Note: This is the first version of our Premier League Championship and Relegation Watch this season. Through the first half of the season, we’ll update this report every other month or so, or when there is a break from league play.

With the break from league play this week, we’ve decided to take a look at where the clubs in the Premier League stand a little more than 20% into the season. Since the Premier League is the top division in English football, teams aren’t fighting for promotion to the next league. However, they are competing for spots in the continental competitions – Champions League and Europa League – and bragging rights.

The top four clubs qualify directly for the Group Stage of Champions League. The fifth place club qualifies for the Group Stage of Europa League. The Premier League’s other two spots in Europa go to the winners of the FA Cup and EFL Cup, but last year, due to those cup winners (Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively) qualifying for Champions League through their league placement, the 6th and 7th place teams qualified for Europa instead.

The top of the league table currently looks like this:Premier League Champion 20181010

Five of the seven teams are still playing through the EFL Cup, and Premier League clubs haven’t yet entered the FA Cup fray. So for now, it will probably be best for the clubs to not rely on the cups to get them to UEFA competition. Manchester City is the defending league champion, and the top five clubs here all finished in the top six last year (only Manchester United, who finished second last season, is missing). Man City is slightly behind their blistering pace from a year ago (they had 22 points through 8 matches last season), but they remain the favorites to finish at the top of the table this year.

Chelsea has improved on last season’s early pace (they had only 13 points (4-1-3) at this point last season), and is currently favored to win Europa League. It hasn’t been that long since they won the Premier League (2017), but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to win another title. Liverpool also had 13 points (3-4-1) after eight matches last season, but they’ve never won a Premier League title (their last championship was in 1990, three seasons before the Premier League started), so their robust start this season is one of the reasons we have them identified as a Darkhorse to win the league this season.

Tottenham Hotspur (17 points) is about where they were at this point last season, though they ended the season in third place and earned a berth in the Champions League. They currently sit in position to qualify for Europa, though they are only trailing on point differential right now and could easily supplant Arsenal or another team if they continue their consistent play. Arsenal’s two losses this season were in the first two matches against Manchester City and Chelsea, and they have won six straight against lower table teams. Either they continue playing this well and compete for one of those top four spots, or they come back a little when they face off against stiffer competition. They are currently leading their group in Europa League and their next EFL Cup match is against a League One club, so I’d say the chances remain high that they play in one of the European competitions next year.

As for the two clubs on the outside looking in right now, they are both in uncharted territory. Bournemouth is only in their 4th season ever in the top tier of English football, and they have never finished better than 9th. The Wolves, are in their 5th Premier League season, but their first since 2011-2012, and have never finished higher than 15th. Both have looked impressive at times this season, but both have ugly losses and draws that should have been wins. Nevertheless, to see these teams in this position, especially at the expense of league stalwarts like Manchester United, Leicester City or Everton.

The bottom of the Premier League table currently looks like this:Premier League Relegation 20181010

It’s no surprise that the three winless teams currently occupy the bottom three spots, or that two of the lowest scoring teams are there, or that two of the three teams promoted from the Championship are in the bottom five spots (Fulham won the promotion playoff). Cardiff City was promoted after last season after finishing second in the Championship, but they have yet to prove that they belong in the Premier League. It’s not as if they have a long and illustrious career in the top division – only one season (a 20th place finish) in 2013-2014 in the past 30 years – but their only points have come in scoreless draws against the two clubs ahead of them. I know the season is young, but I haven’t seen anything from them thus far that makes me think they are long for the Premier League.

Newcastle has a bit of a longer history in the Premier League, and they returned after winning the EFL Championship in 2017 (after a brief one season stay). Of all the teams currently in the Premier League, they have the most seasons of teams that haven’t been relegated since the Premier League started in 1992. History should be on their side more than some of the others, and they almost came through with their first win against Manchester United last week, but they really need to start doing better if they want to avoid relegation for the second time in four seasons.

And then there is Huddersfield Town. The Terriers join Cardiff as the lowest scoring teams in the league. This is quite a different start than they had last season, in what was their first season in the Premier League. They won their first two matches last season, and had 9 points (2-3-3) after eight games. They had issues coring last season as well, however, only scoring five times in those first eight matches, and 28 over the course of the entire season. Their defense also appeared to be much more solid, at least early in the season, but until they start scoring, and pick up a win, they will remain firmly in the relegation zone.

Until next time…

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