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Showing posts from October, 2016

Leagues within a League: How the EPL Table Evolves

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We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the EPL season and the league already has a familiar feel to it. Manchester City are top, Arsenal are above Spurs, and Sunderland anchor the table having failed to win a single game so far. There is clearly a lot of football still to be played, but does the table already resemble how it’ll look come the end of May?

Conventional wisdom tells us that the turn of the year is a crucial period. By the beginning of January we are supposed to have a good idea of how things are shaping up. In 9 of the last 20 EPL seasons, the team that was top at January went on to win the league. 56% of teams in the bottom three on new year’s day will be relegated. However, you get pretty much the same results if you measure these stats at the beginning of December or the beginning of February, so perhaps we don’t learn that much over the Christmas period after all.

In this post I’m going to look back over the last 20 seasons to investigate how the league table actua…

Forecasting Football: a hedgehog amongst the foxes.

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“I never make predictions and I never will.” – Paul Gascoigne

For football fans, making predictions is half the fun. It’s also big business: the global sports betting market is estimated to be worth roughly half a trillion pounds, and 70% of the trade is thought to come from football.

We all make predictions, but some of us are better than others. In his book, The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver describes two categories of predictor: hedgehogs and foxes[1]. Hedgehogs tend to have strong pre-conceived notions of how the future will pan out, a view of the natural order of things that they can be reluctant to change. They are confident and assertive. Foxes, on the other hand, are not anchored to a particular world-view: they are more willing to change their position as new information arrives. Foxes try to weigh up all the available evidence; often their predictions are probabilistic in nature.

In football, TV pundits are hedgehogs: ex-players and managers chosen to provide us with the…

The managerial merry-go-round spins ever faster

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We’re less than a quarter of the way into the season and the great managerial merry-go-round has already shed its first passengers. Swansea City's former manager Francesco Guidolin was the EPL’s first casualty and five EFL managers have been relieved of their duties. Sam Allardyce, the now former England manager, also terminated his contract last week following a Daily Telegraph investigation into his conduct.

Guidolin was Swansea’s manager for only 259 days. Roberto Di Matteo was removed as Aston Villa’s manager after 121 days. The longest serving of the recently departed was Tony Mowbray, who lasted under two years at Coventry City. Over the course of last season 58 managers were fired; the season before that it was 47.

It certainly feels like managerial tenures are getting shorter and shorter, but is this part of a long-term trend or a recent phenomenon of the money-spinning era? And does it really make much sense to frequently change manager?

Diminishing patience, at all level…