League 1 permutations: 10-12 Dec 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.


Scunthorpe‘s position at the summit remains safe this weekend, although their cushion could be reduced to a single point if results go against them. Bradford‘s five-point advantage over Rochdale likewise prevents the Bantams from moving downwards for now.

At the bottom, only Shrewsbury are guaranteed to remain in the relegation zone this weekend, but even they can rise two places and end up within two points of safety with the right combination of results.

While not much can change at the top or the bottom, upper mid-table is a complete free-for-all. Theoretically, anyone down to 16th-placed Walsall could make it into the play-offs this weekend, although the second chart below pours cold water on some of the more extreme possibilities.

What’s likely

The above shows what’s mathematically possible but doesn’t make any allowances for what’s likely to happen, so I’ve come up with a second graphic that uses my E Ratings prediction model (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.


So while the first graphic showed that it was mathematically possible for 16th-placed Walsall to reach 6th this weekend, when I ran the simulations it was pretty rare even for 13th-placed Bristol Rovers to manage it. The Saddlers are away this weekend and would need an 11-goal swing in goal difference: a prohibitively unlikely combination even before considering the specific set of results that would be required from the teams above them.

While Shrewsbury can move off the bottom this weekend, it doesn’t look likely given that they are away at highly-rated Millwall. Even a point for Oldham at Oxford would probably be sufficient to keep them out of the Shrews’ reach thanks to their healthier goal difference.