Championship permutations: 28-30 Oct 2016

What’s possible

Here are the highest and lowest possible positions that each club can occupy after this weekend’s fixtures. I’ve drawn lines under the automatic promotion and play-off spots, mid-table and the last spot above the relegation zone on both “axes” for ease of reference.

These graphics are explained here, but in a nutshell I crunch through every possible combination of results to work out how far it’s mathematically possible for each club to rise and fall.

ch-permutations-2016-10-29

Just as for Scunthorpe in League 1 this weekend, usurping Newcastle at the top of the Championship is mathematically possible but incredibly unlikely thanks to their double digit goal difference advantage. If there’s any change in the top two it’s far more likely to involve Norwich barging their way into the picture.

The middle of the table remains very open, with Burton and Aston Villa among a clutch of teams who can either move to within a comforting distance of the play-off zone or be cast back down to the fringes of the relegation battle.

Rotherham are five points adrift and therefore cannot budge themselves from bottom spot with a win at Ipswich, but could have some very surprising company in the bottom three if Derby lose at home to Sheffield Wednesday and one of Blackburn or Wigan wins.

What’s likely

The above shows what’s mathematically possible but doesn’t make any allowances for what’s likely to happen, so I’m trialling a second graphic that uses my E Ratings prediction model (which I used to simulate the weekend’s games thousands of times) to assign some probabilities to all these potential changes.

It’s structured very similarly to the one above: the clubs are still listed in the same order as the current league table down the side and the dividing lines are all in the same place, but now across each row is the percentage chance of them moving to other positions in the table. As above, green indicates a rise, red a drop and grey staying put. The darker the red or green, the higher the probability. If there’s no number in a square, it means that the club didn’t fill that position in any of the thousands of simulations I ran and is therefore very unlikely.

ch-probabilites-2016-10-29

There wasn’t a single simulation in which Newcastle‘s huge goal difference cushion was overcome, but between them Huddersfield and Norwich have just under a one in three chance of replacing Brighton in the top two. Both are on the road this weekend, with the Canaries coincidentally visiting the Amex.

The top four feels like a closed shop however, with Norwich’s own goal difference far healthier than Sheffield Wednesday‘s, giving the Owls more to worry about from the clubs breathing down their neck.

As for the other two EFL divisions, it’s still so close in mid-table that clubs are more likely to rise several places than just one or two. The simulations in which they claim three points propel them significantly upwards, while those in which they draw tend to see them lose ground to the teams around them who register wins.

The probability of a change in the make-up of the bottom three this weekend is relatively small. If you add up all the individual green (or red) numbers corresponding to someone escaping (or being sucked in) you end up with 22%, so not much more than a one in five chance.