Tottenham Hotspur Projections: The difficult road ahead

Clive Rose

I have been doing these game preview pieces that always feel like I'm just saying obvious stuff. Spurs 70% to beat Hull, 50% to beat Aston Villa. So I wrote a script to create (hopefully) more interesting numbers on our next several matches. Spoiler: These matches will be hard.

This Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur travel to the side of the River Mersey and Goodison Park for a match against Everton. The closest thing to a "moneyball" club in the English Premier League, Everton have managed to squeeze another outside top four contending roster out of a wage bill no larger than Sunderland's. With new manager Roberto Martinez in charge and one of the Premier League's best strikers snagged on loan from Chelsea, Everton stand sixth in the table with 18 points, just a point behind Spurs in fourth and only four off league leaders Arsenal. They have managed a home win over Chelsea and road victories to mid-table sides West Ham and Aston Villa.

And they've got the underlying stats to back it up. I rate both Everton's attack and defense roughly 15% better than league average through the first nine matches of the season. They have created 33 shots in the box on target while conceding only 17.  23 of their SiBoT have come from close and central positions, compared to only 12 of those conceded. These numbers stack up well with the Premier League's best sides. It may be that over time the Toffees' relative lack of squad depth drives them out of contention and down toward the high mid-table where they've lived in recent years. Right now, though, this is an excellent football team that will be favored against nearly any Premier League opposition in a home match.

The Road Ahead

The match against Everton on Sunday will be a test, but really the next month is a month of big tests for Spurs. On the 9th of November Spurs will welcome Newcastle to the Lane, and then after the international break we get two weeks of insanity. First away to Manchester City then home to Manchester United. Spurs have faced only two or three truly threatening clubs in our first nine league fixtures, now we have three in the next four. And Newcastle, while not on the level of the other clubs, are certainly no pushovers.

I figured it would be interesting to set a baseline for expectations about the next four matches. What would be a good point total for the next month? What are the most likely outcomes, and how would they impact Spurs' chances at snagging a top four place or maybe, maybe the title? That's what the next table is. I wrote a script in my simulator to capture the results of any particular run of games, and the following table is the output of those results. Do remember that because of rounding, not all the numbers necessarily add up quite right.

  • Expected Goals methodology
  • Season Simulation methodology
  • Points is the number of points, 0-12 with 11 excluded as impossible, that Spurs might take over the next four matches.
  • %Chance is the odds of Spurs taking that many points from the next four matches in my simulator.
  • %Top 4 is the odds of Spurs making top four after taking X points from the next four games, and %Title is the same but for the EPL title.
Points %Chance %Top 4 %Title
0 0.5% 16% 0.5%
1 2% 22% 1%
2 4% 28% 2%
3 7% 33% 3%
4 14% 40% 5%
5 12% 48% 7%
6 15% 53% 9%
7 19% 61% 11%
8 8% 68% 16%
9 9% 72% 18%
10 7% 79% 25%
12 2% 87% 35%

To hold serve and remain in roughly the same place in the projected table, Spurs need six or seven points. Two victories out of the next four, or we're going to be dropping. That's concerning to me because I can easily see this club emerging with just one victory from the next four. They're going to need to play better football than they've played in the last couple weeks. It is true that even truly awful results from the next four wouldn't completely end the season, though it would create a large hill to climb. And even an astounding streak of four wins would only put Spurs ahead of the pack for top four and title, it would guarantee nothing. So there's still a lot of football to be played, but the results of the next month could easily be the ones that determine the success of the season.

(I am somewhat proud of this script, it's easily altered to collect information about any stretch of matches for any club in the EPL this season. If there's any stretch of matches you want to see the projections for, let me know. The main limiting factor is processing time, but that happens in the background for me. I've got one bonus table at the bottom for another stretch I thought would be interesting.)

Odds for Spurs-Everton

I do have the numbers for just this game. Really any outcome is possible, both according to my numbers and to the bookies.I have the most likely scorelines as 1-1 (13%), 1-0 Everton (10%), 0-1 Spurs (9%), 0-0 (9%), 2-1 Everton (8%) and 1-2 Spurs (8%).

Outcome TOT W D EVE W
MCofA projection 32% 31% 37%
Bookie projections 32% 29% 39%
---
Tottenham Top4% 65% 54% 45%

I hope we win.

Appendix: Arsenal and the Rude Awakening

A couple people in the comments to my most recent piece commented on the rude awakening Arsenal may have over the next couple months. Even more than Spurs, Arsenal have played a weak early schedule, and again more than Spurs, that snaps back into place over the next couple months. Arsenal host Liverpool tomorrow, travel to Old Trafford next week, then face tests home to Southampton, Everton and Chelsea, as well as away to Manchester City out of the next eight. It's about as difficult a gauntlet of league matches as it's possible for a top club in the EPL to face. Of course, a gauntlet is an opportunity as well as a risk. By my numbers, Arsenal really could lock up a top four spot and put themselves in ridiculous position for the league title with a good enough run in the next eight. They could also fall out of serious title contention easily. I don't know what's most likely, but these are the numbers I've got.

Points %Chance %Top 4 %Title
<4 0.2% 8% 0%
4 0.5% 15% 0.5%
5 1% 20% 1%
6 1% 25% 1%
7 3% 31% 2%
8 4% 38% 3%
9 6% 45% 5%
10 7% 52% 7%
11 9% 59% 9%
12 10% 67% 13%
13 11% 72% 17%
14 11% 78% 21%
15 9% 84% 27%
16 9% 87% 32%
17 7% 91% 39%
18 4% 93% 45%
19 4% 95% 51%
20 2% 97% 61%
21 1% 98% 63%
22 1% 99% 71%
24 0.2% 99.5% 81%

Both this table and the Spurs table above are based on 1,000,000 simulated seasons, so I was mostly working with sample sizes of at least 5000 even for very unlikely points tallies. The numbers only got too small in the truly awful streaks for Arsenal, so I added together all the results of zero to three points from eight matches.

I hope they don't win.

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