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This article and video is a follow up to the hugely successful "Can Football Manager Predict the 2014 World Cup?"
The ResultsNow before we get started. Let’s make two things clear. Firstly I'm using the most up to date database I can find but of course the transfer window has not shut so please remember the squads are only accurate as of 11/08/2014. Also remember, Football Manager 2014 starts in the 2013/14 season and that is the season we'll be using as the test environment for this experiment. Additionally, I've got the game set so the first transfer window is turned off. Of course Football Manager 2014 will make it's own interpretation of how the January 2015 transfer window is going to pan out.
The 200 winners produced very few surprises. The big 4 really dominating the results (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man United). A Suarez-less Liverpool only winning 9 titles in 200 attempts might come as a surprise to some but that result strongly correlates to their odds with the bookmakers (they are 5th favourites for the title this year).
Spurs are the only real shock inclusion. Winning 2 titles but coming out with a 1% chance of winning the title this year.
The below graph illustrates the difference in likelihood between teams:
It’s definitely worth noting Manchester United are much more highly rated in the game than they are in the real world. The bookies make them clear third favourites and ranked very similarly to Arsenal. As you can see from the above data, Football Manager 2014 predicts they should be a very strong second favourites. Is this the Louis Van Gaal effect? Or perhaps it’s simply a case of 1 or 2 players being overrated.
Of course the actual prediction is that Manchester City win the 2014/15 Premier League.
Interestingly Man City are second favourites for the title this year, behind Chelsea, who in this simulation came out as the third most likely team to win the title. New players such as Sagna and Mangala don’t tend to have a huge impact on the first team squad but it’s a regular occurrence to see them go into the January market to strengthen the squad further. Players like Jordan Henderson, Dante and Miralem Pjanic are some of the more common signings you’d expect to see. Karim Rekik is sometimes promoted to the first team with positive results at either centre back or left back.
I found it worth noting that Man City only finished outside of the top four on two occasions in the 200 simulations. Therefore they are by far the lowest variance we’ve looked at in this experiment.
The reason I’m using the above example for team of the year is simple, it highlights two players who consistently appeared when you probably wouldn’t expect them to do so.
The first player that jumps off the page here is Graziano Pelle, the 29 year old Italian striker who recently signed for Southampton. He has 50 goals in his last 2 season albeit it in the Eredivisie rather than the Premiership. Football Manager 2014 predicts he’ll be able to transfer that goal scoring ability to the Premiership. The striker consistently gets between 15 and 25 goals each season and in the above example actually scored 24 league goals in 37 league appearances with only 2 of the goals being penalties.
The second player to catch the eye is Aaron Cresswell. The left back joined West Ham United this summer and is expected to be the first choice left back for the club this season. Cresswell is another player who featured heavily in team of the year, regularly posting an average rating in excess of 7.40 and on this occasion produced a stunning average rating of 7.64 over 33 league games that included 9 assists and 8 man of the match awards. He was often by far the best left back in the country ahead of players like Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw who reportedly cost over 30m. At around 4m could Cresswell be the bargain of the season?
The only other player I’d like to highlight is Alexis Sanchez. It will come as no surprise that he performs well in the vast majority of simulations. I’d go as far to say that if he’s not injured for a large % of the season then he’s practically guaranteed to score 10+ league goals in Football Manager 2014. In the example we are using he managed 14 league goals, most of which came from the AMR position.
Players like Erik Lamela, Jonas Olsson, Daryl Janmaat, Jon Flanagan and Matt Lowton are other players that could be classed as shocks when they appear in team of the year but all appeared 5+ times in the 200 simulation data set.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter.