Predictions for 2018
After reviewing the year that has been, we’ve made some predictions for 2018:
Don’t expect miracles, Liverpool
The world’s most expensive defender, Virgil van Dijk, will have a limited impact on Liverpool’s defensive output. Our Player Contribution model expects the Reds to concede 2 fewer goals per season with the Dutchman as a regular starter. In truth, history suggests that a single new player rarely transforms long-term defensive performance, and while van Dijk adds much-needed depth at centre back for Liverpool, he will be required to adjust to a new playing style, too.
The best title race in Europe favours the Old Lady
Despite leading at the winter break, our projection model gives Napoli a 41% chance of winning Serie A, with Juventus favourites at 58%. At the bottom, Sassuolo’s form should continue to turn around; their rate of 3% of shots scored until December was unsustainably low, and our model now gives them a 98% chance of staying up.
The focus on Messi ignores Argentina’s strength at the back
There is a 26% chance Argentina will have the best defensive record in the World Cup group stages; despite their attacking talent they have actually excelled defensively in recent years. Our favourites for the tournament are Brazil, who our League of Nations model gives a 23% chance of lifting the trophy.
World Cup tactics will become fashionable in the club game
The World Cup will also likely produce a tactical trend that many clubs will seek to copy. In 2010 Spain’s success meant clubs globally imitated both their style and personnel profiles, while back threes and aggressive sweeper keepers grew in popularity following success at the 2014 World Cup. It will take strong, strategic clubs to not jump on the bandwagon and stay the course that they believe is right for their club.
Premier League spending will see modest growth – for now
With no increase in broadcast income for clubs in 2018-19, net spending in the Premier League will increase with commercial income. This revenue stream has grown by slightly over 10% per annum in recent years, so we expect net spending in the summer to be in the region of £690m, and therefore continue to be around 15% of total revenue. Developments in the Brexit negotiations might force clubs to feel like they should sign foreign players sooner rather than later, too.
Barcelona’s age means a temporary stay at the top
Having awarded 58 starts per season to under-23s between 2004 and 2015, Barcelona have in the last three seasons given just 30 starts in total to such players, leading to an increasingly ageing squad. The pursuit of peak-age players like Coutinho will help, but inflated demand means inflated fees, and potential blockage of the talent pathway. Without players coming in and through, performance will decline.
So that’s it for now. We’ll be revisiting these – and other forecasts – in December to see both how we did and how we can further develop our models and predictions. Smart clubs do the same; after all, there’s no better way to test our decision-making skills than to test our prediction skills.