League 1 permutations: 29 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.

Scunthorpe can be overtaken at the summit this weekend but it would take a 10-goal swing in Bolton‘s favour to make it a reality. The Trotters are more likely to be desposed themselves, with Bradford and Sheffield United both matching their goal difference and able to take advantage of any slips.

Every team in the top half is capable of finishing the weekend in the play-off zone, with newly-promoted pair Bristol Rovers and Wimbledon each able to move as high as third or as low as 11th.

The trio of Fleetwood, Oxford and Southend are among the most mobile: they could each move to within touching distance of the play-offs or the bottom four depending on how Saturday’s matches turn out.

The best case scenario for Shrewsbury would see them move off the bottom at Chesterfield‘s expense, but neither can break out of the relegation zone altogether. The bottom four’s other two occupants – Coventry and Oldham – will be hoping for a better weekend than the five clubs immediately above them, all of whom can be overtaken.

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.

Unsurprisingly, there were no 10-goal swings in the simulations sufficient to depose Scunthorpe this weekend, although Bolton can at least take comfort from a 78% chance of remaining in the top two.

The chances of Bristol Rovers or Wimbledon rising to third as mentioned above are each around 1 in 50, so not particularly likely, although if they are overtaken it’s probably not going to be by Port Vale, who have around an 80% chance of dropping down the table this weekend.

As in League 2, the narrow spread of points in mid-table means that for many clubs a large move upwards is more likely than a small one. Three points would catapult them upwards in the scenarios where they win, while a draw would see them lose ground to the sheer number of clubs within a few points of their own tally.

At the bottom Coventry look marginally more likely to escape the bottom four than remain in it, with even a draw at Walsall potentially being enough to move them upwards thanks to Swindon and MK Dons both facing a top four side on the road.