League 1 previews, 18 Oct 2016

Below are the individual preview graphics for each of the weekend’s games arranged in a gallery format. These smash together minimalist versions of two visualisations: each club’s E Ratings and their relative positions on the attack and defence scatter graphics.

I’ve explained them fully here, but in summary they’re intended as a simple pre-match comparison of two teams using high-level performance data. The graphic has three sections:

  1. The current ratings (with ranks) of the two teams and how these have changed over the past 30 league matches;
  2. A probability forecast for the match based on the ratings;
  3. Scatter graphics showing the teams’ attacking and defensive performance this season.

Before we launch into them, here’s each match is listed in descending order of how likely a home win is. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but this is NOT betting advice – there’s loads of relevant stuff that the model doesn’t factor in (e.g. injuries and suspensions) that will surely have an impact.


I’ll pick out a few of the more interesting games below before launching into an alphabetised slog through the rest.

Biggest mismatch

2016-10-18-bradford-southendBradford continue to lack a ruthless attack to pair with their formidable defence, but they won’t get many better opportunities than this to improve their goalscoring record. Southend have been in poor shape at both ends of the pitch for a while now: creating few chances and looking both permissive and leaky at the back.

Closest contest and likeliest upset

2016-10-18-gillingham-walsallNormally (he says, like this isn’t an almost-new format) these two categories would be separate, but this match fulfils both criteria. These two clubs are enjoying this campaign far less than the last one, with both having noticeably declined since their respective promotion tilts, and look to be performing at a similar level. Some sharp finishing has partly compensated for their collective failings at the back: Walsall have allowed far too many shots while Gillingham’s defence has been one of the division’s leakiest. The Saddlers seem slightly under-rated ahead of this clash and their ratings are no longer plummeting after some better results of late, so a home win is far from a given.

Best chance of goals


Peterborough are likely to be recurring occupants of this section, looking as potent up front as they do vulnerable at the back. In attack they and Northampton have been very different, with the Posh seemingly focused on quantity and the Cobblers quality, but both have had problems with the former in defence. The hosts’ appear to have the advantage overall, but their ruthless visitors are perfectly capable of punishing any slips.

Likeliest to end 0-0

2016-10-18-port-vale-charltonPort Vale have taken the fewest shots of any League 1 team by far, so Charlton’s resilient defence could well frustrate them and keep the goal count low here. The hosts’ presence in the play-off picture is surprising given their underlying performances so far and a home game against solid opposition could tell us plenty about where they’ll end up this season. 

Most pivotal game


When running my simulations I look at which matches have the largest potential effect on the final table and, while it’s still relatively early in the season, this game could affect both the promotion and relegation battles. Shrewsbury are currently the relegation favourites but with plenty of clubs struggling they could knock 10% off their probability of a bottom four finish with a win here. They are in desperate need of some improvements if they are to extend their stay at this level, particularly in defence where they’ve continued to look vulnerable. Sheffield United, who look to have recovered fully from their shaky start, will be unwelcome visitors and look likely to inflict further misery.The Blades – bar far the likelier victors – could close the gap on the current top two and raise their chances of automatic promotion above 25% if they fulfil expectations.

The rest

Despite an uncharacteristically quiet showing at the weekend, Bury remain the third tier’s most industrious attackers, although this has left them vulnerable at the back. Wimbledon have looked reassuringly average in their first campaign at this level and should therefore not be underestimated.


Some above-average finishing has masked a decline in Fleetwood’s attack this season, although against Chesterfield’s deteriorating defence they could well have a productive evening. The Spireites haven’t convinced at either end this season so home advantage is unlikely to count for much here.


While Oxford have often struggled to convert their chances this season, their woes have nothing on Coventry’s. The Sky Blues – along with Oldham – have a dire record in front of goal this season and are therefore likely to struggle against their visitors’ stubborn defence. The hosts’ only solace is that their opponents’ strikers have also found it difficult to score this season, so this could be a frustrating encounter all round.


A leaky defence has been Millwall’s downfall this season – otherwise they’ve performed at a similar level to last season. Bolton have dealt with a similar number of shots far more effectively but the situation is reversed up front: the Trotters have struggled to convert their chances while their hosts have been one of the division’s more clinical finishers. The outcome of this match could therefore depend on which runs of fortune persist.


Bristol Rovers operate one of the division’s most dangerous attacks but they’ll surely be tested by one of its least permissive defences. The visitors’ own back line has been their weak point this season, but with MK Dons’ forwards relatively wasteful it remains to be seen if the hosts will be able to capitalise.


Both of these clubs have looked more convincing in defence than attack, although at very different levels of performance. Oldham’s respectable – and resilient – defence has limited the damage done by their dire record in front of goal, while Scunthorpe’s clinical finishing has distracted from an admirably strong back line. The model doesn’t expect the Iron to maintain their current goalscoring rate but it’s unlikely that out-of-sorts Latics will be the side to stop them.


Another side well on the way to putting a poor start behind them are Rochdale, who like the Blades never looked that bad even when losing. Swindon’s young side have struggled to take their chances this season and have lacked defensive solidity, so home advantage may not count for much here.