Unscripted - BT Sport revisits the script of the 2019/20 Premier League season... and it turns out you can't predict football

Some of the leading names in football data and analytics attempted to predict the Premier League season in a 70-page document. It didn't quite go to plan...

Published: 4 September 2020 - 3.23pm

Jose Mourinho, Jamie Vardy and Chris Wilder - three men who ripped up the script this season

Just before the start of this season, BT Sport challenged some of the leading names in football data and analysis to script the 2019/20 season, before a ball had even been kicked, as part of our #Unscripted campaign.

The result was a 70-page document which described, in meticulous detail, the ins and outs of the Premier League: the top goalscorers, relegation candidates and other notable storylines.

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As the season draws to a close, we felt the time was right to acknowledge what was obvious to many fans, pundits and players from the start: data and science cannot predict the beautiful game. Football cannot be scripted.  

If the Premier League were to finish as it stands today (24 July), The Script would have correctly predicted the final positions of just two teams (Brighton and Chelsea), while 12 sides look set to finish three or more places away from their data-driven projection. 

The beauty of football, then, lies in its unpredictability. But where did the data get it wrong?

Even a cursory glance at the predicted table versus the current standings reveals a wide range of potential answers.

The predicted Premier League table looks decidedly different to the real one

The Script

To read every one of the predictions the data experts made before the start of the season, visit The Script.

30 Years of Hurt

Liverpool took the league by storm, ending their 30-year wait for a league title in clinical fashion. The Reds did not lose a league game until the end of February.

Manchester City were predicted to finish the season six points clear at the top of the table. With one game remaining, they find themselves 18 points behind the champions.  

Wilder Things

Predicted to finish rock bottom of the Premier League, Sheffield United were supposed to spend just one week outside the bottom five. As it happens, they have spent just one among the basement clubs. 

With one game remaining, Chris Wilder’s men find themselves with a guaranteed top-half finish - an incredible achievement by anyone's standards.

Surprise Packages

The Script predicted Sheffield United would finish rock-bottom. Chris Wilder's men instead look set to finish just outside the European places.

White Smoke Over Turf Moor

Burnley’s defence has recorded an incredible 15 clean sheets so far this season despite The Script pegging them for a relegation dogfight.

Nick Pope currently sits joint top of the Golden Glove standings heading into the final day.

Jamie Vardy is Still Having a Party

With one game to go, Jamie Vardy tops the scoring charts. He was predicted to score just ten goals but has notched more than double that amount as, at the age of 33, he looks set to become the oldest recipient of the Golden Boot.  

North London’s Struggles

This season will mark the first time both north London clubs have finished outside the top four since 1996.

Predicted to finish third and fifth respectively, Tottenham and Arsenal have had seasons racked by upheaval and will hope that a sensible summer transfer window can get them back among the Champions League places.

Golden Mo?

Mo Salah was touted to bring home the Golden Boot for a third consecutive season.

Despite another great season for the Egyptian, he has been outscored by Vardy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and former Liverpool teammate Danny Ings. 

Mo Salah

Unscripted Goals

29

Jamie Vardy

Reality

23

Harry Kane

Unscripted Goals

24

Danny Ings

Reality

21

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Unscripted Goals

23

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Reality

20

Sergio Aguero

Unscripted Goals

23

Mo Salah

Reality

19

Raheem Sterling

Unscripted Goals

17

Raheem Sterling

Reality

19

Alexandre Lacazette

Unscripted Goals

16

Raul Jimenez

Reality

17

Unscripted Goals

Reality

Mo Salah

29

Jamie Vardy

23

Harry Kane

24

Danny Ings

21

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

23

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

20

Sergio Aguero

23

Mo Salah

19

Raheem Sterling

17

Raheem Sterling

19

Alexandre Lacazette

16

Raul Jimenez

17

No Sterling service

It was thought Raheem Sterling would be propelling his team to another title with 13 assists.

Instead, his teammate Kevin De Bruyne finds himself with The Playmaker Award all but wrapped up, needing just one more assist to equal Thierry Henry’s all-time Premier League record of 20.   

Raheem Sterling

Unscripted Assists

13

Kevin De Bruyne

Reality

19

Alex Iwobi

Unscripted Assists

11

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Reality

13

Bernardo Silva

Unscripted Assists

11

Andrew Robertson

Reality

11

Mesut Ozil

Unscripted Assists

11

David Silva

Reality

10

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Unscripted Assists

11

Son Heung-Min

Reality

10

Christian Eriksen

Unscripted Assists

10

Mo Salah

Reality

10

Unscripted Assists

Reality

Raheem Sterling

13

Kevin De Bruyne

19

Alex Iwobi

11

Trent Alexander-Arnold

13

Bernardo Silva

11

Andrew Robertson

11

Mesut Ozil

11

David Silva

10

Trent Alexander-Arnold

11

Son Heung-Min

10

Christian Eriksen

10

Mo Salah

10

How did the boffins predict your team would get on? And how wrong did they get it? 

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