2013-14 English Premier League – GW 19 Simulation

It’s back…

With the first half (190 games) of the 2013-14 English Premier League season in the books and 190 more games scheduled to unfold over the next 4 1/2 months, it seems the right time to start up my EPL simulation model. Please, contain your excitement.

The model was an outgrowth of a teaching tool developed in 2008 for a simulation class taught at the Alberta School of Business. That model – originally designed by Armann Ingolfsson – was used to track the last half of the NHL season, and specifically to determine whether the Edmonton Oilers would make the playoffs. It’s necessary to mention here that by the 2008 and 2009 all star break – when the simulation model started – the chances of the Oilers making the playoffs was slightly more than the current snowball’s chance in hell.

(For more information on the history and methodology, click here.)

My model uses a fairly simplistic equation to determine the probability of each game’s outcome, then repeats this process 9,999 more times to develop a sense of the probability of each team’s final table position after all 38 gameweeks are finished. Every week I update the data in the model with the most recent matches played and re-run the model.

So here’s where we are on December 31, immediately before the New Year’s Day fixtures (click to embiggen):



The title race is not a lock – and frankly, it shouldn’t be this early into the season or things would get really boring – but it’s much more wide open than I’ve seen in previous years. By Gameweek 21 in the 2012-13 season, for example, Man U’s chances of winning the title were better than 80%. However, in 2014 we see Arsenal with “only” a 44% chance, and both Man City and Chelsea in with a hope. Man U’s chances at this point are on par with Spurs. (Both of these facts delight me as an Arsenal fan, I should mention). It will be interesting to see how much these change over the next few weeks.

The race for the top is very apparent when looking at European prospects. There are no surprises about Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man City each having a better than 70% chance of a top-4 finish at the end of the season, but the ~50% chances of the two Merseyside sides are surely a pleasant change for Reds fans and an exciting prospect for their Toffee bretheren. Somewhat more dispiriting is the 20.7% chance for Robin van Persie et al to see Champions League action in 2014-15, a likelihood roughly equal to Tottenham.

And finally there is relegation. The roller coaster ride of the Hammers and their fans sees no likelihood of a slowdown, with relegation a 59% likelihood based on their play in the first half of the season. It’s even worse for Gus Poyet’s Sunderland side, whose 70% probability of relegation threatens our chance to watch the legendary Tyne-Wear derby. The 39.4% relegation probability for Crystal Palace belies their current 15th place position, as the three teams below them – Norwich, West Brom, and Cardiff – all have a lower likelihood of returning to the Championship come summer.


Above are the raw numbers that lead to the analysis above (click the pic to make it bigger). The numbers show how often, over 10,000 iterations, that a team reaches a given placement in the table. The figure in red is the most likely result for each team. The distributions for each team show the real story behind the averages. For example, Southampton has a 37% chance of a 9th place finish, but could do better. There’s even a chance of a 4th-place finish for the Saints.


Sneaky Preview

So last night we were watching the CBC Edmonton news, which included a story about the closing of Sneak Preview, a video store with good selection of older, esoteric, and hard-to-find titles. (The story line was about finding a copy of “The Last Picture Show” which padded a 30-second story to 4 minutes, but I digress.)

I didn’t notice this before but there was something missing in the story. The co-owner of the shop, who was interviewed in the story, has a second job — as a video editor for CBC Edmonton. Isn’t this a pretty clear conflict of interest? As a sometime student of media, it strikes me that if you’re doing a story on a co-worker – even if that story is about the demise of your co-worker’s second job — it behooves you to mention the connection. No?

EPL Matchday 36

What a difference a week makes!

With most Premier League teams now looking down three more games in the regular season, the weekly simulation that I’ve been running (not so weekly) sees the numbers solidifying more and more. It’s been well established which 6-7 teams will occupy the top spot (though not quite as firm which would be in the bottom three). But the ordering is still wide open. Recent runs of form – both good and bad – by the top teams have kept the title race alive.

Without further ado, here’s the summary of my simulation after Sunday’s games were complete. Remember, the number indicates the number of times (out of 10,000 runs) that a particular team ended the season in a particular ranking:

Continue reading “EPL Matchday 36”

EPL Matchday 35 – Simulation

Here we are with only four matches left for most teams (Tottenham and Man City being the exception, since their match was postponed until May due to the FA Cup). Even at this late stage, there is still ambiguity about who will end up where, and there are some massive games ahead.

As always, for some background on how these numbers are derived (and why, other than because your author is a big fat nerd), please check this backgrounder.

As of April 28 (up to and including Fulham’s 3-0 defeat of Bolton), the probabilities of each team achieving each position in the league table are as follows:

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EPL Matchday 33 – Simulation

the curse of teams whose names begin with W is holding strong

Here’s the results of my simulation run for the Barclay’s Premier League after the weekend matches. For some background information, please visit this backgrounder.

As of April 11 (including Liverpool’s 3-0 drubbing of Man City), the outcome of the simulation is as follows:

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Premier League Probabilities – Backgrounder

In 2009 I taught a course at the U of A’s School of Business on simulation – the application of quantitative techniques to answer business questions where there is uncertainty or risk. For example, if you run a retail store and are trying to manage inventory, you need to have an idea of your demand so you can decide how much to stock. But demand is unknown – so, by using random variables based on previous demand, then repeating the analysis many times over, you can understand the effects of changes to your bottom line. That’s the power of simulation.

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And, We’re Back.

It’s been a while, dear reader. Yes, singular – though I suspect even that one’s left. Apologies for the radio silence. Alas, we have lost our previous domain, pontificate.ca, to a scum-sucking, cretinous domain squatter, who has decided to put it to use driving traffic to @toronto, some generic squatter Twitter account, which I suppose has the benefit of actually being updated once in a while. Yes, I hope there will be more to this blog than some pedantic once-a-year posting. With that, I’m off to bed.

Rethinking airline seat upgrades

Interesting post from the Economist’s travel blog: you can now upgrade your airline seat after boarding and taking off on some airlines. I’m fascinated by this as a student of logistics; empty seats on an airplane are the ultimate perishable good, meaning the value is lost the moment you pull back from the terminal gate. This is why airlines spend millions of dollars matching demand to price to ensure as much revenue is squeezed from the rest of the plane, and why it’s common practice to overbook a flight to account for no-shows (the cost of accommodating a bumped passenger is small compared to the cost of running with an empty seat). There are enough consumers out there who are cost-conscious enough to stick with economy seats, but human enough to think packing into a metal tube like a sardine is unpleasant, and this policy is geared to them. Imagine — you book your economy seat, then find you’re the middle seat between two “ample” colleagues. One quick swipe of a credit card and you’re up in front. Everyone wins; that much more room in coach class, you get to stretch your legs and enjoy a flight for once, the airline’s goodwill heightens with its customers, and the bottom line improves marginally as business class fills.