Predicting Premier League teams, players most likely to improve, goes back

At the top, Manchester City had 47 points – three points ahead of Liverpool, who were three points ahead of Chelsea. Chelsea needed to earn six points on City and leapfrog Liverpool, but they had had success against both sides in recent seasons and just a couple of positive results would have been enough to close the gap. With the three sides arguably fighting for first, the rest of the Big Six were left to settle for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Arsenal and Tottenham were tied on 35 points, with Manchester United one behind on 34 points.

While the table promised a frenetic multi-front battle for the two most valuable places in the table, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Liverpool and City pushed each other all the way to the final whistle in the last game and finished a point apart, but Chelsea completed a full 18 points the back of the duck. The battle for fourth place ended similarly, with Spurs topping Arsenal by two points and United finishing sixth, 11 points adrift of fifth.

If only there was a way to see this coming — well, there was, and there is. Nineteen games into the season, the best predictor of future results is not current points. No, these are expected goals. And halfway through last season, City and Liverpool had xG differences in the plus-35 range, while Chelsea were down to plus-19. As for the battle for fourth place, Arsenal and Spurs were both level at around plus-5, while United were down to minus-1.5. There were clear gaps in the underlying performance between these teams and during the second half of last season it finally showed in the results. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s more likely than not.

Now that we’re halfway through the current season, who can improve and who can decline? Let’s see.

All statistics via Stats Perform

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