Transfer Roundup 8/13: Man United Special Edition

Today’s transfer rumors seemed to focus on major moves by Manchester United – for some reason the papers think they’re in the market for more attacking talent, but my analysis shows that they’re pretty much maxed out there. Both Gotze and Thomas Muller would be slight downgrades over what they have now, which is already one of the strongest attacking lineups in the Premier League. The rumors are reminiscent of Chelsea’s buying spree last year where they attempted to purchase all of the attacking midfielders, apparently hoping to leave none for anyone else.

However, the major improvement in the rumor mill would be signing John Stones from Everton. Signing him and moving Blind into Fellaini’s spot as holding midfielder would give United a 5 point boost, making him the best signing for them of the mooted possibilities today. United’s at a point where they need to improve their weak spots rather than building on strengths, and Stones would definitely do that.

Transfer Rumors 0813


Transfer Roundup – Spurs Special Edition 8/12

The biggest rumors in the news today have been Spurs searching for a striker or two, with Javier Hernandez, Clinton N’Jie, and Saido Berahino being the big names in the rumor mill.

I ran an analysis of the three against the current roster, figuring Spurs would move Harry Kane back to the #10 spot and Christian Eriksen over to the left win, leaving Chadli on the bench, and found that all three options would be a net improvement over the current situation.

Transfer Rumors 0812

Clinton N’Jie gives Spurs the biggest upside, with a net gain of 3.5 points, Hernandez in second place with a 2.6 point gain, and Berahino only adding 0.8 points to the current predictions.

N’Jie is clearly the best option for Spurs if they can get them, as his asking price is significantly lower than the other two would be, and would have the highest upside given his price and his age if they need to sell him at some point.

Also,  I added Lionel Messi to Spurs as a replacement for Chadli just to see what he would do and as a random curiosity. Turns out he gives Spurs about a 7 point bump, or twice as much as N’Jie will.

(I know this isn’t realistic, but I wanted to post it as a fun curiosity and as a validity check on my measure)

Transfer Rumors 0812 (Plus Messi)


Club ELO v. My SVM Model

ELO ratings have become one of the more popular ways of predicting soccer results – basically people took the chess ELO ratings and transferred the same logic over to soccer. The work at Club ELO is one of the most ambitious, amazing soccer projects out there, and they deserve all the credit they’ve been getting recently. It’s an effective, simple to calculate, straightforward way of comparing team.

There are two ways to judge the success of a model: its simplicity and its effectiveness. The original IRT model underpinning my predictions is fairly straightforward, although the new SVM is much more complex. The second (more important) comparison is how accurately the models predict results. So I’m going to benchmark my model against the Club ELO model throughout this season – initially I’m going to start with EPL, but I’m hoping to  run the model on the other major soccer leagues as well. Week 1’s results are in the table below.

GameMurphy's SVM PredictionsClub ELO Predictions
Manchester United v. Tottenham0.550.54
Bournemouth v. Aston Villa0.42

Norwich City v. Crystal Palace0.42
Everton v. Watford0.340.24
Leicester City v. Sunderland0.540.45
Chelsea v. Swansea0.190.20
Arsenal v. West Ham United0.030.09
Newcastle United v. Southampton0.380.29
Stoke City v. Liverpool0.240.34
West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester City0.470.59

Each model assigns a predicted probability of the three outcomes (Win/Draw/Loss), and I gave points for how likely each model thought the actual outcome was.  For example, if the model predicted an outcome was 30% likely, it earned 0.30 points.

This week was a rough one for both models – there were a lot of upsets (Chelsea’s draw and Arsenal’s loss stand out), so neither score was particularly high. ELO performed a little better – earning 3.30 points compared to my SVM model’s 3.06. ELO was better on 6/10 games, while I was better on 4/10 games, but we were effectively even on many of the games. The ELO seems to assign a higher percentage to “draw” for most games, as the Chelsea and Everton draws cost me quite a few points, and my model was surprisingly low for Man City’s win over West Brom.

*EDIT: I think I transposed some of the columns in my initial predictions, and I got the numbers completely wrong. My model performed slightly better (3.59 points to 3.30 for ELO), and was better on 6/10 games compared to 4/10 for ELO. I’ve updated the table and future posts. 

On the other hand, the SVM made up a lot of ground picking Leicester City over Sunderland and liked West Ham’s chances to win a lot more than the ELO. I think overall I’ll pick up ground on upsets and lose ground on ties, which I’m happy with.

Benzema to Arsenal? Kane to Man United? De Bruyne to City? Transfer Round-Up for August 10

I’m taking a look at today’s  three big transfer rumors : Karim Benzema to Arsenal, Harry Kane to Man United, and Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City, and seeing if they would help the destination teams. The only one that looks like it’s worth the money would be Harry Kane to Man United, giving them a 5.2 point boost and moving their expected finish above their two major rivals Man City and Liverpool into 3rd place (and into the Champions League places).

Transfer Rumors 0810

To find the scores, I calculate the expected points for each team with the current player in the position (Giroud, Nasri,  and Ashley Young*). Then I calculate the expected points with the new player in the position (Benzema, de Bruyne, and Kane), and take the difference of the two. Positive numbers mean a net gain in points from buying the new player, negative numbers mean a net expected loss.

The graph shows that only one of the three players will improve the current squad: Harry Kane to Manchester United.  The other two players will actually slightly lower the expected points – Benzema being 1.2 points worse than Giroud, and de Bruyne being 2.4 points worse than Samir Nasri. Why Benzema would be a bad move is pretty straightforward – he passes quite a bit more than Giroud and while he holds up the ball well and creates space for Ronaldo at Madrid, but that’s presumably not the role he’d be expected to fill at Arsenal.  This was a bit surprising in terms of star power difference between the two, but not too surprising when you think about the  types of strikers they are.

De Bruyne is a little tougher: he shoots more than Nasri (~1 shot a game) but only adds slightly to the shots on target number. The biggest advantages Nasri have, and what I *think* is generating the extra couple points in the model are Nasri is a little stronger defensively and passes quite a bit better than de Bruyne (13 extra successful passes a game and a higher accuracy percentage). This isn’t too surprising given that he could never really find a home at Chelsea, and City’s attacking mids are of a similar quality to Chelsea’s (especially with the Sterling transfer).

Two caveats: This assumes the same level of performance as last year, and it doesn’t take into account injuries/suspensions/rotation. Presumably with the money being talked about for these players, none of them would be backups to the current starting XI so I’m comfortable with that assumption, but one could easily make the argument that Arsenal need a second top level striker to Benzema may be worth it for different reasons.

* For United the replacement isn’t as straightforward so after doing some significant shifting of last week’s line-up I put Rooney in the #10 spot and Kane up front, Mata on the right and Depay on the left, leaving Ashley Young on the bench