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What does it take to survive in the Premier League?


Venkatanarayanan V has a look at what it takes for a newly promoted team to survive the drop using data from the 1995/96 season onwards


Premier League. It is the top tier of English football and to a certain degree of truth, is the most competitive league in the world and probably the most watched too. Then there is the money involved. Conversations and transfer dealings happen only in the millions. For comparison Bournemouth, a club that finished 16th in the Premier League last season, have signed Nathan Ake for 20 million, when his projected market value is just 8 mil and Deportiva de La Coruna, a club that finished 16th in the La Liga, have signed Guilherme, for 4.5 million when his projected market value is 4 mil. Staying in the Premier League is as much a rat race as winning it and clubs go well beyond their means to get a few more years of the top flight, see QPR. While staying in the League is as as competitive as it gets, reaching it from the lower levels is no mean task. There is the 24 team league, playoffs, playoff final, jubilation, heartbreak and much more. Teams that get relegated to the Championship get sucked into it and have to start from scratch again. Therefore staying in the Premier League becomes the top priority for a lot of the teams.

That brings us to the latest new boys of the Premier League, Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield town. Here we look at the what these newly promoted teams should do in terms of goals scored, conceded and points scored (total), points scored in the first 19 games, and points scored in the next 19 games to get one more year in the promised land. These results have been obtained after analysing data of newly promoted teams since the 1995-96 season, the first time the Premier League was extended to 20 teams.

First up Goals conceded. A promoted team, should not concede more than 65 goals (home and away combined). Ipswich have performed the best in this respect for a newly promoted team. They conceded only 42 goals and subsequently finished highest (5th) in the Premier League of all teams in the season following their promotion. Of the 29 promoted teams who got relegated in the immediate season after promotion, 20 failed to achieve the criteria.

Of the remaining 9 teams, 3 failed to score the requisite number of goals. That brings us to our next criteria, Goals scored. A newly promoted team has to score at least 38 goals across a season in order to survive the drop in that season. Of these 38 goals, at least 25 have to be scored at home and a minimum of 13 goals have to be scored on their travels. These figures can vary by 1 or 2 goals, but 24-13 has been the 21 year average. Newcastle United have scored the most goals by a promoted team in their first season after the rise. They scored 41 goals.

The other 6 teams scored 38 goals and conceded less than 65 and still got relegated. And hence the final rule, Points Scored. A promoted team should accumulate at least 38 points (10 wins and 8 draws preferably) to have their fate in their own hands. The best points tally by a promoted team was achieved by Ipswich Town when they secured 66 points (5th place) in the 2000/01 season.

Only one out the 29 relegated teams, Bolton Wanderers, in 1997/98 scored 38 goals, conceded less than 65 goals, and won 38 or more points and still got relegated. That would have been one relegation battle. Unsurprisingly, it was the same year and only year in which all the promoted teams (Bolton, Barnsley, and Palace) were relegated the same year. Now, we all know a winning streak is crucial to achieving any form of success in the game, some achieve the streak early, some leave it late, and some never do it. Well, showing some consistency matters the most. Of the teams that got promoted so far, we all remember one team who left it very late to survive the drop. Yes, it is Leicester city in 2014-15 when they won 28 points in the second half of the season to finish 14th from the brink of relegation. This takes us to the next criteria – Points to be scored in the first 19 games and points to be scored in the next 19 games. A newly promoted team has to secure at least 19 points in their first 19 games and 19 points in their last 19 games. If you achieve these both, along with the conditions mentioned earlier, you are safe!

Of the 65 teams promoted to England’s top flight since it became a 20 team competition in 1995-96, 29 have been relegated and 36 survived the drop, a 45% drop rate. A big chunk of that relegation percentage is taken over by the play off winners. Around 60% of teams that came to the premier league as play off winners faced the drop straight away.

These numbers do not look good for promoted teams, but the numbers stated above should give some clarity on the target that these teams aim to achieve, at least in their first season after promotion. Then comes the stability.

So, the solution for Newcastle, Huddersfield Town, and Brighton is simple; score 38 goals, concede less than 65 goals, and secure 38 points, 19 points in the first 19 games, 19 points in the last 19 games. Do all five and you can stay in the premier league for one more year. Good luck with that.

Venkatanarayanan V

An aspiring data analyst trying to break into the field of football analytics. Creates visualizations to help people see the unseen in the beautiful game. Interested in leagues around the globe with particular interest in the Premier League. An ardent fan of Manchester United & England National team since the age of 10.
Venkatanarayanan V

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