The Math Behind Why Leicester Will Win The Title

After Week 25, MOTSON has Arsenal as a 67% favorite to win the EPL, with Leicester City and Manchester City behind at around 14-15% each. However, while I’m confident that City’s overall number is correct (relative to Arsenal) MOTSON also has underestimated Leicester’s performance significantly this season, so the question is whether they’re in a better position than Arsenal is for the run-in. I think they are, and I want to look at the numbers.

First thing’s first, next week’s game is almost literally a title decider. The winner becomes MOTSON’s prohibitive favorite to win the league, the loser takes over the lead for 2nd (and possibly settles into 4th or even 5th with some bad luck). Here’s the heat map of the predictions:

Week 26 Arsenal v Leicester

The plots look similar, with Arsenal faring a little better on account of MOTSON’s belief that they’re a stronger team overall. But what is the likelihood that MOTSON gets it wrong and Leicester outperforms Arsenal in the run-in?

Leicester’s real opportunity here is that MOTSON, as optimistic as it was for Leicester in pre-season, still predicted they’d finish around 8th place. So all of their predictions are based on an expectation of “How would the 8th best team in the Premier League do?” Compare this to Arsenal, which MOTSON has listed as the title favorite for the entire season, and predicts each match accordingly. Arsenal has very little room for error, including the Week 25 game against Leicester City, while Leicester can drop some points and still improve even further on their expected points. Arsenal can only hold serve, while Leicester still has some tough, but possible, opportunities to improve.

After Week 25, Arsenal is a five point favorite in the Expected Final table. Almost the entire difference is based on Week 26, where Arsenal is expected to take 2.63 points over 0.22 points for Leicester. A loss is a virtual 6 point swing, so it’s basically a must-win if they want to maintain their lead. The title chase for both depends on the run-in, so let’s look at the remainder of the games.

WeekOpponentExpected PointsChance to Gain or Hold Serve
Week 27Norwich2.13Hold
Week 28West Brom1.98Hold
Week 29@ Watford1.46Gain
Week 30Newcastle2.02Hold
Week 31@ Crystal Palace0.72Gain
Week 32Southampton1.73Hold
Week 33@ Sunderland1.09Gain
Week 34West Ham1.97Hold
Week 35Swansea City1.97Hold
Week 36@ Manchester United0.5Gain
Week 37Everton1.98Hold
Week 38@ Chelsea0.27Gain

I’ve listed MOTSON’s Expected Points for each of the remaining games (after Arsenal), and subjectively described each of the games as a chance to gain some expected points, or needing to hold serve. Games where Leicester seems like an appropriate favorite need a win to hold serve, while games where they are less favored/are an underdog are listed as a chance to gain. In 5/12 remaining games MOTSON underestimates them and they have a good opportunity to pick up some points. In particular, the trip to Sunderland on Week 33 and the trip to Stamford Bridge week 38 are both big chances for them to pick up significant points over what MOTSON expects. I’m not revising the model mid-season, but a qualitative look would pick Leicester to pick up at least a few points. They’ll likely drop a couple in at least one of the “hold serve” games, but the Chelsea game is a perfect storm of over-estimating Chelsea/under-estimating Leicester so that could be problematic for Arsenal.

A win against Arsenal puts Leicester in the driver’s seat for MOTSON’s expected final table, but a loss isn’t as tragic for their title chances as the model thinks. I’ve learned enough about Arsenal fans to know they won’t get too comfortable, and they shouldn’t. They’ll still be the favorites, but there are plenty of chances for Leicester to pick up even more points vs. expectations in the last third of the season.

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