Relegated teams squad renewal and performance

Posted on December 3rd, 2018   

What happens to teams when they get relegated? How much do their squads end up changing as a result of relegation, and how does it impact on-pitch performance?

We have performed some analysis on the last five completed PL and Championship seasons (i.e. 13/14 to 17/18) to try to answer these questions.

We first investigate the minutes played by players that start in a team’s squad, and look at how those minutes change in the following seasons – but only minutes at the same team are counted. We do this to get at how changes in squads practically affect the actual players fielded.  Specifically we measure the overlap in minutes played across the team from the starting season.  If a team uses the exact same mixture of players in its matches we would observe a 100% similarity/overlap, whereas if a team has replaced all its players we would see a 0% similarity/overlap. The chart below shows the monthly evolution of these overlaps, averaged for teams that remained in the PL, teams that were promoted to the PL, teams that were relegated to the Championship and teams that were already in the second tier league.

We see that relegated teams, more than the other categories, tend to use on average only about 40% of the previous season’s squad in the new season. Teams participating in the PL tend to have a more similar set of players, starting at around 60% and declining with time.  This is not a surprising observation. Relegated teams face a financial challenge, with considerably reduced revenues despite parachute payments.  At the same time, many players will not want to compete in the Championship after being in the PL. What is interesting here is the difference between the PL and Championship for teams that were already there.  Teams in the PL have more stability in their fielded players.

The graph above shows us that PL teams lose more players when they get relegated. But are the players they lose key first team players or mainly reserve players? To find out, we can look at the minutes played (as a proportion of possible minutes played) over the course of the season by players who eventually leave at the end of the season. To get a good understanding of what’s happening, we can do the same for players that end up leaving the subsequent season too.


This graph reveals that not only do teams that get relegated from the PL lose more players than if they stayed in the PL or teams already in the Championship, but it also shows that the players that leave tend to be key first team players that played a fair amount of the season. These changes come as a result of an average 10 new players for the relegated teams, versus 11 for teams already in the Championship.  For both sets of teams, the percentage of new players coming from a team that participated in the previous season’s Championship is similar, at around 25%.

We now turn to review the net spending of relegated teams, compared to teams already in the Championship. On average the relegated teams have bought around £23M worth of players in the season after relegation compared to only £7M by teams already in the second tier league. On being relegated, not surprisingly, relegated teams sold on average about £29M worth of players, which makes a negative average net spending of -£6M. Regarding net spending of the existing Championship teams, the average was around zero, i.e. they were spending as much buying as they were getting from selling players. This highlights the degree of the financial challenge relegated PL teams face.

Turning now to performance: Relegated teams have a 1 in 3 chance of being promoted straight back into the PL. According to our league table simulations this proportion was expected to be 27%, so the newly relegated teams seem to slightly over-perform in that sense. If we instead compare their finishing position in that first season to what we’d expect of them, then they actually under-perform: the average relegated team’s expected position in their first Championship season was 6th, the observed was only 9th. This is an interesting apparent contradiction.  It suggests that while many teams do well, others do very badly – thereby dragging the average league position down.

In terms of team strength, according to our team strength model, the overall strength of newly relegated teams tends to decline after a season by an average of 4.3%, compared to the teams’ strengths at the time of relegation.  This is a relatively modest change against the backdrop of such large changes in playing staff.  It should be noted however that for a team to be relegated in the first place their strength cannot have been especially impressive to start with.

In general we think the main message of the above analysis is that there seems to be an indisputable decline in strength after relegation to the Championship for a typical team. But at the same time there is a larger than expected number of teams that make it straight back to the PL and the actual team strength decline does not appear to be especially severe.  For the team itself the question of interest is whether they will be one of the third that makes it straight back and, if not, will they be one of the teams that drags down the average?

We attempted to answer this question by looking for correlations between the relegated teams and their subsequent performance.  We found that teams with higher spends managed to temper the team strength decline the most.  So, money does help.  We also found that teams that are able to keep more of their playing staff tend to finish in higher positions.  These findings are of course related.  The message is that keeping your squad as close to intact as possible is what the evidence suggests is the best move.


Champions League forecasts

Posted on September 17th, 2018   

The group stages of the Champions League is set to kick-off tomorrow.

A summary of our Champions League forecasts is shown below. The team most likely to win the competition is Barcelona (20.3%), with Bayern Munich (18.4%) and Real Madrid (16.1%) being the next most likely teams to win the competition.

Looking at the progression chances split by each group shows that all groups have at least one clear progression favourite, with >80% chance of progression to the round of 16. The fight for the second progression spot is toughest in Group E, where Benfica, AEK and Ajax are closely matched. Group F is also relatively competitive. Porto got very lucky with the group stage draw since they’re very likely to progress to the round of 16 (80.9% chance) despite only being in the bottom half of teams in terms of team strength. Napoli, on the other hand, got the short end of the stick since they’re the 15th best team in the competition but only have a 29.8% chance of going through to the round of 16.

Finally, forecasts for individual matches can be found below. Real Madrid vs Victoria Plzen is the most one-sided fixture in the group stage. From the big teams in the tournament, the Liverpool vs PSG fixtures are the most evenly matched.

It will be interesting to see how far Man City and Liverpool can carry the banner of English football on the European stage.

The world cup as seen through the lens of Twitter

Posted on July 16th, 2018   

The world cup is over. It’s been a thrilling month of exciting matches, great goals and surprises. Events like the world cup get discussed and mentioned a lot on Twitter. This allows us to determine which events sparked the most discussion, as well as establish which teams got the most positive response from the Twitterverse.

Let’s start by taking a look at the top moments of the World Cup. We measure this by looking at the moments that led to the most discussion on Twitter, so many will be heavily context dependent rather than noteworthy standalone moments. The top moments as far as the Twitter community was concerned were England getting knocked out of the World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick against Spain and England finally winning a match on Penalties. Other key moments are shown below.

We can also use sentiment analysis to find out which teams impressed people the most and which teams people were less pleased with.

France, Belgium and England lead the way for teams that people responded the most positively to. Croatia were 7th in comparison. The teams that people responded most negatively to were Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Argentina, Egypt, Poland and Germany. Spain and Portugal also received relatively poor responses overall.

There’s not much left to say on the World Cup, except congratulations to France! Not only did they win the world cup, but they did so in a manner that impressed the Twitterverse!

World Cup Final and third place play-off forecasts

Posted on July 12th, 2018   

The World Cup semi-finals are over. France and Croatia have progressed to the finals of this year’s World Cup.

Below are our predictions for the World Cup final and third place play-offs:




A World Cup of late goals, penalties, own goals and unexpected results?

Posted on July 11th, 2018   

The 2018 World Cup is drawing to a close. It’s been a very interesting and dramatic tournament to follow.

There has been a lot of discussion on how this World Cup stands out in terms of the nature of the goals scored. In particular, there is a lot of discussion around the increased number of penalty goals, own goals and late goals in the game. This begs the question: Are there really more of these types of goals and how do the own goal, penalty and late goal rate compared to the Premier League?

The graph below shows the distribution of goal times in a game. This World Cup, 14.3% of all goals scored were scored after the 90th minute! To provide some context, in the Premier League, only 5.1% of all goals are scored after the 90th minute.

The table below compares the goal rate this World Cup as well as the number and proportion of penalties, own goals and late goals.


The overall number of goals per match this World Cup is slightly lower than the 2014 World Cup, and around 10% lower that the average number of goals in a Premier League match. The distribution of types of goals is quite different to the Premier League, however. 16% of all goals this World Cup have been penalties (compared to the 6.8% observed in the Premier League), 20.5% of all goals have been own goals (compared to the 3.5% seen in the Premier League) and as stated earlier, there are 2.8 times as many goals scored after the 90th minute as we observe in the Premier League.

Several people have also commented on the number of apparent surprising results. For example, Germany getting knocked out of the Group Stage, Russia beating Spain, Belgium beating Brazil, etc. Has this World Cup really had more surprising results than previous ones? The graph below compares how unpredictable the results of the competition have been.

The number of unexpected results in this World Cup has been in line with the levels observed in previous World Cups, but more surprising than the Premier League. The World Cup with the most surprising results in the recent past is 2010 and the World Cup with the least surprising results has been in 2006.

It looks like this really is a World Cup of late goals, own goals and penalties, but the number of own goals is particularly remarkable. It wouldn’t surprise us if England – Croatia match tonight ends up being won by a 90th+ minute own goal or penalty!

Should England lose to Belgium?

Posted on June 28th, 2018   

England are going into their third and final match against Belgium this evening as favourites to with the match (38% chance of winning), but should they win it?


There has been much discussion in the past couple of days on the potential benefits of England finishing second in group G to have an easier run of fixtures in the knock-out stages of the competition.

If England finish second in the group, they have a 7.7% chance of winning the World Cup compared to only a 6.2% chance if they finish first (the calculations were run before the last set of group H fixtures were played, so the teams that finished first and second in group H are not known at the time of writing). This is largely due to the likely event of having to face Brazil in the Quarter finals if they progress to the round of 16 as top of group G rather than Sweden or Switzerland if they finish second in the group.

The full list of likely opponents for each stage of the competition can be found below.

Regardless of the result tonight, England fans can take comfort in knowing that they are guaranteed to go through to the round of 16. It will be interesting to see if they choose to do that by giving it all they’ve got or prefer to game the system and maximise their chances of winning the world cup.

Social media response to the England vs Panama match

Posted on June 25th, 2018   

England’s second game against Panama played out considerably better than their opening game against Tunisia. The graphs below show how Twitter responded during the course of the match.

Social media activity was at its highest just after Harry Kane scored his second penalty to make the score 5-0 shortly before half time, but the most positive comments came just after the Jesse Lingard long range goal.

Despite the response to Harry Kane’s second penalty goal against Panama being the strongest response that match, it still doesn’t match the response to his late winner against Tunisia.

The Panama match as a whole is now the most talked about match on Twitter, followed closely by the Argentina vs Croatia match.

Other key moments in the world cup that elicited strong responses on Twitter are Argentina’s 3-0 loss to Croatia and Toni Kroos’ spectacular 95th minute goal against Sweden to win the match.

World cup progression forecasts after second round of group stage matches

Posted on June 25th, 2018   

With the World Cup firmly underway, each team only has one match left to play in the group stage.

Brazil and Germany have the greatest likelihood of winning their respective 3rd round matches, each with a 73% chance whilst Croatia, Argentina, Spain and Colombia also have a reasonably high chance of victory. Japan’s game against Poland may prove to be the most entertaining with an average of 3.1 goals scored expected, and the result may decide who England play in the round of 16.

A couple of the groups have already been decided in terms of who is going through. Uruguay and Russia will progress from Group A whilst England and Belgium will follow from Group G. However, whilst Croatia are almost guaranteed to finish top of their group, both Nigeria and Argentina have a chance of making it through (Argentina’s chances are just over 50%).

As many people may guess anyway, Brazil are still the most likely winners of the whole tournament, with a 30.6% chance. However, this number is not particularly high, meaning that even though they’re the favourites to win the competition, it’s still more likely for them to not win it than for them to win it. Spain are the second most likely team to win it with a 16% chance.

Despite England’s 6 goals scored against Panama, they still rank only seventh in strength of attack. However, the fact that they have the third strongest defence makes them the fourth most likely team to win the tournament

Tunisia – England as seen through social media

Posted on June 19th, 2018   

Social media platforms such as Twitter are a common outlet for discussion about the World Cup. The patterns and nature of the social media content can tell us a lot about how people respond to different teams and events in the World Cup.

The number mentions of “#WorldCup” spike every time an interesting event occurs at the World cup. The size of the peaks provide an indication of the events that most sparked discussion on Twitter. Harry Kane’s winning goal from last night is the 5th most discussed World Cup event on Twitter, after 3 goals from the Portugal vs Spain match and the final whistle sealing Germany’s loss in their opening game against Mexico.

We can home in on how Twitter responded to the England Tunisia game. The graph below shows how the twitter activity volumes of tweets mentioning the England and Tunisia evolved through the course of last night’s game.

England was mentioned most often immediately following the Harry Kane goals, with his second goal eliciting a stronger response than the first. Similarly Tunisia mentions were highest immediately following their goal. The responses to non-goal events such as Sterling and Lingard’s missed opportunities can also be seen in the graph.

Sentiment analysis on these tweets reveals that England fans were getting increasingly unhappy with the team over the course of the game until Harry Kane’s late winner brought comment sentiment polarity back up to a level slightly higher than pre-match levels.

Overall, the England vs Tunisia game was the third most discussed match of the World Cup. It will be interesting to see how Twitter will respond to England’s other group stage fixtures.

England’s prospects for the World Cup

Posted on June 18th, 2018   

Tonight is England’s first match in the 2018 World Cup. England are heading into it as strong favourites to win the match, but the past couple of days have seen several competition favourites fail to win their opening matches. These events serve as a good reminder that being a stronger team is far from a guarantee of victory in a match, particularly over 90 minutes of football. England’s chance of winning tonight is just over 59%, with a 27% chance of a draw and a 14% chance of Tunisia winning.

Their overall group prospects are fairly good. They have a 43% chance of finishing first, 37% of finishing second and only a 20% chance of getting knocked out. 

England’s chances of making it to the final are 11.7%, with a 5.2% chance of winning the competition. This means that there is a higher chance of England not making it past the group stage than there is of England making it to the World Cup final.

Interestingly, the England team is currently the most defensive we’ve seen in over a decade. England’s defence has been steadily improving over the past 7 years, while their attack has been declining. They are currently the 3rd best team in defence, but only 11th best team in attack. This makes them the 5th best team overall.

Their overall chance of winning the competition this year is higher than it was last World Cup, but it’s not as high as it was for the 2006 or 2010 World Cups. Having said that, England’s previous teams were certainly underachievers relative to their team strength. Let’s see if this squad can live up to their potential.