Thursday, May 19, 2016

Premiership Football and Coin-Tossing

A few years ago I played a whole Premiership season using a coin toss to decide games. The system was simple.

Heads = goal

I tossed a coin for each team and each match. I tossed until a tails came up then I stopped. The number of consecutive heads tossed was the amount of goals scored. This gave a spread of points at the end of the season which had nothing to do with skill and everything to do with luck.

The winning team had 67 points; bottom of the league 31. It would only have needed one slight change of luck, one more heads for the top team and one fewer for the bottom team and the range of points would have been a nice 30-70.

What do we learn? We learn that this season only Arsenal, with 71 points, and Leicester with 81 were better than an ordinary team with good luck might have performed. Arsenal marginally better; Leicester considerably.

Only Aston Villa, who were atrocious, were worse than an ordinary team with poor luck. Everyone else was unlucky (Norwich and Newcastle to be relegated) or lucky (Arsenal, Spurs and Man City to get in the top four). 4th to 8th, and 11th to 16th could have been much changed by a couple of offside or penalty decisions.

Leicester deserved to win; Villa deserved to go. The rest was inseparable from luck. And it explains why so many managers go on and on about referees' decisions. Because they are out of their control.

A few seasons back West Brom sacked a manager for poor results although at that point in the season the club had receieved two letters from referees apologising for mistakes; mistakes which would have led to a certain two, and possible four, more points. And a much more respectable league position.

Chelsea sacked a manger for not delivering the Champions League trophy when they lost the final on penalties and the last penalty hit the post.

Club owners make some terribly tough decisions based on luck. On the other hand who wouldn't want to employ a lucky manager?

Leicester fans enjoy your party. You absolutely deserve it. No-one else should rejoice. And Villa should despair and offer opponents a coin toss rather than playing the game for the next couple of seasons. Might work.

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