For the 2014/15 Premier League season, based on the relative ELO rankings, the simulations indicated an easy top four finish for Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. There was a four way scramble for fourth, with Arsenal having the edge. Manchester City were clear favorite to win the league with Chelsea a reasonably strong second.
With ten gameweeks played, how things have changed.
To find out the answers, simodds.com has simulated the tournament a few hundred thousand times.
After Gameweek 10, the odds of Chelsea finishing first are 81%, while Manchester City’s odds of lifting the trophy are at 19%.
Given their strong start to the season, there’s no surprise that Chelsea is the favorite to win the Premier League as well as a sure bet to finish in the top four. It is however perhaps surprising how likely they are to win the league. There are two reasons for this. One, they have a full six point lead over their nearest rival (in terms of strength. Southampton are closer in points. More on them soon). Two, Chelsea’s ELO rating was 1921 at the start of the season and is 1937 now. Manchester City’s rating was 1959 at the start of the season and is 1912 now.
Although after ten rounds the simulation predicts a two horse race for the top, the top four battle has expanded. Nine teams are now in the running. Chelsea and Manchester City are locks. I’ve had the sense that Arsenal has been a disappointment to many supporters this season. Their ELO rating has declined from 1849 to 1826, which might confirm that feeling. However, the pre-season simulation predicted almost no chance of Arsenal winning the league, so any expectations of a top finish were likely unrealistic. Despite only a small of winning the league, Arsenal’s odds of finishing top four have climbed from 53% to 83%. Combine this with Arsenal’s near certain advancement from the UEFA Champions League group stages and the season has to be seen as a relative success so far.
If Arsenal has improved their odds even with a declining ELO rating, that means other teams have performed poorly. Apologies in advance to fans of Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham.
Liverpool started the season with a 13% chance of winning the league and an 89% chance of a top four finish. They now have a 0% chance of winning the league and a 46% chance of top four. What has happened? We all know that Suarez left, Sturridge has been injured, and practically one half of a new team arrived in the summer. Liverpool’s ratings have dropped from 1899 to 1810. They have had the poorest performance, relative to the rating at the end of last season, of any team in English football. These ratings can’t tell you whether the cause is Suarez, Sturridge, Ballotelli, Lovren, Lallana, or Rodgers. It can tell you that Liverpool is showing every indication of declining to a new, and much lower, performance level. It will be very interesting to see what happens when Sturridge gets back.
Manchester United decided, before the season began, that the 1% likelihood of winning the Premier League (as calculated by Simodds) was too low. So they transferred, or received on loan, superb attacking talent. Unfortunately, they also seem to have forgotten the center of defense and have had a horrific run of injuries. The outcome? A decline in the odds of a top four finish from 35% to 27%. More worryingly, their odds of finishing top seven have declined from 98% to 85%. One suspects that, assuming their injury situation resolves, Manchester United will be better than this the remainder of the season. Their ELO rating has declined from 1843 to 1789.
Before Tottenham sold Gareth Bale, their ELO rating was 1825. Now their rating is 1725. At the start of this season, they were at 1772. Now at 1725. Odds of finishing top four have declined from 10% to 5%. They have been saved from near 0% odds only because so many of their nearest competitors have also been poor. There is no reason, at this time, to expect a significant turnaround and Tottenham looks to be fighting for a Europa League place.
Everton has underperformed expectations as well (1811 to 1776). However, they were always seen as unlikely top four candidates so the effect on their odds has not been as noticeable.
Besides Chelsea, all the pre-season top seven have declined in ELO ratings. No wonder there have been articles on the decline of the Premier League!
So how about some good news? Southampton and West Ham have both exceeded expectations and have climbed into the top four conversation.
Southampton’s transfer window was insane. Many players from last season’s successful side (8th, 56 pts) left, seemingly all at once. I enjoyed watching the side last season and feared the worst. Instead, they have continued their remarkable improvement, with their ELO rating climbing from 1684 to 1721. Also, they happen to be in second place with 22 points. Their odds of finishing top four have climbed from ~0% to 17.1% and of finishing top seven from 11% to 75%. Reason for optimism? A very successful year so far against many pre-season prognostications. Reason for pessimism? They have lost against the only teams they have faced from last season’s top seven. Coming up, Leicester and Aston Villa, followed by Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United with Everton and Chelsea soon to follow. If Southampton can come out of fixtures against last season’s top seven with a couple of wins their odds will jump.
West Ham have improved from 1617 to 1648. They sit in fifth place, tied with Arsenal. However, their ratings are still too low to make any major mark upon the top four. Early indications are that, despite a great run, this is more likely luck than a permanently higher plateau. This is most evident when looking at the odds of a top seven finish. West Ham’s odds are 11.64%, compared to Tottenham’s at 48.84% or Everton’s at 80%. Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United, and Everton are all predicted to finish higher up the table than West Ham despite being below them currently. The same applies to Swansea City, incidentally.