Premier League permutations: 11-13 Feb 2017

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.

pl-permutations-2017-02-11

With Chelsea nine points clear they won’t be budging for a while, but beneath them the battle for the top four still rages on. Three different clubs could sit second after this round of matches but only one team – Tottenham – are guaranteed to remain in the top four, with Liverpool or Man Utd able to force their way into Champions League contention.

The relegation battle is even more open, with the bottom six separated by just two points and therefore completely fluid. Middlesbrough and Sunderland – in 15th and 20th respectively – could conceivably swap places with the right combination of results.

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.

pl-probabilities-2017-02-11

Tottenham‘s chances of remaining second are around 50:50, as they have a tricky away fixture at Liverpool to contend with. The Reds are far likelier beneficiaries of any slip above them than Man Utd, who need Hull to upset Arsenal in the early kick-off to have any chance of breaking into the top four.

While the relegation battle is indeed wide open, it would take a particularly crazy combination of results to send Middlesbrough all the way to the bottom.

Specifically:

  • Leicester and Swansea would have to draw (any other result keeps one of them beneath Boro);
  • Hull need to win at the Emirates;
  • Palace need to win at Stoke;
  • and Sunderland need to beat Southampton

None of those things are individually impossible by any stretch of the imagination, but the probability of them all happening is pretty small at around 0.2%.