This will be a rather short post where I’ll run the numbers for my league prediction model again. Most of the workings behind the model are explained in detail in the introductory post, back when the model still held Arsenal in marginally higher regard than City. Oh, wait, that was actually only just over two weeks ago.
“How can someone reasonably have thought that Arsenal was going to win the title? I just knew it was always going to be City. Any decent football watcher could see that. All those models are just crap” (anonymous fictional reply)
Eeuhm, no. This is probably the most frustrating part about going public with predictions in football. You will always be wrong at some point. It’s just the unpredictable nature of the sport. And I could take knowledge of the past two weeks out of the data, re-run the model and confirm that, based on all information at that very point, the model rated Arsenal and City very close. I can’t do that with any human mind.
It’s a form of bias that influences our memory, so that we think we’ve always rated City higher than Arsenal. But if results would have taken another turn, we may just have focused more on that brilliant Özil stuff and Giroud finally picking up on his finishing. Once again, we would have confirm what “we [would] have already known for a long time”.
This is exactly the reason why I like to go public with these models from time to time. Let me just put the results of the model out there and see what happens. How do the odds shift upon certain events. In hindsight, we can talk openly about when decisive trends were picked up and why certain teams were over or underrated. That way we can learn, I can learn, and next year, the model will have learned. But if you think ‘I knew it all along’, please just put it out there before events take place and we’ll see. The more models and estimations out there, the more we all learn.
So, with this ramble over and done with, here we go with the predictions for the league table. The format may start to look familiar now. Boxes correspond to a spread of 50% of the outcomes of simulations around the mean, indicated by the think vertical black line. The other edges mark the 95% interval and dots are true outliers.
The outliers teach us that in extremely unlucky cases a team like Liverpool may even finish below 60 points (they have 46 already, they have Suarez and they have 16 matches left to play), with the same underlying performance they show now. Guess we’ll have a hard time convincing the conservative and trigger happy football world to accept just that, don’t we?
Unsurprisingly, City lead the way after their crushing of Tottenham last night. The model has City finishing around 83 to 84 points, with a margin of just over four points to Arsenal. Both Arsenal and Chelsea have cooled off a bit, after their draws. In all likelihood, Liverpool will finish no lower than fourth and the reds may still hope for more.
Spurs are quite unaffected by the loss, since they had quite a margin to Everton, who lost to Liverpool, and to United, who had still some ground to make up from the start of the season. I’m sorry to disappoint the crowd of football journalists, but the battle for top-4 is just not happening. No team that is presently outside the top 4 holds more than 10% chance of finishing inside that top 4.
Everton and United are by now quite equal, and both have about a one in five chance of making the Europa League. Newcastle, Southampton, Villa and West Brom should probably already be thinking about next season.
The relegation battle has seen some interesting developments. The most important match was of course Sunderland’s narrow home win over Stoke, which sees the Black Cats reduce their odds to below 50%. Things look pretty dreadful for mr. Tan and mr. Solksjaer, who hold the bottom spot and the model thinks quite firmly that they will go down.
Fulham’s underlying numbers are quite terrible and this fuels the model to give them a 4 out of five chance of relegation. I’m talking most shots and ExpG conceded and 17th in shots and ExpG for, while most of their better production came in the stints against Palace and Villa when they were already two goals up.
I do realize, however, that both teams have new managers, and it’d be interesting to see if this will correspond to a shift in underlying numbers. Obviously, the model will need a bit of time to pick that up, as it also did with Palace under Pulis. But in all honesty, “the firing of the manager has to be explained in relation to other reasons rather than for the expected improvement in team performance”.