The Premier League survival battle in focus

Cardiff City v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League

The battle for Premier League survival is fast reaching crunch time after an eventful week for the clubs at the foot of the table.

Despite an overdue win against Wolves, Huddersfield remain rooted to the bottom – although they have closed the gap to second-bottom Fulham, who have lost seven of their last eight league games and sacked a second manager this season – while back-to-back wins have eased Newcastle away from the thick of the action.

Received wisdom suggests 40 points and 10 wins are required to guarantee top-flight safety, but recent history appears to question that belief.

Here, we analyse the last five seasons and what has made the difference for the bottom six.

Is 36 the new 40?

Most managers of clubs fighting for their Premier League lives still talk about 40 points as the target for survival, but that has not been necessary since the 2010-11 season, when Wolves sent both Birmingham and Blackpool down on 39.

Indeed, only once in the last five seasons – Newcastle were relegated with 37 points at the end of 2015-16 – has more than 36 points been required to avoid the drop.

Out of 40 teams finishing on between 37 and 40 points in a 38-game Premier League season, 33 have survived.

Winning is not everything…

No team that has reached double figures for wins inside the last five campaigns has gone down, while only seven have ever been relegated with 10 wins out of 38 and reaching 11 or more has meant a 100 per cent survival rate.

But three sides in the last five seasons – West Brom in 2013-14, Sunderland 12 months later and Southampton last season – have stayed up having managed only seven wins. The Baggies and Saints drew on 15 occasions, while the Black Cats took a further 17 points.

AFC Bournemouth v Southampton FC - Premier League

Four sides in that time-frame have won nine games and still been relegated – Fulham in 2013-14, both Newcastle and Norwich two seasons later and Hull in 2016-17.

…But it makes a difference

Being hard to beat is not enough – West Brom and Middlesbrough have both recently dropped into the Sky Bet Championship having drawn 13 Premier League games.

The Baggies won only six times to go down on 31 points last season, a year after Boro had suffered a similar fate with five wins and 28 points.

Stats back Benitez

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has been criticised for the way he sets up his team against the division’s big boys in the last two campaigns, but his assertion that goal difference can be significant is borne out by the statistics.

Newcastle United v Burnley FC - Premier League

Hull are the only team to be relegated in the last five seasons with a goal difference better than -20 – they finished on -18 in 2014-15.

Blackburn’s -14 in 1998-99 is the best goal difference for a relegated team in a 38-game Premier League campaign, while Wigan’s -42 in 2009-10 is the worst for a team who survived – indeed, of 19 teams who have finished at -35 or worse, the Latics are the only one not to be relegated.

This is what the bottom of the Premier League table looked like in each of the last five seasons:

2013-14

15 Aston Villa W 10 D 8 L 20 F 39 A 61 GD -22 Pts 38
16 Hull W 10 D 7 L 21 F 38 A 53 GD -15 Pts 37
17 West Brom W 7 D 15 L 16 F 43 A 59 GD -16 Pts 36

18 Norwich W 8 D 9 L 21 F 28 A 62 GD -34 Pts 33
19 Fulham W 9 D 5 L 24 F 40 A 85 GD -45 Pts 32
20 Cardiff W 7 D 9 L 22 F 32 A 74 GD -42 Pts 30

2014-15

15) Newcastle W 10 D 9 L 19 F 40 A 63 GD -23 Pts 39
16) Sunderland W 7 D 17 L 14 F 31 A 53 GD -22 Pts 38
17) Aston Villa W 10 D 8 L 20 F 31 A 57 GD -26 Pts 38

18) Hull W 8 D 11 L 19 F 33 A 51 GD -18 Pts 35
19) Burnley W 7 D 12 L 19 F 28 A 53 GD -25 Pts 33
20) QPR W 8 D 6 L 24 F 42 A 73 GD -31 Pts 30

2015-16

15) Crystal Palace W 11 D 9 L 18 F 39 A 51 GD -12 Pts 42
16) Bournemouth W 11 D 9 L 18 F 45 A 67 GD -22 Pts 42
17) Sunderland W 9 D 12 L 17 F 48 A 62 GD -14 Pts 39

18) Newcastle W 9 D 10 L 19 F 44 A 65 GD -21 Pts 37
19) Norwich W 9 D 7 L 22 F 39 A 67 GD -28 Pts 34
20) Aston Villa W 3 D 8 L 27 F 27 A 76 GD -49 Pts 17

2016-17

15) Swansea W 12 D 5 L 21 F 45 A 70 GD -25 Pts 41
16) Burnley W 11 D 7 L 20 F 39 A 55 GD -16 Pts 40
17) Watford W 11 D 7 L 20 F 40 A 68 GD -28 Pts 40

18) Hull W 9 D 7 L 22 F 37 A 80 GD -43 Pts 34
19) Middlesbrough W 5 D 13 L 20 F 27 A 53 GD -26 Pts 28
20) Sunderland W 6 D 6 L 26 F 29 A 69 GD -40 Pts 24

2017-18

15) Brighton W 9 D 13 L 16 F 34 A 54 GD -20 Pts 40
16) Huddersfield W 9 D 10 L 19 F 28 A 58 GD -30 Pts 37
17) Southampton W 7 D 15 L 16 F 37 A 56 GD -19 Pts 36

18) Swansea W 8 D 9 L 21 F 28 A 56 GD -28 Pts 33
19) Stoke W 7 D 12 L 19 F 35 A 68 GD -33 Pts 33
20) West Brom W 6 D 13 L 19 F 31 A 56 GD -25 Pts 31

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