All to Play For: Plenty to be Decided in the Premier League
With 11/12/13/14 games left to play (delete as appropriate) in the 2021-22 Premier League season, it feels like an ideal time to check in with the Stats Perform predictions on how the final table will shape up. Who will win the league? Which teams will make the top four? Who can survive the drop to the Championship?
Starting at the top, Manchester City’s 66-point total is the joint-seventh highest after 27 games of a Premier League season, but 13 points off Liverpool’s incredible tally of 79 at this stage in 2019-20. It is, however, one more than they had at this stage of their title-winning campaign last season (65).
Following that last-gasp 3-2 defeat to Spurs on 19th February, City are now unable to break the 100-point total in 2021-22. It was very unlikely anyway, but their best hope now is to match Liverpool’s 99 points in 2019-20 – even then, they’ll have to win each of their remaining 11 games of the season to achieve it.
City’s current rate of points-per-game is 2.44, which is the seventh best in Premier League history. There is a good chance they’ll end as one of the best teams in a single Premier League season, but they won’t be the greatest (based on points, anyway).
Based on our season predictor, Manchester City have a 75.3% chance of winning the Premier League title this season. Put simply, for every 10,000 times that we run our simulations for the remainder of this top-flight campaign, City win the league in 7,530 of them. Liverpool certainly shouldn’t be ruled out – teams have overturned bigger points deficits to secure the title than their six points (which could be only three if they win their game in hand).
The key fixture in this title race is on Sunday 10th April, with Liverpool making the trip to Manchester City. The fact that City are at home in this game weighs in their favour – Liverpool have won only one of their last 12 Premier League trips to the Etihad Stadium (W1 D4 L7) and have taken just two points against them at the stadium since Pep Guardiola took over in 2016-17.
Liverpool trail City by six points, but with a game in hand. Their total of 60 points is their third best after 26 matches of a Premier League season, but their goal tally of 70 is mightily impressive. The only club to have scored more than them after 26 games of a Premier League season were Man City (74) on the way to the 2017-18 title.
In fact, this is an all-time Liverpool club record for goals at this stage of a top-flight season, beating the 66 goals scored after 26 matches in 2013-14. They ended that season with 101 goals, but finished in second place, two points behind Man City. They’ll hope that 2021-22 doesn’t see history repeat itself.
This hasn’t been a vintage Chelsea Premier League season, with 50 points from their 25 games played so far in 2021-22. Whilst this tally is more than at this stage last season (43), they haven’t had the issue of transitioning between managers (Frank Lampard was sacked with Chelsea in 10th place after 19 games) and is 16 points off their record tally in a Premier League season at this stage – 66 points under José Mourinho in 2005-06.
Last season, Chelsea sealed fourth spot with 67 points, while the season before 66 points was enough for them to secure fourth place in the Premier League. At their current rate of two points-per-game, they should easily surpass this total, especially considering they only play two of the current top seven sides in their remaining 13 fixtures.
Our predictions give Chelsea a 99.1% chance of qualifying for the Champions League by securing a top-four finish, so based on this and City and Liverpool’s dominance at the top, it feels like the top three is pretty much nailed on. But that battle for the final Champions League qualification place in fourth is going to be exciting.
The Top 4
Realistically, the battle for fourth place looks set to be fought between four clubs: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
This time last week, you probably could have included Wolves as a fifth contender, but back-to-back defeats against Arsenal and West Ham have severely dented any chance of Champions League football next season – our predictor now only gives them a 0.4% chance of ending in the top four and not much more (2.3%) to finish in the top five and secure Europa League football for 2022-23.
Arsenal enjoyed three wins from three in the Premier League in February – two of those coming against Wolves – and with their next two matches coming against struggling Watford and Leicester, there is every chance they could make it five wins from five. They have three games in hand on Manchester United in fourth and West Ham in fifth, and whilst Arsenal will probably have preferred to have the points in the bag rather than playing catch up, this gives them a great chance of overhauling the two-point gap to United.
The Gunners have improved this season, with their 45-point tally 11 more than they secured after 24 games last season (34). Based on their current points per game ratio of 1.88, the Gunners could be on course to secure their best points tally in a Premier League season since 2016-17 (75) and surpass their 70 points in 2018-19. Our predictor gives them the best chance of the four clubs in the race for the final Champions League place, at 62.4%.
Manchester United currently hold that spot, but a 0-0 home draw with Watford on Saturday wasn’t helpful in their quest for Champions League football next season. This is their fourth worst points tally after 27 matches in Premier League history and four lower than at this stage last season (51). Despite the attacking talents, they have scored only 44 goals so far in the Premier League, with 20% of these coming against Leeds United. At this current stage, just less than one-in-four of our simulations see United finishing in the top four at the end of the season (24.6%).
West Ham are two points behind Manchester United on 45 points – three fewer than they’d secured at this stage last season (48) – but still their second-best tally after 27 matches of a Premier League season. This is their highest-scoring Premier League campaign after 27 matches (46 goals) and already more than in 12 of their full seasons in the competition. They’ll hope that their improved goal record in 2021-22 can help fire them to a top four finish, but our predictor thinks this won’t be enough – at 5.1%, their chances are below that of Spurs (8.3%).
Spurs have improved under Antonio Conte and still have two games in hand on Man Utd and West Ham, but six points in their last six games have severely damaged their top-four aspirations. Over that period, Manchester United have won double that tally from the same number of games (12), while rivals Arsenal have picked up 10 points from just four games.
The battle at the bottom of the table is one that looks set to involve at least seven clubs, and with only nine points separating 18th place Burnley and 11th place Crystal Palace, there is still a lot to be decided.
Norwich City are currently bottom of the league with 17 points, but there is only a five-point gap between them and Everton in 17th – plus, it’s important to state that Everton have played two games fewer than the Canaries.
Our predictor currently gives Norwich City an 85.7% chance of being relegated this season, which is still lower than Watford’s 90.4%.
History doesn’t suggest either club’s chances of survival are great, either. Only one club has beaten relegation after having 17 points or fewer from 26 matches in a season – West Bromwich Albion in 2004-05. Increase that to 19 points – as Watford have now – and it’s only four teams… but one of those were Roy Hodgson’s Fulham in 2007-08, who had the same record as the Hornets do now (19 points from 26 games).
The Hornets are on to their third manager of the season, with Hodgson being tasked to guide them to safety following the dismissals of Claudio Ranieri and Xisco Muñoz. They battled to a 0-0 away draw at Manchester United on Saturday, giving them a valuable point. Since Hodgson’s first game at Burnley on 5th February, the Hornets have picked up five points from six games, but that’s four fewer than Sean Dyche’s side (9) in the same period.
Burnley always had games in hand on their rivals because of the spate of covid-related cancellations around Christmas, but they still needed to win points in those matches. Losing just one of their last seven league games has helped, with their only defeat in this period coming against the might of Liverpool (W2 D4 L1). With those games in hand, Burnley’s survival chances (47.9%) are much better than Watford and Norwich, but still the third lowest as things stand.
Whilst Eddie Howe has turned the Newcastle United ship around, winning four of their last six games and drawing the other two, Brentford look to be moving in the other direction.
The Bees – in their first-ever Premier League campaign – lost 2-0 to Newcastle on Saturday and have now picked up just four points from a possible 33 since Christmas (W1 D1 L9). As it stands, they have a 20.9% chance of relegation, which is lower than Newcastle (23.1%), but mainly due to their next two matches being against Norwich City away and Burnley at home – we’ll know how much trouble Thomas Frank’s side are really following that double header.
Leeds United have now parted ways with Marcelo Bielsa following a poor run of results that saw them secure only one point in six games (W0 D1 L5), but more worryingly concede 21 goals. Our predictor gives them a 17.5% chance of dropping back to the Championship after two eventful years in the Premier League.
Everton are one of only six clubs to have played in every one of the 30 Premier League seasons, but their attempts to make it 31 is under serious threat.
Their 22 points so far this season is Everton’s worst tally after 24 games of a Premier League season, surpassing the 24 won after 24 games in 1998-99, and they haven’t been relegated from the English top-flight since 1950-51.
Our predictor gives six teams a higher chance of being relegated from the Premier League this season, with those two games in hand on other rivals being key. Everton’s 10.7% chance of dropping to the Championship is partly down to their historical strength in the competition but with only three of their remaining 14 matches coming against teams currently in the bottom seven, their task isn’t the easiest on paper.
It’s all to play for.
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