Champions & Relegation Watch – Premier League – Version 2

Note: This is the second version of our Premier League Champions and Relegation Watch this season (check out the first version here). 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.

We have reached another international break, so instead of publishing updated Power Rankings in the Premier League, we figured it was time to see how the league table is currently shaking out and take a look at who is in position to qualify for European competition next year, as well as who might be heading down to the Championship after the season.

As a reminder, the top four clubs in the Premier League qualify for the Group Stage of Champions League, while the fifth place team does the same in Europa League. These competitions are great for worldwide exposure – not to mention the prize money – but it’s also for bragging rights across Europe. No English club has won the Champions League since Chelsea did so back in 2012, though we are only two seasons removed from Manchester City claiming the last English Europa League title.

League placement is important for clubs beyond the top five as well. Last season, due to cup winners qualifying for continental competition based on league position, England’s final two Europa League spots went to the next highest finishers in the league, with Arsenal (6th place) and Burnley (7th) making it into the tournament.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s what the top of the league table currently looks like:

Not much change from the last time we looked at the standings, though the order may be slightly different. Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool remain unbeaten in league play and are clearly the class of the league currently. Manchester City did not lose until Match 23 last season, one of only two losses they experienced all season. Will the repeat that performance again? With a game already in the bag against Liverpool (a 0-0 draw), their match against Chelsea on 8 December might be the next opportunity for a loss, though every club that plays them will attempt to knock off the champ.

Chelsea and Liverpool have a draw against each other in league play, but they were unfortunate enough to face off in the third round of the EFL Cup, with Chelsea coming away victorious. As it stands now, Liverpool will be on their way back to the Champions League next season based on their league position, but it would have been nice to have the possibility of the EFL Cup should they fall off form and out of the top four (this doesn’t look likely, but who knows what will happen over the next six months of the season) and need to settle for Europa League instead.

Bournemouth and Watford remain on a surprise run early on the season, and have replaced some other Premier League stalwarts in these lofty positions. I have no doubt that Bournemouth would be extremely pleased with a Top 6 finish, in what is only their fourth season ever in the top tier of English football. Watford has a similar pedigree, and they are currently placed higher than they have ever finished – 13th was their previous high in 2015-16 – in their sixth season in the Premier League (and only 12th season overall in Tier 1).

At the other end of the table, we have two clubs that are looking at immediate relegation after earning promotion, and a few other clubs that have struggled to find victories this season. The bottom of the table currently looks like this:

Fulham earned promotion from the Championship last season after winning the promotion playoff after their third-place finish in the league. This season, however, they haven’t won a match since August, going 0-2-7 during that stretch with a goal differential of -18, plummeting them to the bottom of the league table. They haven’t struggled to score, at least not as much as some others at the bottom of the league, but they have surrendered the most goals in the league thus far this season. They’ve also already lost to the two clubs directly above them, meaning that it will take some extra work to climb off the bottom.

Cardiff City finished second in the Championship last season, earning automatic promotion back to the Premier League. But the Welsh club has struggled this season, though they have picked up their scoring pace a bit over the past couple of weeks. Heading into their 20 October match with Fulham, they were 0-2-6 on the season, having scored only 4 goals to that point. They doubled their scoring output on the season in a 4-2 victory, but have yet to find some consistency on offense. Cardiff is only in their second ever season in the Premier League, so falling back to the Championship wouldn’t be a surprise. However, like Fulham, I’m sure they were hoping for at least a little more success this season to prove that they belong.

Finally, the lowest scoring club in the league last year might find their two season stay in the Premier League come to an end if they continue to struggle to find the goal. Huddersfield Town barely survived the league last season, scoring only 28 goals (which was tied with relegated Swansea City for fewest in the league). It hasn’t started much better for them so far this season, with only 6 goals scored through 12 matches. They also suffer from the second-worst goal differential, which isn’t helping their cause either. They are undefeated in November thus far (1-1-0), including their first victory on the season (against Fulham), but they have failed to score in half their contests this year, and have never exceeded one goal. With such a narrow margin for error, their third season in the Premier League doesn’t look like it will be happening next year at this pace.

Until next time…

 

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