Six Pointers

This blog is in part a response to a tweet we received asking what the chances of the Man Utd/Man City match being a title decider are. The race for the title would appear to be pretty much wrapped up (97% chance of Manchester United winning) but the race for Champions League football appears to be wide open.

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Best Slice Of The Pie

Last week the BBC compiled a survey on the prices of all aspects of a football match, including pies for 10 football leagues in England and Scotland. This data led Lib Dem MP Tim Farron to table a motion in the House of Commons calling “On honourable members to encourage people to go and see local non-League teams like Kendal Town or Barrow in the South Lakes, where ticket prices are 60-80% cheaper”.

While it may be much cheaper, even Tim Fallon would agree the quality of football that you’ll see at a Kendal Town would be much lower than that of a Premier League match.  We therefore set out to see which of the clubs were charging more or less than we would expect for their quality of football.

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Some Graphic Illustration of This Season’s Premier League

This season’s Premier League has not let us down. With most teams having just four league games left, there is still all to play for at top of the table for the Manchester teams. At the other end of the table four teams are battling it out to stay in the top division and of course, there is also race for the fourth Champions League spot. I was interested in seeing how each team has featured in those battles. Drawing charts is usually the best way… Continue reading

Masters of Unpredictability

When I was watching BBC’s Match of the Day 2 on Sunday evening, the programme host mentioned how unpredictable Aston Villa’s league form has been lately. He pointed out that their last 7 league game results (before last Sunday) were: loss-draw-win-loss-draw- win-draw. It seems indeed a little random in a sense that the team hasn’t achieved back to back wins or draws or losses. After last Sunday’s game, a 2:1 loss to Newcastle, adding to the sequence, the hypothesis still holds.

But are they really being unpredictable? Continue reading

City Euro Glory? Definitely Maybe

Five gameweeks of Champions League matches have now been concluded and Arsenal have secured their place in the knock-out stages as group winner. Relief, no Barcelona game again so soon! [Ed - Jin is an Arsenal fan] However, the journey to the knock-out stage is less smooth for the other three English clubs.  Man City, in contrast to their superior position in the Premier League have looked rather nervous in their first season in the Champions League. After losing to Napoli, they surrendered a good chance to qualify and now, as Mancini put it: “we have a 30 percent chance”.

As statistical analysts, we’d naturally like to examine his quote. Our European full-time score model covers over 20 European football leagues and any team who has played a substantial number of matches in our covered competitions will be evaluated and assigned a team strength according to their performance. By using those team strengths we are able to make simulations of the Champions League and make predictions for the competition.

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On the Uselessness of Draws

How many times does a manager or a player claim “a draw was a good result?” Whether this is justifying the result after the fact (i.e. if you’ve been 3-0 down a draw is certainly a good result), or whether the team went out to play for a draw, I decided to see how often a draw really was a good result given the pre-match predictions.

Who’s Happy With a Draw?

A draw is better than a loss and the one league point it brings is some comfort to fans, but more often it is two points lost rather than one point gained. Consider a match between evenly matched sides. In that case the home team has about a 50% chance of victory, and the away team about a 25% chance. Continue reading

What if the Champions League Really Was a League?

With the second week of fixtures in the Group Stages of the Champions League about to begin, we thought it would be interesting to look at how the structure of the competition affects the percentage chance each team has of winning the competition. What if the Champions League really was an, admittedly large, league of 32 teams?

Is the current format, including draws which are seeded and which force teams from the same nation to avoid each other until the Quarter-Finals a disadvantage for the smaller teams? Is this disadvantage more than offset by the nature of a knock-out competition allowing lesser teams to progress off the back of a couple of lucky performances?

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UEFA Champions League Group Strength

So, the Champions League draw has taken place. Who is in a tough group and who has an easy ride?

Champions League Team RanksMeasuring Group Strength

We use our European Team Strength model to rank team across Europe and also to make Champions League predictions. Let’s take a look at how we rank the 32 Champions league qualifiers

We rank the teams by their chance of winning a match against an average European side. For example, Barcelona we rate as having a 91% chance of beating the average European league team, whereas Ajax only have a 62% chance.

Group A looks tough, with Man City and Bayern both ranked in the top 10 among Champions League Clubs. Group H is strong due to Barcelona, but the second to fourth teams in group H are weaker than average. Man United‘s group looks particularly low ranked.

Visualising group Strength

We can visualise group strength by plotting the  goal difference that each team in each group is expected to achieve against an average European league team on a neutral venue. We find that group A is strongest, achieving an average goal difference of 1.7 goals, while group C attains on average a goal difference of only 0.9 goals against an average European league team. Continue reading