Does winning the League Cup have an effect on league form?

May 10, 2012
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After the appalling run of form that Liverpool have endured since winning the League Cup and the same issue that got Birmingham relegated last season, I figured it may be interesting to see if there is anything more to this trend. As a disclaimer, my aim wasn’t to come to much in the way of conclusions, just collecting the data itself, so if anyone wants to do this themselves, I’m happy to publish their findings.

I have chosen to examine the results since the millenium, as it is a relatively easy landmark somewhere near the time Arsene Wenger began putting out reserve sides that devalued the competition. It also gives us a good range of data but not so much that the task becomes too daunting.

The first set of data I collected was how many points the League Cup winners collected before and after their win, then dividing those points by the number of games it took to collect them, finding out how many points they won per game and comparing the two averages.

Here are the results:

Year Team Points Before Points Per Game Points After Points Per Game Difference
2012 Liverpool 39 1.56 13 1.08 -0.48
2011 Birmingham 30 1.15 9 0.75 -0.4
2010 Man United 60 2.14 25 2.5 +0.36
2009 Man United 62 2.38 28 2.33 -0.05
2008 Tottenham 32 1.23 14 1.16 -0.07
2007 Chelsea 60 2.22 23 2.09 -0.13
2006 Man United 54 2.07 29 2.41 +0.34
2005 Chelsea 68 2.51 27 2.45 -0.06
2004 Middlesbrough 31 1.24 17 1.30 +0.06
2003 Liverpool 43 1.53 21 2.1 +0.57
2002 Blackburn 25 0.96 21 1.75 +0.79
2001 Liverpool 45 1.73 24 2 +0.27
2000 Leicester 35 1.4 20 1.5 +0.1

Early on, the trophy seemed to give the teams a boost to their form, but the effect lessened, becoming negligible and eventually having a negative effect in the last two seasons. The victories of title challengers such as Chelsea and Manchester United seems to skew the results a touch, given the League Cup is a generally meaningless competition to them.

I then looked into the more immediate impact of a League Cup win, comparing the points totals from the previous five games and the form they showed in the next five games. Here are the results:

Year Team Points Before Points Per Game Points After Points Per Game Difference
2012 Liverpool 5 1.0 3 0.6 -0.4
2011 Birmingham 7 1.4 6 1.2 -0.2
2010 Man United 10 2.0 12 2.4 +0.4
2009 Man United 15 3.0 9 1.8 -1.2
2008 Tottenham 8 1.6 7 1.4 -0.2
2007 Chelsea 12 2.4 15 3.0 +0.6
2006 Man United 10 2.0 15 3.0 +1.0
2005 Chelsea 13 2.6 13 2.6  0.0
2004 Middlesbrough 7 1.4 7 1.4  0.0
2003 Liverpool 8 1.6 12 2.4 +0.8
2002 Blackburn 3 0.6 7 1.4 +0.8
2001 Liverpool 9 1.8 5 1 -0.8
2000 Leicester 6 1.2 6 1.2  0.0

This seems to have a less distinct pattern, so I looked even more immediately, at the games either side of the final:

Year Team Game before final Game after final
2012 Liverpool Loss Loss
2011 Birmingham Loss Loss
2010 Man United Win Win
2009 Man United Win Win
2008 Tottenham Win Loss
2007 Chelsea Win Win
2006 Man United Win Win
2005 Chelsea Win Win
2004 Middlesbrough Loss Loss
2003 Liverpool Loss Win
2002 Blackburn Loss Draw
2001 Liverpool Loss Draw
2000 Leicester Draw Win

The title challengers have a tendency to win both games, while the other sides manage just one win between them.

The data doesn’t take into account the quality of the sides the teams go up against, but there does appear to be some trends if people wish to look into it further. The most obvious suggests, should Liverpool get into another League Cup final, it seems worth betting on them to lose the game beforehand, looking up a sportsbook review to find the best odds.

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