Season Visualiser – August Update

At the start of the season, in association with the good folk over at Experimental 3-6-1, I introduced Blackpool’s 2011/12 Season Visualiser. The premise was that each game would be colour coded by difficulty – red for most difficult fixtures, green for theoretically easiest games and varying colours of yellow for those in between – based on an algorithm largely calculated on the back of bookmakers’ odds.
So how does the visualiser stack up against real life so far? Let’s look at the August results and see how the season looks like panning out for Blackpool.

For the actual results, wins are coloured green, draws yellow, and defeats red.

According to the visualiser, August had the second easiest set of fixtures for the entire season, despite featuring three away games. Brighton was identified as the toughest game of the month, but all of the other matches gave a good opportunity to score points. In reality, there was one real anomaly which was the home defeat to Derby – a fixture Blackpool were expected to win. It was a game that Blackpool could have won on another day, as over the course they didn’t play too badly, but simply failed to create enough goalscoring chances – in contrast Derby took their one golden opportunity.
Elsewhere there were no other major swings from the visualiser’s prediction to the actual outcome, although the away win at Hull on the opening day can be counted as a particularly good result. ‘Pool were able to salvage a point from the hardest game in August – the long trip to Brighton – which was an above par outcome with the visualiser signalling a home win if anything.
Another part of the original post was to devise points targets at the end of each calendar month. These targets were based on traditional averages for attaining survival, the play-offs or automatic promotion, but weighted depending on the difficulty of the fixtures. The below table keeps track of how Blackpool are faring so far.
Points targets for three end-of-season scenarios, weighted by difficulty of fixtures. ‘Pool on course for upper mid-table finish.
As things stand, ‘Pool are a little behind the targets to achieve promotion, be it automatically or through the play-offs. This probably reflects the feelings of most Blackpool fans at the moment, in that the squad seems solid enough, but appears to be missing that edge which would take the team to the next level and in contention for an immediate return to the Premier League. Sadly the activity on deadline day was a little underwhelming, and the club may now be reliant on the loan market to complement the current squad.

Looking ahead to September, the international break means we have just four league games during the month,  including one Tuesday night match. In order to catch up with the play-offs points target, a wholly achievable aim, ‘Pool should seek to take a minimum of seven points from these matches – two wins, a draw and a loss. The graphic below illustrates the difficulty of the fixtures as calculated by the season visualiser.

Home games against Ipswich and Cardiff, followed by trips to Portsmouth and Coventry await Blackpool in September.

The visualiser suggests the games in September get easier as the month goes on, despite the first two being at home and the latter two away. It’s hard to completely agree with this, but obviously in the bookies’ eyes at the start of the season, Ipswich and Cardiff were more heavily fancied than Portsmouth or Coventry. Certainly the trip to the Ricoh Arena should be pinpointed as one of the best opportunities all season to pick up an away win given the Sky Blues’ troubles, but each of the other three matches throw up their own difficulties.

Heavy investment at Portman Road looked to finally be paying off when Paul Jewell’s side won 3-0 at Bristol City on the opening day, but since then it’s been a little more turbulent, including the 7-1 humbling at the hands of Peterborough. Ipswich did recover from that mauling however and won their last game 2-1 against Leeds. Cardiff remain one of the better sides in the Championship despite losing key players from last season, while Portsmouth’s continuing strategy of a slender squad comprising of a small number of well-paid players makes them a dangerous team, especially at Fratton Park.
It’s clear that September offers a much sterner challenge than August did, and the results in the next four games will shed more light on how Blackpool are shaping up in 2011/12. There will still be nothing conclusive when October rolls around, but we’ll be nearer to judging whether Ian Holloway’s side can realistically hope to bounce back to the top flight at the first attempt.