Owls About Stat is part of a wave of new Twitter accounts, blogs, podcasts etc. dedicated to a deeper thinking about football. Taking a rational and analytical view of things after the adrenaline rush of the match has died down.
That’s also the case across the city at our dear neighbours, where @Blades_analytic and @S2Stats both continue to produce great insight about the Championship and EFL at large, as well as their own team, from a both statistical and analytical point of view.
So of course it caught our eye at Owls About Stat, when S2Stats, in an interesting and heavily researched blog post, professed that United, not Wednesday, were “Better”:
"Older, bigger, better"? Definitely not better – here are the stats. Blades have won more derbies than Wednesday and average league position over 117 league seasons shows Blades on top. I'll put older and bigger under the microscope in due course. https://t.co/sUMrXG8aDv
— S2Stats (@S2Stats) February 25, 2019
His claim for that falls in two parts:
1) United have won more Sheffield derbies than Wednesday.
2) United’s average league position historically is better than Wednesday’s.
There’s no point arguing the first point: United have won more league matches against Wednesday than vice versa (although Wednesday have had the upper hand in cup matches).
S2Stats, in his article, argues the adage “the form book goes out of the window” isn’t true, as the in-form team tends to be victorious more often than the other team in Sheffield derbies. An alternative way to look at it is using odds from bookmakers (Soccerstats.co.uk have bookmakers odds for all matches from 2000/01 onwards).
Odds on – or not…
In the 17 derbies since 2000/01, United have been the favourites 13 of those 17 times according to the bookies odds. But the record is instead a very evenly balanced 5 Wednesday wins, 6 draws and 6 losses. In fact, the favourite won only 5 of those (Wednesday once, United 4 times) – but the favourite lost 6 of them (Wednesday twice, United 4 times).
So historically, the favourite is less likely to win than to lose. And I guess we don’t need to remind everyone who the is favourite on Monday..?
Wednesday can also take heart from the fact that we have on average overperformed the odds in those 17 derbies, winning 21 points from an expected 19.6 points, whereas United have taken 24 points from an expected 26.6:
As you’d maybe expect from derbies, though, in general most of those 17 matches have been close contests with none of the teams with shorter odds than evens in 10 those matches.
To take it one step further, and perhaps be a bit unfairly uncharitable to S2Stats: His yardstick for “better” is solely how well they do against us. If we look at the total record in the Football League of us and them instead, an altogether different picture emerges:
(wins, draw and losses for each season from 1892/93 onwards have been weighted by the division they were recorded in (100%, 50%, 25%, 12.5% for division I, II, III, IV respectively) and the weighted wins and draws have been turned into weighted points by multiplying by 3 for wins and 1 for draws in all of the seasons.)
Wednesday edge United in number of wins and points, just.
If we look at the league positions of the two on average, Wednesday again come out on top overall and in 3 of the 4 selected eras (contrary to S2Stats’ article):
Size of a club can be measured in many ways of course. In terms of honours, there’s really no competition: Wednesday have 4 league titles, 3 FA Cups, a League Cup win and three appearances in European cup competitions to United’s 1 title and 4 FA Cups. (We’ve even got to more FA Cup semifinals than them, but, come on, is anyone really counting that as part of their honours board..?)
Another way of gauging the size of a football club is its attendances:
Wednesday come out on top again. Over all the Football League matches played up until today Wednesday’s average attendance is 21,377, which is a full 11 percent higher than United’s 19,216.
With “Better” and “Bigger” all settled, there’s really no contest when it comes to “Older”.
Wednesday was founded in 1867. United in 1889 – at the suggestion of the chairman of The Wednesday! Bramall Lane was used by The Wednesday cricket club as far back as 1855, while The Wednesday Football Club won its first trophy here in 1868 and of course played its football there from 1880 to 1887, more than a decade before United came into existence.
Older, bigger, better
So there you have it: While it’ll continue to rile Unitedites with its arrogance whenever we say it, Wednesday really are “older, bigger, better” when you go look at it through the prism of numbers.
Of course all of that history matters little on Monday, where history, at least, goes out of the window – but hopefully will see more history created, and for all the right reasons!
Do you disagree with all that? Think we’ve missed something? Whatever you think of the piece, don’t hesitate to let us know on our Twitter: https://twitter.com/OwlsAboutStat
League positions and records:
10 year rolling average league position, Wednesday and United:
Absolute league position, Wednesday and United – table:
League record, Wednesday:
Season record, Wednesday: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sheffield_Wednesday_F.C._seasons
Season and league record, United: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sheffield_United_F.C._seasons