Monthly Archives: September 2013

EPL: Goal Expectancy Predictions

This year (well, since July anyway) I have been looking at the various statistical and mathematical models relating to sporting events. The idea is simple, use statistics to identify probabilities and patterns and see whether the accuracy of such models can exceed the ‘gut call’ approach. Now I have a fair amount of the gut call data to hand, and I know it isn’t that good! The main problem is that there are a lot of models out there, and even the most straightforward concepts have been refined by people with far more experience and statistical knowledge than me. It can be very daunting, and so rather than trying to start with a refined model I thought I would start with a base model and see how well that performs, and how to amend it.

I am working on a model based on the concept of ELO Rankings, but that will wait until later in the year as far more games are required before an effective rating emerges for each team. Consequently I will start with a basic prediction model based on ‘Goal Expectancy’. This model predicts the number of goals a team will score, and using Poisson distribution can be used to predict the likelihood of various scorelines as well as (naturally) the likely winner of a game. In addition the data can be used to indicate the status of a game in the typical Over/Under markets.

As indicated above, I am not trying to take credit for the base formulas and calculations. In the case of goal expectancy and Poisson distribution I have taken the work from an excellent blog by SoccerDude. I heartily recommend his blog to anyone interested in football statistics, whilst acknowledging any errors or omissions as my own!

The principle underlying this method uses the number of goals a team has scored thus far, either in total or home/away, and combining that with a Poisson distribution to get a probability for the number of goals that will be scored by a specific team. By repeating this for both the home and away team a list of probabilities for the number of goals scored and multiplying them together gives the probability for that scoreline. Simple really!

Goal expectancy has three values: the overall rate (total goals scored/matches played), the home rate (goals scored at home/goals scored away) and the away rate (goals scored away/goals scored at home). The goals expected from any team when playing at home is calculated as ‘overall rate * home rate’, and for a team playing away it is (if you can’t guess…) ‘overall rate * away rate’.

So an example shows that, as of this weekend, Fulham have scored three times in five matches (overall rate 0.60), with two goals at home and one goal away (home rate 2.00). This gives an expectancy of 0.60*2.00 or 1.20. Cardiff have scored four in five games (overall rate 0.80), with three at home and one goal away (away rate 0.33). Their expectancy is 0.80*0.33 or 0.27. By plugging the number of goals we are interested in, along with the respective rate, we can get a probability for the number of goals the team might score, as shown below. (The reason these are pasted in as images is that I really haven’t got a good handle on tables in WordPress yet!)

Home Away

The probability of any scoreline is therefore calculated by multiplying one by the other, e.g. 1-2 is 0.36143*0.02723 or 0.00984. This equates to 1%, or odds of 101.60 (using the 1/x formula). The grid is shown below.

Fulham Cardiff

So what does this mean for the weekend’s fixtures? Well the three most probable results (a dubious definition!) are shown below along with the probability and implied odds for each. The Spurs-Chelsea games has no data simply because Chelsea haven’t scored away from home yet!

EPL 260913

But, before we all go and put the mortgage payments on some nice accumulators, let’s be clear that there are some significant issues here. Firstly, and in my personal opinion with the level of understanding I have of statistics at the moment the most important, is that this approach doesn’t account for the quality of the opposition that the goals were scored against. If two teams have played at home twice, and both have scored 10 goals whilst conceding 2, there is something of a difference if one team was playing Chelsea and Man Utd and the other was playing two teams at the bottom of the table. There is also – I am reliably informed – a problem with Poisson distributions that they don’t marry up well at their default values (0-0 and 1-1 is under forecast whilst 1-0 and 0-1 are over forecasted – that worries me as 6/9 of my predictions are 0-0!). And finally the most obvious problem – basing goal expectancy after five games of the season isn’t going to provide a very large data pool to work with.

But this is a first shot into this world, so let’s keep it simple for now and run this base model a few times to see how it performs before looking at amendments.

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F1: Singapore GP Betting Options

The first thing to note is that there is invariably next to no value in the ‘Winner’ market in F1 at this point in the season. For Singapore Vettel is at 1.72 (8/11) having won the last two races at the Marina Bay circuit, not to mention the last two races of this season. Hamilton comes in at second favourite at 4.00 (3/1) with Alonso at 8.50 (15/2) and Webber at 11.00 (10/1). Vettel’s odds represent about a 58% chance that he will win the race! That may actually be a little low, but the random nature of F1 can’t be discounted and both qualifying and the race can throw up exceptional circumstances. As will be seen below, a safety car could throw a real spanner in the works and one is almost mandatory at this race! Hamilton’s odds represent a 25% probability of a win, and I fear that may be too high. Yes a lot of talk indicates that the circuit will suit the Mercedes more than Belgium or Italy, but it is also notoriously hard on the rear tyres (even with the removal of the chicane at Turn 10, or the ‘Singapore Sling’ as it has been called) and the Mercedes still has an apparent weak spot on the tyre management. Ferrari have fallen off the boil a bit recently despite two second places for Alonso in a row – could this be another year where they start looking at next season’s car to get a head start on the other teams only to find out in Australia that they haven’t succeeded? All things being equal I can’t look past Vettel or Hamilton for the win, and Vettel doesn’t really offer value whereas Hamilton would require a Vettel failure of some sort.

Qualifying is another matter, and there may be an opportunity. Whilst Vettel set some blistering times in FP2, but Hamilton was no slouch in the FP1 either. Again, it would appear to be a battle between these two for pole with Vettel at 1.80 (4/5) and Hamilton at 2.50 (6/4), with the remaining drivers 9.00+ (8/1). Vettel’s odds represent a 55.5% probability, and I just think that this is too much for a driver who doesn’t even lead the pole position stakes. Hamilton comes in with a 40% probability, and I think that this is too low. He has secured five pole positions this season in a car that is seriously fast over the one lap (and in the hands of a naturally fast lap driver). I’d say that Lewis is worth backing for the pole position at those odds. As I have noted the performance of the Mercedes, it is worth noting that Rosberg is on offer at 9.00 (8/1), an 11% chance. This is probably unfair on a driver who has secured pole position three times this season, but not since Monaco. But there is that Monaco stat – another street circuit where Nico just edged Hamilton. Bet365 offer 1/3 odds for an each-way bet of pole or second on the grid, and 9.00 (8/1) seems a good offer.

I am not a big fan of the other bets that are available for a GP – not least because I haven’t done enough (read any) research into them to make a logical assessment. However, there are two that stand out from the crowd. The first is the ‘Safety Car Period During Race’ option. A simple yes there will be or no there won’t be bet. The problem is that Singapore has had a safety car every time the race has been run (starting in 2008 and ignoring the much older races before anyone shouts). And there are often multiple stints of safety car use at the track (which I can’t quantify as I can’t find the data!). This fact is reflected in the odds of such a period where yes is on offer at 1.22 (2/9) and no at 4.00 (3/1). That is around an 82% chance of a safety car in the race! Now there is the fact that previous form shows a 100% chance, versus odds that only represent an 82% chance, so there is value there – stick £10 on and count that £2.22 profit when the safety car comes out. But the reward to risk doesn’t justify it in my opinion when considering the fact that they deploy the safety car at the drop of a hat these days, and Singapore has seen the car deployed not only every race, but multiple times in a race (notwithstanding the manufactured incident of 2008). Odds of 1.40 (2/5) would be more tempting though, so worth considering if you see them on offer anywhere!

The other bet relates to the number of finishers, which I admit I don’t have a great track record with (no pun intended!). In this case the odds are <17 at 2.37 (11/8), 17 or 18 inclusive at 2.75 (7/4) and >18 at 3.00 (2/1). For less than 17 classified finishers four cars would need to retire from the race; the race averages 5.4 retirements each time it is run. Importantly, it also averages 2.6 non-accident retirements per race. With an implied probability of 42% that there will be less than 17 finishers, I believe that this offers good value as it has been true for 80% of the races. Now an important point: the last three races have had 24 runners which offers a greater chance for crashes etc., but even the 20 runner races in 2008 and 2009 saw 5 and 6 retirements. I would place the probability of less than 17 finishers as more like 66% (1.50 or 1/2), and so I would have to say that I think that this is where the value comes in. Now just watch as everyone gets round the track!

So in this, one of the best races of the season (in my opinion), I would say the value bet is less than 17 finishers at 2.37 (11/8). Alternative options would be Hamilton for pole at 2.50 (6/4), or an each-way bet on Rosberg for pole at 9.00 (8/1). We’ll have to see how things pan out, and whether I need to go back to the drawing board!

Update

The good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s start with the ugly. The prediction of less than 17 finishers was a bust from the get go, not due to weather conditions or bad driving but mainly due to a mental failing in terms of the number of total drivers. A GP this season starts with 22 drivers, not 20! Guess that is a tip to check the base data before making predictions!

The bad was Lewis to take pole. He was never really in the mix, despite having had a good FP1 and declaring that it was more of a ‘Mercedes track’ than the previous races. It was a Mercedes track to an extent, as we’ll see.

Thankfully the good came through in the form of Rosberg securing second place on the grid. A shame the race didn’t work out for him, despite the interminable presence of yet another Singapore safety car.

So three predictions, one came in that – at level stakes – would have covered the best with a very small profit. More importantly, logic was in place which is the aim of noting down these predictions rather than relying on gut calls. I’ll take that for now!

NFL Week 2: The 2-0 and 0-2 Review

As mentioned in the last NFL round up, a week is a long time on the road to the Superbowl. Each game represents 6.25% of the regular season; that might not seem a lot but compared to rugby (4.5%) and football (2.6%) it certainly represents a more significant chunk of the ‘margin of error’ that may be needed to get into the post season. Whilst there is a long way to go, it is possibly appropriate to look at those teams that have had the good, and the not so good, starts to the season and focus on the 2-0 and 0-2 brigade before we head into week 3.

The 2-0s

Heading into week 3 there are eight 2-0 teams, with five of them in the AFC. Two of those can be found in the AFC East where the Patriots are just ahead of the surprise package of the Miami Dolphins. Traditional domination of the division with a promising, but lucky, upstart? Far from it. The Patriots points difference of +5 shows how close things have been, only managing to beat the Bills by 2 in week 1, and the Jets by 3 in week 2. More than that, the relationship between their star QB Brady and the rest of the team appears to be slipping; this is a team that was the epitome of ruthless professionalism for so long, and yet the personnel changes in the team over the close season appear to have upset the balance. Then again, it is the mark of a good team that can win whilst playing ‘ugly’, and a 2-0 divisional record puts them in a very good place. They will be looking to secure a win against a poor (borderline imploding) Tampa in week 3, but this division could turn out to be far closer that anyone thought if the Jets can sort themselves out (unlikely given the QB trouble) and Bills maintain their impressive level of performance. Miami’s win over Cleveland is difficult to assess – the Browns look pretty poor – but the win at Indianapolis was another matter. This was a tight game that the Dolphins nearly let slip, but Tannehill had an excellent game with 23/34 for 319 yards and 1 TD. The next two weeks will be very difficult for the Dolphins (who are 2-0 for the first time in what seems like donkey’s years); Atlanta at home will be difficult and a trip to New Orleans certainly won’t be a picnic (although seeing that game as a meeting of 3-0 teams would be surreal). It is a bit too early to peg Miami as play off material, but they and their fans should take heart from an impressive early start.

Houston are secure at the top of the AFC South with a 2-0 record, but is this the sign of a dominant team? I don’t think so. A record 21 point fightback that was nearly too late against the unfancied Chargers in week 1 saw them squeak a win, and they required another 4th Quarter comeback to beat the Titans. This is not a team that is storming to the top in the way it appeared to do last season, although the same ‘win ugly’ epithet applied to the Patriots may apply here as well. Will they win the AFC South? Almost certainly, even if they don’t improve tremendously they should have enough to hold off their rivals, but this is not what Houston want. If they are to win the Big One, they’ll need to play better than this.

The AFC West is home to the other two 2-0 teams – the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. Kansas’ record may flatter them slightly with one win against the hapless (and utterly abysmal) Jacksonville Jaguars, but the defeat of Dallas in week 2 underlined their credentials. But this is a team that has now matched their entire win total from 2012. Is this a team that can set the NFL alight? Possibly not. Going from a 2-14 to the play-offs is certainly possible, but more time is needed to see if the Dallas win was due to an exceptional Chiefs team or a weak Dallas team. Denver, on the other hand, look as though they are justifying their pre-season status as one of the favourites for the Superbowl. A comprehensive beating of the reigning champions in week 1 was followed by a similarly dominating victory against the Giants in week 2. Manning (P) couldn’t match the 7 TDs of week 1 (but then again, who could expect him to), but his two TDs helped the Broncos rack up 41 points whilst the defence forced his younger brother to throw 4 interceptions. Both offensively and defensively the Broncos have impressed against good opposition, and if they – and particularly Peyton – can remain healthy they should go all the way.

The first NFC team with a 2-0 record is the Chicago Bears. Two narrow wins have secured this position, and I was able to watch the second of these against the Vikings on Sunday. Did they look like a 2-0 team? No. Even playing against the traditionally poor Vikings secondary they fluffed their lines, and Cutler was lucky to be given an escape route to take the win back (although, to be fair, he did at least run that drive well). They should be a 2-0 team at this stage, but by more than 4 points. They face a tricky trip to Pittsburgh next, and then at the Lions, by which time we’ll see if I am being unfair.

New Orleans have secured a 2-0 record beating both Atlanta and Tampa Bay, and whilst they haven’t blown out either team they have done enough to justify their position atop the pile in the NFC South. Arizona might just put an end to this run next week though. Seattle rounds off the NFC 2-0 teams, and whilst their win at Carolina might not have been impressive the victory over San Francisco certainly was. The 49ers have been heavily tipped for a return to the Superbowl this year, and the Seahawks restricted them to one FG in what is turning into one of the most ’emotional’ rivalries in the NFL. That victory, though, puts the Seahawks at the top of my NFC teams.

The 0-2s

These teams will start to worry. 0-2 teams have made the post season, so it isn’t all over, but for some it looks a much steeper hill to climb. Again there are eight 2-0 teams, mirroring the other side with five in the NFC and three in the AFC. Two of the AFC 0-2 teams are in the AFC North, namely the Browns and the surprising Steelers. The Browns loss to Miami may not have been completely expected, but few would have expected them to beat the Ravens – and that was before the Ravens were beaten in week one. But the Steelers are the real surprise having gone down to the Titans and the Bengals. The problem is that these weren’t really close defeats for the Steelers, and there isn’t a clear sign of when they might get over this bump in the road. True, they are suffering from injuries, but there is no depth in a team that is giving up a lot of penalties and turnovers. Chicago and Minnesota won’t be easy for the next two games, but two wins are needed to get this team back on track.

The final AFC 0-2 team is Jacksonville, losing to Kansas City and Oakland. Two games, two defeats, 11 points in total and no TDs. This is a truly dreadful team. Seattle in week 3 won’t help (although Sporting Gods everywhere have been known to use matchups like these to remind people that there are no ‘sure things’), but even looking down the ‘to play’ list it is difficult to find a potential win. This could be a 0-16 year for the Jaguars (only 2 worse than last year) – something Detroit would like to see I think.

The NFC North sees two surprising names on the 0-2 list: New York Giants and Washington Redskins. New York have had two tough games at Dallas and at home to Denver, so I don’t see a real worry here other than Eli’s ability to throw interceptions (that needs sorting sooner rather than later!). They should beat Carolina in week 3 to get off the mark. Washington don’t look anything like the team from last season, and questions have to be asked as to whether their charismatic QB has lost a step or two coming back from injury – even if it is only temporary. The Eagles should have been beaten at home, and although GB were always going to be tricky (especially after they had suffered an opening week defeat) they were utterly taken apart in the first half. Second half comebacks are something of familiar territory for the Redskins, but that only works if the lead the other team has isn’t too large! Detroit in week 3 is a game that the Redskins would expect to win all day long; a defeat here and their season could completely unravel.

Carolina in the NFC South have faced a very difficult Seattle whilst giving a good account of themselves before going down to the surprising Bills in a close game. 0-2 isn’t where a team that was looking to improve on last season’s 7-9 would want to be, and they will want to beat the Giants before their bye week, but it could be tough going. In fact, looking at the records thus far the Carolina – New York Giants game could be the match of the week! Tampa are also sitting on 0-2 in the NFC South, and rumours of an unhappy camp won’t help them. Two defeats aren’t a great start, even if they were very close at the Jets and at home to New Orleans, but when combined with apparent discord in the camp (or at least with the Coach) then a team stands on the precipice of a complete collapse. Travelling to New England is not an ideal way to foster unity, and with Arizona in week 4 it is quite possible that Tampa will be 0-4 before their bye week.

The last 0-2 team is the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, the greatest American Football team in existence has been consigned to the bottom of the NFC North (are my allegiances showing?). The defeat at Detroit was bad enough, but the loss to Chicago was painful after being in a winning position. Elements of the team played well throughout, but I am afraid that Ponder is not a franchise QB and without a franchise QB I can’t see the Vikings making a push for the Superbowl. Play offs will be tricky enough, but frankly the play offs are a waste of time unless you are going to win the title. Home to Cleveland will hopefully see a first win, before a home match against Pittsburgh that is a home match in London. Dear God don’t let that be an International Series match between two teams without a win…

Summary

So it would appear that some 2-0 teams aren’t a dominating as the record would suggest, nor are some 0-2 teams as bad as that would indicate (Denver and Jacksonville notwithstanding). The real surprises are in Pittsburgh, and, to an extent, in Tampa which might be worth following for the sheer soap opera aspect! I just wonder how this will all look after each team has 8 games under their belt?

Aviva Premiership Round 2

Although the season is a little longer than that of the NFL, it isn’t by such a great distance that a look back at the first couple of rounds isn’t warranted. And it doesn’t look good at this stage for some.

Saracens undefeated start to the season hasn’t really been a surprise, and most commentators expected Northampton to be up there as well after their summer signings. Nonetheless, their win away at Quins will have convinced some that they are the real deal – this is a team that is looking for a top two finish this season, and if they carry on this way things will get interesting. But the real surprise package in the undefeated category has to be Bath – their defeat of Newcastle may have been expected, but that impressive scoreline was a mere taster for the victory over a heavily fancied Leicester team. Not sure what happened to the Tigers this week, certainly they let Bath run away with a lead and when trying to come back appeared to be at fault for a number of penalties (which can easily happen when chasing a game). I do know that a lot of Bath teams thought that their team was underrated for the season, and if that is the case then they are making their mark now.

The other end of the table makes for very sorry reading though. Many will know why, but for the love of God what on Earth are Gloucester playing at? Granted they apparently put in a better performance against Saracens than that against Sale, but you can’t take on a team of the quality in depth that Saracens possess – at their own place – when in an 80 minute game you decide to play with 14 men for, oh, let’s say 80 minutes shall we! A half-time lead showed some character, but 44-12 final score was what I would expect from a team down by a player against Sarries. I haven’t seen the incident, so I can’t comment on whether it was a stamp or whether Burger headbutted Wood’s boot – only kidding, nobody is saying it was anything other than a red card and the punishment has to reflect that. I have banged on for years about the pathetic wrist slapping that is dished out for serious foul play/cheating/abuse of officials (it still disgusts me to see Hartley on the field when a 12 month ban should have headed his way), and this time it will bite my own team.

All that said, it isn’t panic time yet. Problem do need to be addressed, but I don’t think Gloucester are relegation candidates. Worcester, however, are in a bit of trouble. The defeat at home to London Irish will have shaken them even at this early stage as so many predict a battle between these two for the bottom place. Wasps are also without a win, but only narrowly lost to Quins, and then faced Exeter at Sandy Park where the home team would be looking to get on the board after defeat at the Saints in round one.

So after two rounds Bath would appear to be the team with the most to celebrate about the start of the season, and although Worcester won’t be happy I think that Gloucester will be the most disappointed. A clearer picture will probably be seen after round 4, or more likely after round 5 when the teams are off doing something or other for three weeks. By then we will most likely have identified the teams that will be looking to secure themselves at the top, those fighting for the play-offs, and those looking over their shoulder at the ground facilities of the leading Championship sides. And then we’ll see how bad the pre-season predictions are looking…

NFL Week 1

I haven’t carried out any assessment of the football season as at least 8 or so games need to be played before any realistic impression can be gained about the performances and potential. Rugby has a shorter season, but one that last for a decent length of time and so it would be unfair to assess teams after just the one game. But the NFL regular season is just one game long – and one defeat can, and often does, mean the difference between appearing in the post-season and going home to prepare the draft picks! As such, it is worth looking at the results of the opening games even if conclusions are hard to reach.

As overall lessons will be limited, I don’t intend to analyse every game, but rather focus on those that (to me at least) appear to have greater implications for the season. And the first has to be the opening game from Thursday, and the Broncos demolition of the Ravens. The defending Superbowl champions would have been expected to put up some more resistance to Denver, but conceding 49 points was a real shock. Granted I have tipped Denver for a Superbowl place, but this was a lot more impressive than I had expected; Manning’s SEVEN touchdown passes were something for the record books, and this could be a long season for Baltimore if they aren’t able to put up more resistance. Another AFC surprise has to be the shock that the Bills gave New England, but perhaps the biggest upset came with the Titans beating Pittsburgh in the Steel City. Despite an horrific start with a Safety (an own goal from a kick off is the closest football analogy I can come up with), the Titans defence hammered Pittsburgh. It has left the AFC North with every team sitting on 0-1, and this a division that has frequently provided two post-season teams.

In other games Seattle weren’t exactly convincing in beating Carolina, Oakland put up a good fight at Indianapolis and may have turned the corner after a fair number of lean years, and Dallas secured a valuable win against New York in what might be the closest division in the NFC. Unfortunately the beloved Vikings (ok, my beloved Vikings) couldn’t win in Detroit; a 10 point defeat hurts, and that was even with Detroit having a number of ‘scores’ wiped off the board and all sorts of errors/mistakes as well. Detroit could be the sleeper I feared that they might be, but on the subject of fears I am worried about the Vikings; 98 yards for AP isn’t too bad, but when 78 came in one play it really reflects the one dimensional nature of the team’s offence. He may be the best RB in the league (I would say that), but he carried the team to the play offs last season and it isn’t realistic to expect him to do the same this year.

The ‘late’ games also threw up some surprises. Washington losing at home to the recent whipping boys of the NFC East will hurt (more as the Eagles are a divisional rival than the home/away concept that is more vital in other sports). The question will remain whether RGIII was just rusty or has lost his edge during his injury recovery, but the comeback from the Redskins would indicate the former and it is too early for them to be written off – and it is too early for the Eagles to be installed as potential divisional champions! But irrespective of the RGIII situation, Washington shipped 26 points in the first half which raises questions about the defence; questions which will need to be answered in the next game against Green Bay as neither team can afford to open with 0-2.

Houston completed an amazing comeback to beat San Diego, and it will add much to a team that certainly has the talent, but now appears to have the mental strength to dig deep for a win. San Diego still can’t seem to hold a lead at half-time (there may be a betting opportunity there, lay SD if leading at half time?).

So week 1 threw up its usual assortment of surprises and near misses. The Pittsburgh game was arguably the biggest upset/shock of the week, but that would have been edged had Buffalo held on for the win. Week 2 is where we might see if the first week surprises were a mere flash in the pan or symptomatic of a more general upswing in form/general malaise/lack of direction. The standout game, to me, would be the Redskins @ Green Bay matchup, but the 49ers @ Seattle should be a classic between two teams who are likely to head the NFC West, and only be separated on head-to-head results. For the Vikings (personal bias again!), a visit to Chicago is not what is needed after a disappointing opening, but a win is vital. Falling to 0-2 with both defeats against divisional rivals won’t be the deathknell for the season, but it will be close to it.

Aviva Premiership 2013-14 Predictions

The new rugby season kicks off this Friday with the newly promoted Newcastle at home to Bath, before the rest of the teams get stuck in on Saturday with Leicester and Worcester rounding things off on the Sunday afternoon. And yes, I do know that there is more than one ‘rugby’, but for this blog it is rugby and rugby league.

With the new season about to start, it is time for me to nail my colours to the mast with some predictions. At this stage the predictions are for the final league table (being a Gloucester fan there is a tendency to think of that as the real prize, and the Premiership Final at Twickenham as just a post-season bash…) Rather than a post per prediction type, I have combined a Pythagorean prediction based on last season, bookmaker odds, media comment and my own ‘gut call’ to come up with a final prediction.

Pythagorean Prediction

This doesn’t really offer any major shake-up at the top, Leicester and Saracens were still well clear. However, Exeter came in fourth demoting both Northampton and Gloucester. That would indicate that Exeter’s points, and position, didn’t reflect their performances last season. At the other end Sale would have finished bottom. That could be a major concern if their form doesn’t improve, but Worcester might take hope from their expectation of 9th place based on their performances. For anyone interested, the exponent that I used was 1.28, and the points multiplies 2.82 – although that resulted in a minimised RMSE it doesn’t ‘feel’ right. That is why this is the base level for the predictions!

Bookmakers and Media

I have combined these two as they effectively reflect both ‘expert’ and ‘market’ opinion. And they are in agreement when it comes to a table topped by Leicester and followed by Saracens, with quite a gap to the rest. Northampton appear as the consensus for third, with Gloucester and Harlequins fighting for the other play-off place. The mid table positions are occupied by Bath, Exeter, Wasps and Sale with the consensus appearing to be that Sale will be much improved this season. London Irish, Newcastle and Worcester appear to be cast adrift as the relegation candidates for this season. Assuming an absence of unregistered players, fake blood or other shenanigans it is very close to call between them.

Gut Call

I’ll admit that my gut call is probably influenced by the other analysis that I have done, and so is not a truly independent variable here. But I don’t think many prediction systems – mathematical or emotional – would disagree with Leicester and Saracens dominating the league, although I am sure some would disagree with my call that Leicester will win the title. For the other play-off places I tip Gloucester for third and ‘Quins for fourth. Here the bias is probably clear! That said, Gloucester have strengthened what was already a very solid team, and only a lack of consistency prevented them from the play-offs. Predicting third relies on that consistency coming good this season, with Burns, May, Kvesic et al all working well together – if not for third read sixth. Harlequins still have a very solid team, but appeared to wobble a bit last season. I think they have enough to edge Northampton, but only just. Northampton are the counter to Gloucester; new signings could lead this team to dominate with North as the main focal point, but I think they may suffer from absences at key moments (international duty or (yet another) suspension). If they get it right, they’ll swap places with Gloucester easily. Exeter and then Wasps will secure sixth and seventh. Both are improving, although I fear European rugby might have more of an impact on Exeter’s resources. Wasps are moving forward on and off the pitch after skirting with the near disaster of relegation, but the forward line still shows weakness. Bath and Sale should secure eighth and ninth, but both are in precarious positions. Bath don’t appear to be moving at all, and Henson is not the most solid of foundations to build on even when he isn’t being punched out by his teammates in the pub. Sale desperately need a decent start to put last year’s woeful times behind them (shame they are away to Gloucester then; perhaps they can win their second match!). As with Bath, one mercurial talent may be the key – will the real Danny Cipriani please stand up? And at the bottom I think that Newcastle will come into the Premiership knowing what they need to do to survive and with a much more solid foundation than London Welsh could manage last season. I see them doing enough to secure tenth. Worcester could struggle this year, and in many ways I think the loss of Goode will be the biggest impact a player’s departure (or arrival) has this season. He was Worcester in many ways, and for a team that has made many changes in order to ‘push on’, they risk a backward step. Nonetheless, I do believe that they will have enough to push London Irish into the relegation position. LI had a bit of a nightmare last season, but they have lost some very good players which will only make things more difficult. They may finish bottom of the table, but similarly I think it is less likely that a team will be allowed to promote so they may be timing their bad run well!

Summary

Combining all of the above, the predicted final table is:

Pos

Team

1

Leicester Tigers

2

Saracens

3

Harlequins

4

Northampton

5

Gloucester

6

Exeter

7

London Wasps

8

Bath

9

Sale Sharks

10

Worcester Warriors

11

Newcastle Falcons

12

London Irish

Hell, even I don’t agree with some of that! Convinced that Worcester will be lower and Gloucester higher. Oh well, have to wait and see how accurate it ends up being.