An interesting feature over at Experimental 3-6-1 suggests we’re in for a tough end to the coming season.
When the fixture computer threw together Burnley and Bolton to open the 2012/13 Championship campaign it caused quite a stir in these parts. But in all the excitement we seem to have forgotten there’s a long way to go after that one game.
So what about the rest of the season? The brainboxes at Football League statistics blog Experimental 3-6-1 have developed an algorithm to rank each fixture by difficulty and visualised the results into a handy heat map.
It works like this:
Each club’s relative strength is quantified using the latest promotion odds from Bet365. “Even if I don’t fully agree with them,” Ben from the site explains, “Market forces should be less controversial than my own opinion.” At the time the strengths were calculated, Burnley were rated 8/1 for promotion with 365, the 14th favourite.
Each team’s home advantage is calculated by taking the ratio of points earned at home v away from last season. We had a below-average home record last season – the nineteenth best in the Championship – and actually picked up more points on the road thanks to the league’s sixth best away record.
These two data sets are combined to assess the difficulty of each fixture for each team. Here, the relative strength carries more weight than the home v away rating. This data is put into a heat map “allowing fans to pinpoint particularly winnable or tough spells for their team”. Red indicates a difficult match, yellow is average and green easier.
Here is the heat map for Burnley’s 2012/13 fixtures (click to see it full-size) and I’ve put the full league’s map at the bottom of this post.
The coming season
So what do these calculations say for our chances this season? On first inspection it doesn’t look too bad – the reds are pretty evenly spread for the most part – but there are a couple of tough spells at the start of November and the end-of-season run-in through April.
That November spell sees us travel to Cardiff and host Wolves and Leeds United at the Turf – but it’s preceded by a healthy six-game spell where a winnable home match on the box against Blackpool provides the biggest threat.
In fact up until that first tough spell the map reckons we only have two really tough matches in the first 12 games – the opener against Bolton and a trip to Leicester in mid-September. Given we started last season quite slowly, a decent first quarter should give us a chance to get some points on the board early on.
January is famously difficult for us, but the fixture computer has been pretty kind this year – a relatively difficult trip to Sheffield Wednesday is followed by what the map suggests are three winnable games against Crystal Palace, Millwall and Birmingham City.
The second half the season certainly looks more challenging than the first – and concludes with five of the final seven games of the campaign looking tricky – the worst of which are trips to Wolves and Leeds. If we’re there or thereabouts come March we’re going to need some real positive momentum for a positive end to the season. According to the chart, only Bolton and Charlton have end-of-season fixtures to rival ours.
Of course football isn’t played on paper and Experimental 3-6-1’s name is a nod to that – three leagues, six days a week of experimental analysis, one day of being proven utterly wrong.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting look at how the season could play out and the trial and tribulations we face.
Do you reckon those first three months will be as gentle as the map suggests? Comment below the full league’s map.