Championship weekend review, 14-16 Oct 2016

This is my first attempt at a more comprehensive review of a round of matches, as I’ve felt for a while that I could do more to make the various post-match numbers and graphics I chuck out more coherent. In here you’ll find the match timelines, E Ratings and probabilities, plus a few more bits and pieces to string the whole thing together.

Round summary

I’ll kick things off with a new graphic. It’s explained in full here but in a nutshell I’ve dropped each match onto a grid based on:

  1. How surprising the outcome of the match was, based on pre-match expectations (further left = more surprising, further right = less surprising);
  2. How “deserved” the outcome was, based on how likely the balance of chances created during the match would be to produce that result (higher = more deserved, lower = less deserved).

The point of doing this is to compare games by how surprising (or not) they were, both in terms of how the teams have been performing so far and how they performed on the day:


In the top right we can see that Norwich and Newcastle were both expected to do well – both were given over a 50% chance of victory – and both delivered.

The fact that those matches – along with Cardiff‘s win over Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday‘s at Huddersfield – are sitting so high on the graphic suggests that all were relatively dominant performances.

In the bottom left we can see that the most surprising result was Preston holding Brighton to a draw. The Seagulls were heavy favourites going into this match and, as we’ll see below, did more than enough to win the game.

If you want to read a bit more about how the E Ratings model generated the probabilities on the horizontal axis, the previews for these games can be found here.

Match-by-match summary

Now let’s look at each match in a bit more detail using the match timelines, which show the combined quality of the chances that each team created and how these increased during the game. They’re explained in more detail here:


The E Ratings were far more optimistic about Cardiff’s chances than the betting markets and they certainly look to have deserved the win here. Their opener from the spot was one of few first half highlights but they out-created Bristol City heavily overall.


Finishing looks to have been the main difference between these two sides, whose attacking outputs looked very similar throughout. Birmingham’s defence had soaked up a heroic number of chances for each goal conceded prior to this, so they were perhaps overdue a result like this.2016-10-15-aston-villa-wolves

With Villa only taking four shots at home here, all of which came in the first half, and needing a penalty to score, there’s plenty for Steve Bruce to worry about. Wolves will be the more disappointed with a share of the points, having threatened regularly once they finally got going.2016-10-15-barnsley-fulham

The result looks to have been a fair one here, with the ratios of actual to expected goals for both teams identical, but there was a surprising amount of goals. Fulham’s attack has been one of the division’s more wasteful so far, so perhaps they were due a good day in front of goal.

The E Ratings had this one down as the likeliest game to end 0-0 and it didn’t disappoint. Ipswich’s attack was the division’s worst-rated going into this game but a respectable display (particularly given that they were the away side) has at least removed that unwanted accolade.2016-10-15-brighton-preston

Preston started quickly here but had almost completely faded by half time, allowing Brighton to dominate and deservedly take the lead in the second half. However the Lilywhites popped up at the death to snatch a surprise point from an otherwise largely anonymous display.2016-10-15-derby-leeds

Derby look to have been a bit fortunate here, having been matched by Leeds overall but edging to victory. The Rams’ goal early in the second half was followed by a determined attempt at recovery from the visitors, who ultimately paid for a very sluggish start.2016-10-15-newcastle-brentford

The E Ratings flagged this as the likeliest source of goals and only one game delivered more. That prediction was based on the meeting of two strong attacks and Brentford’s defence having seemed to ride its luck at times this season, which certainly wasn’t the case here as Newcastle were rewarded for their dominance.2016-10-15-norwich-rotherham

The E Ratings called this (unsurprisingly) as the biggest mismatch of the weekend, and Norwich look to have made short work of struggling Rotherham. The Millers were behind before they’d even managed a shot and finished this game in even deeper relegation danger.2016-10-15-qpr-reading

A 1-1 draw looks to have been the fairest possible result here, with expected and actual goals lining up almost perfectly. As the away side, Reading will probably be the happier with their performance, although both sides endured long quiet spells.

Both sides could have gotten on the scoresheet here, with Burton perhaps the more frustrated with the draw overall. Concerningly, Wigan’s shots look to have been mainly from poor positions (based on all the little jumps): they’re one of only two Championship clubs to have taken more than half of their shots from outside the box this season (the other is goal-shy Derby), so may need a change of tack to fire themselves out of the bottom three.2016-10-16-huddersfield-sheff-wed

The E Ratings flagged this as the closest contest of the weekend and it was certainly a tense affair, with the Owls’ penalty the standout goalscoring opportunity in a game of few good chances. The visitors edged the contest even without the impact of their spot kick, befitting their status as the higher-rated side in this encounter.

Ratings update

Let’s now look at how this round of matches has influenced the E Ratings table. The ratings are explained in detail here if you’re unfamiliar with them, but put simply they track team strength over time by measuring the quality of chances created and allowed:


Brighton may have drawn but their strong performance keeps them above Newcastle at the top of the ratings for now.

There’s not much separating the teams in this division at the moment so the rankings are constantly changing. Fulham, Ipswich and Leeds all put in good away performances and saw their stock rise as a result, while QPR sank furthest after a disappointing showing at home to Reading.

Rotherham look unlikely to rise off the bottom of the rankings for the foreseeable future – their ratings are continuing to deteriorate and their prospects already look bleak as a result.

Predicting the rest of the season

While far from terrible at predicting individual matches, the E Ratings are at their best when making longer-term forecasts. After every round of matches I use them to simulate the rest of the season thousands of times to come up with probability forecasts for where each team will finish the campaign:


Newcastle look to be the title favourites at the moment, with Brighton the likeliest to claim the second automatic promotion spot.

Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield aren’t far behind and are the only other teams with a greater than 50:50 chance of finishing in the top six as it stands, leaving the remaining play-off place very much up for grabs.

Rotherham continue to look doomed, with Wigan and Blackburn currently the likeliest to join them in the bottom three.

What’s changed?

As the graph above only gives the latest snapshot, I wanted to show what effect the latest round of matches has had on the bigger picture. Below I’ve added a few simple graphics to show how the promotion and relegation contests have changed since the previous round of games.

First of all, let’s look at the automatic promotion race. The filled green bars are the current probabilities (and should match the greenest bars above), with the hollow bars showing how each team’s chances looked after the last previous of games.


Newcastle‘s comfortable win over Brentford has pushed their chances of a top two finish close to 60%. After the last round of games they were virtually neck and neck with Brighton, but the Seagulls’ frustrating home draw has seen their prospects of automatic promotion drop below 50%.

Norwich‘s own convincing win has seen them gain ground on Chris Hughton’s side, while Huddersfield‘s home reverse at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday has allowed the Owls to leapfrog them in the promotion race.

Now let’s look at the relegation battle:

ch-relegation-battle-2016-10-16The field is a lot more crowded here, but Rotherham remain the overwhelming favourite to drop into League 1.

Cardiff‘s overdue win leaves them in far better shape and increases the pressure on Blackburn and Wigan, whose chances of joining the Millers in the bottom three each stands at around 40%.

The aforementioned pair could both only manage 0-0 home draws and the teams who held them, Burton and Ipswich, both saw their own prospects improve thanks to the away point they each collected.