League 2 permutations: 30-31 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-2016-12-29

With Carlisle still five points clear of Portsmouth, the top three is once again a closed shop. Pompey themselves are the only club in the play-offs who are guaranteed to start 2017 there.

At the bottom, Newport will remain at the foot of the table for now thanks to a four-point disadvantage, but any one of the five clubs immediately above them could join 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’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-2016-12-29

With Doncaster playing away in the early Saturday game, they’re likelier than not to be nudged out of top spot. Plymouth are at home and only behind Rovers on goal difference, so have a great chance of regaining top spot. Carlisle have a winnable game at Notts County but would need both of the teams above them to fail to win in order to reach the summit.

Cheltenham have a good chance of exiting the bottom two, which they’re only in on goal difference. The Robins play at home while Accrington are away and Notts County have highly-rated Carlisle coming to town, so either of those two could well be sitting in 23rd place if Gary Johnson’s side can end Wycombe’s eight-match unbeaten run.