How many points do you need in the Premier League?

We’ve run a computer simulation of one million football (soccer) seasons.

The aim was to find out how many points you need to secure the most important positions in England’s Premier League.

  • How many points will win it?

  • How many points secure a coveted top four position (and entry to the Champions League)?

  • How many points avoid the bottom three, and dreaded relegation from the league?

The simulation was done by Professor Tony Padilla and Dr Adam Moss from the University of Nottingham’s Physics Department.

We did it for this Numberphile video, which outlines the results:

It’s technically possible to win the league with 38 points (all 380 games in a season are drawn, goal difference is tied but your team scores the most goals).

Likewise, it’s technically possible to be relegated despite scoring an impressive 63 points (the top 18 teams win 21 and lose 21 games each, but your goal difference is the worst).

But we thought a Monte Carlo simulation was a better way to explore more realistic possibilities.

For the million seasons we re-created, exact scores were generated for each individual game. That’s 380 million results.

Data from last season was used to weight the teams’ strengths rather than treating them all equally (more info on that here).

It is perhaps better to consider our simulation as a million “re-runs” of a season rather than predicting the future. Much can change in one million years!

But it still provides fascinating insights into how many points are required.

Here’s the number of points scored by the teams in each league position, across the million seasons:

The following is evident from the totals above:

A few other bits of trivia:

  • A perfect season (ie: 38 wins) was achieved 62 times out of the million simulations.

  • The league was also tied on 62 occasions - with points, goal difference and goals scored unable to decide the winner!

  • In one season the league winner scored just 50 goals (must have been a lot of 1-0 wins).

  • The most goals scored in a single season was 161.

  • There was one freakish instance of team scoring just 22 points in a season and NOT being relegated.

So which teams were winning and losing across the million seasons?

(You should be able to enlarge the image below by clicking)

  • No surprises that Manchester City won the league nearly 90% of the time.

  • Liverpool were next best, despite our work being based on last season in which Liverpool finished 4th. This is most likely due to Liverpool’s goal-scoring power.

  • No team outside the “Big Six” ever won the league, and Chelsea was the only “Big Six” team to be relegated (on just five occasions out of a million).

  • Southampton, despite finishing a lowly 17th last year, performed surprisingly well, even finishing second in one season.

Finally, a few single-game novelties from the 380 million simulated games. These seem unlikely, but remember they’re over the course of ONE MILLION SEASONS.

  • Most goals in a single game: Manchester City 17 Everton 5

  • Highest scoring draw: Everton 9 Liverpool 9

  • Biggest winning margin: Manchester City 20 Bournemouth 1

  • Highest score by a losing team: Everton 11 Chelsea 10

Thanks to Jeremy Nicholas for being stadium announcer in our main video.