Dodgy numbers signify relegation scrap for Hull, QPR, Burnley, Leicester (and us?)

John McCormick:
John McCormick:
looking for a rise

This is my third post in this series, which began in August when I used some dodgy stats and history to identify this season’s relegation candidates, plus a couple of wildcards for good measure (the list in the headline is not exhaustive – Ed). You might remember (or you can revisit

I predicted, from 20th place upwards:

QPR – Purely because a promoted team is almost certain to go down and most often it has been the playoff winner. I had to go with this, whatever the bookies said about Burnley.
Hull, on the basis that second season syndrome’s due and as two London teams have never been relegated in the same season QPR’s demise must mean Palace are safe.
Villa, on the grounds of their being the only club to have been in the bottom three for each of the last three seasons without being relegated. That’s scary stuff for a fan.

Southampton were the first wildcard, chosen because of the personnel changes and turbulence the club has experienced this year.
West Brom, because of last season’s iffy form and the way they appointed their manager, were the second.

Since the turn of the century only four clubs have been relegated with 38 points or more. This allowed me to say any club which managed a point per game would be alright and to use a rolling average of points per game to make projections. A club with an average rising above 1 would be improving but one whose points per game were dropping would cause concern among its fans.

After 8 games QPR were bottom but they were the only team I’d picked who were doing worse than one point per game. We were bang on one point per game and West Brom weren’t much better. Hull and Villa were doing fine, while Southampton were coasting in second place with 16 points and an impressive win record. Burnley and Newcastle, meanwhile, had slipped into the bottom three, with Crystal Palace and Leicester not far above them. (You can read that update at

However, when it came to trends it wasn’t as clear cut. Hull and Villa were heading downwards after decent starts. SAFC and WBA were treading water. QPR were trending upwards but from a low base while Southampton’s trajectory had them looking at the stars. The other teams were more of a mixed bunch, enough for me to say that while the stats required Newcastle’s presence in my chart my intuition said they wouldn’t stay there.

Now with 16 games gone it’s time to revisit. So, to start, here are the rolling points-per-game averages for my original 5 clubs plus us and the other four:

Game Leics Hull QPR Burnley Palace SAFC WBA Villa NUFC Soton
1 1.00 3.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.00 1.00 3.00 0.00 0.00
2 0.50 2.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.00 1.00 2.00 0.50 0.50
3 0.67 1.33 1.00 0.33 0.33 0.67 0.67 2.33 0.67 1.33
4 1.25 1.25 0.75 0.50 0.50 0.75 0.50 2.50 0.50 1.75
5 1.60 1.20 0.80 0.60 1.00 0.80 1.00 2.00 0.60 2.00
6 1.33 1.00 0.67 0.50 1.33 0.83 1.33 1.67 0.50 2.17
7 1.29 1.29 0.57 0.57 1.14 1.14 1.14 1.43 0.57 1.86
8 1.13 1.25 0.5 0.5 1.00 1 1.13 1.25 0.88 2
8 1.00 1.22 0.78 0.44 1.00 0.89 1.11 1.11 1.11 2.11
10 0.90 1.10 0.70 0.40 0.90 1.10 1.30 1.00 1.30 2.20
11 0.82 1.00 0.73 0.64 0.82 1.09 1.18 1.00 1.45 2.27
12 0.83 0.92 0.67 0.83 1.00 1.08 1.08 1.00 1.58 2.17
13 0.77 0.85 0.85 0.85 1.00 1.08 1.00 1.00 1.46 2.00
14 0.71 0.86 0.79 0.86 0.93 1.00 0.93 1.14 1.43 1.86
15 0.67 0.87 0.93 0.80 0.93 1.00 0.93 1.27 1.53 1.73
16 0.63 0.81 0.88 0.94 0.94 1.00 1.06 1.19 1.44 1.63

QPR and Burnley have never managed to go above the one point per game level, although QPR did touch it after game three. Leicester and Hull have declined from above 1 point per game to significantly less and have stayed there.  NUFC have done the opposite, spending the first 8 games below this level and the next 8 above it. Palace have cycled above and below it, as have WBA. Villa have declined but have never gone below an average of 1 point per game. Southampton have declined but still have an enviable record to date. We have been below the 1 point per game as much as we have been above it.

This can be represented graphically:

Average points per game, Aug-December 2014
Average points per game, Aug-December 2014

Once more, to simplify, I’ll use trendlines:

Average points per game: trendlines December 2014
Average points per game: trendlines December 2014

Trendlines aren’t always the best thing to use ( Villa’s line, for example, doesn’t reflect their current situation) but they do show the different groups. Southampton and NUC are heading upwards and surely safe. WBA and SAFC are just about keeping their heads above water. QPR and Burnley are heading upwards but still have some way to go and Leicester and Hull are looking into the abyss.

I’m not sure about Villa, they might have turned a corner, but I think my original choice of Hull, QPR and WBA have been justified. On the other hand, I didn’t see Leicester coming. If Burnley have replaced Southampton then Leicester surely have replaced Villa, while Palace, not safe by any means, appear to be doing enough to keep alive my predictions about second season syndrome and only one London club going down.

So as we move into Christmas it’s three of my original five, plus Burnley, Leicester and Palace that I’ll be watching. My next report will be in February, after game 24. The transfer window will be closed, no doubt some managers will have changed. Let’s see what the new year brings

 In the 1950s my grandma used to tell us kids about our uncle Jack in Canada. Then it became our uncle Jack in Australia. This weekend Jack’s son Danny visited, with his wife Jackie and children Niamh (age 7) and Declan (age 9). Declan proudly told me he’s a Sunderland supporter. So it’s Happy Christmas to my uncle Jack, 60 years and ten thousand miles away from Sacriston but holding fast to his roots,  to my cousins Danny, Ali and Anne, their husbands and wives, and all their children.


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11 thoughts on “Dodgy numbers signify relegation scrap for Hull, QPR, Burnley, Leicester (and us?)”

    • I also think QPR will stay up. They have some decent players, and a good management team.

      It might all change, but at this stage I would take a punt on Leicester, Burnley and Hull for the drop. However, unless Poyet changes his tactics, and brings in someone who can score goals, I don’t rule out Sunderland being in the mix.

  1. It’s so precise that it’s almost a rule. I went back over the last 4 or 5 seasons to see what the GD was for relegated and promoted clubs, and there was only one team relegated with a better GD than the 4th bottom (and IIRC it was only 1 goal). I can’t remember the exact time that we last visited this topic but at the time Norwich were well out of the bottom 3 but still had one of the worst (3) GD stats and they went down.

    I’m sure that it’s too early at the moment but Feb should give a clear indication of how things are going to stack up (or down). GD also is a good indication of the top spots. Hull went up with a poor GD+ figure, but that’s just them. They also have a poor GD- figure at the moment but I doubt they will get relegated.

  2. It’s possibly limited this early in the season John but if I cast my mind back when there were about 3 months left it was an accurate predictor for who would be relegated, apart from the fact that we went on an astonishing run 🙂

    • Looking back the last 5 years or so there have been very few clubs which have had worse goal differences than the bottom three at the end of the season but the last time I looked at it early – admittedly a couple of seasons ago – I don’t think it was that clear cut in February.

  3. You’re correct in that the relegated teams usually have the worst goal differences. However, GD is of limited use as a predictor and I thought I’d do something different.

    That doesn’t mean I’m doing something better. I’ve already had half of the Premiership in my sights and it’s not yet Christmas.

  4. The teams that are most likely to go down at the end of the season are those with the worst goal differences. That might sound obvious but it applies to teams who hover above the drop zone for most of the season and then suddenly find themselves in the bottom 3 come the fat lady’s arrival.

    On that basis, Hull will be likely to climb out of it as their GD is not bad, plus their +ve GD was unusually low for a promoted team, when they were last promoted. Just the way they are at Hull; an anomaly.

    You always have to be careful about outlying variables of course which skew the true picture. Remove our catastrophic drubbing by Southampton which was a real freak result and the picture looks a lot healthier for us.

    It looks like Leicester, QPR and possibly Burnley using the GD criteria. It’s great to see putting Burnley making a fight of it, and they might survive. Villa ought to be worried. Their surprisingly great start to the season is but a distant memory now.

  5. Maybe I’m just being “thick” but I couldn’t make head nor tail of your first table.

    Surely, it needed a vertical column (to the left), indicating dates [I’m guessing], to make sense of it?

    • I couldn’t fit it in when I copied the spreadsheet across the first time but I’ve had another go and hopefully it’s clearer. Game one is at the top, game 16 at the bottom. So QPR, for example, got 0 points per game for games 1 & 2 and then beat us. That gave them a total of three points which, averaged over three games, results in the the 1 point in their column at the game three stage.

    • That’s the problem with trendlines. They go straight and pass between points and can’t handle changes of direction (in this case from upwards to downwards) well. Don’t confuse them with lines of best fit.

      There’s something called the R2 which measures how close the trendline is to all of the points, with a value of 1 being a perfect fit. Newcastle’s R2 is 0.86, Burnley’s is 0.76, Villa’s is 0.7. Southampton’s R2 is 0.32 and it’s not the lowest.

      Hence the title “McCormick’s dodgy numbers”

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