By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
9 September 2011
The resumption of the Premier League this weekend after the international break coincides with the release of new predictions for the title races in Europe’s five major leagues. Chelsea are tipped to win England’s top division in 2011-12 after a three-horse race with Manchester City (tipped to finish second) and Manchester United.
The forecasts are based on detailed analytical analysis of the squad make-ups of the 98 teams playing in the ‘big five’ divisions in Europe – the 20 teams in each of the Premier League, Italy’s La Liga, Spain’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1 plus the 18 teams of Germany’s Bundesliga top division.
CIES analyses in detail the origins, training, experience, employment mobility and performance of players across Europe, with its latest Annual Review of the European Football Players’ Labour Market available to buy now (link here, where a free extract can also be downloaded).
The predictions forecast that Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain and Inter Milan will win the five main leagues in 2011-12.
Further, CIES bracket each club in each league into three groups: title contenders, European contenders and those clubs whose only realistic achievement will be avoiding relegation.
In the Premier League, only Chelsea, United and City are cited as title contenders, with eight clubs in the chasing pack for Europe. Arsenal are highlighted as a club who have over-achieved against expectation in recent times.
In Spain, Barca and Real Madrid are the only clubs cited a title contenders, while in Germany the title will be between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. In France it will be a three-horse race between PSG, Lyon and Lille, and in Italy it will be a two-horse race between Inter and Milan.
The predictions are based on a statistical model structured around three key indicators, described as ‘practice’, ‘international experience’ and ‘stability’ – based on how important these factors have been in title winning teams over the past five years.
‘Practice’ is the number of games played, on average, by players at each club considered for clubs within Europe’s top five leagues. For example, Manchester United’s players used in Premier League matches last season (weighted by minutes on the pitch) averaged 228.8 games each at elite level.
This made them the fourth most experience team of the 98 considered. Three of the other eventual champions (Milan, 228.3 games; Barcelona, 197.2 games; and Lille, 185.9 games) were also inside the top 11 most experienced teams, with Borussia Dortmund’s youngsters (86.7 games) the exceptions who proved the rule that experience wins leagues.
‘International experience’ consists of the percentage of national A-team matches played during the past year, weighted according to results obtained by the country represented. All five league winners were well represented on this metric last season, with Barcelona fielding an average of 9.26 ‘active’ internationals per match (making them 9th of 98 clubs), Dortmund fielding 8.54 per match (11th), United fielding 7.06 per match (20th), Milan fielding 5.94 (25th) and Lille fielding 5.42 (33rd).
As the authors note, United and Milan would have had higher scores still but for international retirements of seasoned players including Giggs, Scholes, Berbatov, Nesta, Seedorf and others.
‘Stability’ is the overall average stay in terms of months and years of a club’s players in their current team. No national champion in England or Spain in the past four years has won the title with an average tenure of player of less than four seasons. Last season, United’s players used during Premier League games had been at the club an average of 6.19 years each – a record high figure. Barcelona’s players had been there an average of 4.82 years (making them the fourth most ‘stable’ club of 98), with Milan on 3.96 years (11th) and Lille 3.66 years (13th). Again, Dortmund’s nippers (2.74 years, 48th) bucked the trend.
The crunching of all this key data and other contributory assessments has led to the forecasts below.
CIES also work together with OPTA to produce individual player analysis, and detailed findings are published in the annual review.
Some eye-catching findings about Europe’s top players, as assessed in those pages, has been largely corroborated by some big-money moves in the summer transfer window – a subject for a separate article soon.