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How Do Premier League Teams Perform after Relegation is Confirmed?

With another Premier League season coming to a close, another three teams shall be cast down to the Championship with three teams coming up to claim their former places in the top tier of English football.

Around this time of year, you'll hear many pundits and experts discuss the chances of the already relegated clubs with regards to their chances of winning in their upcoming games. A familiar adage is that the relegated teams aren't under pressure, can give it a real go, play with freedom, and are therefore a very dangerous team for any club to face: but are they? The numbers speak for themselves.

The damned of the 2018/19 campaign

On 30 March, it was confirmed that Huddersfield Town would be spending next season in the Championship following a joint-record speed relegation. Since their 2-0 damning loss to Crystal Palace, the Terriers have lost all three of their games, scoring a grand total of two goals while conceding ten.

Fulham and their current head coach Scott Parker have had other ideas. Since being relegated on 3 April, the Cottagers have landed two consecutive wins, scoring three goals and keeping an unprecedented two clean sheets – which doubles their season total.

In fairness, Huddersfield had to face Spurs and a rejuvenated Leicester City in that time and still have Liverpool and Manchester United on the fixtures list. Fulham, on the other hand, have faced Everton and Bournemouth with the out-of-form Wolves, the all-but safe Newcastle, and the relegation favourites in the sports betting, Cardiff, left to go. Huddersfield do face Southampton in their last game, who are at 150/1 to Cardiff's 2/17 to drop, but a last hurrah at Saint Mary's seems very unlikely.

So, with two polar opposites on show, have the relegated in recent seasons followed the continued downward spiral of Huddersfield Town or do they revel in the release of pressure, like Fulham?

Analysing 2013/14 to 2017/18

Newcastle United's St James' Park
Source: Pixabay

Over the five seasons prior to 2018/19, 12 of the 15 relegated teams were committed to the drop before the final day of the season, meaning that three teams didn't have any games after relegation was confirmed. Of sample group, Norwich City and Hull City were relegated twice, with one relegation for both teams coming on the last day of the season. Swansea City's sole relegation during this window, in 2017/18, also came on the last day of the season.

Last season proved to boast one of the closest relegations possible, with two clubs, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City, being relegated with one game to go and Swansea not bowing out until the final day. In fact, it was Swansea's loss to Southampton in their penultimate game which relegated the surging West Brom.

In 2016/17, the relegated teams were soundly pushed to the second tier. Sunderland were relegated with four games left, Middlesbrough with two games to go, and Hull City with one match to play. It was slightly less pummelling in 2015/16, with Newcastle United and Norwich having a game left each. However, being relegated due to local rivals Sunderland defeating Everton will have hurt the Magpies dearly. Aston Villa were cast to the drop with four matches left.

Both Burnley and Queens Park Rangers were relegated with two games to go in 2014/15, but Hull City battled to the very last day. In 2013/14, Norwich were all but relegated on the last day but lost to Arsenal to confirm the drop. On the same day, Fulham and Cardiff played their only remaining games as teams that were already relegated.

Minute's silence at Fulham
Source: Pixabay

By combining the 21 games played by the 12 teams that had fixtures remaining after being relegated, we can see a record of five wins, three draws, and 13 losses. So, over the last five seasons – not including 2018/19 – teams confirmed to be relegated have earned a 24 per cent win rate, 38 per cent not-lose rate (wins and draws combined), a 62 per cent loss rate, and a 76 per cent not-win rate.

Goals win games in football, and it's clear that those confirmed to be in the Championship in the following season struggle to score. Over the 21 games, the relegated teams averaged 1.1 goals per game while also averaging 2.3 goals against.

It seems that, at least in recent seasons of the Premier League, teams tend to trend towards a rather undignified finish rather than battle back as Fulham did this season. This is epitomised by West Brom in 2017/18 who landed three wins and two draws in five games, and then they were confirmed as relegated, after which they lost 2-0 to Crystal Palace on the last day of the season.

With only five wins and an average of 1.1 goals per game across 12 teams and 21 matches, it's safe to say that being relegated doesn't tend to inspire a change in results.

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