By Bradley Stead
Data usage and analytics is an ever-increasing part of how people think about, analyse, and run football clubs. We are all familiar with statistics for possession, shots, shots on target, corners, fouls and now more recently expected goals (xG). These stats are largely useless however in predicting results/performances of teams. Having more possession of the ball, for instance, does not always guarantee a win, meaning it is difficult to compare teams based on these kinds of numbers. Also, they offer very little insight into how a game actually plays out.
This is why many people who aren’t particularly interested in data, deride the use of such statistics in football, often saying ‘there’s only one stat that matters and that’s the final score’ which, ultimately, is true. All that matters is the result. But there are algorithms and ways of looking at football that only take into account the result of matches.
Elo rankings are an estimate of the strength of a club based entirely on their results against opponents and the strength of those opponents and are based entirely on results. This means these rankings are less affected by randomness, for instance, a team that has a high Elo Ranking won’t have that ranking decreased by much if they lose to a team that has a much lower ranking, for example in a ‘cup upset’ or ‘giant-killing’.
It is a model that has been used to evaluate the ability of Chess players since 1970, and so people have taken inspiration from this and applied it to football, creating websites such as eloratings.net (for international teams) and clubelo.com, which allows people to compare the strength of 614 European clubs, and attempt to predict future results.
So, how do the Yorkshire clubs in the Championship compare, and where will they be at the end of the season?
Leeds United – Elo rating: 1581
Leeds are currently 2nd in the Championship and are likely to still be there once the season has concluded according to Clubelo. After 28 games, The Whites are on 52 points, and are projected to reach 82.3, meaning they will be 1.9 points behind West Brom, but, more importantly, will be 4.8 ahead of a 3rd placed Brentford. Despite a recent run of poor form, Leeds still have a 70.9% likelihood of getting more points than Brentford, 76.9% likelihood of getting more points than Fulham, and an 81.1% likelihood of reaching more points than Nottingham Forest. Therefore, Leeds are highly likely to be the top Yorkshire team in the championship at the end of this season and playing in the premier league next season.
Sheffield Wednesday – Elo rating: 1530
Currently 10th with 42 points (4 points from the Play-Off places), Wednesday are predicted to reach a total of 68.8 points by the end of the season. They will close the gap to the play-offs to just 1.7 points but will only move up one place and into 9th from their current standing. Their chances of reaching the top 6 currently stand at 38.6%. Obviously, this does not take into account a potential points deduction, as Sheffield Wednesday have been charged by the EFL for misconduct after attempting to avoid breaking Financial Fair Play/Profit and Sustainability rules.
Hull City – Elo rating: 1507
Hull will drop from 12th to 13th according to Clubelo. Despite being 7 points from the play-offs after 28 games, with a game in hand on 6th placed Preston, The Tigers will only close that gap to 6.2 points, reaching a total of 64.3 (currently have 39 points) and so at the moment have a 38.6% likelihood finishing 6th.
Huddersfield Town – Elo rating: 1455
After a brief spell in the Premier League, it’s been back to reality for Huddersfield. 20th in the table, 5 points from a second relegation in two seasons and 1 win in their last 5 games. However, The Terriers have an 84.6% likelihood of staying up and are expected to reach 50.3 points which will see them to a 20th placed finish. Charlton are the nearest challengers to finish above Huddersfield (41.2% likelihood), but despite this, Town should be playing Championship football again next year.
Barnsley – Elo rating: 1395
After being one of the stand-out teams in League One last season, Barnsley is on course to make a quick return to England’s third division. After 29 games The Tykes are 22nd, 4 points from safety and have won 5 games so far this season. They should reach 41.2 points by the end of the campaign (currently on 24), however, this would still mean a 23rd placed finish and relegation from the Championship. As things currently stand they have a 12.5% chance of staying up (84.5% likelihood of going down).
There is no way of knowing whether these predictions are correct or not until after all clubs have played their 46 games. Once that happens, I will revisit this article and see if the data from clubelo.com was accurate in predicting the final table. There is still plenty of football to be played in the championship, and as we know anything can happen. However, the use of data is a way of looking at the beautiful game and analysing it. Again, Elo rankings only look at the final results of matches. They do not take into account anything about games apart from the result, and the final result is all that matters.
All data taken from: http://www.clubelo.com