Brentford's strategy to achieve promotion, as I understand it, consists of three main pillars.
- Build game tactics on a deep understanding of the beautiful game that includes measures not commonly used by other teams
- Identify undervalued players and hire then for comparably little money
- Develop the players by creating an open learning atmosphere and a lot of specialist coaches
Coming back to the initial question. Will Brentford get promoted this season? To answer this question I use the Goalimpact algorithm to evaluate the average player quality of the teams. With that information, I can use a Monte-Carlo simulation of all league games to come up with probabilities for each team to finish on each rank of the league table.
Of course, this will not show the complete picture. If Brentford delivers on pillar 1 and 3, they will outperform predictions because Goalimpact just rates players by their average past performance, albeit adjusted for many factors. While Goalimpact adjusts for performance changes due to normal development and aging, it does so only in an average way. Goalimpact will assume that Brentford's young talents improve over time as the average football players do. However, I assume, that Brentford's ambition is to improve them more than just average. If they manage, Goalimpact will undervalue the players' performance until enough there are enough observations to adjust the rating. But you can also see this the other way round. Goalimpact can be used as a Key Performance Indicator to track if player development at Brentford is indeed above average.
The Monte-Carlo simulation is based on the assumption of a "frozen world". I.e. I assume there are no more transfers done and I also assume that clubs don't react on past performance. In reality, e.g., a club with very bad results may hire new better players in the winter break to avoid relegation, but I assume the teams to stay as they are now. Also in reality, not the best players will always play nor will the "average player" play. In reality changing sets of players play. To reflect this, I average the Goalimpact over all players of a team, but weighting players with strong Goalimpact higher than those with lower ratings. Again this is a simplification, as in reality a seriously injured good player may miss all games of the season, while the same player in an other reality will stay healthy and play all games. The impact on the season will be different than my assumption of him playing half of the games. Note that I also ignore currently known injuries for the sake of keeping the work for this post manageable. In the Bundesliga season ticker, injuries are reflected.
Ok, here are the results as of the 22nd of July 2015:
You will find Brentford on rank seven in this table. But Championship turns out to be a very competitive league with many teams having a Goalimpact in a similar range. This makes random variation having a big influence on the final league table. So while I "expect" Brentford to finish seventh, there is still a 3.4% chance they finish first and even a 1.8% chance that they finish last. Not because they have been a better or worse team, but just because they might turn out to be very lucky or extremely unlucky. Summarizing the results into categories yield following probabilities for the season end.
Relegation is very unlikely and so is direct promotion. However the total chance that they will promote or at least play promotion play-offs is 28.4%. That's more than decent. Still if you point a gun to me, I'd rather bet they will not promote. That said, the team is young and will develop. If we keep the world just a little bit longer frozen and predict how the current teams would fare in the 2016/17 season, promotion odds of Brentford are strongly increased. The reason is that they are very well prepared for that season already. The contracts for key players extend to there and often even longer. Not all other teams are that well managed. This leads to a more than 50% chance Brentford will at least play promotion play-offs and a 18.3% chance they'll promote directly.
However, the assumption of a frozen world is a strong assumption. Actually, while I wrote these lines, Brentford signed to more players and improved their team further.
The two good signings raised the expected number of points won this season from 64.0 to 65.5. Less than two extra points may not sound too exciting, but it narrows the gap to the top teams in the league.
Brentford is now expected to finish ahead of Nottingham Forest. And also their odds to get promoted increased.
Instead of 7.8%, chances of direct promotion are now 10.6% and the chance to enter the promotion play-offs increased, too. If looking at the barrel of a gun, I'd still bet they will not promote, but I would now worry even more. In the 2016/2017 season, the chance that they will at least enter the promotion play off is now two thirds with the odds for direct promotion increased by 50% from 18% to 29%.
ConclusionBrentford FC has a realistic chance to get promoted this season. Yet, it is given the expected performances of all players in the league still below 50%. The club is very well prepared for the season 2016/17 already today. This gives them an edge above the other teams in the league and promotion odds are strongly improved. This analysis is based on Goalimpact and expected average development only. If the club manages to identify tactical inefficiencies and leverage on them, they will out perform expectations. The same holds if they manage to develop their players above average. If so, the players' Goalimpact will raise more than expected and the rating can be used as a KPI to see if the objective has been reached.
I recalculated the numbers because some players were erroneously assumed to be off contract. This effected especially Ipswich Town which is now rated higher. Brentford's numbers only marginally changed.