Juventus just marked their first season without any silverware in over a decade, and that was met by the expected amount of gnashing of teeth and furrowing of brows from a fanbase who have gotten quite spoiled over the last few years as the Bianconeri have swept all before them domestically.
Over the years, a popular pastime has become comparing the current season to years past and making profound judgements about the quality of competition. With that in mind, and no bias or agenda driving my analysis, I took a look at nearly two decades of league table data to see if there was any derivations that could be made from that.
Like with all statistics, there are many ways to slice and dice numbers to fit just about any narrative. To keep things focused, I looked at only team point totals for the top five sides in Serie A, and for consistency went back to the 2004-05 season which was the first with twenty teams in the league.
The left side of the table focuses on Juventus’ results from the season, and then how their points tally compared to those picked up by the top five teams in the league that season. The row at the very bottom is averages — mean points picked up by Juve since 2004-05 is 82, and the rest of the numbers are the mean points gained by the teams finishing first through fifth in the table — 88.6, 79.9, 73.3, 67.5 and 65.1 respectively.
The data in this raw form doesn’t reveal much. Juve breaking the 100-point mark appears to be an outlier. In general, the winner of the Scudetto picks up somewhere in the high-80s in points, while the runners-up are just about at 80. The team in third place is usually adrift by a bit, and the fourth-placed team the same margin behind while the gap between fourth and fifth appears to be much narrower.
Data in tabular form is rarely conclusive and certainly doesn’t help analysis, so I dug in and did up a couple of charts.
(NB — Do not ask me about the ‘missing’ data for 2006-07 unless you’re really trying to rile me up.)
First off, do not be intimidated by how busy this chart is. There is a lot going on here, but we’re going to parse it bit by bit. The key at the bottom of the graph is key to understanding what is going on (pun fully intended, apologies).
Solid lines with markers are used to connect point totals: first is orange, second is grey, third is yellow, fourth is blue and fifth is green. Juventus’ points total is the heavier black line with blue markers.
Dashed lines in the corresponding colors denote the mean points total for the position identified above.
Dotted lines in the same colors show the trend for that position over the 18 seasons looked at here. The black dotted line shows how Juventus’ points total has trended over that period.
For clarity, I have lightened the solid lines in this chart, so please pay attention to the dotted and dashed lines instead. Reminder — the dotted lines denote trends, while the dashed lines indicate average point totals.
There are a couple of outliers in this set, and they do skew the data a bit. In 2013-14, the top three scored well above the mean, while in 2017-18 all of the top five were much higher than the average.
What should jump right out at you is the is that all the trend lines are sloping upwards. If you take away one thing from this exercise it should be that it requires more points to win anything in Italy. While the increase in points required to win the Scudetto hasn’t increased much in this period (from just under 88 to just under 90, about two points), take a look at how the rest of the top five have climbed. Second place has gone from just above 76 to nearly 84 (eight points), third from under 68 to 79 (11 points!), fourth from 61 to 74 (13 points!) and finally fifth from about 59 to nearly 71 (12 points!).
This increase can also be shown using the divergence, which is visualized by the colored ovals on the right side of the chart. The size of the ellipse reflects how much the trend line (dotted) has varied from the mean line (dashed).
Clearly the competition for spots three through five in the table has gotten a lot tougher. While the Scudetto winner could be about 29 points ahead of fifth place in 2004-05, that margin has come down in the present to about 19 points. The gaps between first and second, second and third, and third and fourth have all narrowed while all except first have trended upwards drastically.
The big question on everyone’s mind should be — are Juventus continuing to improve at the same rate as the rest of the top teams? To make things easier to see, I’ve darkened the trend lines, so focus only on the dotted lines in this chart. The color scheme remains the same, but now Juventus are back in this chart as the black dotted line.
It jumps right out that over the period of this analysis, Juventus have continued to improve. However, when you look at just the last four seasons, there has been a consistent fall-off in performances from the Bianconeri. Max Allegri’s last season in his first stint at the club was a poor one, leading to his departure. Maurizio Sarri was able to win a Scudetto with pretty much the same squad, and then the team struggled in Andrea Pirlo’s sole season, only nabbing fourth place on the last day of the season.
Allegri’s return saw a rocky start and thought Juventus were able to put together a good run in the latter half of the season, just when they looked like they could get into the top three conversation they fell away again and finished fourth, albeit with a lower points total.
One feels the 2022-23 season will be one to remember. Summer business notwithstanding, both Milan clubs are loading up their squads for another title run. The pressure is on Juventus and Napoli in the arms race to show they can pick up enough key players to keep pace, and then hope their relatively smaller and less deep squads can stay fit during a grinding season to keep them in the conversation come May 2023.
Certainly for the Bianconeri, another faltering campaign like the last one will mean Allegri’s seat is going to get much, much warmer. It’ll be both on the club ownership to provide the coach with enough weapons, and then on Allegri to show that he still has what it takes to lead this side in terms of a contemporary gameplan and tactics. We could be in for a Scudetto race for the ages, folks.
What else can you glean from the data and the charts? Would love to hear what you think. Also, happy to share the raw data with anyone who wants to run it into a viz or do something different with it.