As an American, when I was first introduced to the Premier League I was intrigued by the idea of relegation to a lower league along with lower tier teams moving up. I will admit that it took me a bit to truly grasp this. Since then I have enjoyed this aspect of the EPL and watching the battle at the bottom.
In this year’s relegation battle it seems that no team in the bottom half of the table is truly safe. There are currently 12 matches remaining which leaves plenty of time for teams to make their move. As the table stands at the moment I see these teams in the battle: Queens Park Rangers (17 points), Wigan Athletic (21), Reading (23), Aston Villa (24), Newcastle United (27), and Southampton (27). There are also several teams just on the periphery that could be sucked in if they hit a bad patch: Norwich City (29), Sunderland (29), Fulham (29), and West Ham United (30).
Of these teams Newcastle United and Southampton have been gradually getting results and looking better while Reading is also trying to dig themselves out of a pretty big hole. West Ham, Fulham and Sunderland are the farthest from the drop zone and have managed to get results throughout the season, but all three have shown inconsistency. Norwich City is a team that has mostly been riding their early season success and relying on draws in the past few matches, and it is always possible for them to get pulled down even farther.
The bottom four teams are perhaps in the direst of straits. Last season at this time the bottom three were Wigan Athletic (20 points), Bolton Wanderers (20) and Blackburn Rovers (21). Just above them were QPR (21) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (22). By the end of the season Wigan had pulled away to finish with 43 points in 15th place while Wolves ended up getting only 3 draws to finish bottom at 25. Meanwhile Blackburn and Bolton were also relegated with 31 and 36 points respectively. QPR finished just one point above Bolton with Aston Villa just a point above them in 16th place on 38 points.
All of this is to say that the battle at the bottom of the table is far from over. Many of these fights at the end of the season come down to a healthy amount of luck and a lot of reliance on other team’s results. I know the old cliché is that each team has to focus on getting their own wins and their own points, but the fact is that every team at the bottom is going to drop points. This means that every team is most likely going to get their chance to climb up the table. Which teams will take advantage and which teams will end up dropping off? The most important thing for all of these teams will be trying to string together several wins and mixing in draws for tough match-ups.
Each of the bottom four teams has to play each other before the end of the season which could lead to crucial points for some and devastating defeats for others. Perhaps the final day of the season (May 19th) will be as dramatic as last with Wigan Athletic at home to Aston Villa and Reading having to travel to West Ham United. As the table stands now the bottom four teams look the most likely to be battling to stay up and right now QPR’s away trip to Liverpool on the last day looks like it will mean more to Liverpool’s finish than Redknapp’s Rangers.
This year’s EPL season has been fantastic for teams in the middle of the table and there are still plenty of places up for grabs, including the bottom 3. I think the bottom half of the table is going to be every bit as competitive as the rest. The spread of points across places 10-17 is certainly close enough to make it a very exciting end to the season. Who will end up getting the drop? Can QPR claw their way out, or are they doomed? Will any of the three recently promoted teams be returned to the Championship? Can Reading and Wigan make their late runs to escape? This is definitely going to be an interesting finish, so just remember: It ain’t over ’til it’s over.