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Boffins Reckon United For The Title

Wynn Grant over at the brilliant Football Economy has highlighted some research done by the egg-heads at the Professional Football Players Observatory (no, I hadn’t heard of them either) that believes that, of all the teams in contention for the Premiership title this year, Man United are the most likely ones to be lifting the trophy come the end of the season. From Football Economy:

Manchester United are on track to win the Barclays Premier League title.   That’s not my view, but is the conclusion reached by the Professional Football Players Observatory (PFPO), a research organisation based in France and Switzerland.


They report: ‘At the very start of the season, thanks to our partner RunningBall, the PFPO has forecasted the final results of the big-5 league championships. The prediction is based on the demographic features of players in first-team squads in terms of quality (whether they are full internationals and the strength of the national association they represent), experience (number of matches in big-5 leagues) and stability (average period of stay in their current club). Our multilinear statistical model* also takes into account the results obtained by clubs in the previous season.’


‘According to our prediction, the most probable champions would have been Manchester United, Inter, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Lille. While Bayern Munich and Inter are, at the moment, quite far from Borussia Dortmund and Milan AC respectively, Manchester United, Barcelona and Lille are performing more or less as expected. The comparison between the number of points per match achieved up to now and that estimated at the start of the season suggests that Bayern Munich and Inter will probably have better results from now on, while Manchester United, Barcelona and Lille should be able to keep the same level of success.’


My intuition is that United are the most likely champions, although it is an interesting contest and far from a done deal.   Despite their home defeat by Everton last night, I still think that Manchester City is a possibility. Chelsea will be a greater threat when they have overcome injury problems which is why some United fans were annoyed that last Saturday’s game at the Bridge was postponed until March.   Arsenal can produce superb football, but sometimes one needs to grind out results.”

I know there’s a few people out there who are skeptical of applying such numerical analysis to football, but I think the likes of Stefan Szymanski (in “Why England Lose”) and Daniel Finkelstein in his “Fink Tank” column for The Times have shown that, even if not entirely accurate, it can make for some interesting reading and often reliable predictions. I know I for one will be taking a bit of comfort in these findings!


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