Premier League Projection Comparisons: Me, Bloomberg and the Bookies

Jamie McDonald

I've been running Premier League projections for nine weeks. But I'm not the only one playing this game. Bloomberg Sports Analytics have their own projection engine, and the major bookies are doing something similar when they set the odds. Let's take a look.

At the beginning of the season, I took a quick look at Bloomberg Sports Proactive Synergy's EPL Projections. I found that their projections and my preseason projections diverged in a couple of important places.

  • They thought the top three clubs in the EPL (Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United) were significantly better than everyone else. All three were projected to 80 or more points.
  • I placed Manchester City clear at the top with a projected 78 points, then a reasonable gap down to a close race 2nd to 6th.
  • They had Arsenal safely in fourth with a gap down to Spurs and Liverpool, while I had that tight mix from 2nd to 6th. So I had Arsenal closer in quality both to Chesea and United (above Arsenal in the Bloomberg table) and to Liverpool and Spurs (below per Bloomberg.)
  • I rated Swansea City and Southampton better than the rest of the mid-table, while they had no real differentiation 8th to 14th or so. They also liked Aston Villa more than I did, I liked Norwich more.

So far, I feel pretty good about that. The race at the top of the table looks as tight as I thought, though obviously there's more than time for the big boys to pull away and vindicate Bloomberg. We both had the same relegation story with Crystal Palace and Hull City looking likely to go back down, and Cardiff City fighting Stoke City and Sunderland for the last relegation place. I had Aston Villa down in that relegation fight, while they had Norwich City there. That looks like a point to Bloomberg, and we may both have missed low on Hull. I'm still betting on City despite their relatively slow start.

One thing I did not look at early in the season were the bookie projections. Betting houses do not make public the underlying projection numbers they use to set their betting lines, but we can extrapolate from those lines what the project. So this time around, I'm also looking at the bookie consensus in my comparisons.

Projected Odds Compared

I'm looking here at odds of winning the title, odds of finishing top four and odds of being relegated. My numbers are from my most recent projections. Bloomberg's come from their projected tables page, and the bookie odds are the average of all the sites listed at Odds Checker. Clubs are listed in order of their current position in the table.

Bloomberg Bookies MCofA
Club Title% Top 4% Rel% Title% Top 4% Rel% Title% Top 4% Rel%
Arsenal 17% 80% 0% 16% 73% 0% 21% 71% 0%
Chelsea 50% 95% 0% 30% 84% 0% 21% 71% 0%
Liverpool 3% 38% 0% 11% 45% 0% 12% 55% 0%
Tottenham Hotspur 2% 32% 0% 5% 40% 0% 11% 54% 0%
Southampton 0.5% 4% 1% 0% 3% 0.5% 1% 12% 0%
Everton 0.5% 8% 0% 1% 11% 0% 4% 32% 0%
Manchester City 20% 82% 0% 27% 82% 0% 28% 78% 0%
Manchester United 8% 62% 0% 9% 58% 0% 2% 22% 0%
Swansea City 0% 0.5% 4% 0% 1% 3% 0% 4% 0%
Hull City 0% 0% 29% 0% 0% 28% 0% 0% 18%
Newcastle 0% 0% 6% 0% 0.5% 10% 0% 0% 5%
West Bromwich Albion 0% 0% 9% 0% 0.5% 8% 0% 0% 3%
Aston Villa 0% 0% 7% 0% 0.5% 7% 0% 0.5% 2%
Fuham 0% 0% 15% 0% 0% 21% 0% 0% 40%
West Ham United 0% 0% 8% 0% 0% 10% 0% 0% 10%
Cardiff City 0% 0% 25% 0% 0% 30% 0% 0% 37%
Stoke City 0% 0% 27% 0% 0% 19% 0% 0% 11%
Norwich City 0% 0% 31% 0% 0% 25% 0% 0% 12%
Sunderland 0% 0% 53% 0% 0% 54% 0% 0% 74%
Crystal Palace 0% 0% 86% 0% 0% 85% 0% 0% 88%

  • My numbers have bailed out on Manchester United while the bookies and Bloomberg have not. I feel like the truth is probably somewhere in the middle here. United had pretty blah underlying stats last year, for a title winner. Whatever caused them to convert chances at such a high rate, whether a fit Robin van Persie or Alex Ferguson being a goddam wizard, that skill seems to have fallen away this year. So I had Manchester United as more of a top four contender than an elite title contender preseason, and that's part of the difference now. However, it also appears that I'm counting 2013-2014 season performance more heavily than the other guys, and in that I fear I've jumped the gun.
  • Bloomberg really, really loves Chelsea. They think you should go sink money on a Chelsea title win at the best odds you can find. I'm not sure exactly why this is, but they loved Chelsea in the preseason, projecting them to 82 points. If anything they're doubling down on Mou's boys, now projecting an 83 point season. This will be an interesting one to watch. I figure that the difference here is that Bloomberg uses player and manager ratings in putting together their team ratings, and so I'm guessing they rate highly all that expensive talent and they really like Jose Mourinho. Chelsea will be a fun case study in the utility of Bloomberg's underlying numbers.
  • Spurs and Liverpool are interesting. Bloomberg didn't buy them at the beginning of the season, and nothing has really changed. The bookies have bought into Liverpool about as much as my numbers have, but they're still skeptical of Tottenham. I have both Spurs and Liverpool as solid top four contenders and outside title contenders. That's a summary of the data you can see above because I'm not entirely sure what's causing this. It's interesting. That is all.
  • My really big divergences are Everton and Southampton. I think the little guys stand a chance at making a run. I have been extremely impressed, subjectively, with both sides so far. That doesn't play any role in my numbers, but it does make me feel less scared that I've gone too far out on a limb for some long shots. I am out on a limb, though.
  • I think it's notable that both Bloomberg and the bookies think the race for safety from relegation is much more wide open than I do. I have Fulham and Cardiff pretty clearly as the 3rd and 4th worst teams in the league, while the bookies and Bloomberg have them more in a pack with Norwich, Stoke and Hull. I'm not sure how I feel about rating Norwich and Stoke as relatively safe right now, but I am confident in that Fulham rating. They've been terrible, and I think the arrangement of talent in that squad is 100% all wrong for a relegation battle. They'll fire Jol, but I don't know if any new manager can fix a tremendously old and defensively limited roster. Fulham's average age of outfield players is 29.2, no other club in the EPL has an average age over 28.
  • Lennon's Eyebrow had it right the very first week. Crystal Palace are getting relegated.

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