League 1 permutations: 22 Nov 2016

What’s possible

Here are the highest and lowest possible positions that each club can occupy after the forthcoming round of 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.


While Scunthorpe are safe at the top for now, either Bolton or Bradford could nudge Sheffield United out of second with the right combination of results.

The remaining two berths in the top six could be filled by any of the nine clubs beneath the aforementioned quartet, all the way down to 13th-placed Millwall, although with the exception of Peterborough all could also find themselves in the bottom half of the table at the end of the evening.

The lower reaches of the division are less fluid, with Shrewsbury and Chesterfield unable to break out of the bottom four but any two of the five clubs above them capable of joining them in the relegation zone.

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 forthcoming round of 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.


With Sheffield United at home to struggling Bury, the chances of Bolton or Bradford overtaking them are only slightly above one in four (the Blades have a 72% chance of holding on to second place).

I was interested in the strange confluence of probabilities that makes Charlton so likely to drop exactly one place: it’s unusual to see something as high as 41% when there are so many places that they could move to. I think it’s due to Gillingham and Oxford – the two teams immediately beneath them – playing each other while the two below that – Walsall and Bury – both have tough away games, meaning that they’re unlikely to be leapfrogged even if they lose their own difficult trip to Bristol Rovers.

It looks likely that MK Dons will exit the relegation zone. They have a very winnable-looking home game against bottom side Chesterfield and the three teams they can catch are all playing away.