While Premier League leaders Manchester City look in the sort of form that could see them defend their title this season by breaking their own record of 100 points, down at the bottom of the table there are several teams in danger of setting some new marks of their own.
There are six teams who have made it into January without yet picking up 20 points: (from 15th to 20th) Everton, Leeds United, Watford, Burnley, Newcastle United and Norwich City. Although three of those teams are yet to have played half of their matches this season, there is the very real prospect that at least one of them will set a new record for the fewest points required to avoid Premier League relegation.
The record for lowest points needed to survive was set by West Bromwich Albion in their “Great Escape” season of 2004-05, when the Baggies beat the drop in the last few minutes of the season to stay up with just 34 points. To put that into context, that total would not have been enough to save a side from relegation in seven of the 10 most recent Premier League campaigns.
Bryan Robson’s side were also the first in Premier League history to stay up after being bottom of the league on Christmas Day, having been eight points adrift from safety going into the 2004 Boxing Day fixtures. Norwich spent Christmas at the foot of the table this season with 10 points, and they haven’t picked up another point since then.
After West Brom’s famous escape act, the financial disparity between the clubs regularly finishing at the top end of the table and those struggling to stay up every season has grown, leading to record points totals for the champions and fewer points being won by the relegation battlers.
Here we examine the plights of this season’s bottom six, all of whom are within nine points of each other at the halfway stage of the 2021-22 season.
Taking the teams’ accumulated results and points tallies over the 2021-22 season so far into account, we have extrapolated that data over the remainder of the campaign in order to assess their chances of finishing the season without breaking a number of “all-time low” Premier League records. Most of those records, it must be said, belong to the Derby County side of 2007-08 and/or the Sunderland of 2005-06.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account that some teams are likely to see their results improve as new signings are made, key players get injured and the fight against relegation intensifies, or the implications on the table of the results between two teams in the bottom six. But it does illustrate the gulf between the teams at the wrong end of the table.
Premier League 2021-22 season points-per-game rate (PPG)
Everton: 1.05 PPG
Points won from remaining games, based on current PPG
Everton: 21 points (from 20 games)
Leeds: 19 (19)
Watford: 14.4 points (20)
Burnley: 13.44 (21)
Newcastle: 10.83 (19)
Norwich: 9.88 (19)
Final points tally, based on PPG
15. Everton: 19 + 21 = 40 points
16. Leeds: 19 + 19 = 38
17. Watford: 13 + 14.4 = 27.4 (rounded up/down: 27)
18. Burnley: 11 + 13.44 = 24.44 (24)
19. Newcastle: 11 + 10.83 = 21.83 (22)
20. Norwich: 10 + 9.88 = 19.88 (20)
Should each of the bottom six clubs continue in the same vein for the latter half of the 2021-22 campaign, we could see 17th-placed Watford in potential danger of breaking West Brom’s long-held record for lowest points needed to beat relegation in a Premier League season. The Hornets would require just 27 points to survive, which is an incredible seven points fewer than the Baggies required to preserve their top-flight status against all the odds in 2004-05.
So it is a distinct possibility that the West Brom record will be broken this season, but there are also plenty of other “all-time low” Premier League records on the line.
Fewest points in a single Premier League season: 11, Derby County (2007-08)
Despite the haggard form of the teams down at the foot of this season’s table, all of the teams in the bottom three — while staring relegation in the face — are unlikely to break the record for the lowest points ever registered in a single Premier League season. That particular “honour” belongs to the Derby side of 2007-08, who amassed just 11 points from 38 top-flight games in that term.
Norwich need to take just one more point from their 19 remaining games to equal Derby’s tally and another to beat it. Using our extrapolated calculations, even the Canaries look set to reap almost double the points (20) collected by the Rams during their infamous annus horribilis.
The Premier League record for most points won in a 38-game season while still being relegated belongs to West Ham United, who went down with a hefty 42 points in 2002-03. In this season’s table, that points-per-game rate would likely see them finish in lower mid-table, roughly on par with Aston Villa (13th) and Southampton (14th).
Fewest wins in a Premier League season: 1, Derby County (2007-08)
Bottom club Norwich already have 2 wins this season, though both Burnley and Newcastle (1 win each) could equal the record if they fail to win another game. Burnley also have two more games in which to find that second win, having only played 17 matches so far this season.
Fewest home points in a season: 7, Sunderland (2005-06)
Everton: 13 points (from 9 games)
Leeds: 13 (10)
Watford: 7 (10)
Burnley: 7 (7)
Newcastle: 8 (10)
Norwich: 5 (10)
While Watford and Burnley have at least drawn level, Norwich are the only Premier League team left this season yet to equal/surpass Sunderland’s dismal home haul from 15 years ago. The Canaries need to claim two or more points from their remaining nine home league games at Carrow Road this season to ensure they don’t end up in the record books for all the wrong reasons.
Fewest away points in a season: 3, Derby County (2007-08)
Everton: 6 points (9 games)
Leeds: 6 (9)
Watford: 6 (8)
Burnley: 4 (10)
Newcastle: 3 (9)
Norwich: 5 (9)
Despite both Burnley and Newcastle failing to win a single game on the road in 2021-22 so far, it is the latter who have also failed to register sufficient draws to better Derby’s unwanted record-low haul. Eddie Howe’s side have eight away trips remaining this season in which to accumulate at least one more point and thus rectify the situation
The fact that the club’s last away victory in the league came eight months ago, on the final day of last season against a Fulham side that had already been relegated, is perhaps slight cause for concern.
Most defeats in a season: 29, Ipswich Town (1994-95), Sunderland (2005-06), Derby County (2007-08), Sheffield United (2020-21)
Everton: 9 defeats in 18 games (1 defeat every 2 games, extrapolated total 19)
Leeds: 8 in 19 (1 in 2.37, 16)
Watford: 13 in 18 (1 in 1.38, 27)
Burnley: 8 in 17 (1 in 2.15, 18)
Newcastle: 10 in 19 (1 in 1.9, 20)
Norwich: 13 in 19 (1 in 1.46, 26)
They might be outside the relegation zone at the moment but Watford would come closest to equalling the record on current form. The good news is that the Hornets would still fall two defeats shy of the record even if they maintained their fairly dreadful rate of one defeat every 1.38 games for the remainder of the season.
Fewest goals scored in a season: 20 goals in 38 games, Derby County (2007-08) and Sheffield United (2020-21)
Everton: 23 goals in 18 games (1 goal per 0.78 games, extrapolated total 49)
Leeds: 21 goals in 19 (1 per 0.9, 42)
Watford: 22 goals in 18 (1 per 0.81, 47)
Burnley: 16 goals in 17 (1 per 1.06, 34)
Newcastle: 19 goals in 19 (1 per 1, 38)
Norwich: 8 goals in 19 (1 per 2.37, 16)
The bottom three are all averaging less than a goal a game, with Norwich averaging a goal less than a goal every two games. Indeed, it’s really not looking good for the Canaries, who will have to increase their goal scoring dramatically in the second half of the season if they wish to avoid adding their name to the list of the Premier League’s most low-scoring sides. The club’s top goal scorer in the league this season is Teemu Pukki with five goals in 18 games and he hasn’t scored since November, so it’s not looking promising on that specific front.
Most goals conceded in a 38-game season: 89, Derby County (2007-08)
Everton: 32 goals in 18 games (1.77 goals conceded per game, extrapolated total 67)
Leeds: 37 in 19 (1.94 goals per game, 74)
Watford: 36 in 18 (2 goals per game, 76)
Burnley: 27 in 17 (1.58 goals per game, 60)
Newcastle: 42 in 19 (2.21 goals per game, 84)
Norwich: 42 in 19 (2.21 goals per game, 84)
They’re all shipping goals, but none of the defences belonging to the Premier League’s bottom clubs are leaking nearly as badly as Derby’s record-holding and almost entirely porous 2007-08 backline.
Worst goal difference in a season: -69, Derby County (2007-08)
Norwich have far and away the worst goal difference in the Premier League so far this season with a tally of -34 having played exactly half of their games.
Even if their goal difference is doubled to account for the second half of the season, the Canaries will still end with a goal difference of -64, which while sailing close to the wind is still enough to ensure that Derby’s infamous 2007-08 vintage are able to cling onto their ghastly record for at least another season.