Premier League permutations: 21-22 Jan
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 remain seven points clear so aren’t going anywhere this weekend, with the scuffle to remain in the top four far more compelling at the moment.
Any of the four sides beneath the Blues could start next week in second place and none of them are guaranteed to even remain in the top four, plus there’s in-form Man Utd waiting in the wings.
Everton also aren’t budging for the time being, sitting seven points behind United but four ahead of West Brom.
The relegation battle is wide open, with just one point separating the bottom four and therefore one of them able to finish the weekend outside the drop zone.
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.
With Tottenham away at Man City they’re likelier to fall than rise, and thanks to Liverpool and Arsenal both facing weaker teams at home their chances or dropping to fourth are actually greater than those of just falling to third.
While City are mathematically capable of breaking into the top four, the combination of results it would require makes it pretty unlikely. The teams above them all have far superior goal differences, so without some huge margins of victory they’d need Arsenal to lose at home to Burnley at the very least.
At the bottom it looks like Crystal Palace have a 71% chance of remaining outside the relegation zone. Sam Allardyce’s side are at home and the three clubs beneath them are all away, with Hull at Chelsea and Swansea at Liverpool, so Sunderland (who travel to West Brom) are the club most likely to overtake them.