More than half of the clubs in the Premier League have made it to halfway through the season, and halfway there is a sample size small enough to leave the fate of any team up for debate.
But it’s also big enough that we can draw some important conclusions from some of the same data that Premier League clubs are using to see their biggest strengths and weaknesses.
And while sometimes the solutions seem obvious enough – Bournemouth’s purchase of Lorient midfielder Dango Ouattara addresses the league’s most obvious need – other times numbers can play us.
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There is an added mystery in the continuing status of some big names and/or collections of talent in the bottom three as of mid-January: West Ham, Everton and Southampton sit 18th, 19th and 20th in the table despite spending 11, 31 and 11 years each in their current Premier League spells.
Meanwhile, newly promoted Fulham are way up the table, ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea! – and Nottingham Forest are now five points behind the bottom three.
So who’s in trouble and why? We suggest that there is currently 1.5 under, giving Everton a huge and historic benefit of the doubt, and that a fairly decent side will finish 18th at the end of the season.
Our last three projections say the relegation zone has a sweet tooth, starting with Toffees and Cherries.
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Premier League relegation concerns, ranked
No argument to the contrary: The Cherries are 20th in expected goals, 19th in expected goals allowed, 19th in chances created, 19th in shots on goal per game.
They also have the worst finish in the league with under 97 shots from open play, have conceded 11 goals from corners and forced their goalkeepers to face six penalties. It’s bad, very bad. Let’s hope Ouattara helps a lot; The $24 million buy comes tied for 12th in Ligue 1 big chances created and he has amassed 0.48 xG + xA per 90 minutes.
Three players who could help save the day: Phillip Billing, Marcos Senesi, Ouattara
This seems a bit ridiculous given the talent at Goodison Park, but things just turned out rotten for Frank Lampard’s men.
The Toffees have the second worst differential in shot attempts since open play and have allowed a league-worst 220. They are 16th in expected goals, 18th in xGA and 16th in chances created per game.
Worse yet, the Toffees are outperforming their xGA in open play, corner kicks and set pieces.
Three players who could help save the day: Conor Coady, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Amadou Onana
Consider Mohamed Elyounoussi, who is on course to win the David McGoldrick award for best xG in a season without scoring a goal (2.59 in 1,342 minutes).
Three players who could help save the day: James Ward-Prowse, Mohammed Salisu, Mislav Orsic
4. Nottingham Forest
The hope for Forest, now five points clear of the bottom three, is that their collection of talent will finally start to take hold under the stewardship of Steve Cooper. It’s quite reasonable to think that Morgan Gibbs-White, Renan Lodi and Taiwo Awoniyi will find a rhythm for him.
However, the Tricky Trees could escape the danger by dancing in around four weeks, with Bournemouth, Leeds and Fulham all outperforming in their next three meetings.
Three players who could help save the day: Gibbs-White, Jesse Lingard, Ryan Yates
5. Crystal Palace
Palace are horrible in open play (-11 GD, -10xGD) and rely too much on Wilfried Zaha. The Eagles have many enviable attacking components in Odsonne Edouard, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, but the whole is worse than the sum of its parts.
Three players who could help save the day: Joachim Andersen, Eze, Zaha
BONUS: Why Your Favorite Team Dodged The Top Five
west ham they are the fifth-best defense in the league based on expected goals and rank 20th in chances created despite a fine collection of talent we’ve seen deliver goals in the Premier League.
leicester city he has been without James Maddison for much of the season and remains ninth in chances created. The Foxes aren’t good, but it would be surprising to see them wallow near the bottom three.
leeds they are the 10th best expected goals team in the Premier League and Patrick Bamford’s incredibly unfortunate run in front of goal has gone on for far too long; Bamford ranks second in the PL in expected goals per 90 among players who have played over 300 minutes. If it’s not him, it’s someone.
Wolves they have been unlucky in terms of xG and xGA on literally every part of the field and have looked much better since the signing of Julen Lopetegui. Now, can you browse a possible sale of Rubén Neves?
astonville is outplaying opponents in open play and the numbers for Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey suggest the season is on the rise. The Villans need to be more strict when teams return the ball to them.
fulham he has some abjectly terrible advanced stats, but his 31 points and superior performance are probably already enough to keep them safe.
Premier League relegation concerns, standings originally appeared on NBCSports.com