Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Hitting the Moving Promotion Target.

One inevitable question at this stage of the season is "what's our target to get automatic promotion/get in the playoffs/avoid relegation/get in the Champions League/finish above Arsenal".

The answer is problematical on quite a few levels, not least the phrasing of the initial question.

Does the questioner want a guaranteed outcome or just a target that makes the outcome more likely than not. The former can only be provided for those already leading the race, so a probabilistic reply seems the most suitable.

There's a couple of easy pitfalls to avoid.

For example if you're interested in the chances of a top six finish, the average points won by the sixth placed side isn't that useful. To finish 6th you simply have to narrowly eclipse the points and goal difference won by the 7th placed side.

And with a breakaway big six, such as in the Premier League, the difference between 6th and 7th can be huge.

But the problems don't stop there.

The target for a top 6th finish is most likely different for a side that isn't one of the established big six teams. One of the big six may have a slightly down season, but if you're an outsider looking to break into the top six, your target is likely to be higher than that of a founder member of the big 6.


Even at this late stage of the season, targets are set under the unique circumstances of this particular season, including the intertwined remaining fixture list played out by teams of varying underlying abilities.

The current points target at which Wolves becomes more likely than not to gain automatic promotion from the Championship will be different than Fulham's target.

An inferior Fulham team has to overhaul at least three teams currently ahead of them in the table, without being caught by opponents below them, over a fixture list that includes just one immediate rival.

In contrast, Wolves, the best team in the division, can allow one side to overhaul them, whilst playing out a fixture list that includes three (barely) realistic promotion rivals, giving the Old Gold the opportunity to reduce the points gathering potential of Villa, Cardiff and Derby...or the chasing trio the chance to cut into Wolves' lead.

In short, everyone's running their own unique race, with different challenges and different abilities.

Fulham could get promoted automatically with just 83 points, but in 89% of the occasions they reach exactly 83 points it is insufficient to win that prize.

If Wolves disappointingly win just 83 points, they still go up automatically in 66% of the occasions when they end with this final total.

Two identical final totals, but different probabilistic outcomes for the two sides.

If you want a Fulham points target where automatic promotion becomes more likely than not, it's currently 87 points.

As we've seen for Wolves their "breakeven" points tally is just 83 points and if you want virtual certainty of bringing Premier League football back to Molineux the target to aim for is 90.

Even better news for Wolves is that they get at least 83 points in 3999 out of every 4000 league simulations and at least 90 in 95% of trials.

Here's the rest of the "better than evens" targets for the main contenders for promotion or demotion in the Championship.

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