Friday 26 August 2016

48 Games into the Championship.

The Championship may be only four match days old, but granular data on the state of the teams is beginning to pile up.

Over 1,000 goal attempts have been made, 300 plus of which required the keeper to try to at least make a save and Shane Duffy has already scored three league goals, although none for his actual employers.

Prediction is a constant balancing act between using recent data and larger samples that inevitably contain information from previous seasons, when a side may have had a very different lineup.

Huddersfield currently sit top of the Championship, while Newcastle, the short priced preseason favourites are closer to the relegation zone, from a points perspective than they are to the top of the pile.

The betting markets do not expect this situation to remain and Newcastle still head the market and the current leaders are given around a 4% chance of remaining in their current elevated position.

Fans of Huddersfield will no doubt relish their current position and perhaps dream that they are deserved pacesetters at this early stage, much as Crystal Palace. Swansea, Leicester supporters did in the early 2015/16 Premier league.

So is there any useful information to be gained from a sample size of just four games?

Many will be familiar with the idea that individual matches are rife with luck and looking at the process of chance creation, rather than just the relatively infrequent outcomes can be more predictive.

Huddersfield currently has a goal difference of +3, the smallest possible differential when acquiring 10 points from four matches and they have won each of their three victories by the margin of a single goal.

They've taken just slightly more attempts than they've faced and expected goals, based on shot type and position suggest that they might score, on average 4.5 goals and allow 5.5 from such chances.

They have a negative expected goal difference after four matches, that is only the 16th best record this season.

Small numbers of matches can also have very different strengths of schedules for different sides and Huddersfield has played a reasonably taxing first four games against relegated teams, Villa and Newcastle, along with Barnsley and Brentford.

Using interlocking collateral form of all 24 sides and their expected goal differential from Opta sourced data, the solutions that describe the events of the 48 games to date, place Huddersfield as the 12th best team in terms of strength of schedule corrected expected goals.

Newcastle are second under this approach, behind only Brighton.

All three promoted teams are comfortable inside the top 10, along with the likes of Wolves, Fulham, Derby, QPR and perhaps surprisingly, Reading.

Blackburn prop up whichever approach you use, with Nottingham Forest and Birmingham enjoying more elevated league positions than their shooting and schedule perhaps merits.

It's early days for the 24 team league and Huddersfield fans should perhaps screen capture for posterity this early incarnation.

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