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What are the Premier League options to conclude season amid coronavirus pandemic?

The Premier League will come under mounting pressure from some of its clubs at a meeting on Friday to complete the season by June 30.

Clubs increasingly fear the implications of a campaign that overruns into July amid the coronavirus crisis, especially when it comes to contracts with players and sponsors.

But with no sign of the UK lockdown ending anytime soon, the time window in which to play the remaining fixtures is narrowing.

Liverpool led the Premier League by 25 points when the coronavirus pandemic paused the season last month - now clubs must decide the best method to conclude the season

Liverpool led the Premier League by 25 points when the coronavirus pandemic paused the season last month - now clubs must decide the best method to conclude the season

Liverpool led the Premier League by 25 points when the coronavirus pandemic paused the season last month – now clubs must decide the best method to conclude the season 

How the race for the European places in the Premier League looked when football stopped

How the race for the European places in the Premier League looked when football stopped

How the race for the European places in the Premier League looked when football stopped

And here's how the relegation battle looked when the Premier League was suspended in March

And here's how the relegation battle looked when the Premier League was suspended in March

And here’s how the relegation battle looked when the Premier League was suspended in March

And so the need to decide on a method to conclude the Premier League season is growing ever more urgent if those games can’t be safely played.

Sportsmail outlines some of the possible options and their advantages and disadvantages.

OPTION ONE: Declare the season null and void

Very much the nuclear option. Basically, the Premier League cancels the season with nine matches to play (10 in the case of Manchester City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa) and pretends it never happened.

The results are expunged and the season is declared null and void. The history books simply say ‘season cancelled owing to coronavirus pandemic’ for all eternity.

The line up of 20 teams remains the same with no relegation and a solution is found to determine which clubs qualify for Europe once it’s safe for the 2020-21 season to get underway.

This is the nightmare scenario for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool as they miss out on the title

This is the nightmare scenario for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool as they miss out on the title

This is the nightmare scenario for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool as they miss out on the title

Pros: Offers a clean break and draws a line under the 2019-20 season; players and managers can relax knowing they don’t have to return to action at short notice; teams currently in the relegation zone are thrilled as they get another season in the Premier League.

Cons: Incredibly harsh on Liverpool – 25 points clear at the top of the table – who are denied their first league title in 30 years; some teams still challenging for European football next season miss out on Champions League cash; UEFA could punish England by barring entry to European competitions next season or reduces places as they’ve threatened to do with Belgium.

Teams leading the way in the Championship miss out on promotion and associated riches of playing in the Premier League next season; opens the door to all kinds of legal action from clubs, broadcasters and sponsors; there would be frustration if the lockdown is lifted in the next few weeks and the season could have been finished after all.

But it's great news for Norwich City, whose almost certain relegation is averted as a result

But it's great news for Norwich City, whose almost certain relegation is averted as a result

But it’s great news for Norwich City, whose almost certain relegation is averted as a result

OPTION TWO: Predict the remaining fixtures

There are 92 games left to play in the Premier League this season and this solution would see their outcome predicted using teams’ home and away form.

For each game, the home team’s average points per home game this season is compared against the away team’s average points per away game this season.

To take account of form, an extra weighting for the past five home and away matches respectively is factored into the equation.

If one team’s figure is at least 0.2 greater than the other, they win the match. If it’s less, the match is drawn.

Sheffield United would be in next season's Champions League if this method is used

Sheffield United would be in next season's Champions League if this method is used

Sheffield United would be in next season’s Champions League if this method is used 

For example, as calculated by The Times, this Sunday’s Sheffield United versus Wolves fixture would be a home win.

United have a home average of 1.6 this season and Wolves an away average of 1.5 but the Blades have won three of their last five home league games, while Wolves have lost two of their last five on the road. So Sheffield United would be calculated as the winner on form.

Champions League (1st place downwards): Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Sheffield United (assuming Manchester City banned from Europe)

Europa League: Manchester United

Relegated (18th downwards): Watford, Aston Villa, Norwich

Pros Neatly takes into account all the remaining fixtures to produce a final table; takes into account the significant factor of form as well as factor of home advantage; final table not wildly different from how it stands now.

Cons Can never factor for the many, many random factors that decide the outcome of matches (i.e. red cards, injuries).

But it would be another depressing season in the Europa League for Manchester United

But it would be another depressing season in the Europa League for Manchester United

But it would be another depressing season in the Europa League for Manchester United 

OPTION THREE: First meetings this season

This method only counts games from the first 19 rounds of the season to avoid differences in opposition (for example, some sides have played Liverpool twice already which would count against them).

The final table is based upon the results of those first meetings this season and so is at least based entirely on what’s already happened rather than predictions.

Champions League: Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United

Europa League: Sheffield United

Relegated: Aston Villa, Watford, Norwich City

Matches from the first half of the season, such as Liverpool's win at Chelsea, would be counted

Matches from the first half of the season, such as Liverpool's win at Chelsea, would be counted

Matches from the first half of the season, such as Liverpool’s win at Chelsea, would be counted

Pros An equal number of games for each club and ensures each team has played each other.

Cons Takes no account of form, so teams who have performed well in recent weeks are left disadvantaged; in being based purely on the opening half of the season it doesn’t take into account improvements as a result of managerial changes (i.e. Watford’s upturn under Nigel Pearson) or January signings; obvious question over whether 19 games constitutes a fair league table.

Watford's upturn in form since Nigel Pearson was appointed wouldn't count for anything

Watford's upturn in form since Nigel Pearson was appointed wouldn't count for anything

Watford’s upturn in form since Nigel Pearson was appointed wouldn’t count for anything 

OPTION FOUR: Points per game

This relatively straightforward method produces a final table by dividing teams’ current points totals by games played to get a point-per-game (PPG) average.

Goal difference is then used to separate any teams that finish level on PPG.

The only changes to the table affects those teams with a game in hand, so Sheffield United (1.54 PPG) would leapfrog Wolves (1.48) into sixth position and Arsenal (1.43) overtake Tottenham (1.41) into eighth.

Aston Villa also have a game in hand but unfortunately their points-per-game isn’t good enough to climb out of the drop zone.

Jack Grealish and Aston Villa would suffer relegation under a points-per-game table

Jack Grealish and Aston Villa would suffer relegation under a points-per-game table

Jack Grealish and Aston Villa would suffer relegation under a points-per-game table

Champions League: Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United

Europa League: Sheffield United

Relegated: Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Norwich City

Pros Simple to work out and extrapolate existing points tallies; takes account of every game played in the three-quarters of the season to date; takes account of games in hand; league table doesn’t alter a great deal from the present.

Cons Likely to anger those teams relegated, who would no doubt argue they would have picked up form in the run-in; disregards relative ease/difficulty of remaining games on the fixture list.

Eddie Howe's Bournemouth would also slip into the Championship as a result of a PPG average

Eddie Howe's Bournemouth would also slip into the Championship as a result of a PPG average

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth would also slip into the Championship as a result of a PPG average

OPTION FIVE: Predicting outcome of remaining games plus historic results

This was a model devised by statisticians Opta and StatsPerform when the league was stopped a few weeks ago and takes into account quite a few things.

It estimated the probabilities of a win, draw or defeat in the remaining games based on each team’s attacking and defensive quality.

These qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighing given to more recent results. It also takes into account the quality of the opposition.

StatsPerform simulated the outcome of the season 10,000 times in order to produce the final league standings.

Opta used years of data to simulate how the current Premier League table will end up

Opta used years of data to simulate how the current Premier League table will end up

Opta used years of data to simulate how the current Premier League table will end up

Champions League: Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United

Europa League: Tottenham

Relegated: Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Norwich City

Pros Certainly comprehensive and takes into account strengths/weaknesses of each team plus form.

Cons Only produces a probability for each finishing position so less definitive; pretty complicated for anyone to understand; those who’ve done well in last few seasons have an extra advantage.

Tottenham would profit from a method that takes into account the form of recent seasons

Tottenham would profit from a method that takes into account the form of recent seasons

Tottenham would profit from a method that takes into account the form of recent seasons

OPTION SIX: Leave the table as it is (with relegation)

The league table is frozen in time as it looked when the Premier League was suspended and this is taken as the final outcome.

The argument is the old cliche that the table rarely lies at this stage of the season and European places and relegation is decided accordingly.

The bottom three drop down and the top three from the Championship are promoted in their place, with the season in the EFL also ended.

Champions League: Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United

Europa League: Wolves

Relegated: Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Norwich City

Wolves would be set for another Europa League adventure if the current table was preserved

Wolves would be set for another Europa League adventure if the current table was preserved

Wolves would be set for another Europa League adventure if the current table was preserved 

Pros Draws a line under the season and allows players and managers to start planning for next season knowing where they stand; with 29/38 matches completed, argument can be made for saying table is a fair reflection of the season; ensures West Brom and Leeds at top of the Championship get the promotion they deserve.

Cons Would quickly turn into a legal minefield with clubs who had a chance of qualifying for Europe or staying up left furious; the relegated teams and those that miss out on European competition hit hard financially; league table is so tight much could change in remaining nine games; integrity of Premier League competition is damaged; unfair on those below third-placed Fulham in the Championship who might have won promotion through the play-offs.

Leeds United, currently leading the Championship, would get their promotion to the top-flight

Leeds United, currently leading the Championship, would get their promotion to the top-flight

Leeds United, currently leading the Championship, would get their promotion to the top-flight

OPTION SEVEN: Leave table as it is (expand the league)

One other suggestion from these past few weeks is to leave the table as it currently looks but not have any relegation this season.

Instead, the 20 teams currently in the Premier League remain and are joined by Leeds and West Brom – the top two in the Championship – to create a 22-team league next season.

This would be a return to the early years of the Premier League, when there were 22 teams. There would accordingly be a knock-on effect through the divisions of the EFL with relegation and promotion adjusted accordingly for 2020-21.

Champions League: Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester United

Europa League: Wolves

Relegated: Nobody

West Bromwich Albion, second in the Championship, would benefit from an expanded league

West Bromwich Albion, second in the Championship, would benefit from an expanded league

West Bromwich Albion, second in the Championship, would benefit from an expanded league

Pros Clean break with the season but avoids some of the aforementioned arguments with teams down the bottom end of the table; avoids the financial hit of relegation at a time when income has dried up; rewards Leeds and West Brom for their fine seasons in the Championship.

Cons The teams that miss out on Europe because of the season ending early are still upset (for example, Sheffield United and Tottenham); expanded league just adds to fixture congestion issues that are already a sore point for some managers; unfair on those in Championship play-off positions (for example, Fulham six points off West Brom with seven games left); requires adjustments right down the EFL divisions; would have to have extra relegation place in 2020-21.

 

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