I’ve been working on my League prediction. I don’t just want to use my gut. I want to use a method, that can be refined, which uses a set of well defined criteria and gives me a fairly reasonable prediction of League position. It’s a problem which I don’t think can be solved. However, we can get close and I want to keep working on it and getting it closer.
For right now, my model doesn’t work! Or I haven’t crafted a model that works yet. So, instead, here are my gut predictions.
Now, you have to understand that my “gut” is actually my own database of stats which I have compiled over the years, which track things like the number of shots a team has created and faced – which is pretty well refined and includes a reasonably accurate expected goals model. My “gut” also knows which teams have spent money, which haven’t, and which teams have historically done well.
So, it’s a “gut” prediction only because I don’t have a model, yet. But, I need this prediction to use as a baseline. And here it is:
- Man City
- Man U
- West Ham
- Crystal Palace
- Brighton Hove Albion
- West Brom
What makes predicting the League comically difficult is that 14th and 15th place are basically interchangeable. There is so little difference between these clubs that Stoke, for example, could easily finish 10th just as well as 14th. Instead of predicting each exact position, I think I’m going to have my model try to predict “groups”.
There are basically four groups in the 20. The title challengers – in this case, the two teams from Manchester – who spend money like no other; there are the middling group of Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, and Liverpool – who spend a lot of money and have huge fan support but these teams all have significant weaknesses which may prevent them from seriously challenging for the title; there are the unwashed masses between Leicester and Stoke – the clubs that the top clubs have to beat in order to win the League; and there are the relegation candidates – clubs which are either small or horribly managed (or both).
With that in mind I have Man U and Man City as title challengers, with Tottenham a strong third candidate. Here I would like to include a graphic which I think illustrates how insane the spending has been for those two clubs and give a reason why I think Tottenham are the third candidate for the Premier League title:
I got this data from transfermarkt. Transfermarkt is often ridiculed but there is no other reliable place to get all of this transfer data along with a crowdsourced market/player valuation system.
Total spend (net spend) among the 20 teams in the Premier League between summer 2015 and summer 2017 is £1.79bn. Man City and Man United have combined to spend £760m of that alone. Meaning that the remaining 18 clubs have spent £1,030bn or just about £20m per club per year.
I also looked at the change in value over the same time period. At first I did this just to see how crazy the League has become but then I noticed that there is a sort of hidden datapoint in that information: spending isn’t the only way to grow the value of your team. That’s where Tottenham come in. They are the only team to have increased their value without spending. That’s all down to the valuation of Eriksen, Alli, and Kane. Those players were found on the cheap and have been made into stars.
Arsenal are also an interesting case here: their valuation has gone up almost exactly by the amount they have spent in the transfer market. Unlike the two Manchester sides, who have combined to spend £587m more than their rise in market value, Arsenal seem to have spent wisely. Though the question there for Arsenal supporters is, why not spend more and make themselves into a title contender?
Chelsea have been a surprise in terms of spending. Once ridiculed for “parking tanks and firing fifty pound notes” Chelsea have stopped wasting money and instead, through special deals selling their players at a highly inflated prices to China, are basically a break-even team in terms of transfer spend.
Arsenal, like every other team here, rely heavily on the value of one or two star players; Alexis, for example, is over 10% of Arsenal’s total team value. So, team value could still change pretty crazily over the next two weeks – if Arsenal sell Alexis and don’t replace him, for example, or if Everton buy a top quality forward (not Gylfi Sigurdsson) these two team’s value could change and along with them my prediction for League finish. Another big question mark is Chelsea, who could lose Hazard and Costa. If Chelsea lose Hazard, Barcelona are reportedly after him as a replacement for Neymar, I would confidently put Chelsea out of the top four and probably even as low as 7th.
This is to say that my “prediction” isn’t much of a prediction yet – there is a lot of volatility in the League… except the top two. I think that Man U and Man City, based on the fact that they have Guardiola and Mourinho as managers, the stats from last season which showed Man City as the very best team in terms of both creating chances and limiting opposition chances, and Man United’s stellar defensive stats along with their acquisition of Lukaku, plus the just astonishing spending these two clubs have done in order to build their squad depth, makes them the presumptive title challengers.
Sorry to the one Arsenal supporter who still reads my blog and who thinks that Arsenal are title challengers. I just don’t see it: specifically because Arsenal’s defense – the number of shots that Arsenal have allowed, the big chances conceded, and the fact that Wenger still hasn’t decided to make a defensive midfielder who can play the ball a priority – puts them firmly in the 4th-7th place group. And even that isn’t an assured prediction: if Arsenal don’t get 100% hunger from Alexis, Özil, and Ox this season I think Arsenal could even finish below Leicester.
I’ll return to this prediction stuff after the transfer window has closed. Hopefully, I’ll have a model in hand by then.