Should the bookies stop taking bets on Premier League relegation?
This time last year, Manchester City were running away with the Premier League title. Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, on 62, 60 and 58 points, locked down the remaining Champions League places. Chelsea and Arsenal were hopelessly off the pace, five and 13 points off adrift. The English top flight’s fight for honours was a massive spoiler alert.
At the gravity-challenged end, West Brom were eight points from safety but otherwise, the relegation battle raged out of control. Crystal Palace and Stoke were both marginally imperilled on 27 points. Southampton rode the bubble on 28. Four other sides were three points or less from danger.
In 2018/19, it’s as though the league is an hourglass flipped on its head.
The top of the table is unclear. Liverpool’s goalless draw against Everton in the Merseyside Derby dropped the Reds to second, a point behind City. Tottenham are perfectly comfortable in third but Manchester United hold fourth only because Chelsea, two points behind, played one game fewer thanks to cup obligations. Arsenal wedge between the two like a sumo wrestler occupying the middle seat on your honeymoon flight.
Meanwhile, the relegation teams are all but decided. Huddersfield and Fulham can only be saved by three asteroids taking out Saint Mary’s Stadium, the AmEx and Turf Moor before season’s end. Okay, Brighton and Southampton are both on the South Coast so one big space rock taking an odd bounce might obliterate both but what are the odds?
With nine games remaining it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion the Terriers, Cottagers and Bluebirds are going down. Here’s why they are and the teams just above them are safe.