EPL Matchday 36

What a difference a week makes!

With most Premier League teams now looking down three more games in the regular season, the weekly simulation that I’ve been running (not so weekly) sees the numbers solidifying more and more. It’s been well established which 6-7 teams will occupy the top spot (though not quite as firm which would be in the bottom three). But the ordering is still wide open. Recent runs of form – both good and bad – by the top teams have kept the title race alive.

Without further ado, here’s the summary of my simulation after Sunday’s games were complete. Remember, the number indicates the number of times (out of 10,000 runs) that a particular team ended the season in a particular ranking:

Last week, the simulation showed Man Utd winning the league title 94% of the time.  One loss to Arsenal plus one Chelsea win has dropped those chances to 86% this week. Still a dominant favourite but the punters out there may ask for different odds. Whereas Arsenal was closing in on the title at the end of March while Chelsea were in the doldrums, the position has changed with the Blues winning the title 14% of the time and the Gunners a pathetic 19 times out of 10,000 (this is 525-1 odds, by the way, for the faithful).

At the other end of the race, the question of who will be relegated has become much clearer. Instead of 6 teams all with a high likelihood of Championship football, recent results have winnowed the losers’ group down to four. Despite the Wolves sitting in 19th with three games left, their next matches (home to West Brom, away to Sunderland, home to Blackburn) mean that the likelihood of relegation is “just” 62%. Wigan pulled themselves out of a hole and while it is still likely that they will go down, on paper at least their chances have improved from the mid-80s to 69%. Blackpool joins them, while West Ham have surely sealed their fate, being relegated 86% of the time. Interesting to note that the coming weekend’s games do not seal the deal for any of these teams – more on that in a second.

If you place a bet on Liverpool creeping into the Champions League, demand 100-1 odds, because in 10,000 runs they reached the top 4 just 10 times. Tottenham is slightly better at 50-1, having reached for a sophomore season in 198 runs. For the first time, Arsenal and Chelsea joined Man Utd in achieving top-4 finishes 100% of the time (this is not a statement of mathematical certainty, however).

I’ve looked at four key games this weekend to analyze what the possible outcomes would do to the teams involved. Let’s start with the biggest, which is of course Wolves hosting West Brom. (What, you thought some other game was more important?) West Brom is safe from relegation but could spoil Wolves’s last few games. A home win for Mick McCarthy’s side lowers their chances of relegation to 40%, while a draw moves them to 75% (slightly worse than they are now) and a loss gives them an 85% chance of relegation.

Another major relegation player, Wigan, visits Villa Park on the weekend and also has much riding on the outcome. A win by the Latics improves their chances of avoiding the drop to 39%. A draw keeps their chaces almost exactly where they are now. But a loss to Bent & Co (and Bent is in my fantasy team, so I’m hoping for at least a brace) puts an almost certain end to Wigan’s Premier League status, with an 85% chance of being relegated.

Finally, West Ham’s game against Blackburn affects the numbers but not by much. A win would improve Hammers chances of staying up to 24% (that’s 3-1 for you odds people), but a draw or loss puts the chances of being relegated to 94% and 97% respectively – as close to certain as math can get, though we were saying the same thing last week about Man Utd.

Speaking of which, the marquee match has to be #1 vs #2. Chelsea winning at Old Trafford is never easy – hell, any team winning at Old Trafford is a rarity, unless that team is Manchester United. But if they do, things get very, very interesting.

A win by the Red Devils increases their chances of a title to 99.15%. Note this doesn’t say 100%; a win this weekend will not mathematically decide anything. But that percentage, combined with Chelsea’s chances plummeting to less than 1 percent, do mean the engravers can start warming up the machines, and the scarf designers can get going on their commemorative scarfs. A draw keeps things more or less where they are now. But a Man Utd loss, at home, would be a massive spanner in the works for their double hopes. The simulation shows that for those runs where they lose this game, United go on to win the title only 43% of the time, while Chelsea wins 57% of the time.

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