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Premier League Survival No Longer Requires 40 Points

Stats obtained from Lord Ping show that the old rule of thumb stating that PL teams need 40 points to stay up is false, as the average number of points teams have needed for survival over the last 10 seasons has been 37.5.

The increasing-dominance of the Premier League’s top clubs has created a lopsided division where the teams battling for the title need more points than ever to win, whilst those fighting for survival need fewer.

Watford were the last team to have finished 17th with 40 points (in 2016/17) and the Hornets still managed to finish 6 points clear of the drop-zone that season. It seems like the ‘40 points for survival rule’ is becoming more of an urban myth with each season, especially during 2022/23, where all of the teams in the relegation zone failed to accrue even 30 points from their first 30 games.


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Why Is Quota Getting Lower?

West Ham United famously went down with 42 points in 2002/03, the highest-ever total of a side who went down to the Championship. Since then, the old adage of a team needing 40 points to survive has gained traction, with many in the footballing community repeating the mantra during the relegation-battle. 

It is, however, interesting to note that the saying has only ever come true once in the last ten seasons and that 40 points has been more than enough to guarantee survival, especially in recent seasons. 

The dominance of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea in recent seasons has made the Premier League more top-heavy than ever before. Liverpool, for example, accrued 97 points in the 2018/19 season and still finished in 2nd-place. Five years later, the Reds achieved a 92-point season, only to finish in 2nd once again. 

The sheer quality of the Big Six sides, combined with the top-heavy nature of the Premier League, has resulted in teams at the bottom needing fewer points to stay up as they did previously. Watford were the last team to avoid the drop with 40 points in 2017, with Southampton needing just 36 to stay up 12 months later. Interestingly, this was the same season Pep Guardiola’s Man City side hit 100 points at the top of the table.

The bar became even lower two seasons later, when Aston Villa avoided relegation with just 35 points and 9 wins. Liverpool dominated the league that year, acquiring 99 points en-route to a first league title since 1990 and finishing a whopping 19 points ahead of Manchester City. In the two full seasons since then, the 17th-placed team finished with 39 and 38 points respectively, further proving that 40 points is unnecessary. 

This Season Could See A New Low

The current Premier League season has not been kind to the teams currently sat in the bottom three as Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, and Southampton have all failed to get 30 points from 30 games. Everton, the club currently in 17th, have only chalked-up 27 points from the same amount of games, one fewer than the 17th-placed club (who were also Everton) acquired at the same stage last season. 

It is unlikely that the teams fighting in the relegation battle will need 40 points to survive this season as the bottom-three have endured such poor seasons. As of gameweek 29, no team currently has 40 points, but the closest is Fulham on 39 and they’ve long been in consideration for a European finish.

The quality of the Premier League may be better than ever at the top, but the prerequisite number of points needed to stay in the division continues to hover around the 36-38 mark. 

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V: 1.35.0 All rights reserved. August 2021
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