The importance of wages in the EPL

Article at ESPN:

The other lesson is that the side with the next-largest budget after the top four should not lose hope. Arsenal just needed Liverpool to underplay their wage bill for a few years while Wenger steered his side to 70-point seasons, which was enough to maintain the Gunners’ position in the Champions League. Last year, Liverpool didn’t need the good fortune of Manchester United having perhaps the worst points-to-wage-bill season on record, but they could have made the Champions League with a merely good season as well.

For teams on the lower end, the lift is much more strenuous. The following graph of inflation-adjusted wage bills shows just how difficult it is to build a 70-point squad without elite resources.

The Problems in the High Press at Spurs and United

SB Nation: Pressing problems in the Premier League

Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with not being Bayer Leverkusen (he said, grudgingly). The counter-press need not be an attacking strategy. It can stop opposition attacks before they begin and enable a slower possession-based game. That is precisely how van Gaal’s press works. It is debatable whether this is the best way to use a press and whether Manchester United’s attack is working at full capacity. But the numbers and my observation both suggest the reason United are not replicating the exciting gegenpressing style is because they just don’t want to.

By contrast, Tottenham Hotspur look like a club that is trying but failing. Under Mauricio Pochettino, a manager who learned these tactics playing for Marcelo Bielsa in Argentina, Spurs have created a good number of attacks at speed (32) and stand third in the league with 89 shots attempted early in possession. These are not world-beating numbers, but they reflect a club trying to speed up the tempo of the match with their press.

Why Manchester United’s Win Streak Won’t Last

Published at the Washington Post.

Manchester United Is Winning, But That Won’t Last:

In fact, over these six matches, Manchester United has conceded overall better quality chances than it has created. There was a run of time between the Southampton and Liverpool matches when United had scored four of its last five shot on target. The following graphic shows the chances created and conceded by United. Black boxes mark goals. The array of quality chances (six from inside the six-yard box) which United’s opponents have failed to put away is spectacular.

Wage Bills in the English Premier League

Published at the Washington Post.

How Wage Bills Predict Outcomes and Who Does Best with their Money:

But even within a stratified system, better- and worse-run clubs stand out. I did a quick regression based on points and inflation-adjusted payroll to find the expected points for a club based on its total payroll. This does not include transfer spending, but for most clubs transfer spending tracks with wage bill reasonably well. The results can be seen at the end of the article. A few top clubs stand out. In the scatter plot below, I have marked a few clubs in particular. At the top end, you can see the impressive numbers of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and David Moyes’s Everton teams. At the bottom end, Newcastle United shows up as a consistent underperformer regardless of who has been in charge.