At the beginning of August we looked at the claim of West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City fans that their clubs were, in fact, the biggest in the Midlands. Birmingham City fans, to my knowledge, are not dumb enough to wade into this argument. And it is a dumb argument for fans of clubs other than Aston Villa to wade into, let there be no doubt about that. I showed decisively that Aston Villa were the biggest team in the Midlands based on the only thing that really matters: finishing position.
But with matches against West Brom and Birmingham coming up in the next few days, I started wondering if perhaps there were another way to show just who really rules the Midlands. Based on comments to the first article, I had one change to make before I could continue: Leicester City were out of the conversation. Their fans like to claim membership in our little group because it gives them something to argue for and because they probably once saw something shiny that distracted them in the West Midlands (the only midlands that matter). But they're not a club to be considered here. Don't buy what the media say, that's no derby.
So Leicester City are out. But another team was suggested to take their place by plenty of people: Wolverhampton Wanderers. That makes for a convenient swap, then: out with the Foxes, in with Wolves.
And this time, rather than looking at finishing positions, I thought it might be fun (and in the spirit of the upcoming derbies) to look exclusively at how these teams have fared against each other. This one was pretty straightforward. I used the data provided by the wonderful 11v11.com to look at head-to-head matchups between the teams. Then, I tallied the points and made a table using the same values we use today: three points for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss.
Of course, Aston Villa came out on top again, but it was a lot closer this time. Take a look:
Hoo boy! West Brom are awfully close! If they could manage two wins against Villa this year (and Villa lost against Birmingham), they'd catch up!
But wait, there's a problem with this. Let me add one column for you:
Oh, I see. They've played forty-five more matches than have Villa. Why the discrepancies in the number of matches played? Because teams have spent times in different divisions and have thus had differing numbers of chances to play one another. But even at a severe disadvantage, Villa still lead the pack.
What if we went ahead and normalized this to a points per match table? That seems more fair, right? Good news: Villa are still in the lead. Even better news: I didn't have to rearrange my spreadsheet because the order didn't change.
And finally, just to make sure everything seems fair here, let's take those per-match averages and project them out to 407 matches so that we can see what everyone would have at these rates if they had played as many matches against Midlands opposition as have Villa.
So, West Brom retain their second-place standing, but now we see that it's not particularly close.
Another lesson from all of this? As we learned the last time we did a "biggest team in the Midlands" exercise: Birmingham City are terrible.
If you'd like to see all of the data (as well as each team's record against each of the other teams), the spreadsheet is here. If you're looking for a bite-sized tl;dr takeaway from all of this: Aston Villa are the biggest and best team in the Midlands, and everyone else is just a bunch of pretenders.