Halfway There…

Following the 2-1 defeat to Wolves in front of the Sky cameras on Friday night, half of the 2012/13 Championship season has now elapsed. With 23 games played and every opponent faced once, now appears as good a time as any to take stock of the season so far.

Right now the direction in which Blackpool are heading remains in a state of flux. A current midtable position allied to uncertainty over what will happen in the January transfer window means the second half of the season could offer up any number of outcomes. Many ‘Pool fans will be wanting to look upwards, and only a five point deficit to 6th position ensures a play-off place is still a possibility, although improvement is obviously necessary.

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Let’s begin by taking a look at how the Seasiders have performed against teams based on their league position (see left):The table seems to suggest that Blackpool are struggling most against the teams currently in and around them in mid-table. If you were to split the table into thirds, you would see that Blackpool have yet to win a game against a team in the middle third (albeit this features one less game than the other third given Blackpool’s presence within it). Meanwhile ‘Pool have won half of their games against both the top and bottom thirds, losing only once to teams in the bottom third (Charlton) and twice to teams in the top third (Cardiff and Leicester).

By breaking it down into results against the top half and bottom half of the table (see above), it emerges that the points per game record against the top half is marginally superior, although perhaps aided by Blackpool themselves occupying a top half spot.

Similarly there is also little difference in Blackpool’s record at Bloomfield Road and on the road. The team will be disappointed to have only taken 1.42 points per game in front of their own fans – a record worse than winning one and losing one every two games. Conversely, the away record isn’t actually too bad at 1.36 points per game, but simply hasn’t been backed up by more dominant home form which one might have expected.

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Of course the defining feature of Blackpool’s season to date has been the managerial change, with Michael Appleton taking over from Ian Holloway in early November – a brief Steve Thompson caretaker aside.

Extracting Blackpool’s results from the above table since the appointment of Appleton offers another insight into how things are going at the moment (see above). At first glance, it doesn’t make for particularly encouraging reading. True enough, there is only one defeat in amongst those eight matches, but 75% of the new manager’s games have involved teams in the bottom half of the table. Only two wins from those eight fixtures has to be considered a disappointing return.

Comparing the record of our two permanent (and one caretaker) managers so far this season also makes for quite interesting reading (see above). The observant amongst you will notice that despite the points per game of Holloway and Appleton appearing the same, the number of season points it equates to is different by one point – Holloway’s works out at 64 compared to Appleton’s 63.The answer behind this lies in rounding. Holloway’s points per game to two decimal places was rounded down, Appleton’s rounded up. Therefore despite only losing one of his matches in charge, Appleton has a marginally worse record than his predecessor. Thompson has the best record, but a small sample size of two provides little significance.

As for Appleton, long unbeaten runs are great, but when comprised mainly of draws, one sudden defeat like on Friday night does temper any notable progress. Of the five games drawn under Appleton, it would have been better from a points perspective to win two and lose three. Being unbeaten at any cost isn’t perhaps what it’s cracked up to be. That said, it’s worth noting that prior to the Wolves game, Appleton had a points per game record of 1.57 so this early into his tenure it’s still a case of fine margins.

Halfway to go…

As things stand, Blackpool are headed for a somewhat middling season, falling short of promotion standards in a number of areas. It seemed at first as if Appleton had tightened the defence up since Holloway’s departure, but to examine their records now it’s strikingly similar. Both managers have conceded 1.38 goals per game – once again there is a slight rounding difference in play, this time Appleton has a slight advantage. However, goals remain to be conceded to fairly freely and Appleton will be keen to improve in this area.

Up front, the side aren’t perhaps being clinical enough of late. Blackpool have an impressive record of scoring in each of Appleton’s eight games in charge, but missed chances through poor decision-making against Wolves cost ‘Pool at least a point. If Ince is to depart, a huge source of goals will leave the side, and with little contribution in this area from midfield, the goals could dry up.

Points-wide, Blackpool have some catching up to do. Based on a very minimum 70 point play-off target, ‘Pool would need to average a points per game of 1.65 in the second half of the season compared to 1.39 in the first half of the campaign. However, a more realistic target should be 75 points, and to attain this would mean a second half of the season earning 1.89 points per game – a difficult, but not necessarily insurmountable, task.

An improvement in the home form will be key, as will beating other sides in and around Blackpool on the fringes of the top six. 23 down, 23 to go…