By Brian Sears
15 March 2012
Accepted football wisdom already has it that Manchester United have an easier run-in than their main Premier League title rivals Manchester City.
But Sportingintelligence analysis of all the remaining fixtures for all 20 teams now shows not only is that true but that United have the easiest run-in in the whole division.
Their run-in is rated slightly easier than the next three easiest run-ins, those of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham in that order.
Now is a perfect time to assess the situation, statistically, because all 20 teams have 10 games remaining, and all 20 teams have to play five times at home and five times away, so there is no significant home advantage skew to consider.
In order to calculate an ‘easy rating’ for each team, we have considered the current league positions of every team that each club has yet to face – and added them up.
The very easiest run-in that United (or any top-10 side) could theoretically face would be to play the 10 teams in the bottom 10 places. This would add up to a maximum easy rating of 155.
In fact United’s easy rating is 128, or 83 per cent as easy as it could be.
The higher the total points, the easier the run-in. The lower the total number of points, the harder the run-in.
The only time that United will come up against another side currently inside the top seven is when they face City.
At the other end of the scale, Mark Hughes’ task is put in perspective with QPR’s toughest run-in of all clubs, a run-in rating of just 68.
All of QPR’s final 10 opponents stand within the current top 14 places, and include all the current top five, and seven of the top eight.
Our chart below also indicates that Wolves will have their home form sorely tested, with visits of three of the top four still to come.
On our easy ratings, Arsenal have the easiest away fixtures left, with no visit to a club higher than Everton, currently ninth.
On this basis, one might reasonably expect – all other things being equal – that United will remain ahead of City in the title race, and that Arsenal with a very slightly easier run-in than Tottenham will push them hard for third.
And at the bottom, the current bottom three all have tougher run-ins than the two sides just above and most in danger of being sucked backed down into the mire (Blackburn and Bolton).