Sunday 13 April 2014

Norwich Slip Towards The Championship.

Just when it seemed the day couldn't get any worse for Norwich following their 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage, the news arrived that the least likely result from the three relegation shaping games had actually materialized. A win for Cardiff at Southampton should have been expected around 12% of the time and Cala's goal (inevitably "Super Cala" for the punning headline writers) had made the result a reality.

The Canaries knew that defeat would see Fulham emerge as serious contenders to snatch away their Premiership place come May, but they must have hoped that Cardiff wouldn't also advance to within touching distance.

The result also took some of the shine off Fulham's narrow win as they failed to shake off the Welsh side.

Sunderland had begun the day as the most likely of the bottom two to take points from their fixture, but although the Black Cats scored the only goal of their game, it was sadly in the wrong net. Instead Cardiff's unexpected three points revived their hopes and chunks of survival probability were claimed from both Norwich and Fulham.

Leaving so soon?  Norwich's EPL Status Hangs by a Thread.
Norwich now lie 17th with 32 points and four matches remain, two points in advance of Fulham and Cardiff a further point back. Their goal difference is superior, but not so far in advance that it would remain so with a series of heavy defeats. The killer for them is a borderline unfair run in that takes in visits to Manchester United and Chelsea and visits from Arsenal and Liverpool. A schedule that would pitch them against three of the top four sides in any normal EPL season before a ball was kicked in August.

Norwich's average points expectation from their final four games is around 2.3 points, compared to 4.1 and 4.4 for Cardiff and Fulham respectively and this disparity is best illustrated by plotting the likelihood that each side will gather particular points totals from theses matches.

Norwich's expectations dominate the left side of the graph where fewer points lie and their rivals dwarf the chances of Norfolk's finest as we move towards the higher totals. Both Cardiff and Fulham's most likely total is four points and Norwich's is a single point.

These totals do need to be viewed with regard to how likely they are to occur, but the plot does reiterate the threat to Norwich from two currently trailing teams, but each with significantly easier final fixtures.

We can further confirm the task facing Norwich by comparing the record this season of teams at the foot of the table in their corresponding fixtures against the Canaries final four opponents to create a general baseline. It gives a small sample sized indication of how difficult Norwich's task may be perceived, even if the reality of their task may be slightly different when framed from longer term results.

Sunderland are yet to visit Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge, but are still pointless from the visits of Liverpool and Arsenal. Cardiff took nothing from the four games, as did Villa. Palace are also pointless with a visit from Liverpool to come. Fulham, Swansea and West Ham took just a single point each and only WBA bucked the trend, defeating United at Old Trafford at the depth of their slump and taking a point from each of the other three fixtures.

Overall, sides from Stoke downwards took just 15 points from a possible 105 against the four sides and venues confronting Norwich. Therefore, the upside for the Canaries appears very limited and now they have two legitimate pursuers.

Despite very nearly half the Premiership still not mathematically free from relegation worries, the main contenders still remain any three from the current bottom four.

Sunderland's failure to take anything from Saturday's home game with Everton has pushed them to near certainties for the drop, even with a brace of games in hand. Cardiff looked all but gone following defeat by Palace, but their against the odds win over Southampton has given them renewed hope, while simultaneously damaging the fortunes of Fulham and principally Norwich.

The results of simulating the remainder of the season is shown above.

On a weekend when honours at both ends of the table could have been virtually settled for the season, every result that needed to happen to prolong the enjoyment of the neutral or the agony of the committed, did happen.

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