Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Can Wigan's Fat Tail Save Them Again ?

Last night's victory for City in the Manchester derby is unlikely to materially alter the destination of this year's Premiership title, so aside from the FA Cup, Premiership watchers will only have the relegation fight and European qualification to occupy their thoughts in the remaining months of the season.

Few outside of the Potteries will be too upset to see Stoke fall back into the Championship. Finally bereft of Delap's prodigious long throw and seemingly unable to keep a fully fit and favoured group of cross supplying wingers on the pitch, Pulis' difficult second album may prove to be his swansong. Their niche tactical position has not survived the inevitable churning of playing personnel and a requirement to play in a more conventional Premiership style has seen their points total becalmed in the mid 30's since January.

Heading For The Championship?
Simon Gleave over at Infostrada has pioneered a very effective comparison method for season on season performance which looks at a side's record in like for like matches across the present and previous seasons. Relegated sides are replaced by the equivalent promoted side from the Championship. So for any nervous Stoke fans it is perhaps slightly comforting to know that in like for like matches this season, Stoke have dropped but one point compared to last term.

Looking at the ISG coefficients, perhaps interesting to note that Stoke have only one point fewer than last season.

To further rattle the nerves of any Potter, I've plotted the frequency at which Stoke and Wigan, one of their main rivals for the final drop spot, turn six game sequences into points over each side's tenure in the top flight over the last 10 seasons. Stoke's most frequent outcome is a point a game and overall both sides have averaged similar end of season totals. Wigan, however possess particularly fat right and left hand tails, indicating a record of abject runs, mixed with Champions League contending sequences.

Whether this is a repeatable trait or as seems more likely, just random fluctuation that could appear among the late season records of any of the currently struggling teams, it does highlight the risks inherent in leaving yourself vulnerable over a small number of games. (The risk is increased for Wigan's rivals because cup commitments has also left the Latics with a game in hand over most of the relegation pack).

Fat tails, as the financial sector has discovered can herald very nasty surprises. Wigan will be looking to a repeat of their right hand tail heroics for another reprieve, while Stoke will be eyeing the opposite side of the graph and also hoping for a points haul not too distant from their "like for like" performances over the season to date to stabilize an ever decreasing gap between themselves and their north western rivals.

But the long run has mostly gone this season and anyone still fighting for survival will have to pitch their own talent levels against not inconsiderable doses of random chance. Neutrals alone, should enjoy the ride.

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