Another international weekend, another look at the bottom of the table. And, yes, we’re still there. In fact, looking at the numbers, it looks very much as if we’ll be there until the bitter end.
As followers of this series will know, I’ve been tracking clubs by means of their win-loss ratios, on the basis that any clubs achieving 0.48 wins for every loss will be safe and that any clubs falling below 0.45 wins per loss will go down.
There’s a bit of leeway between these ratios, as you no doubt have noticed. I’ve previously called this the Zone of uncertainty. When I looked ahead to this break I thought that, with games running out, I might be able to describe it in a different way:
- Above 0.48 clubs will stay up by their own efforts.
- Between 0.48 and 0.45 clubs don’t have their destiny in their own hands. They have to rely on other clubs losing.
- Below 0.45 and you’re one of those losing clubs the others are relying on.
As you’ll see below, it hasn’t worked out like that for the bottom four; maybe it’s still too early. However, I’m happy enough with the 0.48 and 0.45 borderlines and will continue to use them when looking at the clubs readers selected for relegation at the start of the season, minus Leicester – well out of sight – but plus Swansea, who wobbled for a while, and Crystal Palace, who have popped into some people’s sights after a run of poor form. Here are their current win-loss ratios:
Let’s deal with Palace first.
They have 9 wins and 15 losses, a ratio of 0.6 : 1, or 0.6 in the format I’m using. They have seven games left. If they lose all seven they will have 9 wins and 22 losses. That’s a ratio of 0.41, so Palace could go down. But if they draw just two of those seven games and lose the other five their ratio will rise to 0.45, which is the baseline of the zone of uncertainty. If they win just one game (which will bring up the magic 10) and lose the other six their ratio will rise to 0.48, which is the exit to the zone.
Putting it another way, Palace probably could stay up by drawing a couple of games and relying on others to lose, but winning any game between now and the end of season will more or less guarantee they do stay up.
If that’s the case with Palace then Swansea, also with nine wins but with only thirteen losses, must be in an even better position. In fact, even if Swansea lose every game they will be just on the border of relegation. It’s odds on there will be three teams below them by the end of the season. At Anfield, Pete and I were talking about Swansea doing it draw by draw, and it’s worked for them.
And Bournemouth and Watford, despite some recent losses, are doing better still. Watford can’t drop below 0.48 and Bournemouth will finish the season at 0.5 or better. They are safe, they did it without relying on others, and they are where they are on merit. Congratulations are in order.
That leaves three relegation places and four teams. Let’s look at Villa before the others.
Villa have three wins and twenty one losses. If they win their remaining seven games they will have a ratio of 10 wins to 21 losses, or 0.48. That should be enough, according to my theory. If they won six and drew one of their last seven, Villa would end the season with a ratio of 0.43 and that wouldn’t be enough. In other words, according to my numbers, Villa need to win all of their remaining games to have a chance of staying up and they will effectively be beyond the point of no return as soon as they lose a game.
I can’t see Villa winning seven games, So I think we can say Villa are going down.
This leaves three teams and two relegation places. Have a look at the chart, which shows how Norwich, Sunderland and Newcastle have done since game six.
We’ve consistently been in the relegation zone while the other two haven’t but we have had an upward trajectory while the other two have had a downward trend.
And it has become so close that the dodginess of my dodgy numbers is becoming apparent. Assuming Villa will go down then one of the other three must survive, even though they all have win-loss rations below 0.45.
In fact, as it stands, Both Norwich and Sunderland are not even reliant on other clubs losing. Either club could stay up by winning all of their games (although they can’t both win all of their games). Newcastle aren’t in this position. They could win all of their games and still finish a point behind Sunderland.
But, as M Salut pointed out last Wednesday, that ain’t go to happen. Sunderland, Norwich or Newcastle could win all of their games in the same way that Palace could go down or Villa could stay up. The truth is, it’s two from three clubs and, for us, another desperate and… …unnecessary scramble for survival.
The graph and the underlying numbers tell us that as things stand Norwich have the upper hand. Four wins could give them a comfortable win-loss ratio of 0.55. Even three wins might be enough as that would give them at least 0.48.
However, the numbers also tell us both Sunderland and Newcastle can catch and pass Norwich. After the derby Sam said we need to find four wins. That’s more or less right but my dodgy maths says we could do it with three wins and some draws (three of each and our win-loss ratio would rise to 0.5 and that’s safe territory). Even two wins – equaling the eight we managed last season – would give us an outside chance but only if we drew another four games and both Norwich and Newcastle slipped up. I won’t bother with running the numbers for the Mags, they’re not too different. Instead, returning to M Salut’s previous post, I’ll reiterate his statements that it’s a desperate scramble for all three clubs and that the Norwich games against us and the Mags could be the deciders. Indeed, Norwich games notwithstanding, it’s such a scramble that it’s still too close to call.
So instead of a prediction I’ll leave you with some questions:
- One is, Has Rafa arrived in time?
- Another is Has the Norwich drift downwards finally been halted?
- But the most important in my mind is Has our gradual rise stalled?
For me, the answer to that question could hold the key to our club’s survival.