The unknown truth
Arguably the story of the season across European football is the rise of Leicester City. After winning 41 points in 2014-15, they’re on course for more than 70 this season and remain in the running for the league title.
Leicester are a clear case of a team that is knowingly better – they are vastly improved on last season both in terms of results and underlying performance. Chelsea are the Foxes’ mirror image; a team that on average this season has become knowingly worse.
But across Europe there are some teams that are unknowingly better or worse. These are teams who appear to have improved or regressed, but have performance levels that suggest results should have taken a different direction. If all else remains relatively constant, results will likely trend towards this performance level.
These teams, located in the top-left and right quadrants, are arguably the most vulnerable to decisions that go against the club’s apparent needs (or lack thereof). Montpellier and Rayo Vallecano, for example, may be tempted into wholesale changes after surprise flirtations with relegation this campaign, when in reality underlying performances have improved from 2014-15; things simply have not gone their way this season.
On the flip side, seemingly successful seasons for Inter, Mainz and Villarreal have been built on foundations that are actually shakier than the previous campaigns – in Inter’s case we are already witnessing evidence of this having slipped from 1st to 5th since January. In the long run, you are more likely to get what you deserve.
Sometimes these counter-intuitive outcomes can seem impossible, there will always be some clubs somewhere that in isolation appear to be outliers. Knowing what to do in these unusual circumstances can help prevent fatal over- or under-reactions.