How difficult are the 2012/13 League One fixtures for Swindon Town? We may have the answer thanks to top Football League statistics blog Experimental 3-6-1.
Statistical master and Torquay United supporter Ben Mayhew has created an algorithm to rank each team’s fixture list for the Championship, Leagues One and Two by their difficulty and visualised the results into a helpful heat map.
To determine the difficulty, Ben has first quantified each club’s relative strength using the latest promotion odds from Bet365. “Even if I don’t fully agree with them,” he explains, “Market forces should be less controversial than my own opinion.” At the time the strengths were calculated, Swindon were rated 11/4 for promotion, making Town the 3rd favourite.
Secondly, each team’s home advantage is calculated by taking the ratio of points earned during 2011/12 at home versus away. Swindon had a division highest of 2.61 points per game at the County Ground last season, however a 4th highest away record of 1.43 points per game. Although the relevance of these figures from League Two to a higher division may not translate.
Thirdly, the two data sets are combined to assess the difficulty of each fixture for each team. Ben explains “the relative strength is obviously more heavily weighted than the home versus away rating”.
To finish it off, Ben has presented his data into a handy heat map to rank the fixture difficulty by colour, with red indicating a difficult match, yellow is average and green easier.
The Experimental 3-6-1 2012/13 League One Heat Map – Click image to enlarge
Swindon’s third favourite tag for promotion and strong form during 2011/12 has resulted in little bright red on Town’s fixture list.
The ‘highly difficult’ games highlighted in dark red on the heat map both come in the run-in to the season; are Coventry (away) on 2nd March and Sheffield United (away) on 13th April.
The ‘easier difficulty’ matches highlighted in green also largely arrive towards the end of the season after Yeovil (home) on 17th November, with both games sandwiching that Coventry (away) match likely victories against Bury and Walsall at the County Ground on 26th February and 9th March respectively.
The season opening is relatively difficult. While there are no bright red fixtures, Town have only two ‘light green’ fixtures in the first ten matches – Game 5 against Leyton Orient and Game 10 against Colchester, which are both at home. Six of those ten matches are calculated deemed relatively tricky encounters, the trip to Preston in Game 4 is clearly the toughest of the opening games. Perhaps Swindon will start 2012/13 poorly and in a similar fashion to a year ago due to the quality of the opposition we’ll face…
Fortunately that early spell of successive tough games isn’t repeated as the season progresses. Town are indicated to have a really mixed difficulty of fixtures, with no awful run of games unlike Games 1-4 for Bournemouth and Games 18-22 for Brentford.
The Christmas period is typically deemed the crunch time. Swindon have Game 23 – Tranmere (home), Game 24 – Leyton Orient (away), Game 25 – Colchester (away) and Game 26 – Portsmouth (home) over the space of 11 days. The fixtures appear to be relatively kind to us with the map suggesting Town could take points, with the trip to Colchester deemed the toughest of the four matches over this spell.
The final stages of the season appear to be significantly tougher than the first half of the campaign. While there are few difficult matches in quick succession, potentially troublesome trips to Bournemouth (Game 28), Crawley Town (Game 31), MK Dons (Game 33), Coventry (Game 36), Brentford (Game 38), Doncaster (Game 42) and Sheffield United (Game 44) are perhaps the last places to visit when you want to mount a solid fight for promotion.
Read Ben’s view on the rest of the division here.
Thanks for Ben for allowing me to publish his data and don’t forget to read Experimental 3-6-1 over the course of the season for some mind blowing statistical analysis of the Football League.