Yesterday you might have seen how I – or rather our readers – came to select a number of clubs to follow over the course of the season. They were originally Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Fulham, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland; Wolves, Bristol City, Cardiff, Derby and Sheffield United joined them at the end of the January transfer window.
The original six had been tracked by being plotted onto a graph with two lines already in place. These lines, generated by my dodgy numbers, showed the points clubs needed accumulate game by game in order to make promotion or the playoffs.
Here’s the original graph:
This is how that graph looked after 4 months:
As Christmas loomed not only were none of our six occupying the top two places, only Leeds had done so after the initial flurry of games. They hadn’t been there for a while, however, and they had even dropped out of playoff contention by the time the graph went up on our website. By the end of January some recognition of this state of affairs was required and I added in Derby and Wolves. I hadn’t been tracking them so they went in as points on the graph rather than lines:
And then I took account of the poll results, which you may have seen in yesterday’s post.
Adding another five clubs to these eight made for a very confused picture overall, which I won’t show, but focussing on the last ten games and enlarging that section gives us something a little more decipherable:
You can see Wolves remain clear and have done so for a while, and that Cardiff are now the club getting closest to them. Fulham and Villa are currently on the threshold of the promotion barrier, while Derby, ‘Boro, Bristol and Sheffield Utd are banging on the door of the playoffs. That’s clearly too many clubs for the available spots, without taking account of Preston North End, surely worthy of at least a mention.
You could claim that the graph says Wolves are safe, and that Cardiff will be joining them, with Fulham and Villa guaranteed playoff spots. That would leave four, or maybe five, clubs battling for the remaining two spots.
Is such a claim premature? For Wolves, I’d say no, it isn’t. They have a massive advantage over third spot and I can’t see them slipping up now. But is it too early to head down the bookies and put your money on Cardiff? They are enjoying a terrific run of form and in their last five games have matched Sunderland’s win total for the whole of the season. Will that run continue? If not, Fulham and Villa might yet have something to say. Villa have dipped but Fulham are almost in the Cardiff league when it comes to form.
That said, Cardiff have opened up a gap and will require some catching. It is their promotion to lose and I can’t see them throwing it away. Just look at their trajectory since game 32.
Looking below Villa and Fulham brings us to a gap – not a big one but there are few games left – and teams with poorer form and/or goal differences.
That would seem to be enough to consign Fulham and Villa to the playoffs. Who among those “teams with poorer form and/or goal differences” will join them?
Go back to the January chart and look at Derby’s position, then look at the picture in March to see how they have declined. Compare it to what Bristol City and the Blades have done over the last ten games, and then have a long think about ‘Boro – hanging in there and looking likely to continue to do so. Derby are struggling and appear to have lost the knack of winning (their next match excepted, of course). That can’t be said of ‘Boro, Sheffield Utd, and Bristol, who have won three, two and two of their last five matches respectively. Nor can it be said of PNE, who are winning more than they lose. There’s often a team which falls out of contention towards the end and it looks like it could be Derby this season. Derby fans might disagree but I don’t expect any to post a comment explaining why they aren’t worried.
That would make for the following:
- Wolves and Cardiff to go up
- Fulham and Aston Villa (just) to make the playoffs
- Two of Middlesbrough, Bristol and Sheffield United to make the playoffs.
- Derby to just miss out
- (and Preston? I have to discount them but I’m sure PNE fans won’t)
Are my dodgy numbers leading to a dodgy prediction? What do you think?