The seventh seal (part 2)
October 6, 2010 § 3 Comments
In part 1, Twisted Blood looked at how reasonable it was to make conjectures about the title race based on the table after seven games. And we discovered: increasingly so. Here, in Part 2, we focus on the other end of the table.
So, Liverpool, eh?
From a historical perspective, their start this season – 18th in the table, P7 W1 D3 L3 – is their worst start since 1953/54, a season which saw the club relegated to the old Second Division. The general consensus is, of course, that they are too good to go down*; a quick glance at the markets sees them 13th favourites for the drop, available at a nevertheless-mirth-inducing 18/1. Besides, they’ve been bought, sort of, lawyers allowing, so everything will be fine. You never know, they might even scrape top half.
But can you draw a correlation between being in the bottom three after seven games and ending up there after 38? Acknowledging that being in the bottom three is never good, and keeping with the same sample group as in part 1 (the 29 seasons since 3-points-for-a-win was introduced in 1981/82): of the 88 teams that occupied the relegation zone after most teams in the division had played seven games, only 38 went on to subsequent relegation; that’s 43.18%, slightly closer to half than a third. Which should be comforting to Liverpool, Wolverhampton, and West Ham United; if the trend holds, one or two of them might expect to end the season still in the Premier League.
However, a more detailed glance at the numbers reveals more cause for concern for those fans of the bottom three clubs. As with the eventual title-winners, recent years have seen what we might term a tendency towards increasingly early calcification: the important bits of the table begins to take their final form sooner with each passing season
For instance, there have been three seasons where all of the teams in the relegation places after seven games have escaped come the final reckoning: two in the 80s (82/83, 87/88), one in the nineties (96/97), and none in the decade that nobody’s managed to avoid calling the noughties. Indeed, in seven of the last ten seasons, two or more of the teams in the bottom three after seven games have gone down. Contrast this with the (slightly abbreviated, admittedly) eighties, where only one season saw more than one such team relegated.
If we break the data down into three rough decades, it looks a little something like this:
Decade 1. In the nine seasons between 1981/82 and 1989/90, 28 clubs occupied the relegation zone after most of the league had played seven games. Of those clubs, a mere 8, or 29%, were relegated.
Decade 2. Between 1990/91 and 1999/00, of the 30 teams were in the relegation zone at a similar stage, 12 were eventually relegated. That’s 40%.
Decade 3. Between 2000/01 and 2009/10, of the 30 teams in the relegation zone after seven games, fully 18 of them were relegated, a quite alarming 60%.
By now, fans of Wolves, West Ham, and maybe even Liverpool might be starting to feel a little more concerned. If this trend continues, at least one of them will be needing to brace for the emotional and economic turmoil of a season in the second tier. For Wolves and West Ham, it would of course be disastrous; for Liverpool, it would be positively cataclysmic.
* This is definitely not an attempted jinx. Oh no. They just are too good to go down.
NOTE: This piece has been updated following Dave’s comment below. Cheers Dave.