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D1: The tightest race to the finish
Posted by John Holden on Friday, Sep. 29th, 2023 at 9:35 PM

The first division is one of the closest and most entertaining races in all of Olmec history. Only eight points (and, uh, 28 goals) separate top from bottom, and any team can still go down except for Tranmere heading into the final day. I have a little ELO simulator I wrote so I plugged in the remaining schedule to see who has the best chance of staying up. I substituted T11 for a team's individual ELO score since it's the last week of the season, but it's closer to a coin flip than any sort of actual ELO. (Since we have all of the results of all time, figuring out ELO would be kind of fun if the database were available...)

1. Tranmere (v Lewes, v Southend)
Title chance: 85%
Relegation chance: safe
With a three-point lead and their final two games at home and a healthy goal difference, the mock ELO sim shows Alon is in the drivers' seat to retain the title. All Tranmere have to do is get two points to guarantee the silverware - lose both somehow and their title odds drop to 5%, get one point and their title odds drop to 30%. It's good to be Alon, just generally...

2. Lewes (at Tranmere, v Port Vale)
Title chance: 6%
Relegation odds: >3%
Lewes have the highest odds of taking the title if Tranmere collapse in part because they play Tranmere. Their game away in Birkenhead is the title decider.

3. Northampton (at Brentford, v Brighton)
Title chance: 1.5%
Relegation odds: <5%
Northampton have a lower title chance than Southend since they don't play Tranmere, but finish in third more often because they don't play Tranmere, but have higher relegation odds since if they lose, they'll be giving up points to teams below them. Still one point should almost be enough for survival.

4. Southend (v Watford, at Tranmere)
Title chance: >5%
Relegation odds: <3%
Southend are basically safe and still have an outside chance at the title, especially if they can beat Tranmere by five goals. Southend actually has the second highest average point total, but the fourth average position, showing just how close everything is. They fall to fourth in the predicted table because they're not as likely to win against Alon, as discussed above...

5. Bristol City (at Port Vale, v Sheffield United)
Title chance: >1%
Relegation odds: >7%
The last of the teams on 22 points, Bristol will continue their streak against the Vale on the road and then host a Sheffield team as desperate for a win as their real life counterparts. Bristol also host Leicester in cup final so will have an additional chance at silverware.

6. Port Vale (v Bristol City, at Lewes)
Title chance: <1%
Relegation odds: 23%
The first team on 21 points, Port Vale are relegated 89% of the time if the Vale lose both of their games, which is very possible. However a top three finish beckons if the Vale win both games, which is very impossible. One point means more likely than not Vale are staying up, and a win in either match guarantees survival.

7. Brighton (v Sheffield, at Northampton)
Title chance: <0.1%
Relegation odds: 26%
Similar odds to the Vale but with a slightly worse goal difference, Brighton can stay up with a win, especially against Sheffield.

8. Watford (at Southend, v Brentford)
Relegation odds: 62%
The Southend game is huge for Watford. Lose and they are virtually relegated. Draw and they carry their same relegation odds into the final match. Win on the road against a title chaser and their relegation odds drop to 26%, and those odds spill into the teams in 2nd-7th place, and increase Southend's odds to about 9% from less than 3%... The Brentford game is just as important as only getting three points only gives Watford a 13% of staying up. Four points will do the job nicely.

9. Sheffield United (at Brighton, at Bristol)
Relegation odds: 81%
The Blades B it up without even playing Brentford, but their two final games on the road really hurt Paul's chances of securing survival in the first season after promotion. It's not impossible, though, with the Brighton game being hugely important: if the Blades only win one game, if they beat the Seagulls their odds of survival increase to about 26%, while only beating Bristol City gives them about 4% odds of staying up, because Brighton would leapfrogged and Bristol likely wouldn't due to goal difference.

10. Brentford (v Northampton, at Watford)
Relegation odds: 89%
With one point less than their closest rival and the worst goal difference in the division the Bees are unlikely to matching their longest consecutive run in the top flight of five seasons. Al requires four points to even have a chance of staying up, but two wins and Brentford only have a 4% chance of relegation. Unfortunately that's about the only scenario which works for the Bees - four points and they still have less than 10% odds of staying up.

Best of luck to most teams tomorrow!

Readers Comments

If this is the same ELO as TMVL, we do not ever argue with it's predictions. If ELO says Tranmere has an 85% chance of winning the title, it's already theirs. On the other end, my condolences to Sheffield and Brentford. 

Rob Peterson on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 1:21 AM
 

Having looked over the D1 table, I don't think I've ever seen a title leader wtih so few points. We could see a League Champion crowned with fewer than 30 points!

Rob Peterson on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 2:11 AM
 

Love this analysis. Totally great job as it is an exciting end to the season. I am not entirely convinced Tranmere will come out on top though and with the odds against them I would certainly be betting on Lewes to clinch it at the post. Lewes are pretty much free of injuries and suspensions going into that game against Tranmere who will be without their suspended Captain Leo Wright and injured star striker Shilton for both these final games. This will severely dent the Tranmere attack on which they have been relying all season. Quite successfully too! If Lewes can win both their games they will clinch it, although they do have to also beat Port Vale who are in form right now. So yes an exciting end to the season. Can´t help but cheer on the underdog even if it is Dave Dohm!

Vick Hall on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 8:00 AM
 

Great analysis John.  My predictions - Tranmere to win the title. Lewes, Bristol City and Brentford to be relegated.

Roger Mendonça on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 8:26 AM
 

Are you fielding a subpar team against us Mr Mendonça?

John Holden on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 11:33 AM
 

I haven't done the maths but goven that SU are 2nd with two games to play I find it hard to believe that SU can be relegated. It would mean 6 teams passing us. Surely if those teams are playing each other tgey can't all win..... I will wait and see.

Colin Scott on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 5:42 PM
 

John, this was a delight to read. You should consider doing this professionally before and after each season (and by "professionally" I mean "pro bono").

Brian Beerman on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 5:45 PM
 

We've been subpar all season John

Roger Mendonça on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 6:22 PM
 

We somehow moved up the table one spot after a loss and a draw.

Brian Beerman on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 8:22 PM
 

Well I got the Tranmere prediction right at least

Roger Mendonça on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 9:26 PM
 

We look forward to seeing ourselves back in this list next season.

Ian Lindsay on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 11:30 PM
 

...barely I-Man...

Allan Sellers on Saturday, Sep. 30th, 2023 at 11:31 PM
 
 
 
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