The English Premier League 2020/21 season will commence on September 12. In the second part of his preview, Andrew Beasley takes a look at the teams that could find themselves aiming to avoid relegation, and what their stats from last season suggest about the sides likely to finish in the bottom three. Who will be relegated from the Premier League? Read on to inform your EPL relegation predictions.
2020/21 English Premier League relegation predictions
The battle to remain in the Premier League during the 2020/21 season is certain to be a fierce one. The newly promoted clubs from the Championship (Leeds, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham) have all participated in the top flight within the last 16 years and will each fancy their chances of staying up.
Indeed, while there is a price available for all 20 teams in Pinnacle’s EPL Winner market, for relegation there is a pool of only 11. The idea of teams such as Liverpool or Manchester City finishing in the bottom three is frankly ludicrous, and if you even named your own odds it still wouldn’t be worth a bet.
Using expected goal (xG) metrics and shots on target statistics from the 2019/20 Premier League and Championship seasons, here is a look at how the teams in the realistic running for relegation are predicted to fare in the forthcoming season.
Will the newly promoted sides get relegated?
West Brom and Fulham presently lead the market, with their prices implying that they both have approximately a 44% chance of enduring an immediate return to the Championship. Fulham have form for this, achieving this unwanted feat during their last Premier League stint in 2018/19.
Of the three newly promoted sides, Leeds' underlying stats imply that they have the best chance of staying up.
Based on their stats from last season, both teams deserve their places in this market, Fulham in particular. FiveThirtyEight’s expected goal data suggests that Scott Parker’s team should’ve finished ninth in the Championship table last season, meaning they would have missed the play-offs entirely, never mind won them.
The same data put West Brom in third with Brentford ahead of them in second on xG difference, although they actually earned five points fewer in reality than their underlying data suggested they deserved to.
However, their shots on target data did not paint such a pretty picture. Slaven Bilic’s side only had more on target goal attempts than their opponents in half of their 46 league matches. Premier League teams will not be so forgiving on this front and this could prove their undoing.
By contrast, Leeds’ prospects look much rosier based on the statistics. They had more shots on target than they allowed in 38 of their matches (at least ten more occasions than any other team) and their xG data suggested that they should have only lost once and accumulated a stunning 115 points.
This explains why they are only ninth favourites in the market to go down, with an implied 20% chance of relegation. It’s always hard to know how teams will perform following a promotion, but Marcelo Bielsa’s team were certainly worthy Championship winners, which isn’t a bad place to start.
Which teams have nothing to fear?
There are three teams in this market who shouldn’t have any fears about relegation next season. In particular, Southampton should harbour no such concerns after ranking sixth for shots on target stats and seventh for xG in last season’s Premier League.
Few people would’ve thought that was likely when they suffered the largest home defeat in top flight history last October. Yet between that humiliating 9-0 loss to Leicester and the end of the campaign, Ralph Hassenhuttl’s team earned more points than the Foxes. If anything, Southampton ought to be competing for a potential European spot next season rather than worrying about the drop.
The other teams who should be fine are Sheffield United and Burnley. Both clubs were sat in mid-table for the underlying statistics being considered, and ultimately merited their final league positions of ninth and tenth respectively in 2019/20.
With these teams, unforeseen circumstances might deal them a bad hand. For instance, their managers could easily be approached to take over other teams thanks to their fine work with their current clubs. However, as things stand, they should stay up comfortably.
Which teams could be under threat?
The remaining teams in the market are Aston Villa, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and West Ham. Even without looking at in-depth statistics, Dean Smith’s side will struggle to retain their Premier League place if history is repeated.
Villa became only the fourth club in the 20-team Premier League era to stay up with 35 points or fewer. In the previous three instances (West Brom in 2004/05, Hull in 2008/09 and West Ham in 2009/10), the team was then relegated at the end of the following campaign.
Steve Bruce deserves credit for keeping Newcastle up last season, but their underlying stats suggested they should have been relegated.
Villa’s shots on target statistics were decent enough, but they should’ve been in the bottom three based on expected goals. If Jack Grealish also leaves the club, then it could be another tough season for Villa.
Brighton would appear to be the safest of the other four teams. Under Graham Potter, the Seagulls had better underlying numbers than in their preceding two top flight campaigns, and probably should’ve earned more points than they actually did.
Crystal Palace could easily be in serious trouble though. They had the oldest team on average in the top flight last season and with Wilfried Zaha reportedly looking to leave, questions remain over whether 73-year-old Roy Hodgson is the right manager to oversee an increasingly urgent squad rebuilding job.
The Eagles’ xG and shots on target stats last season were identical, with both producing eight wins, eight draws and 22 defeats. While it’s unlikely that any team will earn exactly the number of points their performances merit, those results would equate to 32 points and almost certainly relegation.
West Ham were poor for much of the season, but did start to turn round their performances as it drew to a close. They just about deserved to stay up based on their xG stats, and their shots on target results were slightly better than those posted by the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham.
Finally, Steve Bruce deserves credit for keeping Newcastle up in difficult circumstances last season, but the truth is that their underlying stats suggested they should have been relegated. According to expected goals, they deserved to win just four matches all season, and ought to have finished bottom of the table.
Indeed, Understat’s xG model dictated that the Magpies should have conceded 20 goals from shots in their six yard box, but they somehow got away with only letting in half as many. With serious investment in their current squad presently looking unlikely, they appear set to join West Brom and Fulham in finishing in the bottom three of the 2020/21 Premier League.
Read Andrew's preview of the 2020/21 Premier League top four and title contenders here.