Predicting the outcome of elite sports can be tricky – even with a wealth of statistics, and a powerful super computer on your side. That is not something that has ever stopped researchers from trying, though, and new analysis has subsequently pegged Liverpool as favourites to win the English Premier League in the new season.
Big data analytics and supercomputing exercises have a frankly patchy record when it comes to predicting the outcome of sporting events. For all the input, they simply can’t legislate for the random events that make elite competition so intoxicating to fans around the world.
When Boston Consulting Group leveraged an artificial intelligence system to suggest Roger Federer would triumph at Wimbledon in 2018, for example, it seemed the very definition of a sure thing. When the Swiss superstar crashed out of the tournament days later, however, it revealed the world has some way to go before it can rely on technology to reliably forecast the results of elite sport. Meanwhile, in the footballing world, goalscoring of Jamie Vardy in the English Premier League defied the logic of expected goals AI systems for some time.
However, with every year, AI development has undergone leaps and bounds, and the technology seems to have started calling things correctly. Recently, Gracenote ran approximately 1 million simulations of UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, weighing up the prospects of each team, match by match – and correctly pegged England as favourites to bring football home.
Now, analytics and statistics house OptaJoe has set out its own bid to emulate Gracenote’s success, with a prediction of the commencing English Premier League season. According to a supercomputer – which the company claims also successfully predicted the Lionesses would win Euro 2022 – Liverpool is the team to beat this year.
The supercomputer gave Jurgen Klopp’s side a 49.7% chance of winning the title – ahead of closest rival Manchester City, on 47%. Using its Stats Perform League Prediction model, OptaJoe estimated the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on historical and recent team performances, and used it to compile the likelihood of teams finishing in each position in the competition.
The same computer had some rather less hopeful predictions for clubs further down the pecking order, too. According to OptaJoe, it found Bournemouth to be the favourite for relegation to the Championship, at a 45.03% likelihood. Nottingham Forrest on 44.47% and Fulham 43.83% were deemed the most likely to join them in the drop – meaning all three promoted teams could soon be back in England’s footballing second tier.