Are you still backing Goliath?

Jeremy Spitzberg
August 1, 2014
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It's been a long time – years, perhaps – since we've had a good blog roundtable. You remember them, don't you? Neal and I would instant message back and forth on the issues of the day (in fantasy football) and then I'd pretty up the transcript for you, our dear reader.

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Well, it's happened again. In the midst of a larger discussion amongst the Rotoworld Premier League team, I had a quick back and forth with Rob Allen, one of our new resident anoraks. Here's the highlights to get you thinking, as the first week of the season rapidly approaches.

On Thursday, July 31, 2014 9:34 AM, Rob Allen wrote:

I’ll go into a more detail in my week 1 column but newly promoted teams fair very poorly in the first week of the season – losing 73% of encounters over the last five seasons. Whilst Everton are playing away, I think Leicester stand no chance and for me all Everton’s players make a good investment in week 1.

On 31 July 2014, Jeremy Spitzberg wrote:


Interested in your point about promoted teams in week 1. My recollection is that a promoted team playing their first home game in the Premier League can be tough to beat. Am I blinded by a few outliers? Hernan Crespo's match-winning, stoppage-time goal v. Wigan in 2005 comes to mind, as does Cardiff City's beating Manchester City last season.

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On 31 July 2014 17:42, Rob Allen wrote:

Hi Jeremy,

I think you might be [sic. Notice how hard it is for Rob to admit that I may have a point here. -ed.] – I remembered Burnley turning over Manchester United at Turfmoor early in the season and wanted to check. 11 losses, 2 wins, 2 draws. There's a distinct difference between week one and first home game.

I think newly promoted teams struggle in week one wherever they play because of the jump in class but do better week 2 when they've got at least one game under their belt.

On Friday, August 1, 2014, Rob Allen wrote:

Hi Jeremy,

I was thinking more about your comment yesterday and it got me wondering – can newly promoted teams be strong at home and awful week 1?. I knew that the stats said that they were awful week 1 but your comment also felt right. The short answer is yes, we're both right.

Looking back over the last five seasons again, the first game out is awful, as I explained – 11 losses from 15 games. During the same period however, newly promoted teams lost only 4 of their first home games. This sounds like a bit of a paradox but in simple terms:

• Newly promoted teams playing at home in their first game won only 20% of their matches
• Newly promoted teams playing at home in their second or third game won 60% of their matches.

My guess is that every newly promoted team improves for its first game out, home or away, and after disapponting fans with a poor initial game, they improve at home in front of their fans second time out. Your example is perfect, Cardiff lose 2-0 to West Ham away on the opening day of the season and then follow it up with a 3-2 win against Man City at home next time out.

This season is a little different from the others as all three newly promoted teams are at home first time out (over the last 5 seasons they've been away 2/3rds of the time). I think therefore that the backlash will most likely come week three, but with Burnley hosting Man United and Leicester at home to Arsenal it might be left to West Ham to give Southampton a bit of a kicking...



Food for thought. I do think there's something here. Rob is surely correct on the history and the stats, but from a fantasy manager's perspective, we're interested in how this translates to fantasy points. Maybe the David-ness of the promoted team and the Goliath-ness of the opposition plays a part. A small team in their band-box of a stadium can defend for their lives for 90 minutes and win, draw, or lose credibly. Regardless, there might not be as many fantasy points for Goliath as the first visitor to David's home (to slay the analogy with a slingshot).