Who went down, who’s going down? Do dodgy numbers have the answer?

John McCormick:
John McCormick: 1×1 is 1, 1×2 is four, 1×38 is 38 and that’s enough for safety.

At the start of last season I chose three relegation candidates  (QPR, Hull and Aston Villa) and two reserves (Southampton and West Brom) on the basis of PL history and some iffy statistics.

As you might expect, I got some stick from fans who didn’t like my forecast:

Mr QPR said “What a rubbish article, how can a Sunderland fan have any view on relegation when they will be one of the teams themselves”

Germany Tiger said Hull had improved significantly as well as: “You are the only one (and I’ve read a lot) who have Hull in a relegation spot, which suggests to me that there is still a bit of disappointment at being put to the sword 3 times last season by the Tigers and I predict a few more this season also….. oh if we could only play Sunderland every week… deep joy!!”

 Bald ugly bloke  was a bit more restrained, and perhaps a bit more optimistic: “Laughable that you have Hull City in the 3! The Tigers will be pushing top half.”

 Having been around for a few seasons, Swallavc was much more measured: “Aston Villa have been relegated in 0% of premier league seasons and therefore will be safe!”

I could go on, but what I’d prefer to say is that many of the readers, SAFC fans and others, were prepared to give their opinions on relegation candidates, as well as of my words . I’ll come back to this at the end.

My method of tracking these clubs was by means of a rolling points-per-game average, on the basis that any club that averaged a point per game over the season would reach 38 points. That’s near enough a key target to be useful, to me if not to a manager. It’s not a perfect method – Birmingham and Blackpool both went down with 39 points in 2010-11, Hull and West Brom stayed up, on 37 and 36 points respectively, in 2012-13 – but it will do.

Saints: Selected by me; safe enough to gloat by Christmas
Saints: Selected by me; safe enough to gloat by Christmas

At intervals over the season I revisited the clubs, plus ourselves and one or two others who drifted downwards, to see how well they were doing. You can review my reviews by following the McCormick’s Dodgy numbers link.

And it wasn’t too bad a method, was it not? The three relegated clubs were below the one point per game average, the clubs in the next three places were at or just above it and the safe-in-time-to-gloat clubs were well above it.

This is how it looks in pictures:

rolling average, points per game of chosen teams
rolling average, points per game of chosen teams

We get the average by dividing total points by games played. Although we begin by dividing with small numbers the difference between 1, 2 and 3 etc. as divisors is enough to cause quite a lot of movement in the average. Therefore there will be swings at the start; it’s after about six games that things start settling down and after about 10 that the numbers change more slowly. So here’s the same graph, only beginning at game 10 (which is why the bottom scale runs up to 29, it’s too much trouble to change) and with Southampton removed so the scale can expand:

end of season points2

You can see that West Brom were hovering around the one-point-per-game mark for a good while. While never deeply in danger they were at risk, at least until Tony Pulis was appointed. I’ts no coincidence that his arrival is reflected in a step up.

QPR, in contrast, were never out of trouble. They managed to pick up points over the Christmas-New Year period, which got them touching the required average, but they needed more. They didn’t get it and drifted downwards, despite everything we could do to help them.

Villa went on a long losing streak and then picked up under a new manager who got them over the line, not only on this graph but also in the league.

Hull’s demise is interesting.

Hull started well enough, with an away win and then a draw at home but they soon ran into  difficulty; a run of losses meant their points per game average declined  and it dropped below 1 at the start of December. It steadied and recovered to exactly 1 a couple of times but never went above it; each time it soon dipped again.

Given this consistently poor form with no sustained  improvement Hull were always going to be vulnerable if the teams around them could manage a resurgence.  WBA and Aston Villa benefited from a new manager bounce (as did Palace, who came onto the scene for a while) and Leicester, bottom at Christmas, found some spirit, and then some more.

Hull’s failure to fight their way out of trouble must reflect on their manager, especially as they allegedly spent £42 million in the close season. What happened at the KC is consistent with what was happening at Sunderland before Steve Bruce went. Surely now his claims we sacked him because he’s a Geordie will be laid to rest.

We were above the one-point line for much of the first half of the season, probably on the back of drawn games. We’d have remained above it  had we continued to be hard to beat but as Gus began to lose the plot we began to lose games, and we drifted below the line in mid February. This was around the time we began to allow our mini-league competitors to beat us, which was doubly bad –  if you look at the chart between about points 14 to 20 on the bottom scale you’ll see our average falls where QPR’s, Hull’s  and Villa’s all rise.

The loss to Villa ended Poyet’s reign and brought in Dick  Advocaat but even at that stage our points per game average had only fallen to 0.9, not far behind Hull and Villa’s 0.97. We were not doomed, we were just in trouble. Like WBA and Villa, we needed a resurgence. And thanks to Dick we got it. Some much-needed wins took us over the line again, whereas Hull remained true to form and didn’t make it.

To show this pictorially I’ve removed Villa and WBA from the next chart and I’ve changed the scale. I’ve also put in Burnley for completeness:

Average points per game  from game 11
Average points per game from game 11

So how did I do in my predictions?

Burnley FC, the bookies' favourite. Did my heart rule my head?
Burnley FC, the bookies’ favourite. Did my heart rule my head?
You can see that Burnley, like QPR, were never out of trouble. Or if you prefer, never in with a chance of staying up. I have to say I got that wrong, as I did with Southampton. But as two of my three went down and  the other finished in seventeenth spot I don’t think I did too badly, unlike Mr. QPR, Bald Ugly Bloke, or Germany Tiger, who won’t be getting his wish next season.

So what of the coming season?

I did say Hull might be destined to become the next yo-yo team. I now rather think that could be Burnley. Fortunately, the Championship’s not my concern, the Premier League is.

And that evokes a feeling of deja-vu.

I wish I didn’t have to focus on relegation but we’re still unable to pull away from the drop zone, so once again I’ll aim to follow ourselves and another five or six at risk clubs on our journey towards safety.

I’ll be using a different method. For now, I  won’t say what it is; before I do I’d like your ideas on who will go down, and why they are doomed to relegation. A few brave souls did it last year, why don’t you give it a go this time?

In the poll below I’ve given you 7 possibilities. They comprise the three promoted teams, the three PL bottom survivors and the only team eligible for second season syndrome. If you complete it, great. If you complete it and give a reason in a comment, even better. (If you’re new to posts on the site your comment will be held for moderation). You can choose up to three possibilities.

You might think I’ve made an appropriate selection, you might have different ideas, in which case you’re also welcome to leave a comment and nominate a club. In a week or so, maybe a bit longer, I’ll present the initial results and outline my  thoughts and method. In a few weeks I’ll be asking if anything has happened during the transfer season to make anyone change their mind, then I’ll do a final selection and get the new dodgy numbers going.

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4 thoughts on “Who went down, who’s going down? Do dodgy numbers have the answer?”

  1. Voted as follows – my head says Villa, Watford, Norwich, but heart wants NUFC (obviously), Leicester (just can’t stand the sight of Pearson, he reminds me of a John Majorish/head boy at school snitch, probably tucks his shirt in his underpants), Everton (1977, fans bricking our supporters bus).

    Villa ‘cos they have a lot of overrated players (Van Vlaart is not “world class” and is probably bu**ering off anyway judging by his recent pronouncements about the club not matching his ambition, while Benteke is a fits and starts type, yes I know he’s better than Fletcher). An overrated media darling manager in Sherwood.

    Watford ‘cos they look like they’re going to lose their main striker and don’t have much of squad.

    Norwich ‘cos it’s a pig of a journey and I’ve always hated the strip.

    Seems logical to me…….

  2. Voted for Leicester – as I agree with Dave and the second season syndrome. I feel of the three promoted clubs both Norwich and Bournemouth have sound management behind them, Watford have done remarkably to even get promoted bearing in mind the turmoil the club appears to have been in.
    Finally my ‘other club’ would be West Ham. I am really not convinced by the appointment of Bilic and feel with the Stadium and all it means they will be affected by it, begin to panic and suffer the dreaded drop.
    Just as last season I can see three or four more teams (including SAFC) never too far away from the drop zone.

  3. I always worry about Sunderland and have watched little improvement since Keane left. Advocaat will only be there one year, butcwith a mission to construct a platform for the future. I can’t see him just putting in a season and going. He seen the problems firsthand and believes he can put them right, I just don’t think he needs the job or the money and their must be a serious motive to put his plans on hold

  4. Voted for Bournemouth, Watford, Leicester.
    Don’t think the first 2 are strong enough or will strengthen enough to stay up and there is almost always a second season club that goes down. I think Pearson will, at some point, have a big row with a player or a fan, and the teams spirit that kept them up will dissipate. Also, teams will look at them harder and work them out.
    I am also worried about us, on the basis that players all know Dick is there for 1 year only so I am not sure they will all be committed

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