My favorite part of the ESPN Soccernet podcast back in the day (other than West Ham corner) was “Relegation Round-up” where they would talk about the relegation teams. I’ve tried it on my Twitter account, and I’ve started to get a little more interest lately so I wanted to do something more long-form. So here’s my first “Relegation Round-up” blog post, and it was a big week for a lot of teams.
As of today, the relegation fight really includes 4-5 teams: Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City, Bournemouth, and Newcastle. Newcastle has potentially pulled themselves out, which I’ll talk about later, while Villa and Sunderland need to make up some ground very quickly.
The heat map shows roughly 5 clusters: the top three are pretty much set, the next 4 teams have separated themselves (although I’d expect Chelsea to slip into the next pack soon), 5 teams (Palace through Everton) have solidified a mid-table spot next season, 4 teams are in the lower mid-table but safe for now (Watford through Newcastle), and the bottom 4 are in serious danger of the drop (Bournemouth through Villa). But how did things shake out this week?
The big news is that Bournemouth claimed their second major scalp in a row, beating Manchester United 2-1. This was a huge win for them, especially given that they had beaten Chelsea 0-1 the previous week at Stamford Bridge. The first win could maybe be written off as another bad week in Chelsea’s nightmare season, but two in a row is huge for Bournemouth. Beyond the significance of beating two of England’s giants, it helped them massively in their bid to stay up next season. Here’s the heat map of their weekly predicted finishes.
The change the last two weeks is striking: they had a 22% chance of finishing in last place 2 weeks ago, but with the 6 points (and 4+ point gain in expected points), they’re down to less than 5%. Two weeks ago they were big favorites to get relegated at 68%, now they’re down to around 40%. There’s still a lot of work to do, but they’ve started the hard work of getting into the lower mid-table safe zone.
Meanwhile, Newcastle claimed two big victories of their own over Spurs and Liverpool. These weren’t as historic given Newcastle’s history in the Premier League, but they were potentially even more important to Newcastle’s survival. Here’s the plot of their season.
With the two unexpected wins, Newcastle made a similar jump. You can see in the graph, things weren’t looking great for Newcastle two weeks ago. They were ~33% to drop, and things were trending downward. With the two wins, they’re only at about 12% to get relegated, with virtually no chance of finishing in last place (which wasn’t the case two weeks ago).
Finally, this may be the only time I talk about Watford in the relegation discussion because they are on a three game winning streak, and have firmly moved themselves out of the drop zone. Week 13 they had about a 20% chance to get relegated, but after winning against Villa, Norwich, and Sunderland they’re down to about 3%. It’s simple enough logic: win the key 6-pointers against your direct rivals and you stay in the Premier League.
The three teams here have had a series of good results, and have begun to separate themselves from the bottom of the table. Villa and Sunderland need to respond quickly or they’re in serious danger of being left behind. Villa has a series of winnable games in a row against Sunderland, West Ham, Newcastle, and Norwich City, and I’ll look into how many points they need out of the next 12 if they want to stay up in a later post. I have to think they’re due for some luck soon – they haven’t been good, but their squad has far more quality than 6 points from 16 games.
On the other side, Sunderland seems to have had their initial bump from hiring Big Sam, but the home loss to Watford was problematic to be sure. They’re in a better position, but they need to pick up some points soon if they’re going to pull another great escape.