Statistical Analysis

Top or Bottom at Christmas

Thu, 22 December 2016, 10:45

It’s not just in the music charts where there’s a keenly contested race to be Christmas number one.

Being top of the Premier League on Christmas Day sends a symbolic message to the chasing pack of a team’s title credentials, as well as providing plenty of festive cheer to the players and fans of the leading club.

After a remarkable run of 11 straight victories, Chelsea are the stars sitting on top of the tree, with a seven-point gap over Manchester City.

The omens are good for Antonio Conte – this is the fifth time since the advent of the Premier League in 1992 that the Blues have headed the table on Christmas Day, and they’ve gone on to win the title on each of those previous four occasions.

Chelsea Performances at Christmas

However, leading at Christmas doesn’t necessarily guarantee the trophy in May.

In the 24 seasons of the Premier League, only 12 of the teams top on December 25 have won the division, giving Christmas number ones a 50% hit rate.

The average position of the eventual winners at Christmas has been 2nd (technically, 2.08th), trailing the leaders by 2.45 points.

After a fast start, plenty of the Christmas leaders have struggled to keep up the pace, with their average finish of 2nd, 4.83 points off the winners, showing it might not be plain sailing for Chelsea as this season enters its second half.

Top on Christmas

While six of the last seven winners have been top as the turkey has been carved, the early years of the Premier League saw some dramatic collapses.

From 1995-99, not one side who were top on Christmas went on to win the league, with Aston Villa (top on Christmas 1998) eventually finishing in 6th, 24 points off eventual winners Manchester United.

United made a habit of reeling in teams in the new year, with eight of their 13 titles coming when they weren’t Christmas number ones.

Newcastle (10 points, 1995/96) and Liverpool (7 points, 1996/97 and 2008/09) suffered from the worst festive hangovers at United’s hands – Liverpool have led at Christmas three times, without ever winning a Premier League trophy.

However, it is the Red Devils who hold the unwanted record for the most ground conceded. On Christmas Day 1997 Arsenal sat in 6th, 13 points behind Alex Ferguson’s side. By the end of the season, however, the Gunners had overcome the deficit, eventually winning the title by a solitary point.

With Arsene Wenger’s men a mere nine points behind this time around, what odds are a similar comeback this season?

There won’t be much festive cheer for Mike Phelan and Hull this season – after going winless in six, they sit bottom of the table, and according to the stats, this near enough confirms the Tigers’ relegation. Only three of the 24 teams bottom at Christmas have survived the drop (12.5%), with West Brom (2004/05), Sunderland (2013/14) and Leicester (2014/15) the only teams to have pulled off the great escape.

Last on Christmas

There is better news for fans of Sunderland and Swansea, however, who sit 18th and 19th in the standings.

In the 21 seasons since the Premier League was reduced to 20 sides, more often than not, the teams occupying those spots have stayed up, with 52.38% of 19th placed, and 57.14% of 18th placed sides surviving the drop.

Teams in 19th average a final position of 17.29th, while those in 18th come 16th – a small crumb of comfort for Black Cats and Swans alike.

Sunderland and Swansea actually sat in this position last year before escaping, and will be hoping for a similar revival in 2017.

Surviving Bottom 3

The highest finish of a team in the bottom three at Christmas was Manchester City in 2008/09, who came 10th. Just three years later, they were top, on their way to the 2011/12 title.

There’ll be a few supporters of clubs near the drop zone looking nervously over their shoulders – including those from Leicester. The Foxes, who currently sit in 15th position, were top this time last year (going on to win the league), having been bottom the year before (going on to stay up).

They can look for inspiration from the team who were 15th a year ago – current league leaders, Chelsea.

Statistical Analysis discovers hidden trends and values in major gambling events by deciphering both contemporary stats and historical data. We derive our probabilities from history, not just betting odds, so you don't have to.


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