Premier League permutations: 26-28 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 Champions League places, 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.


Chelsea are unsurprisingly safe in top spot for the time being, boasting a six-point lead over Liverpool, with the Reds themselves able to be dislodged from second by either of the two clubs beneath them.

After their improved form of late, Man Utd can’t be overtaken for now but any of the six clubs beneath them could be sitting next to them in seventh after this round of games.

Nobody is guaranteed to remain in the relegation zone, with any of the three clubs immediately above the bottom three able to be dragged in if results go against them.

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.


While it’s possible for Man Utd to overtake Spurs, three points above them, the swing in goal difference they’d need renders it very unlikely.

Even more improbable is either Swansea or Hull exiting the relegation zone after their next match. The gulf in goal difference between them and Crystal Palace – the only team they can each catch – is even greater and would require ridiculous score lines to overcome.

With Bournemouth and Stoke away at the top two, Watford look likely to leapfrog them and have a better than 50% chance of moving into the top half as they entertain newly-managerless Palace in the early kick-off.