Season Visualiser – February Update

As we enter the final two months of the campaign, it’s time to once more revisit the Season Visualiser to see if it can shed any light on our performance to date and how things might pan out between now and the end of the season.

Last time around we analysed Blackpool’s performance in November and December, with the focus this time shifting to January and February. I’m sure you probably all know the drill by now, but for those living on another planet for most of the season, here’s how the visualiser works: the visualiser indicates the potential outcome on a colour-coded scale, from a dark green for a sure-fire win, to a dark red for a likely defeat, without every shade of yellow in between for the harder to call fixtures. Illustrating the actual results, green indicates a Blackpool win, yellow a draw and red a loss.

The visualiser anticipated that January would be the most straightforward month of the season fixture-wise, and so it proved with Blackpool picking up an impressive 10 points out of the 12 on offer. ‘Pool managed three consecutive home victories against Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Coventry and picked up a good point away at Ipswich having been 2-0 behind at one stage. The visualiser suggested 7-8 points would have been a respectable return so to take 10 points was a tremendous achievement and a key factor in why ‘Pool are now firmly in the play-off picture.

February offered a slightly trickier proposition, when again 7-8 points wouldn’t have shamed ‘Pool who again managed a strong 10 point haul. Strangely the Seasiders only won one point from their two home fixtures, but won all three away games – the poor playing surface at Bloomfield Road being cited by some as a possible reason behind this quirk.
Blackpool opened the month with an unexpected win at Cardiff, but followed it up with a disappointing home draw with Portsmouth. If a win can ever be expected anywhere, it’s usually at the bottom teams and Blackpool did get back to winning ways as predicted by the visualiser by taking maximum points at Doncaster. Following this was probably the hardest home fixture of the season and ‘Pool were put to the sword by 10-man West Ham. Once again though Ian Holloway’s side bounced back to win away at Bristol City and complete another strong month.
We’ll now revisit the graph which charts relative difficulty of fixtures and points per game for each calendar month. The black line indicates the visualiser’s predicted trend, with the blue line plotting the actual points per game over the course of the season.

Incredibly the visualiser continues to be fairly accurate with its predictions and the overall trend is spot on, barring one anomaly in the month of November. Blackpool averaged an astonishing 2.5 points per game during the opening month of 2012 and while this went down for February, the Seasiders were still averaging two points per game. If the trend continues in line with the visualiser’s expectations, ‘Pool will collect fewer than two points per game in March, but then improve on that level of performance for the final month of the season.

Looking at the table below you can see that Blackpool are now on course for a play-off spot, based on the generally accepted 75 point threshold for the 6th place. The table below shows progress required at the end of each month to (probably) secure one of three end of season outcomes – survival, play-offs and automatic promotion – marginally weighted depending on the difficulty of fixtures within a given month.

At the end of December Blackpool were three points behind the play-off target, but now find themselves one point ahead. If 75 points is to be enough for a top six finish, then 10 points in both March and April would be enough. However, 20 points from 13 games – 1.54 points per game – hardly seems like great form. A scenario of six wins, two draws and five defeats seems eminently possible from the remaining matches, but that does make you question whether 75 points will be enough given the number of teams so tightly packed in the play-off race. Could it be that a team might need 77 or even 78 to claim 6th spot?
For the complete optimists out there, they may be disappointed if they think Blackpool can still achieve automatic promotion. Such an outcome would necessitate Holloway’s side collecting 30 points out of a possible 39 – an average of 2.31 points per game – and that’s assuming 85 will be enough for a top two finish which also might not be quite sufficient. ‘Pool do have form for stringing a lot of wins together at the end of a season (last year excepted), but it does look a rather big ask from their current position.
The Season Visualiser will be back again before the end of the season, but in what form is as yet unclear. Watch this space…