History tells us that at least one and maybe two of the Premier League’s most recently promoted clubs — Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United — will be relegated at the end of the season and forced again to ply their trades a division down the English soccer pyramid. It’s rare that all three newly promoted clubs stay up in the Premier League for more than a season together — it’s only happened twice in the past decade.1
But there’s good news for this year’s three freshly promoted clubs. The average expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes through six games played for teams promoted to the Premier League since 2009-10 is 1.08. And the average xG per 90 minutes for newly promoted teams that stayed in the Premier League beyond their first season is 1.22. Aston Villa, Sheffield and Norwich each has an xG of 1.30. All newly promoted teams since 2009-10 have experienced an uptick of 0.113 xG from their sixth match through the end of the season, suggesting Villa, Norwich and Sheffield each has room to improve.
|Through 6 games|
|SEASON||Team||Did team Stay Up?||Points Won||xG per 90 min.|
|2010-11||West Bromwich Albion||✓||10||1.38|
|2011-12||Queens Park Rangers||✓||8||1.24|
|2012-13||West Ham United||✓||11||1.44|
|Queens Park Rangers||4||1.15|
|Brighton & Hove Albion||✓||7||0.67|
Despite its above average showing in terms of xG, Villa already finds itself in some peril. The club is currently hanging out with Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the relegation zone, having accumulated just 4 of a possible 18 points after six matches. It’s still early, but recent precedent suggests that Villa could be in trouble.
In the past decade, just two newly promoted clubs have accumulated fewer points than this iteration of Villa through their sixth match and survived their relegation scares.2 The other four clubs to find themselves in similar quandaries3 have all been relegated.
The bad news for Villa is that it’s currently on pace for approximately 25 points, and no club in the Premier League era has avoided relegation with so few points. The good news is that a slow start isn’t always a death sentence for a newly promoted club — and indeed might actually point to good things to come. Southampton grabbed just 3 points through its first six matches in 2012-13 but managed to fend off relegation and cement itself as a perennial Premier League club — the Saints are currently enjoying their eighth consecutive season in the English top flight. And through six matches in 2013-14, Crystal Palace too had secured just 3 points. Like Southampton the season before, Palace recovered from its slow start and is currently in the midst of its seventh consecutive Premier League season. Neither club has challenged for the title, but neither has been forced to grind it out in the Championship — and likely operate at a financial loss while doing so.
Sheffield United and Norwich City have matched Villa in terms of expected goals, but each has accumulated more points, and neither is in the relegation zone — at least not yet. And it’s not all doom and gloom in Birmingham. Villa has managed a win over an Everton team that expects to challenge for the top six and pushed Spurs to the brink on the first weekend of the season. For their part, Sheffield already has a draw with Chelsea and a win over that same hopeful Everton club. And despite giving away the second-most goals per 90 minutes in the Premier League through match day six, Norwich — led by star forward Teemu Pukki — grabbed the most impressive scalp of them all: a win over Pep Guardiola’s mighty Manchester City.
It’s too early to say how any of this will shake out — Norwich will have to figure out its defensive woes if it hopes to survive, to be sure, while Villa will have to start scoring actual goals — but it’s already clear that this season’s crop of newly promoted clubs aren’t there to be stomped on.
Norwich City or Sheffield United quickly being relegated once more would be in line with precedent. Since the formation of the Premier League, those clubs have mostly existed in the lower divisions — gaining the rare promotion to the Premier League and then getting relegated is what they’ve always done.
But Villa — whose relegation in the spring of 2016 shocked the soccer world — is part of the Premier League’s bedrock. At the time, they were one of just seven teams to play in every Premier League season. After a brief — and nearly disastrous — stint away from it, the Villans have reestablished themselves as a club that belongs at the top of the English soccer pyramid. But if they hope to remain there this time, the goals will have to start coming sooner rather than later. Fortunately for Villa fans, the data suggests they will. Even if just barely.
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