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:

The table shows the number of times (in 10,000 runs) that a particular team ends in a particular spot on the table. The number in red is the most likely outcome for each team. Note that the the middle of the table there is a lot more variation; for example, Everton and Bolton are fighting hard for the 7th and 8th spots in the table, but the numbers don’t give a clear picture of which which team gets which place. The “spread” both vertically (number of options for a single teams) and horizontally (number of teams for a single spot) is even wider as you move firmly into the middle of the table.


The simulation allows us to put some numbers to questions that a lot of people have about the next few weeks.

  1. Who will win the League?
    Two weeks ago, when I first ran the simulation, Manchester’s chances of winning the League (i.e. the number of times they won in 10,000 runs of the simulation) was about 76%, with a 20% chance for Arsenal and 4% chance for Chelsea. Since that time, however, Man U won two (including the remarkable Rooney-led comeback against West Ham), and Arsenal, well, they didn’t win two. Now, Man U has just about locked up the league, with a 91% chance for silverware. Arsenal’s hopes have dwindled to 8%, and Chelsea’s odds are now 99-1 against. There appeared to be one crazy outlier that sees Man City win it all, but I suspect that would require Mario Balotelli to singlehandedly take out Sir Alex’s boys with blowdarts.
  2. Who’s getting relegated?
    It would appear from the league table that the curse of teams whose names begin with W is holding strong (West Brom’s recent run of form being the exception to the rule). And indeed, the simulation shows an 84% chance that the DW will host Championship football next year (and even money that Wigan will occupy the last spot). But the reality for the other teams hovering around the drop is not so definite. Wolverhampton was relegated in 63% of our simulation runs and West Ham in 49%. But Blackpool, teetering on the brink in 17th place, was relegated 53% of the time. And despite Birmingham’s 16th place standing, they have only a 12% chance of relegation, compared to 15th-place Rovers’s 25% shot.
  3. Who’s playing in Europe Next season?
    There’s never been any doubt about United’s and Arsenal’s qualification for Europe next season. The simulation pegs their chances at 100%. Chelsea’s not in for sure, but 95% is as close to certain as you could want. The real question is about that fourth spot. Tottenham, after a Cinderella run through the round robin phase and their defeat of AC Milan, looks set to relinquish its spot to Man City; Spurs made 4th or better in only 24% of the runs to Man City’s 81% (and Liverpool fans can hold out hope; they returned to the Champions League in 83 out of 10,000 runs).
  4. The Europa League is a little harder to predict due to the uncertainty around the FA Cup, but it seems likely that the 5th and 6th place teams will qualify. If Man City doesn’t make the Champions League they will make the Europa League; however, the most likely to occupy 5th and 6th are Tottenham (76%) and Liverpool (80%). The 7th spot is wide open, with the likeliest choices being Everton and Bolton (FA Cup result notwithstanding).

  5. How many points will it take to …
    Win the league Over 10,000 runs the magic number varied from 71 to 87 points, with an average of 79 points. I’m new to the Premier League but I remember Chelsea’s 85 points last year being deemed low by observers.
  6. Avoid the drop The magic number appears to be 40 points, though across 10,000 runs it varied from 35 to 44 points.

  7. What is the importance of a single game?
    With the simulation we can calculate the conditional probability of an outcome – how often we see one particular result given some other specific result. For example, Man City hosts Spurs on April 17. Here’s what the simulation tells us about each team’s Champions League chances given the outcome of the game:
  8. Man City win: Man City in CL 94%, Spurs 11%
    Draw: Man City 81%, Spurs 23%
    Man City loss: Man City 56%, Spurs 51%

    Another key game this coming weekend is Blackpool – Wigan. The overall chance of each team being relegated is 53% and 84% respectively. Here’s the conditional probability of being relegated for the three possible outcomes:

    Blackpool win: Blackpool relegated 36%, Wigan 95%
    Draw: Blackpool 58%, Wigan 88%
    Blackpool loss: Blackpool 72%, Wigan 69%

    A loss by Wigan this weekend would all but consign them to the Championship, and even a draw wouldn’t help much; but a win could give them a fighting chance. On the other hand, Blackpool’s fortunes are very much tied to their performance this Saturday at Bloomfield Road.

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