PSG soar to 94 points, AVB secures second for Marseille - Stats Perform AI completes the Ligue 1 season

By Sports Desk April 07, 2020

Football at the highest level in Europe is at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there remains plenty to play for in France's 2019-20 Ligue 1 campaign.

When the virus hit, causing lockdowns and mass sporting postponements, it was just as the seasons were heading towards their conclusion.

Debate has raged across the continent as to how the campaigns can be salvaged, but most league bodies are leaning towards a continuing determination to wrap up this term before wading into 2020-21.

As football waits for the virus threat to subside, and for normal life to return, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

Most teams in Ligue 1 have 10 matches still to play - only leaders Paris Saint-Germain and mid-table Strasbourg have 11 remaining - and the goal was to simulate how the season would pan out if the games were played now, to produce a final 2019-20 table.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss - based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model - with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Here, then, is a close look at the results of the simulation with the simulated final league standings.

 

PSG STORM TO TITLE HAT-TRICK

A third Ligue 1 triumph in succession, and a seventh in the last eight years, had long looked an inevitability.

Our model shows Paris Saint-Germain sweeping to glory with 94 points, pulling 23 points clear of second-placed Marseille.

That beats their total from each of the last two seasons - 93 in 2017-18 and 91 in 2018-19 - and confirms PSG remain streets ahead in France.

Thomas Tuchel's side, with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in their ranks, have a budget that far exceeds the rest, and another 90-points-plus campaign shows how far they are ahead of the rest.

MARSEILLE SETTLE FOR SECOND

Andre Villas-Boas has rejuvenated Marseille and bolstered his reputation as a leading coach this season, and second place became theirs for the taking.

The AI verdict shows them nailing down the runners-up position, albeit by taking just 15 points from the last 10 rounds of matches.

There had been a momentary stumble from Marseille before the league was halted, with a rare home defeat to Nantes followed by a narrow win at Nimes and a Stade Velodrome 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Amiens.

Yet a return to the Champions League is on the cards, the simulation shows, with Marseille securing their highest Ligue 1 finish since the 2012-13 season, when they were also runners-up to PSG.

Rennes, meanwhile, are set for a Champions League debut in 2020-21, with Julien Stephan's team pipping Lille to third place despite both teams finishing on 62 points.

 

A LILLE DISAPPOINTMENT

Fourth place represents a blow to Lille, and their coach Christophe Galtier, after last season's second-placed finish.

It earns them another season in European football, but in the Europa League rather than a return to the Champions League.

Lille and Rennes were jostling for third spot when the season reached its unnatural break, and Galtier would have been optimistic his side would have been able to overturn their one-point deficit at the 28-game stage.

The plus point for Lille is that at least the AI simulation does not see them stumbling any further down the table, with the likes of Lyon, Monaco and Nice too far back to mount a challenge.

Just four points separated fifth from 13th place when the league was stopped in March, but an eight-point gap to the top four meant these teams were always likely to be playing for pride.

Reims, who sat fifth, dip to ninth place at the season's end.

THE SINKING, SUNK

It's au revoir to Amiens and Toulouse.

Toulouse had already looked doomed, sitting on 13 points from 28 games, and despite the Stats Perform AI suggesting they would pick up a further 10 points from the final 10 games, it would not be nearly enough.

It was a bleak picture as well for Amiens, who were too far off the pace after racking up just four wins before the virus struck down football.

Nimes are projected to finish 18th and face a relegation play-off, despite a blitz of wins in February that sent optimism surging through Bernard Blaquart's side.

Les Crocodiles beat Monaco, Dijon, Nice and Angers in a 15-day burst before defeats to Rennes, Marseille and Metz left Nimes back in the mire, three points shy of Saint-Etienne and Dijon, the teams perched precariously outside the bottom three.

Nimes would fall short of repeating their four-in-a-row heroics over the run-in, according to the simulated results, leaving the team that finished ninth after promotion last season within two games of sinking back to Ligue 2.

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