Learning Lessons From Newcastle's 2011-2012 Season
NFL and football fan. I've seen my two favourite sides, Stoke and the San Diego Chargers play at the new Wembley....and both lost.
West Brom are off to an impressive start in season 2012-2013. Will they be able to sustain their performance much like Newcastle of last season? Today on the blog, Mark Taylor considers over-performance of Premier League clubs and offers some things to keep in mind when following a hot club.
One of the English Premiership's major stories last season was Newcastle United's bold, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break into the top four on the back of a high energy pressing game and no little skill and goal scoring flair.
The exploits of Cisse and Ba in particular provided a steady stream of goals, resulting in 19 wins and a hefty level stakes profit to anyone who latched onto their improvement from the previous year when they finished 12th.
Defying The Odds
So as well as delighting their fans they appeared to be the ideal betting vehicle, stringing six consecutive victories together late on in the season whilst staying just ahead of the bookmakers reassessment of their abilities.
Even punters who boarded the train late and caught the full brunt of their worst winless run of the season still ended the season in profit to level stakes. Defeat at the hands of Manchester City after 12 games heralded a six game winless streak that ended with another defeat inflicted by WBA and yielded just two draws, but Newcastle still overcame this setback faced by betting latecomers, with a strong second half of the year.
The essence of betting is to use past events as a means of predicting, with reasonable accuracy, future ones and those who rode the Newcastle bandwagon to such good effect last year will no doubt be looking to that profitable experience for useful strategies to use this term.
However, as we shall see Newcastle’s 2011/12 season should be viewed as a cautionary, rather than celebratory tale for those hoping for a repeat performance from a similarly unfashionable team.
Outstandingly good results will always attract a disproportionately large amount of media attention. If a perennial mid table side suffers a season slump, it is often no more than people expect. But when a make weight becomes a contender for European places and maintains the push then the story is much more newsworthy.
So we first have to see how common this type of performance is in the current Premiership and just as importantly if it can be spotted early.
WBA have enjoyed a similar start this season, over performing against all expectations as they hang onto the coat tails of the established big three and post a healthy return on investment to levels stakes win betting. As we enter the international break, the Baggies can claim to be this season’s reincarnation of Newcastle.
However, despite the apparent similarities between the two sides, the end of year outcome for the team from the West Midlands is unlikely to mirror that of Newcastle. Over the last five seasons, 44 teams were showing a level stakes profit after seven games, but just 14 managed to maintain a profit over the remaining 31 matches and in the majority of cases the return was vastly reduced.
The picture is slightly worse even if we demand that a team has over performed for a longer period. Half season, level stakes winning teams again numbered 44, but just 12 broke even or better in the second half of the year and again those which did showed a depleted return to level stakes.
It is undoubtedly enticing to look for a betting vehicle similar to Newcastle from 2011/12, but they appear to be the exception rather than the rule and the reasons for their rarity is most likely twofold.
Explaining Over Performance
Better than expected performances, especially over relatively short periods of time may be partly down to good fortune, such as a fortuitous penalty award or an advantageous distribution of goals resulting in few consolation strikes and lots of match winners. Future matches may not benefit from this happy randomness and teams may continue to produce good results, but on average they won’t hit the very heights that they previously enjoyed.
Regression towards the mean is present in every measurement. Taller than average parents tend to have children who are also tall, but not as tall as their parents and in football, strikers on a hot run inevitably become less prolific and teams that have shown rapid improvement on average tend to tail off.
Conversely, the very worst of teams often show slight signs of improvement. So for all teams, the mean of performance eventually becomes an irresistible attraction.
Assessing The Betting Value
If you are betting on a team to maintain an unexpectedly good start, you are taking on a force of nature as well as the soundness of your own judgement.
The second obstacle is that individual bookmakers have the option to use their overround to adjust the prices of teams which have become popular whilst on an extended run. In the case of Newcastle, they were among the of minority of teams which were able to maintain a run that usually falls to earth, although two particularly unexpected wins over Manchester United and away at Chelsea when Cisse scored “that” goal provided the lion’s share of the profit.
Tellingly, the Toon certainly saw their prices squeezed in the latter half of the year. If we look at the true win odds for Newcastle against teams in the run up to Christmas and then again in the corresponding rematch, we find that in 14 of the 19 rematches Newcastle’s odds were shorter than you would have expected if a change in venue was the only factor that was being accounted for. The bookmakers certainly saw Newcastle as a team to be wary of, even to the point of being over cautious.
Regression towards the mean and aggressive pricing are two factors that have a huge effect on the process of football prediction. So before you nail your colours to WBA, bear in mind that fewer teams can maintain unexpectedly high levels of performance compared to those which fall partly to earth.
And even if you do manage to pick one of the few teams with staying power, the bookmakers will have room to manoeuvre on prices.
Read more of Mark's work on his The Power Of Goals blog
And follow Mark of Twitter: @MarkTaylor0
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Looking forward to your next blog entry and hopefully see the pointers of a few investment. Thanks Mark, until next time.
Spotting springers in the market is a enticing aim, but very difficult to do in practice. The optimum number of games you need to decide if a team's improvement is real is around 30+, so the good starts enjoyed by Everton and WBA may simply be down to individual pieces of good fortune and a lot of their profit will already be banked.
Every season or so at least one of the established Big four go five consecutive league games without managing a win. Essentially relegation form, either side of these runs they always return to the usual top four form. So again this shows that atypically good or bad runs can come along by chance over short periods of games.
We could decide that Newcastle's improvement was down to the purchase of Cisse and Ba. However, Newcastle actually scored the same number of goals the previous year when they finished seven places lower. Their improvement was as much down to them avoiding draws and conceding their goals in uneven clumps. 18 came in just four matches.
Backing teams who were destined to finish between fifth and 10th was a profitable strategy in the early to mid 2000's but as fallen giants such as Liverpool have dropped into this part of the table the profit window has quickly closed in recent years.
The most profitable team to level stakes in the EPL last year was actually Wigan, but they made all of their gains on the back of late season wins against Liverpool, ManU and Arsenal,in other words isolated shock wins rather than consistent overachieving. So again we are back to the situation where profit is driven as much by random events as it is by reproducible skill.
The best general pointer I can give is that of the 37 teams which showed a level stakes profit to all games over the last five years, 12 of them ended up as a top three side. Small but consistent gains are to be had by following the very best, but for more spectacular profits you need to be lucky as well as informed.
I'll post the five year return on investment records of the current EPL sides in this post later in the week. So check back and we'll see if there are any possible pointers to who may be this year's Newcastle.
In your opinion, who will be doing a Newcastle for this season? or better yet, is there value in finding a team like Swansea City from last season?
I guess doing a Newcastle is all about getting the defense right, finding the right strikers to score in consecutive games and also defying the odds.