelona and it makes sense to you

    3. Your pre-match rituals include reading Isaiah’s previews and your post match rituals include reading Kxevin’s reviews

    4. Names like banjo crickets, ghostface, greyhound and Abracadabra make sense to you and need no further explanations

    5. Believe captain caveman(another name) has superpowers

    6. Are not ashamed to admit your ‘man-crush’ on ‘The Yaya’

    Keep it going folks….

    1. 7. You have been Hectored/Hectorized atleast once

      8. You get addicted to Hector pills twice a year..

  9. Hey folks, I just updated all the links here to make them actually be links rather than things you have to copy and paste. My bad.

  10. Isaiah, how do you know that an exponent of 2 will best fit the data for La Liga… or futbol in general? MLB and NBA use different exponents due to the different nature of points in their game (typical scored are 9-2 vs. 90-86). If you look back at the last few years of Liga, I would expect you find the Pythagorean Expectation fits better using another exponent… Optimization problem?

    1. Jose61 — when I first started using Pythagorean Expectation in this manner, I questioned the exponent and expected it to be lower than 2 (apparently baseball has moved to using 1.86? and the NBA using 14?). If you can explain to me which exponent you think is better, I will gladly accept this as I’m not actually all that good at math at all and don’t have any of the training many of the readers here have in it. I’m constantly learning more about this stuff and that, to be honest, is why I keep writing about it. It’s infinitely interesting.

      I try hard not to use these calculations as anything other than ballpark figures. You know that Xerez sucks and Barça is good, but the middle-of-the-table clubs are much harder to judge.

      I hope that explanation makes some sense, even though all I really did was say “I dunno, I just use 2 cause I dunno what else to use.”

    2. As I understand it the exponent is determined experientially for each sport, that is it is based on how the number of points/scores/goals scored and given up predict winning. I would guess that for football the exponent should be less than 2 because there is less scoring in football than baseball.

      However determining the exponent would be much harder. You could get a pretty good number if you took the last five or ten years of La Liga and founds goals scored and allowed for each team and their number of wins. Then I think it becomes a linear algebra problem, which I never learned.

      Then there is the problem of the existence of draws in football, and it would get even more complicated.

    3. I see it as a simple optimization problem… Take the last 10 seasons of La Liga. That’s 200 [x y z] points, for every team’s performance in every season. X being goals scored, Y being goals conceded and Z being points won.

      Now you have:

      Z/114 = (X^m)/(X^m+Y^m)

      Find an m between 1 and, say, 10, that best fits the data. You can do that in MATLAB.

      I might do it but I don’t want to collect the data 😛

    4. Sounds like a plan! And I think win % (used in baseball) can be replaced with points earned %, which is why I divide by 114 in the equation (38*3=114). Although I agree that draws does muck it up… to illustrate, if a team were to magically draw every game, they would be expected to take half the points (57 points), instead of the actual 38 they’d be getting.

      Still an interesting exercise, though…

  11. how bout this:

    3 points for getting a team’s final place in the table correct

    1 point for getting their final place correct within 1 table position

    0 points otherwise

    max points = 60

    final scores:

    0-10 you have the intelligence of a beef welington.
    10-20 you get to clean the showers after the match.
    20-30 not bad for an american.
    30-40 “te dieron la alta.” today you get to practice with the team.
    40-50 Yaya noticed you.
    50-55 you scored a freakin’ golazo. messi’s the first to give props.
    55-60 guardiola wants you for his brain trust

    1. Right, that’s not a bad thought (since it’s what I had, but then you just added the “Isaiah has to clean the showers” part)

      Reader Patrick has submitted a far more complex version where you get points ranging from 0-19 based on where relative to the actual table you predicted a team to be.

      If you get it purely right, it’s 19, if it’s purely wrong (say you predicted Xerez to win the league), you get 0. If you’re a single place off, you get 18, 2 you get 17. Scores get pretty big pretty fast (I have 294 at this point) and you can get some serious scores for terrible picks, like me getting 8 for predicting Atleti in 4th when they’re actually in 15th.

      But I like it. Discuss?

    2. It’s a work in progress. I want to put in some logic that doesn’t give any points for missing by more than 4, and gives negative points for off by more than 8, but considering my current VBA skills, it would be easier to code a PHP application from scratch…

    1. Did his play look kind of like Busquets to anyone? Maybe a bit more quick thinking on the passes than Busi, but it just struck me. He looked a bit unsettled of course, but it’s an interesting idea using him there, say, during the ACN. Certainly not first choice though. That one header…I think it was the second highlight…did worry me though.

  12. Great post! I’d love to see more Liga-wide posts. Los Profesionales/Liga 360 are both just a bit difficult to follow. I might be a little lost in translation, it’s just not accessible to me. But this is!

    Hope everyone’s keeping themselves occupied during the break. Watch Arsenal!

Comments are closed.