x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Queens Park Rangers could stay up in the Premier League with a bit of luck

According to a book titled The Numbers Game, teams can move a fair distance up the table if they have the momentum, which Harry Redknapp's side have.

Queen Park Rangers are suddenly looking good ahead of their fixture against struggling Sunderland. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
Queen Park Rangers are suddenly looking good ahead of their fixture against struggling Sunderland. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Football, at times, can be a mystifying game. Teams suddenly cannot win a point, players suddenly cannot stop scoring and none of it ever seems entirely explicable.

There is talk of form and momentum but really, what is that? Why does every shot Gareth Bale has from 30 yards seem to go in these days, and why was that not happening at the start of the season?

In The Numbers Game, their new book looking at how statistics can help explain football, authors Chris Anderson and David Sally make the point that in the English Premier League, where there are not huge differentials of ability, around half of all results are down to luck.

This seems a massive figure and yet most fans probably instinctively accept that the difference between, say, sixth and 14th in the table is minimal.

But there is a fortune factor. Win luckily this week, confidence is raised and you are more likely to win next week.

Win luckily two weeks in a row and the boost to confidence is exponential. And confidence, clearly, is a major issue. Players suffering self-doubt are hesitant, their muscles move less freely, they over think and their decisions override the instincts that lie behind much of sporting greatness.

And that is why there is still hope for Queens Park Rangers. They remain bottom of the table, four points from safety.

They have only half of the 40 points usually regarded as the benchmark for safety and, while this year it will probably take four of five fewer, that would still require almost doubling their present rate of points accumulation over the final 10 games of the season.

They have won only three of 28 matches. They need to leapfrog not just one team to survive but three. And yet a situation that looked impossible on Saturday lunchtime suddenly, after a 2-1 win over Southampton, appears salvageable.

The gap to safety has fallen from six points to four.

This Saturday, they face Sunderland, who are without a win in five games and are nervously looking over their shoulders at the six points that separate them from the drop zone. They are a club with a recent history of collapses. Trauma lies near the surface and could easily be awakened.

It should not happen, but momentum – if that is what we are calling it – is a powerful thing.

What is needed for QPR is an enormous confidence trick – and frankly there is no manager better equipped than Harry Redknapp to pull that off.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE