What’s still possible: Championship, 13 Apr 2016

At work earlier this week I looked at how far it’s still mathematically possible for each Premier League club to rise and fall, and was surprised to see how far each can still move at this late stage of the season:

Seeing as this proved popular I thought it was only fair to apply the same approach to the Football League, which I’ve done here for the Championship.

A quick explanation

You may remember from my explanation of the weekly permutations graphics that there are over half a million possible combinations of results for just one round of matches, so it would take a prohibitively long time for a normal computer to crunch through every possible way that the five remaining rounds of fixtures can play out.

Instead I’ve built a tool which narrows down how far each club can move based on the maximum number of points everyone has available, and lets me quickly tweak individual matches or all of a club’s remaining results at once before recalculating the table. It’s not as fast as the weekly graphics (which calculate themselves automatically), but it’s not that difficult to do and by building the table up from individual matches I can avoid coming up with scenarios that aren’t possible.

I’m even boring myself with that description, so let’s jump straight ahead to the results:

CH final permutations 2016-04-13

So this shows that the current top two of Middlesbrough and Burnley are guaranteed at least a play-off place this season, as they’re unable to fall further than sixth, although fans of both clubs didn’t need me to tell them that. What’s more interesting to me is that Sheffield Wednesday are capable of both winning the title and finishing in the bottom half of the table with just five games left to play.

The Owls can also help us to illustrate an example of the fixture list limiting a team’s movement. They sit sixth with 68 points at the moment and still have to face promotion rivals Derby, who are in fifth with 70. This means that at least one of these two clubs is guaranteed to add to their points tally and therefore QPR, who can finish the season with 70 points if they win all their remaining games, can’t overtake both of them. Still, I doubt anyone there would be complaining if they ended up fifth instead of fourth.

The biggest movement range of all is that of Brentford who, thanks to their game in hand, are the only team who could still make the play-offs or be relegated. They have 52 points at the moment, which is the same as the maximum total that 22nd-placed MK Dons can reach, but can increase that to 70 if they win their six remaining games.

Apart from the current – and likely final – bottom three, every other club can still finish in the top half, with even Rotherham in 21st place capable of storming up to eighth if results went their way.


A final word

Obviously many of these scenarios, while possible, are incredibly unlikely. The modelled probabilities that I track on a weekly basis (and earlier today after the midweek games) give a much more balanced view of what’s likely to happen based on each team’s strength etc.

Just to make sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes with my code, I’ve used the table calculator over at worldfootball.net to double-check a few of the less believable scenarios. For example, here’s a final table in which Rotherham rise from 21st to 8th:

CH Rotherham example 2016-04-13