Premier League so far: Why Spurs, Chelsea will challenge Liverpool, Man City for the title

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Don't expect Liverpool and Man City to run away with the league: Bill Connelly explains why Spurs, Chelsea and Leicester are firmly in the mix.
As we find ourselves immersed in international break No. 17 of the young European soccer season (OK, it's No. 3), it's a pretty good time to step back and absorb the chaos that we've witnessed one-fifth of the way through. The funkiness resulting from a blink-and-you-miss-it offseason, along with a loaded schedule for Europe's top teams, have resulted in all sorts of strange results and dropped points. Granted, Bayern and Paris Saint-Germain are again looking like the class of the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, respectively, but both La Liga and Serie A are more wide open than they've been in years.

From the perspective of pure oddity, however, everything else pales in comparison to what we've seen from the Premier League. Not only are a whopping nine teams within five points of the top of the Premier League table -- last year, Liverpool had already established an eight-point lead on the field at this point -- but Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal aren't even among those nine!

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Back in September, I previewed the European season with certain sets of statistical factors:

- Efficiency and finishing factors: Goal differentials, expected goal differentials, scoring in the first 60 minutes of games and the second half of the season, etc.

- Turnover and field factors: Primarily, who's starting more possessions in the attacking third

- Possession factors: Possession rate, passes per possession, long ball attempts and completions, etc.

- Regression-to-the-mean factors: Points per game in close matches, save percentages, set-piece goals, red cards, things that, if extreme, tend to revert over time (and bring your results with them)

The goal was to look at the things that have the most direct impact on both year-to-year and month-to-month success. Early in a given season, these stats can tell us…
Bill Connelly
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