Kevin Pullein: My predictions for the rest of the Premier League season
Half-Time Team Talk | Liverpool may face some bad luck
So this is where we are now. Liverpool are top of the Premier League with 49 points and Watford are bottom with nine. After 17 games – just two short of half a season – the gap between those teams is 40 points. After 38 games it will almost certainly be wider – but probably not as much as twice as wide.
I estimate that at the end of the season Liverpool will have 96 points and Watford 31, which would make the gap between them 65 points.
I base those estimates on the relationship between points won by teams in the first and second halves of previous seasons. It suggests that teams who start as well as Liverpool will finish on average with 96 points while teams who start as badly as Watford will finish on average with 31 points. I stress the word average – all sorts of other outcomes are possible.
Look at the first and second halves of previous seasons and you will see two things.
One is that teams who did well in the first half tended to do well in the second half, but not as well, and teams who did badly in the first half tended to badly in the second half, but not as badly.
The other thing you will notice is that the results of fast-starting teams deteriorated by a smaller amount – a much smaller amount – than the results of slow-starting teams improved.
I think this is because most teams fall into the second category and only rarely are there large differences in skill between them, so large differences in results during one period will nearly always be attributable mostly to luck, which is unlikely to recur in the next period.
I reckon that Liverpool this season have won points that can be explained three-quarters by skill and one-quarter by luck. For Watford, I figure, it is the other way round: three-quarters luck and one-quarter skill. A little bit of good luck for Liverpool and a lot of bad luck for Watford.
I draw those conclusions again from the relationship between points won by teams in different segments of other seasons. For any team, points won in the first half of a season will be owed partly to skill and partly to luck. But how many parts skill and how many parts luck? What is the right mixture?
I tested different possibilities until I found the ones that gave the most accurate prediction for points won in the second half of a season. For highly placed teams it was three parts skill to one part luck, for others it was three parts luck to one part skill. Highly placed teams were those who won 32 points or more from their first 19 games.
Of course these are only rules of thumb, but they might give a pointer – a thumb waved in a general direction – to how things will develop. We know where we are now. Where will they be at the end of the season?
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