Number 4 in the Premier League Table

Watford is a much of a muchness, which seems a bit of a harsh way to describe a team who are currently 4th in the Premier League Table. Perhaps people are naturally skeptical of boarding a hype train this early in the season, and there are certainly better stories about: Huddersfield are 6th; Manchester United are only just coming down from their initial fireworks; Arsène Wenger continues to be a major talking point; Wembley hosted Premier League matches.

The theory that mainstream narratives are now, at least partly, dictated by which games are on TV may be at work too. Watford was televised during their 3-3 draw with Liverpool, the day after *that* 4-3 between Arsenal and Leicester, but since then they’ve been off-screen in a run of uninspiring games.

They then traveled to Bournemouth and beat them 2-0; drew at home with Brighton, in which the only thing anyone paid any attention to was Miguel Britos’ red card; and then quietly traveled to Southampton and continued their run of winning 2-0 on the South Coast.

That result may have received more attention if Manchester City and Liverpool hadn’t played earlier in the day; if Mané hadn’t been sent off; if Arsenal hadn’t battered Bournemouth 3-0 to consign the Cherries to their fourth consecutive loss; if Manchester United’s run of winning hadn’t been brought to a stop by Stoke City in a televised game.

The simple stats say that Watford has scored 7 from 48 shots (14.6% conversion rate) and conceded 3 from 45 shots (6.7% conversion rate). Gut instinct says that that’s unlikely to continue.

Watford has also been outshot in terms of ‘optimal shots’ – those that are taken inside the box, from open play, and aren’t headed chances. Watford has taken 13 of these across their four matches, while their opponents have taken 17.

However, nine of these opponent optimal shots came against Liverpool, a match in which Watford nicked an injury time equalizer to pick up a single point. It probably wouldn’t cause too much fuss at Vicarage Road to say that that was a fortunate result.

Take the shots away from that match, in order to get a read on the three games whose results may have been more representative. Watford scored 4 from 39 shots (10.3% conversion rate) and conceded 0 from 31 shots (no conversion rate). The former is pretty much a dead average conversion rate, the latter is, obviously, not. But the optimal shot count for those three matches reads 11-8.

The maths hasn’t been properly run, to my knowledge, on the link between optimal shots and winning, but the criteria are those which could be used for a very basic expected goals model, so it would make sense for them to be somewhere between all shots and xG in terms of usefulness. Both the shots and optimal shot counts suggest that Watford slightly edged their matches, but that they were relatively close.

Interestingly, Watford has produced far more shots on target with their attempts on goal than their opponents have. They themselves have got 14 of their 48 shots on target (29.2%); their opponents 10 of 45 (22.2%). Both figures are a little lower than the league average, which tends to be around 30-33%, perhaps suggesting the style of defending which has been evident in Watford’s games so far.

Taking Liverpool out again, things get even more off-target. Watford managed 10 shots on target from 39 shots (25.6%) and their opponents only 5 from 31 shots (a measly 16.1%). No wonder no-one was talking about Watford’s most recent three games: they sound awful.

What does this all mean? At a guess, that Watford deserves to be in the top half of the table, but that being fourth may be a bit of early-season fortune. Which, as a story, is a bit of a much of a muchness, really.

By @EveryTeam_Mark

Eastbridge Soccer Betting Broker, bespoke sports betting for the discerning client

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