The season before last we won only 7 games and we stayed up. We even finished above Aston Villa, who won 10, as well as QPR and Hull City, whose 8 wins each could not stave off relegation. The other relegated team, Burnley, had 7 wins, the same as us.
The difference between us and Burnley was that we achieved 17 draws, and lost only (only??) 14 games. They could manage only 12 draws, and their five fewer points meant they finished second bottom, three places below us.
And thinking about that got me started on the notion of win-loss ratios, which became the tool I used to track clubs in last season’s relegation watch.
In particular, our 7 wins and 14 losses got me wondering if a club which lost exactly twice as many games as it won would always finish with 38 points. And that got me wondering if any club with 38 points must have lost exactly twice as many games as it won, so I worked it out mathematically and found they must, at which point Malcolm pointed out that one win and two losses is equivalent to three draws so of course they must.
But by then I was running with my idea. A win-loss ratio of 1:2 (or 0.5) would result in 38 points and that’s usually enough for safety so I made it my starting point. Then I dropped the ratio slightly to reflect the points gap that often separates the bottom three from the rest (ignoring 2010-11, when two teams went down with 39 points) and made my prediction:
Any club with a win-loss ratio of 0.48 or better would stay up. Any with 0.45 or worse would go down.
Between those figures, in the zone of uncertainty, clubs might stay up or go down but would not control their own destiny by the end of the season. To survive they would have to depend on other clubs losing.
The clubs I chose to follow were newly promoted Norwich, Watford and Bournemouth, along with Leicester, Villa and Newcastle, the bottom clubs in the premiership. And, of course, Sunderland was down there with them. Over one thousand fans voted on which three of them would go down but I was tracking all seven from the start of the season, not that I needed to track Leicester for long.
You can see the final win-loss ratios in the chart below on the left:
Comfortable by the end? Maybe so, but we were well out of the comfort zone for virtually the whole competition. We bounced along in the bottom three until Sam’s arrival brought an improvement, but winter brought five losses in succession, which left us seven points adrift of safety. With the turn of the year, on the back of those losses, our win-loss ratio had fallen to 0.23. Three wins from nineteen games is relegation form, no doubt about it, especially when your mini-league competitors have all staged revivals.
The chart below shows the direness of our position.
I’d said any club consistently below 0.45 would go down. The only teams consistently below 0.45 were us and Villa:
Watford were out of sight, with Bournemouth not far behind them. Norwich had taken themselves above the 0.48 line and even the Mags had got above it once. I felt then, more than at any other time in the last four years, and not because of my maths, that we wouldn’t dodge the drop, even though we had the best team we’d assembled since 2012. That’s how bad things were.
And then we picked up, Norwich went on a slide and the Mags faltered. We won a couple of games but just as importantly we also drew games we would have lost earlier in the season. Sam and Sixer bemoaned the dropping of points when we couldn’t keep a clean sheet. They could be justified in doing so but bear this in mind – in the first half of the season we drew three games. In the second half we drew nine
And the draws made a difference. We also improved our ability to win, doubling our tally, and we can’t underestimate the importance of those wins, but the draws kept us going. (And how crucial was that one at Mr Ashley’s S
PORTSecond D IRECTivision Arena?).
Newcastle’s second half of the season matched their first, thanks mainly to Rafa, who reversed a terminal decline, and they added five wins to the four they gained before New Year. Norwich were much poorer after December. They did win four games, near enough matching their five in the first half of the season, but they lost thirteen, as opposed to only nine of the first nineteen games.
As a result, by the end of the season, all three teams had won 9 games, but our win-loss ratio was better because of our draws.
Unlike Newcastle and Norwich, losses weren’t dragging us down.
Our ratio had risen above 0.5, whereas Norwich were hovering around 0.4 while Newcastle, who had been well below Norwich at one point, had surged to within touching distance of 0.48 only to come up just that little bit short. Ah, well…
…too little, too late for Newcastle; a stunning end to the season for us.
But not one I’d like to repeat