Maths of the Day – December



The Clotet era has been characterised by a rollercoaster of highs and lows. You can see it in the short term form graph. What is perhaps notable is that the peaks have got smaller, implying that the results, though not without their moments, have got progressively worse as the season has progressed.
Inevitably, this has had an effect on the long term form; the number of points in the 46 game to the end of December saw us reach a low of 71, one point ahead of Appleton’s worse League 1 total of 70 but still only one point behind where we were at the end of last season. 

That said, we remain pretty much toe-to-toe with last year’s run rate. As I mentioned last month, though, Clotet has a challenge on his hands in the coming months; last year our form picked up significantly after Christmas, so we’re going to need some stellar results in the coming weeks if we want to keep up.

It’s not the fixture mix that’s causing the issue – comparing like-for-like results, for the first time last year’s results have crept ahead of this years. Had we played exactly the same teams in the same order, then we’d have one less point than last year.

And finally, another take – some have picked up on Michael Appleton’s first season in charge. We can debate whether Appleton or Clotet had the harder task – Appleton was rebuilding a squad, as was Clotet, but Clotet had, arguably, the more stable platform. He also had the harder task – building a League 1 rather than League 2 team. Looking purely objectively, however, after 25 games Clotet is three points ahead of Appleton’s first 25. 

So what might this tell us; overall, under Clotet we have still had a steady season and those calling for his head are probably being a bit premature. That said, his star does appear to have faded. January offers an opportunity to bring in reinforcements and, without the distraction of the cup, a slightly more manageable post-Christmas programme in comparison to previous years. It’s important he capitalises on these opportunities. 

Maths of the Day – November

November wasn’t the easiest month. One win, one draw and knocked out of the FA Cup. Is there an air of despondency? Not quite, but a bounce back is needed fairly soon. How do things look using the power of graphs? 
Nobody can be surprised about our topsy turvy form, which didn’t quite bounce back how we’d hoped in November. We are either due a surge in December or the two big peaks of form we’ve experienced this season are aberrations. December isn’t an easy month with three away games and two home against teams relegated from the Championship last year. It looks set to be pivotal.
Short term form isn’t really having a major impact on long-term form. That’s mainly because our early season form last year was pretty moderate. Despite everything, in the 46 games up to Southend we took 74 points, two ahead of our total at the end of last season. 





The concern is that our last year we relied on a surge of form in the New Year. It was, at times, extraordinary, in all competitions eight wins in nine. The hope is that we find a similar surge this year. The problem is that extraordinary trends tend to not to be the norm and anyone who has peeped in the physio room recently will know that we are probably not best set up for a post-Christmas promotion run. Poor short-term form leaves us pretty much in exactly the same place we were this time last year, but we can’t afford for it to continue.

It may, however, just be the mix of fixtures we’ve had up until now. In exact like-for-like results we’re 3 points ahead of where we were last year, with the draw against Southend, that’s a point ahead of where we were at the end of October.

Maths of the Day – October

Five Game Form

It’s fair to say, to date, the Pep Clotet era is characterised by highs and lows. Following three defeats last month, we then nailed three wins, followed by two draws, only the defeat to Fleetwood spoiled what would have been a very pleasing sequence for those who like symmetry. The impact is that we recovered during the month to a much more normal short term form.

46 Game Tracker

Given our propensity for short-term highs and lows, it’s more important to look at the bigger picture. So although the ride has been a bit of a rollercoaster, we ended the month in 2 points ahead of where we were at the end of September, suggesting some progress.

Run Rate

This is reinforced when you look at the run rate. October was always an opportunity to pull ahead of last year’s total given we had pretty average form. The draws against Rotherham and Charlton meant we didn’t pull as far ahead as we might have done, but we still sit 4 points better off than last year.

Like for Like

A new one – a tracker of our points total against the same teams last year. As such, it discounts the games against Portsmouth, Blackpool and Rotherham, giving us a more precise indication of our progress relative to others. As the graph shows, we are 2 points better off than we were against the teams we’ve played this season. So, although the margins are fairly narrow, we’re still ahead of last year, and that’s difficult to argue against.

Maths of the Day – September

You might want to look at this through your fingers; no three game losing streak is ever going to look good when you pick through the stats. Or does it? Not in the short term, but longer term, things might not be so bleak. It’s Maths of the Day for September.

Five game form

It probably won’t come as much of a shock to anyone that our form in September has plummeted from an all-time high of 15 points in five games to just four points from a possible 15. Only Michael Appleton’s first weeks in charge were worse. Even the win over Peterborough didn’t allow a bounce back, just replacing the 3 points won against Gillingham. 

46 game tracker

Looking longer term, however, shows a little kick-up from the Peterborough win. Michael Appleton had a pretty good September last year with two wins and two draws, so the three defeats against Blackpool, Walsall and Bury this year did take their toll. Those claiming terminal decline, though, might be being a bit premature; we finished last season on 72 points, and in the 46 games to Peterborough we picked up exactly the same number. The dip in form isn’t comfortable, but what it’s actually done is take us to where we were on the last day of last season, when confidence and optimism was high. Just shows how easily distracted we can be by short term form.

Run rate

To re-inforce the point, looking at the run-rate, we finish September on exactly the same number of points we finished with this time last year. Not as good as our promotion season, not as bad as Michael Appleton’s first year; bang in the middle. What’s more, if you cast forward you’ll see a flatline from last season (6 points out of a possible 18). Even moderate form during October should see us improving on last year. If we consider that we finished the season just 4 points short of the play-offs, it shows that despite everything, we are still in a good position.

Maths of the Day – August 2017

It’s Maths of the Day, in which we use statistics to prove things that are obvious with the false reassurances of numbers. We only look at league games, because cup games skew the stats. So here are the stats up to the MK Dons game, which technically takes us into September, but who’s counting?

Five game form

Five game form shows our rolling five game points total, a demonstration of changes in our short term form. With a change of manager and it being so early in the season, everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. But what is obviously notable is that the two wins at the start of the season coupled with the three at the end of last means we delivered our first maximum 15 points since before Michael Appleton’s arrival in 2014. Obviously, and predictably, that couldn’t be sustained with the defeat to Scunthorpe and draws with Shrewsbury and MK Dons. But if you look at our run of form during Michael Appleton’s first season and that of most of last season, we are in a very comfortable position.

46 game form

Looking longer term, at a rolling 46 game, whole season, programme. Again, still very early days, but the graph shows that as we should probably have expected, last season saw a gentle but far from concerning slip in terms of the points we’d accumulated by the end of our promotion season. What the little tick at the end of the graph shows, however, is a recovery in the back-end of last year which was sustained for the start of this. 

Run rate

Anyone worrying about our start just has to look at this, we’re comfortably ahead of where we were this time last year. Naturally last season Michael Appleton had some capital in his locker and there was the novelty of League 1, so nobody was worrying about the start we made a year ago. Clotet has neither of these, but his opening month, despite all the disruption during the summer and during August he has delivered a very solid start.

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Maths of the Day – February

February always looked pretty pivotal, we opened the month with a defeat (but victory) over Millwall taking us to Wembley, then the rapid fire fixtures against Northampton, Accrington and Wimbledon – all promotion and play-off contenders – plus Exeter, Wimbledon, Morecambe away from home.

The squad had been pummelled physically and mentally during January and then were faced with an intense fixture programme. How did we hold up?

Appletonometer

It wasn’t all plain sailing; frustrating home form and, for the first time this season, two consecutive defeats. That said, the Appletonometer actually finished the month on a high. In the 46 games to the Wimbledon win accumulated 84 points. We flatlined for most of the month, which reflects that our form was almost identical to this time last year, but the kick-up post-Wimbledon means we’re in a better position than we’ve ever been under Michael Appleton.

Five Game Form

Unsurprisingly, however, short term form has taken a dip since Christmas.The two defeats against Northampton and Accrington saw our form drop to below what’s needed for even the play-offs for the first time since last season. To some extent, our current position is reliant on strong early season form.

Run rate

And the big picture? We’re still comfortably on track for promotion. Or as comfortable as it’s possible to be in a promotion race. The thing with promotion, and something we’re not used to, is that you have to keep accumulating points because that’s exactly what everyone around you is doing. In a normal season we’d be competing for the title, but Northampton aren’t normal team this year. Still, with March looking like a much more straight forward month, we do look like we’re in a strong position.

Maths of the Day – January

Appletonometer

Because we only deal with league games in Maths of the Day, the January figures only cover three games; Notts County, Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth – two epic away wins and a lacklustre defeat at the end of a monumental week. 
Still, the rolling 46 game graph – the Appletonometer – continues to show an upward trend and actually tipped over the 80 point mark for the first time. Put that in perspective – if Oxford United last season were in a league with Oxford United who has played the last year, there would be 20 points difference between the two teams. If that shows anything, it’s how much the club has been transformed.

Five game form

Our current form is difficult to assess. If you count the cup games we’ve lost three in four and the last three at home. But, it’s not really fair to assess our form when we’re playing teams in divisions above us. 
So, discounting cup games, our form has actually spiked upwards to a level which would typically win you the title. The big question is, now the cup games are out the way, can we sustain it?

Run rate

Overall, we’re still sitting right on the run rate that would typically win you the title. I say typically, because Northampton are on a run of form which blows all this out of the water. Nine wins in ten is, like Leicester challenging for the title, something you can’t account for when it comes to predicting the future.

All is not lost in that respect, however, if we win our game in hand and the game against Northampton on the 16th, we’ll be four points behind. One of the things about extraordinary form is that at some point things will return to being more ordinary; if the Cobblers do wobble, then we’re in a good position to pounce.