We are now half way through the 2012/13 PL season so it's time now to take a look at the difficulty of fixture list that each team has faced.Just for names sake I'll call this Quality of Opposition.
Quality of opposition, or the difficulty of each teams fixture list ,may sound like a wacky idea but in fact it is very simple. Most teams have played 19 games, and thus each opponent on one occasion, thus logic dictates that every team has had as difficult a fixture list as each other. But that is not the case.
Teams' form fluctuates throughout the season and thus playing a fixture against a team in red hot form and 2nd in the table is not the same as playing that same team in poor form when they have dropped to 6th in the table. Chelsea are an excellent example of this.
A fixture against the Blues in the first 7 games was a very tough game, but if you had played a fixture against them in week 13 it was against a team in poor form who had dropped to 4th. A tough game in week 13, no doubt, but not quite as tough.
QoO is an attempt at factoring in that Chelsea example by using the league position of the opponent at the time of fixture.
Simply put, some teams have played more games against teams in the top half than others have, despite each club having played all 19 teams at some point so far.
Half Way: 19 game Quality of Opposition table
This is each teams weighted average QoO table. The difficulty of each teams individual fixture list can be seen above.
Remember, I am using the opponents league position for each fixture then recording it, weighting it for difficulty and turning it into an average.
Spurs and Chelsea are two of the big teams that have had a difficult QoO fixture list and have faced teams higher in the table. United and Arsenal are two big teams that have had an easy fixture list in comparison to the league average.
Some teams have simply had a harder first 19 games than others. They have played the same opponents, but their opponents may have been higher or lower in the table at the time of fixture than some other teams have faced. The difference between Aston Villa, who have the hardest weighted QoO and Fulham is significant.
Aston Villa, on average, have faced an opponent that is 3 places higher in the table than Fulham has faced. That is 3 places higher in the table for every single fixture played and that potentially may have impacted their points total so far. Is it a stretch of the imagination to say that if Aston Villa had had fixtures against teams in poorer form, to the extent that Fulham have had, that their points total would not be higher?
The Most Difficult QoO schedule
Here is Villa's individual QoO. The purple line indicates Villa's moving average QoO fixture list and the yellow line indicates individual fixture and their difficulty rating. Remember a game against 20th place gets a 1 rating and a game against 1st place gets a 20 rating.
*The yellow line for the difficulty of each individual fixture tells us something startling about Aston Villa's fixture list. It is that Aston Villa, through 19 games, have played against a team in the bottom half of the table just five times, and the a team in the bottom just 4 times.
Villa have played 5 games against teams who occupied a place in the top 3 at the time of fixture. In short, Villa's fixture list has been absolutely brutal. Cruel, even. For some reason the timing and date of their fixtures has seen Villa play 14 out of their 19 fixtures against teams in the top half of the table, all this despite naturally playing all 19 teams in the league.
The easiest QoO schedule
Here, when looking at the easiest weighted fixture list we can see the difference between Villa's and Fulham's. Fulham, despite poor form, have had 11 fixtures against teams who occupied a place in the bottom half of the table at the time of fixture.
Man City's QoO schedule--Average Strength
Man City's schedule is bang on the league average mean line. Six games against the bottom six and six games against the top six.
Thanks for reading. Any questions, please fire away.