Now that the calendar has flipped over to January, it’s time to start thinking about the bottom of the EPL table.
Unlike the NFL or NBA, which rewards its worst teams with high draft picks, the EPL sends its three worst teams through the trap door and out of the league all together — allowing three teams from the Championship to take their place.
It’s a meritocracy which punishes failure and inspires teams near the bottom to pull out all the stops to make sure they’re still around when the 2016-2017 season gets underway.
Here are the bottom three teams today in the table, and they’re chances of avoiding the drop:
With only eight points from 20 matches and sitting 11 points away from safety, things look pretty bleak for Aston Villa.
You know things have gotten bad when the colorful Joey Barton slams you in the press, and actually sounds reasonable doing so.
Remi Garde hasn’t won any of his nine games in charge of the club, and Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Sunderland, the team just above them in the table, felt a little like a final nail in the coffin for the proud club.
Aston Villa has been linked to a couple of names in this transfer window, but it’s hard to imagine Garde coaxing enough points out of this side to remain in the EPL.
Chance of survival: 5 percent — Stranger things have happened, but it seems more likely that this team will be relegated with a few weeks to spare.
The Black Cats are no stranger to relegation battles, having finished 16th, 14th and 17th in the past three EPL seasons.
Right now, Sam Allardyce’s team finds itself in 19th place and four points adrift of 17th-place Swansea City. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s complaining about the always-crowded Premier League calendar and warning supporters about the FA Cup side he’ll have to field to be ready for a league match three days later.
The team had lost five matches in a row until the win over Aston Villa, and with trips to Arsenal (FA Cup), Swansea City and Tottenham on the horizon, things may get worse on Wearside before they get better.
You have to give them a fighting chance to stay up, though, as Allardyce has never been relegated from the Premier League and there is plenty of talent and experience on hand to scrape together the necessary points.
Chance of survival: 35 percent — They have the right sort of coach and guys like Jermain Defoe to score goals. They have some work to do, but they have a chance.
The Magpies have been a case study of the “too big to go down” theory in recent years. Since a fifth-place finish in 2012, the team finished near the bottom of the league in 2013 and didn’t lock up a place in this year’s competition until a 2-0 win over West Ham on the final day last season.
Former England manager Steve McLaren was brought in over the summer, but did not earn his first EPL win until October. Since then, Newcastle has 11 points in as many matches. That’s the sort of pace that would put them in serious danger of going down, since somewhere around 38 points is usually enough to keep a team in the league.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wegner spoke out in support of McLaren a day before handing him a 1-0 defeat at the Emirates last week, but it will take more than words for Newcastle to pull itself out of the relegation zone.
The teams needs goals — only Swansea City and Aston Villa have scored fewer than Newcastle’s 19 — and the club may dip into the transfer market this month to find some. There are always French players looking to make the move to England, right?
Chance of survival: 50 percent — If it spends a little money this month, Newcastle will be fine. If it doesn’t, the Toon Army will be sweating out a relegation battle deep into the spring.