Points-per-game, weighted formula, a new idea and an undeserved reprieve - where Town would finish under five suggested formula
The League One season could be called off this week. ANDY WARREN takes a look at where Ipswich could finish under various suggested plans to calculate the final table.
Leagues One and Two could be ended this week, meaning the third and fourth tiers will not be played to a conclusion amid the coronavirus crisis.
If that is indeed confirmed, attention will then turn to how the final standings in each league will be decided, which in turn will determine the promotion and relegation places. Clubs are expected to vote on the issue.
Here, we take a look at where Ipswich Town would finish in League One in the various scenarios mooted.
HOW IT STANDS
When play was halted on March 13, Ipswich were sitting 10th in the League One table having topped the league as recently as January.
That slide had made a play-off place extremely unlikely, during a season in which the Blues held genuine title aspirations, with the gap to sixth place standing at seven points at a time when the Blues had played a game more than the majority of the sides above them.
Games against promotion rivals has been Paul Lambert’s side’s problem, with just one win in the 16 games played against the teams above them, but the run-in looked favourable, with four of the bottom six still to play during their final eight games.
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For that reason, Lambert has repeatedly stated he and his side had not given up on promotion, however unlikely that aim looked. A near-perfect run would have been required.
Now, it doesn’t look like they’ll get the chance to turn things around.
NULL & VOID
The Netherlands became the first of Europe’s leading leagues to call their season off last month, with the Eredivise declared null and void with no champion crowned and no teams relegated.
It’s been discussed in this country but is not a route the EFL will go down, with the governing body instead looking to sanction the usual number of promotions and relegations from their three leagues.
POINTS PER GAME - 11th
Perhaps the most simplistic way of sorting things would be to decide the league table based on sides’ average points obtained from the number of games they had played.
Ipswich have 52 points from 36, coming in at an average of 1.44 points-per-game. This method would see Town slip a place to 11th, with Gillingham jumping above them on 1.46 points-per-game.
At the top of the table, Coventry would win the league, Rotherham would be second, with Oxford, Portsmouth and Fleetwood tied for third with an average of 1.71 points-per-game. Then it could get messy.
WEIGHTED POINTS PER GAME - 11th
The above is perhaps a little too simplistic and doesn’t take into account the imbalance created by certain sides having more home games remaining than others.
Ipswich have five of their eight remaining games scheduled for Portman Road, but that perceived ‘advantage’ doesn’t help the Blues in what appears to be the EFL’s favoured method of deciding the final standings.
According to reports, an adapted points-per-game model would see teams’ home and away averages both obtained and then multiplied by the 22 games they were expected to play both at their own stadiums and on the road. These totals would then be added together to produce a projected final points tally.
Under this model, Ipswich would pick up an additional 11.34 points from their remaining games, which would again see them drop to 11th below Gillingham.
One criticism of this model would be that it doesn’t factor in the strengths and weaknesses of sides left to play. For example, it predicts Ipswich would pick up less than four points combined from home games with MK Dons, Bolton and Southend – three of the four worst road teams in the league. You would like to think Lambert’s men would have managed significantly better than that, but of course we may well never know.
This formula would see Coventry, Rotherham and Oxford finish as the top three.
THINKING OUT LOUD - 11th
Okay, this adaptation of points-per-game hasn’t been mentioned as a possibility to the best of my knowledge, but it’s one I’ve been thinking about myself.
It removes the previously mentioned issue with ‘easy run-ins’ and instead splits the league in two and uses a points-per-game average from games against teams in their own halves. The logic being that these are the clubs each team is really being judged against when it comes to promotion and relegation issues.
That means only Ipswich’s results against top-half teams would count. (You would need to decide whether Burton in 12th count as a top or bottom-half team, given there are 23 sides in the league. For this purpose, I’ve counted them as a top-half team.)
As is noted already, Ipswich’s record against the teams above them isn’t good, with Lambert’s men averaging just a point a game from their 20 matches against the 11 opponents here. That sees them slide to 11th, with Burton this time jumping above them.
While Town have played 20 matches against top 12 sides, Rotherham have played the fewest at just 16 while Coventry and Portsmouth have played 17. So there are issues with sample sizes here.
Coventry and Rotherham again top the table, but this method sees Fleetwood finish third ahead of Peterborough, Oxford, Portsmouth and Sunderland.
CUT IN HALF - 3rd
So here’s the wacky scenario which would see the Blues finish in the top three and, if the play-offs were aborted and the regulation number of sides promoted, secure a Championship return.
Spoiler alert, although this has been suggested during talks, it isn’t something that is likely to happen.
Ipswich finish third if the season is chopped in half, counting only teams’ first 22 games of the campaign. They averaged 1.68 points-per-game from those 22, totalling 37, as opposed to the 1.44 they ultimately averaged from the 36 matches they did play.
This scenario which, again, is highly unlikely to be truly considered, sees Wycombe and Oxford finish in the top two.
Ipswich would be the poster boys for why this scenario would surely be unacceptable, given their slide down the league, as would the fact both of the top two in the actual table at the time of the stoppage would finish outside the top three.
FIRST MEETINGS - 3rd
A similar, but subtly different, scenario would see teams’ record from their first meeting against League One’s other 22 sides count.
The slight difference here comes, for example, because Ipswich played Gillingham twice in their first 22 matches but had yet to face Oxford, with similar situations for most other sides.
Ipswich’s situation is unchanged, though, with their 37 points putting them in a tie for second alongside Oxford and Coventry, with Wycombe the runaway leaders on 43. Town’s goal difference in these games (+11) is better than Coventry’s (+6) but behind Oxford’s (+19) meaning they would finish third.
While a scenario which sees Ipswich benefit is extremely unlikely, it remains to be seen how League One’s remaining issues will be sorted.