Fulham's Path to Promotion - 9 Matches to Go

Discussion in 'Fulham FC News and Notes' started by MicahMan, Mar 14, 2018.

  1. MicahMan

    MicahMan Administrator

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2014
    A Miracle Needed for Automatic Promotion
    A few weeks ago the first edition of this series looked at Fulham’s Promotion chances with 15 matches to go. At that time, as we entered a tough stretch of six straight matches against the top teams, I said:

    “If Fulham comes through with five wins then they will be an automatic promotion contender.”

    Although I didn’t think it was possible, Fulham did it. The team secured five wins and one draw. This announced to everyone that Fulham is the best team in the league right now. Unfortunately, I also didn’t think it was possible for Cardiff to continue their run. In fact, Cardiff managed to win all of their matches over the past six giving them two more points than Fulham and stretching their lead back to eight points.

    Fulham and Cardiff Continue to Move In Tandem Up the Table
    fulham_cardiff_tandem_2.png

    This means that Fulham’s only realistic scenario to promotion is through the playoffs. Automatic promotion will require a miracle, most likely in the matches after Easter.

    Promotion Scenario #1: Miracle for Automatic Promotion
    If Fulham is to earn automatic promotion they’ll have to gain at least eight points on Cardiff in nine matches. This isn’t impossible, just highly unlikely. In the past nine matches Fulham has gained this kind of ground on two playoff contenders. The Whites have gotten nine points on Sheffield United and 14 points on Derby. In the past nine matches the Blades went 4W, 1D, 4L and the Rams went 1W, 6D, 2L.

    In Nine Matches Fulham Outperforms Sheffield United and Derby
    fulham_gains.png

    In order get to second place, Fulham needs Cardiff to have a miserable series of matches like Sheffield United and Derby experienced. While unlikely, an optimist can find legitimate reasons to expect a Cardiff downturn. By any measure Cardiff has the toughest remaining schedule of teams in playoff contention. When adjusted for home and away records, Cardiff’s remaining competition gets an average of 1.51 Points Per Match (PPM) while Fulham’s opponents only have 1.18 PPM. Over the last nine Cardiff will also face good competition on the road that includes three teams in the playoff mix. Cardiff has been much better at home than on the road and their current seven game win streak included five matches at home. They won’t have that kind of home advantage over the remainder of the season.

    The most likely time for Cardiff to drop points will be just after Easter. On the Monday following Easter Cardiff goes to Sheffield United, then hosts Wolverhampton four days later, and four days after that heads to Aston Villa. Cardiff lost four in a row over the Christmas and New Year’s matches so Fulham will have to hope that Easter and some tough competition throws them into a similar downturn.

    And even if all that happens – if Cardiff has nine games equal to their bad spell in December and January – Fulham will still need to win almost all of their remaining matches and hope that Aston Villa doesn’t do something similar. It will be a miracle for everything to fall into place for automatic promotion, so in all likelihood Fulham will control their promotion destiny in the playoffs.

    Promotion Scenario #2: Winning the Playoffs
    Typically 75 points is enough to get into the playoffs and the trends this year are aligning to that rule. Fulham are just seven points shy of 75, so it would take huge collapse at this point for Fulham to miss the playoffs. While automatic promotion would require a miracle, missing the playoffs would require and even more ridiculous finish to the season.

    Getting promoted through the playoffs is certainly not the ideal route. Consider for a moment that this season Fulham and Aston Villa could finish in the third and fourth spots with more points than most second place teams in past seasons. Although both teams seem deserving of promotion only one can earn it.

    Fulham Well Positioned for Playoffs
    Fulham does have the best potential heading into the playoffs. When looking at the head-to-head matchups from earlier this season, Fulham comes out ahead versus almost all of the playoff contenders. This chart shows who would win a first-round playoff matchup based on the previous matches this season:

    playoff_matchups.png

    The only team that has defeated Fulham on aggregate this season is Bristol City. Fulham can clearly beat any opponent they will face in the first round of the playoffs.

    Fulham’s home form also gives them an advantage going into the playoffs. Last year Fulham was slightly better on the road than at home. Fulham’s inability to win at home became particularly important in the playoff with Reading. By only coming away with a draw in Fulham’s home leg, Reading had just enough of an advantage to make it to Wembley. This season has been entirely different. Fulham has dominated at home and has not allowed an opponent to earn a point at Craven Cottage since November 18. Fulham's strength at home could be the difference this season that will allow Fulham to make it to the playoff final.
     
    #1
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  2. HatterDon

    HatterDon Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2006
    Location:
    Peoples Republic of South Texas
    Excellent reportage, good sir, and I'm afraid I have to agree with you. While it has long been my dream to see Fulham play at Wembley, last season's post-season collapse makes me fearful of a similar result.
     
    #2
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