Friday, May 1, 2009

EPL "race" for Relegation

With 4 games left in the season, the English Premier League's winner and top 4 clubs have all pretty much been determined. Man Utd has been consistent throughout and has won the title again, their 11th in the last 16 seasons. However, trouble lies ahead for Man Utd. Their "golden generation" of home-grown stars is aging (Giggs, Neville, Scholes and Van der Sar are all in their 30s), they face a very expensive decision on a backup striker in Tevez (he has a very odd deal where Man Utd might have to pay upwards of 30M pounds to keep him), and the odds are that Cristiano Ronaldo will scurry off to Real Madrid to try to re-make that team in his image.

As an Arsenal fan, I look forward to all these moves, as Man Utd's next generation of players doesn't seem to compare up as favorably to Arsenal's youngsters, and we could see a changing of the guard.

However, this post is about the bottom end of the table. Relegation. The bottom three clubs are flung back into the minor leagues of soccer in European leagues at the end of each season. It would be as if the Nationals, Padres and Mariners were dumped into AAA and the three best AAA teams from last year were promoted up. Its a concept that I wish had traction in our country, if only to return hope to the little guys.

This year the relegation battle is looking very very interesting, because of the specific teams involved. Here's how the standings look before this wekeend's games:

15th. Blackburn on 37 points
16th. Sunderland on 35 points
17th. Hull City on 34 points
18th. Newcastle on 31 points
19th. Middlesborough on 31 points
20th. West Bromwich Albion on 28 points.

Newcastle specifically is the interesting team. They're kind of like the Washington Redskins of the EPL; a very expensive roster, one of the highest attendances and largest stadiums in teh league, rabid fan base, and questionable ownership/General manager group. Middlesborough is a decently established club but has been relegated in the past and probably is setup to survive. Newcastle has not written in clauses to player contracts specifiying compulsory wage reductions upon relegation (as are standard in most european contracts). Thus if they get relegated, the odds are that they'll go bankrupt and fail.

This is an amazing feat; just a few years ago Newcastle were challenging for the title and were playing in europe. Now they may be headed for oblivion.

Games remaining for the clubs and some predictions on games: (WBA in 20th place has zero chance so we'll focus on the 5 clubs 15th-19th)

- Blackburn: away to ManCity, home to Portsmouth, away to Chelsea, home to WBA.
- Sunderland: home to Everton, away to Bolton, away to Portsmouth, home to Chelsea
- Hull City: away to Aston Villa, home to Stoke, away to Bolton, home to Man Utd
- Newcastle: away to Liverpool, home to Middlesboro, home to Fulham, away to Aston Villa
- Middlesborough: home to Man Utd, away to Newcastle, home to Aston Villa, away to West Ham United.

There's only one game between the teams and its a crucial one: Newcastle hosting Middlesborough in 2 weeks. I think Newcastle wins that crucial game. But lets make some predictions (3 points for win, 1 for tie, 0 for loss)

15th. Blackburn on 37 points; L, W, L, W, 43 points
16th. Sunderland on 35 points: T, T, L, L: 37 points
17th. Hull City on 34 points: L, T, L, L: 35 points
18th. Newcastle on 31 points: L, W, W, L: 37 points
19th. Middlesborough on 31 points: L, L, T, T: 33 points

Well, if this plays out as I think, It looks like newcastle survives at the expense of Middlesboro and Hull City. But Newcastle HAS to win their two home matches. Hull is badly limping to the finish line and looks like they'll get the drop after starting so well. 'Boro has three really tough teams on the schedule and probably can't survive.

Get your beers in!


  1. Results for the weekend are in; here's what happened to our relegation candidates:

    - Blackburn: Lost away to Man City 3-1
    - Sunderland: Lost at home to Everton 0-2
    - Hull City: Lost away to Aston Villa 0-1
    - Newcastle: Lost away to Liverpool 3-0
    - Middlesborough: Lost at home to Man Utd 0-2

    This leaves the standings absolutely unchanged at the bottom, since every team in the bottom 5 lost. Next week will be much more interesting as Blackburn has a winnable game and Newcastle/Middlesboro play.

    Sunderland's loss was the only deviation from my predictions and means they're in even worse shape than I thought. If Hull can wake up and get a home win against Stoke next weekend, they may just survive at the expense of Sunderland...

  2. Lastest weekend results: a couple of shakeups in the relegation spots.

    - Blackburn: won at home 2-0 over Portsmouth: they're guaranteed top flight football so we'll stop tracking them.

    - Portsmouth: lost away 0-2 to Blackburn
    - Sunderland: drew away 0-0 with Bolton
    - Hull City: lost at home 1-2 to Stoke City
    - Newcastle: won 3-1 at home vs Middlesboro
    - Middlesborough: lost 1-3 away to Newcastle.

    The only real surprise of these results was Hull not managing a point at home to Stoke. Otherwise these results went as previously predicted.

    This now means the bottom few spots look like this:

    15th. Portsmouth on 38 points;
    16th. Sunderland on 36 points:
    17th. Newcastle on 34 points:
    18th. Hull City on 34 points (but in 18th and relegation spot by virtue of goal difference)
    19th. Middlesborough on 31 points:

    Bad news for Hull City; they're now in serious trouble. They will have to get something out of next week's away match against Bolton AND get some help from a bumbling newcastle. Meanwhile, Boro almost certainly has to win both remaining matches, a tall order considering how bad they are.

    So, its looking like WBA, Hull and Boro for the drop.

    Meanwhile, Wolverhampten, Birmingham City and a playoff team from Sheffield United, Reading, Burnley and Preston will be the teams coming up. Wolves were in the EPL a few years ago and have great kits. Birmingham was up last year and down again... we'll see if they have staying power this time.