CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report

n°21 - January 2017

Who will be champion?

A predictive analysis of performance


Drs Raffaele Poli, Loïc Ravenel and Roger Besson

Pdf file

1. Introduction

The 21st Monthly Report of the CIES Football Observatory presents a predictive analysis of the number of points that each big-5 league club will obtain at the end of the season. In order to do this, we use a multivariate statistical model built on the basis of results observed from the 2011/12 season onwards. The model takes into account the offensive and defensive performances of big-5 league teams until the 31st December of each season, as well as the level of their grip on the game.

The analysis highlights that four out of the five current leaders are the most likely champions: Chelsea in the English Premier League, Real Madrid in the Spanish Liga, Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga and Juventus in the Italian Serie A. In the French Ligue 1, Monaco should overtake Paris St-Germain and Nice.

According to our approach, despite recent wins, Manchester United won’t be able to rank higher than sixth. Moreover, Hamburg will be relegated for the first time in its history. Let’s us wait a few months to see how accurate these predictions will prove to be.

2. Defensive performance

The defensive performance of a team is primarily measured by taking into account the number of goals conceded. This indicator can be significantly enhanced by including the number of shots conceded by teams from inside their own box. Indeed, any teams that are successful defensively in the long run not only concede few goals, but are also able to prevent as much as possible their adversaries from shooting from close range.

Up until the 31st December 2016, the lowest value in terms of goals conceded per match at big-5 league level was measured for Bayern Munich. The highest value was recorded for Cagliari. The biggest gap within a league was observed in the English Premier League between Chelsea and Swansea.

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The big-5 league team having conceded the most shots from within its own box is Hull City. At the other extreme, Liverpool conceded the least. The other teams by league having left their adversaries with the fewest chances to shoot from short range are Atlético Madrid, Paris St-Germain, Bayern and Juventus.

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3. Grip on the game

A team’s strength is also measured by its capacity to keep possession of the ball. The indicator of the number of successful passes is very useful in this regard. Moreover, teams who are successful over the long term are capable of territorial domination. In this case, the indicator of the number of successful passes in the opposite half is particularly relevant.

The record number of passes per match up until the 31st December was recorded for Bayern Munich: 635. This value is 3.5 times higher than that observed for Darmstadt. The other clubs by league having achieved the least number of passes per match are West Bromwich Albion, Osasuna, Nancy and Crotone.

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Bayern Munich is also the club that made the most successful passes in the opponents’ half of the pitch. This result reflects the ability of the Bavarian team to territorially dominate their adversaries. Barcelona, Naples and Arsenal also made more than 300 successful passes per match in the opposite half of the pitch.

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4. Offensive performance

Goals are of fundamental importance in football. Similar to goals conceded, the indicator of the number of goals scored is a reasonably accurate reflection of the clubs’ level. The ability of teams to shoot after penetrating their opponents’ box is also a very useful indicator to estimate the offensive abilities beyond the role played by chance.

Monaco is top of the rankings for the number of goals scored per match. Only two other teams in the big-5 scored more than 2.5 goals per game: Real Madrid and Barcelona. At the other end of the spectrum, the offensive sterility of Empoli is noteworthy. Similarly, Nantes, Darmstadt and Pescara scored less than 0.7 goals per match.

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No big-5 league team attempted as many shots from within their opponents’ box as Real Madrid. The other top performing teams in this area by league are Liverpool, Paris St-Germain, Bayern and Rome. Palermo’s supporters have, on the other hand, every right to be worried. The same holds true for clubs at the bottom of the tables in their respective leagues.

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5. Conclusion

In order to predict the outcome of the championships, we took into account results observed between 2011/12 and 2015/16 (five seasons). The above-mentioned indicators were integrated within a multivariate statistical model estimating points achieved in the second half of the season. The predicted final rankings result from the addition between points achieved up until December 31st and points estimated using the model for the remaining half of the season.

Although scientifically sound, it goes without saying that this predictive exercise can only, at best, get as close as possible to what will actually transpire. We must indeed always allow for the role of chance in football. Anyway, according to our statistical model, the final rankings of the big-5 leagues will be the following.


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Monthly Report n°21 - January 2017 - Who will be champion? A predictive analysis of performance