League 2 permutations: 10 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.

l2-permutations-2016-12-10

The seven-point gulf between Plymouth and Portsmouth will render the top three a closed shop for at least the next few rounds of matches, but plenty can change on either side of the divide.

The division is so competitive at the moment that Yeovil and Wycombe – impressively occupying two of the play-off places after impressive recent runs – could sink as low as 14th if results go against them this weekend.

Two of the clubs that can displace them this weekend – Cambridge and Mansfield – are even more mobile, able to drop down to 19th.

The relegation battle also remains wide open, with any of four clubs capable of finishing the weekend at the bottom of the pile and none guaranteed to be in the bottom two.

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.

l2-probabilities-2016-12-10

While Luton are a catchable three points ahead of Yeovil and Wycombe, the Hatters’ huge goal difference advantage makes it vanishingly unlikely that they’ll be overtaken this weekend.

Newport look likelier than not to move off the bottom of the table as they’re at home to struggling Morecambe this weekend while the teams immediately above them are mostly playing each other, limiting the number who can pull decisively away from the Exiles.