Why West Ham’s goal difference could be crucial

Premier League

Last year I wrote an article about the statistic of goal differential and what it mean for West Ham, who at the time was sitting in the relegation zone and had fans bemoaning another list season. At the time I argued that our goal differential revealed that we were a mid table team that should finish around -8 in goal differential and between 9th and 14th in the table.

We wound up with a goal differential of -11, which was slightly worse than we should have statistically at the time I wrote the article. We also finished 13th, which was squarely in line with what should have been expected of the team. By comparison the best goal differential of a relegated team was -34. We finished below two teams with worse goal differentials and no team with a better goal differential. This shows West Ham as a team that was moderately unlucky last season but finished roughly where we should have expected.

With that in mind I thought that revisiting goal differential as an indicator of the future might be useful at a time when we sit in 4th, far better than any of us expected at this point in the season. After 9 games we have a goal differential of +5, over the course of a season this should come out to a goal differential of just over +21 for the season.  Additionally we have allowed 12 goals this year and have netted 17. Interestingly that puts us at 5th in goals allowed and 4th in goals scored – which seems to indicate that we are exactly where we should be in the table at this point in the season.

If West Ham continues this pace and the rest of the table performs around where you would expect them to West Ham should finish, according to goal differential, in 5th or 6th place. Since the 2005/2006 season only one team, Liverpool in 2012/2013 finished with a goal differential of better than 21 and finished below 6th place. Also interesting to note is that no team has finished 4th or better with a goal differential below 25 and that in three of those years nobody with a goal differential below 30 finished in the top 4.

This of course leads to the conclusion that for West Ham to remain in the top 4 they still need to find another gear, but a finish in the top 6 and a trip to Europe seems well within the reach of this team. This is, of course, with just under 25% of our games played so there is a long way to go, but there is a lot to be optimistic about this season and the stats, thus far, show that to be true.

I will probably revisit this idea later in the season to see where we stand, what we can expect, and to offer predictions.

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