By Andrew Puopolo
Tomorrow night, Arsenal and Leicester City kick off the 25th season of the English Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. Every summer, the vast majority of media attention focuses on the six biggest clubs, and this summer has been no different. Manchester City have bought every expensive goalie and defender under the sun; Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have all signed expensive new starting strikers; Liverpool have signed Mohamed Salah from AS Roma and Tottenham Hotspur have done nothing besides sell Kyle Walker. Every day it seems there is some expert trying to predict the exact permutation of where those six teams will finish, an exercise that is likely futile as so much can happen during a season with injuries. Almost no one predicted Chelsea would win the title last season, let alone with such ease.
However, a main thrill of watching the Premier League is following what happens towards the bottom end of the table. Relegation battles are often very tense and have so much at stake. Every season, three new teams are promoted to the Premier League and add a different flavor to the league. In years past the Premier League has been treated to the likes of free spending Queens Park Rangers, audacious Blackpool, tenacious Bournemouth as well as teams that have since become Premier League regulars, like Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham United.
This year the three promoted teams share very different profiles. Leading the way is Newcastle United, a big club in the Northeast of England whose legends boast the likes of Premier League all time leading scorer Alan Shearer and play their home matches at 52,400 seat St. James’ Park. Coming up straight behind them after an epic final day title battle is Brighton and Hove Albion. Albion play on the south coast of England in the historic seaside city of Brighton at the 30,000 seat American Express Community Stadium, which opened in 2011. Brighton last played a top flight season in 1982/83, when they were relegated and lost in the FA Cup Final replay 4-0 to Manchester United (2-2 draw in first game). They’ve since been down to the fourth division (and almost beyond) and back. The last promoted team is Huddersfield Town, who were Champions of England three consecutive years from 1923-1925 but have not played a top flight season since 1972. They were promoted after winning successive penalty shootouts against Sheffield Wednesday and Reading in the Championship Playoffs.
I decided to build a model to determine what each of these three teams’ chances are of avoiding relegation this season. To do this, I conducted a logistic regression based on many different variables of each club promoted to the Premier League since 1992. To be as complete as possible, I took data on almost any possible data I could think of that might have an effect of teams staying up. However, since reliable transfer data is very difficult to get a hold of, I did not include transfer spending in the summer leading into the Premier League. The variables I decided to use in my initial regression were:
– Finishing position in the previous seasons’ Championship
– Points in the previous seasons’ Championship
– Whether the team came up through the playoffs
– Whether the team entered the Championship from the first or third tier
– Bounce back (teams relegated from Premier League previous year)
– Honeymoon (first top flight season in over 30 years)
– Familiarity (had spent at least one season in Premier League in previous 6 years, but not a bounce back team)
– Stadium Size (in thousands)
– Location (North, South, Midlands, London)
– Whether or not the club is a “big club” *
In addition, I also took interactions of all these variables with Championship points to see if there was hidden correlation. After running my logistic regression (R output at bottom of article), I found that the following three variables were statistically significant at the 10% level.
– Interaction between points and whether the team were promoted from the third tier
– Interaction between points and bounce back
– Interaction between points and big club
For this years crop of teams, Newcastle are considered both a “big club” and bounced back from the Premier League, while Brighton and Huddersfield entered the Championship from the third tier. Our logistic regression gives the following probabilities of staying up.
These probabilities seem pretty reasonable, however the main flaw with this model is that all teams that do not hit any of the binary variables above have a 26% chance of staying up. To show the plausibility of this model, here is what the model predicts for the last 15 teams to be promoted from the Championship and if they stayed up or not.
This season seems sure to provide excitement at the top and bottom of the Premier League, and these three teams will be fighting for their lives right up until the very end. Be sure to tune in!
Editors Note: If you have have any questions about this article for Andrew, please feel free to reach out at email@example.com
*The designation of big club was somewhat arbitrarily chosen based on my view of the stature of promoted clubs. For this analysis, the teams included were West Ham United, Newcastle United, Sunderland, Derby County, Portsmouth, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest