Predicting the PSL race


This would have been a crucial week in the PSL title race, had football not been suspended.

Kaizer Chiefs were scheduled to host Mamelodi Sundowns and also visit Bidvest Wits this past week, matches that were billed as potential title-deciders.

Indeed, there is a possibility that the title would have been wrapped up this past week. Yet, the lockdown extension means we have to wait a bit longer for the league to be decided. It also means speculation on what would be the fairest way to end the league if no more football is played, will continue. We’ve tried to predict what the league table would look like at the end of the season.

To make things interesting, we used 3 different computations to predict the remaining fixtures for all sides:

  1. If results from this season’s 1st round fixtures were repeated
  2. If results from parallel fixtures last season were repeated
  3. If average points per game was maintained for the remainder of the season

There are pros and cons for each method.

Computation 1: First round results repeated

The first computation involves taking the corresponding first round results for all sides and repeating them for the remaining fixtures. This means, for example, we mirror Sundowns’ 1-0 result over Polokwane City in their December clash for the reverse fixture where Downs were scheduled to visit Polokwane. We gave Downs another 1-0 win & did this for the rest of their fixtures, and then all remaining fixtures for all teams. Where teams haven’t yet faced each other even once (Chiefs v Wits, for example), the points were simply shared in both games, 1-1.

Using this method, Chiefs would end up as champions ahead of Wits and Sundowns, with Baroka relegated and Leopards going to the playoffs.

Computation 2: Last season’s results repeated

One downside to the first computation is that league results mostly tend to favor the home team, and it is rare that a home result is repeated away from home.

41% – Since the PSL was established in 1996, 41% of league matches have ended as home wins, while just 28% of results have been away wins.

Celtic beat Arrows 5-0 in August, with the reverse fixture scheduled for May 6. This would be hard to repeat. Yet, it would not be crazy to bet on Celtic’s 1-0 win over Polokwane in November being repeated again in April.

Instead, the second computation looks at last season’s results in the corresponding fixture and assumes that result would have been repeated this time around. For example, Cape Town City were due to host Pirates in April. We mirrored the 2-2 result from last season and assumed a 2-2 draw again this season in the exact same fixture (Pirates away to City), and then did that for all the remaining fixtures for all teams.

The table above shows how the league would end if last season’s corresponding results were used.

**Results against relegated Free State Stars were used for matches against Stellenbosch, which left Stellenbosch with no extra points (the unfortunate, but unavoidable, downside of this computation). This time, Sundowns would edge Chiefs to the crown, with Leopards stuck at the bottom of the table.

Computation 3: Average points per game

The last prediction of how the PSL table could look like at the end of the season was done using points per game this season. This computation, similar to one we did last season, looks at the average points per game for each team, when the league was suspended, and extrapolates these to the end of the season. For example, Wits had won 38 points from 21 games when the league stopped, averaging out to 1,81 points per game. If we multiply that average by nine to predict their remaining nine games, they’d win another 16,29 points and end up on 54,29 points (1,81 x 9 = 16.29). When you consider that Wits actually won 54 points last season, and that they average 52,5 points per season since Gavin Hunt took over in 2013, this last computation seems to be a more realistic prediction.

Again, Chiefs end as champions using this method, beating Sundowns by 3 points, while Black Leopards still find themselves at the bottom. If anything, these calculations show how close the race at the top has been, with Chiefs and Sundowns still locked in a battle for supremacy.

By Opta Jabu

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