Newcastle v Arsenal: ludicrous predictions and brilliant videos

by Tony Attwood

(Author’s note: if you don’t want to read my latest ramble, you can skim down to the videos which follow further down the page.  I won’t be offended.  Well, not very much.)

One of the problems with football commentary in the media is that so much of it is inaccurate and that which isn’t downright inaccurate is often incomplete.   Take the media’s propensity for claiming that a supercomputer has predicted the outcome of the season, or indeed the outcome of a match.

It all sounds probable, and so readers read on to find out in advance what will happen.

Of course, the first hint that something is not right, comes with the fact that it is very hard to find any article that takes the predictions of these various alleged supercomputers and compares them with reality.  Surely if they were supercomputers they would get the answers right and we would know the outcomes before they happened, and we’d all be doing that.

But we don’t find such articles for the simple reason that no supercomputer is involved in any sort of football prediction.  It is all yet another fantasy of the media.   

In the case pof today’s match the clue is the fact that if one does a search of the BBC websites for anything that could lead to the Mag’s headline “BBC Sport ‘super computer’ prediction for Newcastle v Arsenal” there isn’t anything.

However the article insists, “BBC Sport have published the likelihood of either club winning, based on the predictions of  ‘super computer’ SAM.

“SAM (Sports Analytics Machine) is a super-computer created by Professor Ian McHale at the University of Liverpool that is used to predict the outcome of football matches.”

No it isn’t. Sam is the name given to “a whole load of data, algorithms, equations and statistical models,” and that’s according to the people running it.  Supercomputers are not things that university professors can dip into to get football forecasts.  In 2010 the top 10 supercomputers required an investment of between 40 and 50 million euros each while in the UK supercomputers are entirely government-funded.

Now this may seem like a pointless deviation from a preview of tonight’s match, but this type of nonsense is published every day in almost every football article, and it continues to such a degree that writers and publishers are encouraged to make up any sort of nonsense they like knowing that virtually everything else written about football is also fantasy.

Indeed saying that a supercomputer has predicted the result of the Newcastle Arsenal match as a draw is like saying that Arsenal have put wheels under the Emirates Stadium so it can be moved to Potters Bar in order to alleviate traffic chaos in N5.

Of course, the supercomputer gibberish which is poured forth every few days from a publication somewhere, is just one of millions of bits of disinformation we are offered about football, and this happens because we are, as football supporters, by and large treated with contempt by publishers.

Historically Arsenal have got the better of Newcastle having beaten them 83 times, to their 67 victories over us.  38 games have been drawn.

And the history of this match is important because the first-ever Arsenal league match took place on 2 September 1893 and finished Woolwich Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 2.  Newcastle and Arsenal both joined the League the previous summer so this was the first league game for both clubs.

Arsenal followed up the draw in the opening game with an away defeat to Notts County (3-2), but then secured their first two victories ever in the league, beating Walsall Town Swifts 4-0 and Grimsby Town 3-1.

However, the return match between the two clubs was just a few weeks later, being played at Newcastle on 30 September with Newcastle winning 6-0.

Sadly we don’t have a video, since videos had not been invented in the late 19th century (although I am sure the media will shortly tell us they have found film of one of the games).  But we do have a few other videos to keep you amused before kick off…


18 January 2021

9 January 2021

16 February 2020

11 August 2019

2 Jan 2016

13 December 2014

And the one it was worth waiting for Arsenal 7 Newcastle 3


5 Replies to “Newcastle v Arsenal: ludicrous predictions and brilliant videos”

  1. My favourite games against the Geordies was our 5-3 win in 1976 with a MacDonald hat-trick against his old club.

  2. What’s the difference between a computer and a super computer and is it similar to the difference between an agent and a super agent?

    Great vids…

  3. AllezKev – there are many differences. In 2010 the top 10 supercomputers required an investment of between 40 and 50 million euros and they are primarily funded by government. They are used in weather forecasting to help shipping and airlines, as well as for modelling the paths of photons, and for maintaining the nuclear stockpile of the United States – that sort of thing.
    To set up one to predict football results would cost the budget of the entire football industry about 100 times over. Or more.

  4. Fun fact. Installing supercomputers was part of my job back in the day. Nowadays the amount of computer power available within a typical desktop computer would probably be good enough to run a decent football simulation in a matter of hours, or probably even minutes.

    “Supercomputer predicts league table” sounds much more impressive than “I went round to my mate’s house after a few beers”.

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