Tuesday, May 13, 2008

As for me, I had Barnsley winning the Premiership

Sports broadcasters often make predictions before the beginning of the season, and in some cases they really really hope that their listeners forget.

Fox Sports World Canada soccer/football analyst Bobby McMahon made some predictions last summer for the then-upcoming English Premier League season. Now that it's over, he dared to revisit them.

As far as I'm concerned, he did pretty well. In the list below, the first number is the actual place at the end of last week, and the second number is the one that Bobby predicted at the beginning of the season.

Manchester United 1 2
Chelsea 2 1
Arsenal 3 3
Liverpool 4 4
Everton 5 8
Aston Villa 6 6
Blackburn 7 9
Portsmouth 8 7
Manchester City 9 12
West Ham United 10 14
Tottenham Hotspur 11 5
Newcastle 12 10
Middlesbrough 13 13
Wigan 14 20
Sunderland 15 16
Bolton 16 15
Fulham 17 18
Reading 18 11
Birmingham 19 17
Derby 20 19

Note that the majority of the predictions are within 1 position of the actual standings, which isn't too bad.

But Bobby also went on a limb when he reprinted his beginning of the season comments, which just show how much things can change over the course of a season. Here are some of the things that he said last summer:

The departure of Thierry Henry has set off a wave of “Arsenal-in-decline” stories – don’t be surprised if his departure has the reverse effect.

Season’s narrative – Can Arsenal prosper without Thierry Henry?

McMahon predicted a third place finish for Arsenal, which is where they ended up. Clearly they survived the loss of Henry. But let's turn to Bolton:

[Sam Allardyce's] replacement Sammy Lee has to prove that he can successfully move from his coaching position to the number one job – something that others have failed to accomplish at other clubs.

Well, he didn't prove it. Which brings us to last summer's view of Chelsea:

Peace has broken out at Stamford Bridge. The enemy, for the moment at least, is the other nineteen teams of the Barclay’s Premiership and on paper this is the strongest squad that Mourinho has had since his arrival in the summer of 2004....Can Chelsea maintain focus and stop the in-fighting and strength sapping controversy?

Well, I guess one way to eliminate controversy is to sack the manager. One can argue that they prospered by doing this, ending up second. Partisans may argue that they could have been first. Other partisans might argue that they could have been third.

Let me just touch on one more, Tottenham Hotspur:

Martin Jol has been one of the busier managers this summer with another raft of new signings. Spurs’ start last season was woeful and they must find a way to integrate their new signings quickly if the hope to improve on their 5th place finish of the last two seasons.

Well, they didn't improve their finish (they ended up 11th) and Martin Jol was considerably less busy come spring.

All in all, a pretty good record for Bobby, although commenter Venti vidi vici claimed that the first two places were easy to predict:

That's three straight seasons with the same top two teams. Does anyone see anything to indicate that it may be any different next season?

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