Projecting the EPL's Relegation Battle - 6/22/20

With eight games to go in this season, it looks like there’s going to be an intense relegation battle between six teams. While always important, survival is even more important for teams this year with the financial uncertainties presented by the COVID-19 crisis. That applies even more so for a team like West Ham that has spent quite a bit in recent years and has stated that financial stability is only possible from staying in the Premier League.

With that battle in mind, below are my current projected standings at the end of the season based on win probabilities and expected goals in the remaining fixtures. I’ve also included projected odds of survival – those are based on running 5000 simulations of the remaining fixtures in order to capture the variability that the projected standings alone don’t.

Brighton – Brighton’s win over Arsenal should be enough to make them safe this season. They likely would have been safe anyway, but Maupay’s last minute winner moved them from 98% to 99.5% survival percentage.

Watford and West Ham – Both likely safe, though I think West Ham’s chances are being inflated by their form from early in the season.

Similar to Brighton, Watford’s chances were improved by their last-minute equalizer against Leicester. Watford should also benefit from a comparatively easy run-in, with only Chelsea and Man City remaining from the top nine.

West Ham is maybe the most infuriating team of those in this list. They’ve built a team with a substantial amount of attacking talent, but seem to have done so with no plan for how those pieces would fit together. That’s been good enough for 12th in league in goals scored; better than most teams in a relegation battle, but not good enough for a team with their talent. Meanwhile, they’ve continued to leak goals at the back. Even though they limited the dangerous chances for most of the match against Wolves, the defending was often dreadful. I could easily see West Ham continuing not to live up to their talent and ending the season relegated.

Bournemouth – If one of the teams currently in the relegation zone is going to survive, it’s going to be Bournemouth. However, they may be done in by a difficult final eight matches – Wolves, Man U, Tottenham, Leicester, Man City, and Everton all still remain. Eddie Howe has certainly shown the ability to keep this squad up in other years where it seemed unlikely, but this certainly looks like the year that the luck runs out. Bournemouth’s one opportunity may be West Ham continuing to play below their capabilities more so than picking up substantial points of their own the rest of the way.

Aston Villa – Aston Villa’s form has been awful, though it’s hard at this point to determine how much that should be factored in given the break due to COVID. Villa’s survival could very well come down to the last match of the season against West Ham.

Norwich – It’s hard to imagine Norwich staying up at this point in the season, with a six-point gap between them at safety. After an encouraging first few matches, the Canaries just haven’t been able to score enough to ensure their survival.

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