Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Bottom-Up Approach

Another contribution to the ‘how many points will we need to get automatic promotion’ debate, a debate which no doubt will continue to the last day. After the history lessons attempted by myself and others I thought we might try the bottom-up approach – ie taking a look at the fixtures each of the top five has left and a stab at their likely points return.

This is almost certainly a useless enterprise, given that as we’ve seen in this division every team is perfectly capable of beating every other. Predictions for individual matches are of little value and I’ve no doubt that my projected points totals will need revision before the night is out. There’s probably also a touch of bias in them as I have a soft spot for West Brom (the lingering result of a previously detailed adolescent infatuation), contempt for the football played by Stoke and Watford, and an assumption (hope?) that Bristol City won’t last the course.

When forecasting for individual games there is a tendency to underestimate the 'surprise' result, which in this context means the top-five teams losing against lower opposition. So projected points totals have a bias in favour of downward revision. But I am inclined to assume that as we get to the business end of the season the teams that have to win will be more likely to do so than during the first half of the season. That can’t be good for us when it comes to overturning a 4/5 points deficit in 15 games.

What might help us here is expectation levels: justified or not we would regard a play-off spot as a disappointment overall, so (probably) would West Brom and maybe Watford; Bristol City and Stoke may view a top-six finish as perfectly acceptable, whatever they say publicly. Also, in addition to the current top six there must be another eight or so still with a realistic chance of the play-offs, so when teams battling against relegation are added just about every game is a six-pointer. It will probably only be in the final five games of the season that there will be the opportunity to play teams with little or nothing to play for - even though some (Southampton, Barnsley, Palace) can already be identified.

Anyway, enough of the provisos:

Remaining fixtures (in order): Leicester (H), Charlton (A), Preston (H), Burnley (A), Norwich (H), Barnsley (H), Bristol City (A), Stoke (H), Plymouth (A), Hull (A), Coventry (H), WBA (A), Palace (H), Scunthorpe (H), Blackpool (A).
Breakdown: 15 games, 8 at home, 7 away, 4 against top-five rivals.
Prediction: 6 wins, 5 draws, 4 defeats = 23 points + 55 at present = final points total of 78.

West Brom:
Fixtures: Sheff Utd (H), Hull (H), Plymouth (H), Sheff Wed (A), Wolves (A), Palace (H), Leicester (H), Charlton (A), Colchester (H), Cardiff (A), Blackpool (A), Watford (H), Norwich (A), Southampton (H), QPR (A).
Breakdown: 15 games, 8 at home, 7 away, 2 against top-five rivals.
Prediction: 9 wins, 4 draws, 2 defeats = 31 points + 54 at present = final points total of 85.

Bristol City:
Fixtures: Scunthorpe (A), Palace (H), Colchester (A), Hull (H), Charlton (A), Leicester (A), Watford (H), Plymouth (H), Cardiff (A), Norwich (H), Southampton (A), Wolves (H), Stoke (A), Sheff Utd (A), Preston (H).
Breakdown: 15 games, 7 at home, 8 away, 3 against top-five rivals.
Prediction: 6 wins, five draws, 4 defeats = 23 points + 54 at present = final points total of 77.

Fixtures: Southampton (H), Scunthorpe (H), Ipswich (H), Preston (A), QPR (A), Burnley (H), Norwich (A), Watford (A), Blackpool (H), Sheff Wed (A), Palace (H), Coventry (A), Bristol City (H), Colchester (A), Leicester (H).
Breakdown: 15 games, 8 at home, 7 away, 2 against top-five rivals.
Prediction: 8 wins, 5 draws, 2 defeats = 29 points + 53 at present = final points total of 82.

I can’t bring myself to actually predict anything but a Charlton win for each game. So 95 points and a stroll to the title it is.

As things stand, leaving us aside I’m predicting West Brom to top the league with 85 points, followed by Stoke with 82, with Watford and Bristol City losing out. Again, these totals may well err on the high side, but the forecasts at least suggest that it is entirely possible for two teams other than us to top the 80-points mark.

Nobody will be surprised by the assumption that West Brom are our main rivals for the top spot; what is a little more surprising is to see such a high points total forecast for Stoke. But if you look at their fixture list it does look the most accommodating. Only two games against top-five rivals and a final few matches that all look winnable. May this prove to be the kiss of death for their chances, starting tonight.


Lungrot said...

Another two points dropped tonight and the longer that this inconsistency carries on, the less chance we have of automatic promotion. I actually think that we've got the most difficult run-in of the top teams and defeat at home to Watford will probably condemn us to the play-offs at best.

Anonymous said...

Vicar here. I totally agree with lungrot. Inconsistency has cost us dear this season. Our fight at this rate is to stay in a play-off position.

The Watford game is huge for our season but as a club we have been here before and have what it takes to get it done.

BA, I admire blind faith but you do seem to lose your grip on reality when you put a maths apron on!

Good luck and god speed!

Anonymous said...

Yes I am in agreement with the Vicar, why go against the higher powers....

We lack consistency, in this league you have to be able to adapt to the different tactics taken by the opposition.

We know we can play football, but we have to be up for the physical battles and we must be prepared to scrap.

The maths make an interesting read but unless the team hardens its attitude, the play-offs could slip away.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Vicar as well-forget the math lets get some grit into this team! need a big win now and get the players to treat each game as a final from now on.