Fast forward to May
The wonderful thing about making predictions is that, if it were that easy, we’d all win a million at the bookies or through online gambling. The fact that they make a massive profit while we don’t means the odds are stacked, and not in our favour.
And while he may have done quite well at the World Cup, even a famous octopus isn’t going to get every result spot on. However, for a bit of fun, the BBC website has a game predictor page, where you can look at the remaining fixtures, put in your results, and see the league table change. It’s a bit like Football Manager 2012, without having to play all the games and manage your team.
It’s an interesting operation, because you can see how results that affect the top of the table have a ripple effect further down. And you also get to see just who has the toughest – and easiest – run in to the end of the season.
With eight games left, it’s not that time consuming either. So, I headed over and made my predictions. Now, these aren’t predictions based on what I want to happen, otherwise some teams would be losing every game 8-0. These are realistic, based on what I think probably will happen, given current form, injuries, and other factors that can be taken into consideration.
As I play the ‘game,’ I come to realize how cautious I am – there are a lot of draws in my predictions. But I see slight changes here and there, and the bottom few clubs swapping positions frequently.
I realized, to my horror, that heading into the last game, Arsenal were sitting in fourth, four points behind Spurs, so guaranteed to miss out on the automatic Champions League spot. Still, given the noise about Arsenal going down at the beginning of the season, it isn’t such a bad position to be in. And, if even a few of the swirling and persistent rumours of summer signings are true, then surely there’s cause for optimism, even among the negative voices calling for the manager’s head. And it maintains the manager’s impeccable European qualification record, one that at least 88 professional teams in England would envy.
The only interesting feature in my predictions is the fact that, going into the last day, not all of the relegation spots were guaranteed. However, as the table was completed following my predictions for the final set of fixtures, the picture was clear. Manchester United took the title, two points clear of their cross-town and slightly noisy neighbours. Arsenal picked up fourth, five points ahead of Chelsea. Newcastle pipped Liverpool to sixth, with Everton in eighth.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the bottom three clubs were Blackburn, QPR and Wolves. In some way, this is pleasing, as two of the three fired their manager, proving it’s not necessarily the coaching staff, it’s often the team or the owners who should take full responsibility. Wolves have been woeful of late, QPR have been playing a bit better but have a very difficult last few games, and the inner strength at Bolton saw them climb to 16th. I’m still not sure how Wigan survived but, after checking that I hadn’t made any mistakes, they did. Of course, the next question becomes – which managers lose their job? From the division, the only changes I could anticipate would be Mancini fired, Kean fired, Wolves looking for another manager, and Tottenham, if their manager goes on to lead England.
Who comes in? Rumours have Mourinho at Manchester City, and at Tottenham. But what would an off season be without rumours? Still looking for a job are Alan Curbishley, Glenn Hoddle, Rafa Benitez, Claudio Ranieri and Steve Bruce, among others. But, of course, there will be no shortage of managers already in jobs being linked with the vacancies.
It was heartening to see two of last season’s promoted sides sticking in the division. Far too often, the ‘trampoline teams’ bounce back and forth between the top two divisions, so this season goes to prove that not only is it possible for teams to survive, but also the league is stronger because of it. It gives Championship teams belief, and it counters any suggestion that the league should be reduced to 18 or 16 teams.
So, head over to the predictor, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/eng_prem/predictor/default.stm
and see who wins in your world, who goes down, and post your results here to see if we’re all on the same page, and start to think about which players we can pick up for cheap from the relegated sides…