Predicting the future from past results: a losing battle

8 mins read

This article is being written while the Super Bowl is playing on a screen in front of me.

Other than being mesmerised by Wes Welker’s perfect moustache, I am realizing that previous results mean little in predicting a winner. The battle between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants proves predicting winners is a hard job.

While New York is in the Super Bowl, it appeared in Week 10 that, at least to a neutral observer, the NFC champion would be Green Bay and the AFCwould be in the hands of Baltimore or New England.

The difficulty of predicting results has been proven this season in the Premier League with a variety of odd results occurring every week.The last week of Premier League football has had some odd results. Arsenal (12-4-8) finally kick-started their season with a 7-1 win over Blackburn (4-6-14). This was just three days after they had been held to a boring draw at Bolton (6-2-16). Arsenal lost early in the season to Manchester United (17-4-3) 6-2 at Old Trafford but only lost 2-1 at home two weeks ago. Arsenal had previously lost to Fulham (6-9-9), Swansea (7-9-8) and Blackburn. These are teams they would be expected to beat.

However, despite this poor form against lower teams, Arsenal is one of the two remaining English clubs in the Champions League having won their group that included Marseille and Borussia Dortmund.

Arsenal is just one of the teams this season that is so hard to predict. There are teams that are underperforming incredibly and overperforming to the point that it seems ridiculous. Contenders for manager of the season have to be Alan Pardew, Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert.

Each of these managers has managed to far exceed his original expectations for the season. Pardew has Newcastle in contention for a place in the Champions League next season and he has managed to do this with the money from the Andy Carroll deal last January.

The Carroll deal has been the best thing for Newcastle and the worst thing for Liverpool. This deal gave Newcastle £35 million to spend on players that include their current top performers Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba. This team has now gone from being in the Championship two years ago and mediocre in the Premiership last year to a strong European contender.

Though this form may not continue on to next season, the team has reached a higher level than anyone ever expected this season.

But really, this is the position that Newcastle should be in, given their stature and attendance every home game.

Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert have brought their teams up from the Championship and made them into Premiership mid-table teams. Paul Lambert has taken Norwich to two successive promotions coming from League 1 to the Premiership in two years. Lambert has taken many of the same players with him through both promotions including current joint top scorer Grant Holt. Holt had previously been a lower league striker moving from Shrewsbury to Norwich in 2008 for only $600,000 and this January was the subject of a multi million pound transfer bid from Scottish Champions Rangers. Their big signing to accompany their promotion to the Premiership was the acquisition of Steve Morrison from Millwall. This was never going to be the sort of big money signing that QPR made over the summer to help achieve Premier League survival.

Norwich is in the top half of the table over halfway through the season while QPR are just above the relegation zone. Lambert has managed the players that he acquired in League 1 and the Championship to mid table in the Premier League.

The best manager in the Premier League this season is not going to be whoever wins the league but Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has Swansea playing pass-and-move football that is only rivalled in England by Arsenal. Usually teams that come up from the Championship play more physical football and go straight back down again.

This year, both Norwich and Swansea have gone against this stereotype. But Swansea has done something great: they beat Arsenal at its own game. By beating Arsenal 3-2 while playing a passing game very similar to the North London side, it has proven that attractive football is possible for recently promoted teams. The Telegraph in the UK published an article that gave statistics for Swansea’s passing game after playing Arsenal. It shows that Leon Britton is currently one of the most accurate passers in Europe (but he has passed less than Xavi) and that Swansea was the third-best passer in the Premier League after Arsenal and high-spending Manchester City. Swansea may have had a rough start to life in the Premier League but is currently mid table and playing beautiful and effective football to maintain its position.

Predicting positions at the beginning of the season is an impossible task and now it seems as if there is a large upset every week. Arsenal has been a perfect example of how a team can either over perform or underperform on a weekly basis. Their results show a lack of consistency that surely makes most fans frustrated.

Predictions on a weekly basis are hard but predicting across a season is nearly impossible. The BBC’s chief Football writer predicted that Swansea would finish in 19th, Norwich in 17th and Newcastle in 15th. While the season is not over, it would need a strange series of results for this prediction to come true.

Either this shows that professional sports writers and fans have no idea about football or that Pardew, Lambert and Rodgers have done incredible work in placing their teams far above expectations.

James is a sophomore. He can be reached at jivey1@swarthmore.edu.

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