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Alternate League Tables

This appeared in my Twitter feed recently, and instantly I knew that I wanted to recreate it.



I’ve seen this method of compiling league tables before, usually in simple text format on football club messageboards, and it’s an incredibly effective and alternative perspective. What we’re looking at is clubs ranked, but not in strict ordinal fashion. Instead the viz shows how they are placed relatively, according to their points, and so the larger the gap between two dots the more points there are that separate them in the league table. So at the time this image was extracted, Chelsea had a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League, something that is not so clearly conveyed by a traditional league table quite as dramatically.

Will’s brilliant work shows nine major European leagues side-by-side, but being a lower-league football enthusiast I was more interested in applying the same approach to League Two instead. One of the wonders of Tableau Public is that it’s straightforward to download someone’s work and learn from their approaches. Before looking at the method here I’d presumed that he’d used a standard feature of a circle view that allowed one to evenly space out items that might otherwise overlap. How wrong I turned out to be.

This is a series of scatterplots. The y-axis captures the number of points, as one might expect, but the magic occurs across the x-axis. Where teams are on equal points they appear side-by-side. That’s clever! But how?

What is this mysterious ‘x’? In the list of measures it’s appearing as a value, not a calculated field. So it must be in the data. The screenshot below shows what I uncovered – those on equal points have non-zero values, i.e. they’re deviating from the central location on the x-axis, which in itself is hidden and we can’t see the reference lines. Brilliant!

So, I sought about recreating it, with some spreadsheet jiggery pokery. Additionally I followed this video tutorial by Andy Kriebel to ensure that I could instruct Tableau Public to refresh the data from Google Sheets every 24 hours. The Tableau community is truly amazing for allowing you to stand upon the shoulders of giants – thanks to both Will and Andy for sharing their work publicly and making it accessible.

Will’s original viz has been updated, and you can see it here. He’s also incorporated the toggle between ordering by points or average points.

Anyway, here’s my finished version, which I’ve also cross-posted on my Stevenage-centric blog, here. It’s not quite as sharp as Will’s, and I’d like to improve the content of the tooltips as well, but it’s a decent effort by my standards.

About The Author

Mark Edwards

A statistician at heart, Mark’s approach is always numbers-led. Already visualising data in other side-projects, Mark was introduced to the world of Tableau in 2016, when he and Pablo started working together in financial services. A keen participant in social Tableau challenges, Mark is building his skills and appreciation of powerful visuals, discovering interesting and untapped data sets, a path that has already led to a new career and a range of further opportunities.

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