Sunday, September 13, 2009

What to Expect from this Blog in the Near Future

Now that we're winding down from the World Cup qualification craziness and I have a lot of new readers, I want to give a quick description of what you should expect for the next few weeks.

Here are articles coming down the pipeline:

- a CONMEBOL update after the matches last week. I apologize for not having written that earlier. I also will write an article discussing qualifying from Africa.

- more in the series on goal differential and points (see 1 and 2). The next article will discuss whether the data suggests that some teams use their goals more efficiently than others by performing better than similarly skilled teams in important situations or if it just comes down to luck. I will then write an article where I look at managers and whether there is evidence that some are better than others in important situations, meaning they will outperform what their goal differential would suggest.

- more in-depth work on modeling and predictions. I want to study the Poisson model in depth before considering alternatives. The reason for that is that it very easy to implement since it only uses aggregate data. I'll look into altering it while keeping the main structure in place so that I can quickly look at any league or competition and make sound predictions. At some point I'll introduce an alternative model that uses individual-match data. I suspect that it will be an improvement over the Poisson model, though more cumbersome.

I will attempt to address these questions:
- How much do match stats like time of possession, corners, fouls and bookings correlate with goal differential? I will also discuss whether we can conclude that a causal relationship exists for each.

- Do scoring-oriented or defensive teams do well in the Champions League and domestic cups? Conventional wisdom says defense wins championships in any sort of football it seems. I'll look at this claim.

- What is the effect of the timing of goals on the match outcome? Are goals scored at the end of the half more valuable for psychological reasons? Again, conventional wisdom says yes. We'll see what the data says.

- How does the score affect the likelihood of a goal for either team? Teams that are behind tend to attack more and those ahead are more careful defensively. The flip side of that is that the team that is behind is more vulnerable defensively, but the team that is ahead is less eager to throw it forward. How this all impacts scoring rates isn't clear because the effects run in opposite directions.

- How well do the results from one season correspond with those from the next? Can results from the past be used to predict the current season? I will also look at this for teams that have been promoted or relegated, though that seems more tricky.

Further on up the Road

My overall plan is to work on the modeling stuff now while the seasons are young in most leagues. Once they have played enough matches for there to be sufficient data, I'll apply the best model I have to make predictions. The timing was unfortunate in that the World Cup qualifiers went off just after I started this blog so I had to use the basic Poisson model for the predictions without having properly analyzed it. By the time October 10th comes around I'll hopefully have an improved model to work with. In general I think it will be pretty standard for me to work on improving the models or at least assess how well they're doing but use the best one available to make predictions, even if it is not completely perfect. Over time the predictions should become better and better.

Once the leagues have played enough, I'll write weekly articles about the biggest leagues and frankly any league that you readers would like me to discuss. These articles will be pretty similar to what you saw last week with World Cup qualifying.

Comments and Suggestions

Once again I want to plea for your comments and suggestions. The above is a partial list of topics I have in mind to write about. I'm open to looking at other things and have no schedule in mind for when I will write what. If you really want to read about a subject I mentioned above or one doesn't seem interesting at all, add a comment to let me know and I'll take that into consideration when deciding what to write about next.

I'd also love any feedback on the blog in general. Do you like the types of articles I write? Hate them? What about the overall style of the blog? Anything you have to say, positive or negative, would be greatly appreciated.


  1. Jared, I'm really enjoying your work. Keep it up.

  2. Hi Jared! A friend of mine suggested that I take a look at your blog, and it looks really cool. This is the time during the 4-year World Cup cycle that the anticipation starts to build, so I'll be tuning in quite a bit.

    Looking forward to reading your archived posts!

  3. Good work man. Looks like a lot of stuff to digest here, but what I have read so far is pretty interesting. I don't have too many suggestions to make in terms of club football, as I primarily pay attention to World Cup and other country-team competitions, with some UEFA Champions League thrown in, but I am looking forward to seeing your findings on managers, defensive football, and the other match statistics you mentioned and their correlation with winning/goal differential.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys!

    Now that the World Cup qualification is on hiatus, I'll slow things down and bit. I should still put out about an article a day or so for the next stretch but then it will pick back up with World Cup qualification and once I feel like there's enough data on the leagues.