One of the reasons football is so exciting is because anything can happen. You can think that your side is on the path towards glory, but then you lose a few games, and all of a sudden, things don’t look quite as rosy. And the opposite can happen too (and oh, how much more we prefer this).
The unpredictable nature of football hasn’t stopped some organisations from, well, trying to predict what will happen. That’s just what the boffins at statistical powerhouse FiveThirtyEight have done. Ready to find out who they think will finish in the top three positions of The Championship? Let’s find out.
Third Place: Swansea City
There aren’t too many sides that look as secure in their position as Swansea City. They’re having an excellent season, but according to FiveThirtyEight, it seems that they’ll stay in the position they currently occupy, third place. This, of course, will be disappointing for Steve Cooper and his players if it comes to pass since it’ll mean their path to the Premier League is in the hands of the playoff process.
And what’ll happen then? Swansea’s current form is such that if you were to make football predictions for the weekend, you’d back them to win. But form largely goes out of the window during the playoffs, and it’s been some time since they participated in the finals. Cooper will know that it’ll be much more straightforward if Norwich or Brentford can slip up somewhere and provide a window of opportunity for Swansea to gain an automatic promotion place.
Currently, FiveThirtyEight ranks their chances of winning the division at 11%, which won’t exactly blow the Jack Army’s optimism into the stratosphere. They do think they’ve got a 40% chance of getting promoted to the Premier League, however!
Second Place: Norwich City
Norwich are currently flying high at the moment, but then again, so are Brentford, so if they’re going to end the season on top of the league, then they’ll need to find an extra gear. And that’s a gear that FiveThirtyEight doesn’t believe The Canaries possess. For what’s it worth, the statisticians don’t believe Norwich are going to crumble. They project that they’ll finish the season with 86 points, which isn’t a bad return. Though it won’t be enough to have them at the top — and actually, it wouldn’t be enough to have them at the top for most other Championship seasons, either. You have to go back to the 2007-2008 season to find a lower points tally for the champions, when West Bromwich Albion somehow won the league with 81 points.
But will Daniel Farke care about any of that? Will he care if they finish second? It’d be a nice medal to have, but let’s be real here — the real glory is securing a place in the Premier League. At the moment, it looks like something would have to go terribly wrong for that to happen.
First Place: Brentford
Could this finally be the year that Brentford FC make it to the big leagues? It’s looking good, and we don’t need to look at FiveThirtyEight’s to know that. Everything seems to be going right for The Bees. They’re scoring goals for fun, they have a great manager, and they even have a new stadium — the Brentford Community Stadium — to call home.
They were agonizingly close to promotion last season, having been defeated in the final by their city rivals Fulham. Will it be any sweeter knowing that Fulham will likely be swapping places with them since relegation looks to be on the horizon? This is football, so we’re going to assume: yes, it will be.
FiveThirtyEight project that Brentford will finish the season with 87 points. Again, not a groundbreaking number of points, but Brentford won’t care in the slightest. They were formed in 1889 and have never competed in the top division of English football. It seems extremely likely that it’ll happen this year; even if they don’t win the league, they look pretty stable for a top-two finish.
How accurate will FiveThirtyEight’s statistical models turn out to be? We’ll know come the end of the season. In the meantime, we’ll just have to remember that this is football, and strange things happen all the time!