It’s been just over six weeks since we last ranked the top-five (or bottom-five) candidates to be relegated from the Premier League.
Six weeks is a long time and gives clubs a lot of ways to change, but in certain cases the time has only served to underline — time and again — the precarious positions of the Premier League’s strugglers.
Here’s the thing, though: Five is no longer enough. There are six teams within three points of the bottom three and three more close enough to see their reflections in the shallows.
[ MORE: 10 things we learned from the Premier League’s Week 26 ]
Bournemouth and Southampton have a joint-worst 21 points, Everton and Leeds each have just one more point, while West Ham holds 23 and Leicester 24.
Crystal Palace, Wolves, and Forest fans will know they are a mere six points from the despair of 18th place, too.
Back in January we ranked Bournemouth, Southampton, and Everton as our three “favorites” to spend the 2023-24 season in the second-tier Championship. Those sides sit… 20th, 19th, and 18th right now.
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Premier League relegation worries, the field:
We’ll give you our list at the end of this space, but let’s give you, good reader, some criteria to consider so you don’t think we’re just pickin’ on Gary O’Neil or something (What a bluegrass album title that would be).
So here are your candidates and some reasons to either hold fear or hope the rest of the way
Crystal Palace (27 points with 13 matches left): Patrick Vieira should be petitioning the Premier League for the advent of 60-minute games for the rest of the season. Palace has allowed nine goals in the first 30 minutes of games, and seven in the next 30. The final 30 minutes sees Palace doubling their concessions to 16. And it’s even worse over the final 15, where Palace has scored just twice and allowed seven . Throw in the knowledge that Palace is being out-attempted 233-171 in open play, allowing 27 goals while scoring only 12, and the Eagles might want to be grateful there are so many teams underneath them on the table.
Wolves (27 points with 12 matches left): As long as Ruben Neves is around, Wolves fans, you’re going to be fine. FotMob’s 25th-ranked player for the entire Premier League season is Ruben Neves and — like Declan Rice at West Ham — it is absolutely mind-melting to consider where Wolves would be without the 25-year-old. Neves has five times been named PL Man of the Match this season, a year in which he’s leading the league in completed long balls per game and (probably) devastating stares per 90 minutes.
Nottingham Forest (26 points with 13 matches left): Forest has averaged three shots on target per match. Is that good? But, in fact, it’s the worst in the league. And one of the reasons it sits so low is because the Tricky Trees haven’t had Taiwo Awoniyi since he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Saints on Jan. 4. Awoniyi had underproduced to that point, scoring just four times, but he also leads Forest with six big chances missed, a figure that ranks him just outside the top 20 in the league (21st). It’s not a bad stat. It means you’re getting to danger, and some of the only names above him on the list are big ones: Harry Kane, Erling Haaland, Raheem Sterling. Awoniyi’s back on the grass and Forest must hope he can finish off the season feasting off the work of Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson. Another fun fact: Awoniyi is 11th in the entire PL when it comes to non-penalty xG+xA per 90 minutes.
Leicester City (24 points with 13 matches left): The Foxes are a moribund 3W-3D-6L so far in Premier League play at the King Power Stadium and it’s actually worse than that: Leicester’s 9.44 xG at home is not only the worst in the PL by 3+ xG but the Foxes’ 15 actual goals scored at home show a level of over-performance.
West Ham (23 points with 13 matches left): The Irons have been super unlucky this season and their misfortune is a rare instance in which West Ham can take some hope from London rivals Chelsea. West Ham and Chelsea (and Everton) are the only three teams in the Premier League to boast a goals total that is 9 or more goals lower than their expected goals total. West Ham also has an expected points total of 35.25, more than 12 above their actual points total. Only Brighton and Southampton can claim an xPTS figure more than five above their actual points. Surely luck could turn their way?
Leeds (22 points with 13 matches left): Imagine if Leeds could shoot.
Jesse Marsch’s Javi Gracia’s team has won possession in the final third 693 times, more than any other team in the Premier League and trailing only one team on a per-game basis. The top-seven? You’re gonna think I’m messing with you.
If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. But then again, they fired the guy who designed much of what determined the above. There’s more hope, though not to several American Leeds fans who did not like my praise of Tyler Adams this weekend: Adams and Pascal Struijk have been very, very good . Adams’ 88 tackles are second in the Premier League, and his 141 duels won have him eighth. And his 23 key passes trail only Jack Harrison and Brenden Aaronson among Leeds players despite Adams status deep in his own end. Now if only Rodrigo could get healthy…
Everton (22 points with 12 matches left): Here’s some rare good news for Toffees fans. Everton produced 20.16 expected goals in its 20 Premier League games this season. Since Sean Dyche was hired on Jan. 30, Everton has produced 8.89 xG in six games. Yes, it’s only scored four and the club is still shipping goals, but when you consider the chance wasteland the club lived in under Frank Lampard and that Dyche is producing better despite having played Arsenal, Liverpool, Leeds, Villa, Arsenal again, and Forest, there’s reason for hope.
Southampton (21 points with 13 matches left): Missile merchant James Ward-Prowse isn’t just a free kick specialist; Ward-Prowse’s 2.04 key passes — passes that set up a shot — is far and away the top number on the Saints sheet. His 53 chances created this season trail only Kevin De Bruyne, Kieran Trippier, Bruno Fernandes, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, and Andreas Pereira. If Che Adams (and company) can simply manage to find average levels, which Adams has done in a nine-goal season in the past, then Saints can get out of the bottom three. Can.
Bournemouth (21 points with 13 matches left): Welp, the good news is that Bournemouth’s almost out of a brutal fixture list that had them facing Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool in three-straight outings. There’s a little more good news in that the Cherries have the easiest strength of schedule remaining of any team in the Premier League.
Now, unfortunately, it appears we’ve run out of good news. Bournemouth has allowed 13 goals off corners. Bournemouth is 20th in expected goals, 19th in expected goals allowed, and 20th in actual goals allowed. Bournemouth has attempted just 151 shots from open play while allowing nearly 300 (292). The Cherries’ have scored just 11 first-half goals while allowing 26 in the same frame, and they’ve conceded the most penalties in the PL.
Premier League relegation worries, ranked — March 2023
8. West Ham
7. Crystal Palace
6. Nottingham Forest
5. Leicester City
Premier League relegation worries, ranked originally appeared on NBCSports.com