We look at the Championship table based on expected points, rather than those won in real life – you know, the ones that actually count.
Well, the true answer is quite obviously no. Points are won and lost whether the teams deserve the eventual outcome in matches or not. But this is where our Opta expected points model can help tell the real story of those matches. What could the Championship table look like so far in 2023-24 had games ended as the underlying data suggests they should have?
Our expected points model simulates the number of goals scored by each side in each match based on the expected goals (xG) value of every shot taken. It then uses the simulated number of goals to determine the match outcome (win/draw/loss). Each match is simulated 10,000 times. The expected points for each team in each match can then be calculated based on the proportion of simulations they win/draw/lose.
This is of course not an exact science, as expected goals data doesn’t include a lot of factors, such as game state and dangerous periods of possession that don’t lead to shots. Nevertheless, it’s still a decent barometer for how teams are performing 20 matches into the 2023-24 campaign.
That underlying data tells us that Leeds United should be top of the Championship table. Cue the usual responses of “well if my auntie had…” – you know the rest.
Weirdly, it’s not because of their own performances, either. Their expected points total of 39.1 is below their real-life points tally of 41 from their 20 matches. It’s actually down to both Leicester City and Ipswich Town winning many more points than their on-pitch performances – based on attacking and defensive metrics, game by game – suggests they should have. Leicester have won an exceptional 49 points from 20 games, but that’s an overperformance of around 10 points (10.3 to be exact, but you can’t win 0.3 of a point, can you?). Ipswich Town’s overperformance has been even more wild – winning between 12 and 13 points more (12.5) than expected, which is the largest difference between real-life points won and expected points in the entire Championship this season.
Leeds trail Ipswich by seven points with 26 games remaining in the Championship this season, with the gap between them and table-topping Leicester a point more (eight), but this data should give confidence to their fans that a dramatic turnaround could still take place if performances by the three clubs continue the way that they have.
Even Sunderland – who recently sacked manager Tony Mowbray – have a higher expected points tally (37.7) than Ipswich (35.5) this season. Does it suggest that Mowbray’s dismissal was a little harsh, considering he guided the league’s youngest side to the Championship playoffs last season? What’s more, they weren’t far off being in the top six again this term with a team that has had a starting XI average age (23 years, 20 days) over a year younger than any other side in the competition in 2023-24.
Elsewhere, both Middlesbrough and Coventry have a big negative difference between their expected points and their real points, suggesting that both teams should really be higher than they are in the table and within the top six.
At the bottom of the Championship, both QPR and Sheffield Wednesday’s underlying data metrics suggest they can have confidence in an improvement in results with a little bit more luck. Neither are in the bottom three for expected points, with the Owls winning eight points (8.3) fewer than their attacking and defensive performances over the 20 matches so far suggest they should have.
Of course, the final league table will be based on those points won in reality, not those on spreadsheets. However, with more than half of the Championship campaign left to play, looking at the underlying data to see where teams could be placed right now with a mixture of some luck, better quality defending and more consistency in front of goal offers an insight into how the rest of the season could pan out.