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Is this the craziest Premier League relegation battle in recent history?

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Another match week gone, and barely any more clarity from the muddled Premier League relegation battle.

We say barely because West Bromwich Albion’s latest loss, even given its soft schedule, felt like a bit of a death knell (if you can have a ‘bit’ of a death knell).

[ MORE: Palace-Man Utd recap | Matic, Mourinho react ]

The Baggies are now eight points back of safety with nine matches to play, and sit seven points behind 18th and 19th. Making up more than two wins on one team is difficult, let alone three. But again, Baggies supporters, there is that schedule.

As for the rest, it still feels a bit absurd. Swansea City moved up to 13th with a win after starting the weekend in the relegation zone. Three points separate 19th from 13th place, and there’s a threat that 10th, 11th, and 12th could still get drawn into the fray.

So is this really crazy compared to other years? We went back to the turn of the century and traced three seemingly important statistics:

  • Teams relegated with the most points
  • Teams relegated with the best goal differential
  • The highest in the table a club finished within two wins (six points) of the drop zone.

Relegated with top points

As it stands, there’s nothing special about the pace of current 18th and 19th placed teams, Crystal Palace and Stoke, who are on pace to drop with 35 points (35.3, actually).

  • 42 — West Ham United 2002-03
  • 39 — Birmingham City -and- Blackpool 2010-11
  • 38 — Sheffield United 2006-07
  • 37 — Newcastle United 2015-16
  • 36 — Wigan Athletic 2012-13
  • 36 — Bolton Wanderers 2011-12
  • 36 — Reading 2007-08
  • 36 — Ipswich Town 2001-02
  • 35 — Hull City 2014-15
  • 35 — Birmingham City 2007-08

Relegated with best goal differential

This one seems the most telling, because the names on this list are largely recognizable and so-called yo-yo clubs. The best teams to go down are the ones that suffer from bad bounces. Put in perspective, the 11th place PL side (Everton) has a minus-16 goal differential this season.

Assuming at least five losses adding goals to the differential, Newcastle and Southampton stand a chance to be relegated with the best goal differential ever. That’s also an argument for why both teams will find safety, but we digress.

  • -16 — Birmingham City 2007-08
  • -17 — Leicester City 2003-04
  • -17 — West Ham 2002-03
  • -18 — Hull City 2014-15
  • -19 — Newcastle United 2008-09
  • -21 — Newcastle United 2015-16
  • -21 — Birmingham City 2010-11
  • -21 — Crystal Palace -and- Southampton, 2004-05
  • -22 — Birmingham City 2005-06
  • -23 — Blackpool 2010-11
  • -23 — Sheffield United 2006-07
  • -23 — Ipswich Town 2001-02

Highest team within two results of 18th

We went with six points because of the likelihood that a team would enter May still very much concerned with relegation if they were six. To boot, a team a win above the drop could win their final match and finish six clear.

As it stands, 12th place Bournemouth is six points clear of the drop zone. The next two teams up, Everton and Brighton, are seven points above.

The last 17 seasons have seen just eight in which 15th place was as close as six points. In that time, only five teams have finished that close to the drop zone and as high as 13th. No team has finished higher than that, and it seems this could be the year that mark goes down.

  • 13th place Stoke City 2012-13
  • 13th place Middlesbrough 2007-08
  • 13th place Newcastle United 2006-07
  • 13th place Birmingham City -and- Fulham 2002-03
  • 14th place West Brom 2015-16
  • 14th place Leicester 2014-15
  • 14th place Sunderland and Aston Villa 2013-14
  • 15th place Blackburn 2010-11

Relegation race: The fixtures that matter in the Premier League

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The bottom half of the Premier League table is a 10-team relegation scrap.

[ MORE: Palace, Newcastle draw ]

That could feel more like nine should Watford upset Chelsea at Vicarage Road on Monday, but we’ll play the odds and keep the Hornets very much in play.

Forget the places assigned to the names, this is a better idea of where the clubs stand with a dozen or fewer matches to play:

27 points — Watford, West Ham, Brighton, Crystal Palace
26 points — Southampton
25 points — Newcastle
24 points — Swansea, Stoke, Huddersfield Town
20 points — West Brom

Watford (13 fixtures left)

Home: Chelsea, Everton, West Brom, Bournemouth, Burnley, Palace, Newcastle
Away: West Ham, Arsenal, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Spurs, Man Utd

The key: Four scrappers head to Vicarage Road. The Hornets should be fine if they avoid losing those. Including the 13th match against Chelsea, Watford is one of the bunch to face five of the Top Six.

West Ham United

Home: Watford, Burnley, Man Utd, Southampton, Stoke, Man City, Everton
Away: Liverpool, Swans, Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester

The key: The Irons play three-straight home matches in March, with Burnley, Man Utd, and Southampton dancing into the London Stadium. Those three represent 60 percent of their remaining home dates. In total, the Hammers face five of the Top Six.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Home: Swans, Arsenal, Leicester, Huddersfield, Spurs, Burnley, Man Utd
Away: Stoke, Everton, Man City, Palace, Liverpool

The key: Be safe before the final four fixtures, which include Spurs, Man Utd, and Liverpool sides sure to still be concerned about table standing. Also face five of the Top Six.

Crystal Palace

Home: Spurs, Man Utd, Liverpool, Brighton, Leicester, West Brom
Away: Everton, Chelsea, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth, Watford, Stoke

The key: Get to April alive — The Eagles will face Spurs, Man Utd, Chelsea, and Liverpool amongst their next six fixtures. It’s much easier the rest of the way.

Southampton

Home: Liverpool, Stoke City, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Man City
Away: Burnley, Newcastle, Swansea City, West Ham, Arsenal, Leicester, Everton

The key: Saints have a three-match March road swing through fellow relegation battlers Newcastle, Swans, and West Ham. A little bit fortunate that Saints’ home finale versus Man City will feature probably pre-occupied City already having clinched the league.

Newcastle United

Home: Man Utd, Southampton, Huddersfield, Arsenal, West Brom, Chelsea
Away: Bournemouth, Liverpool, Spurs, Leicester, Everton, Watford

The key: Be safe before the finale versus Chelsea. March home dates with Saints and Huddersfield will be huge in the noisy north. Five of the Top Six remaining on the schedule.

Swansea City

Home: Burnley, West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke
Away: Brighton, Huddersfield, Man Utd, West Brom, Man City, Bournemouth

The key: It’s very much in Swans’ hands, facing six of the current bottom half and only three of the Top Six. At least four points in their next two — Burnley and Brighton — feel as important as anything, and the final match versus Stoke City could be colossal.

Stoke City

Home: Brighton, Man City, Everton, Spurs, Burnley, Palace
Away: Leicester, Southampton, Arsenal, West Ham, Liverpool, Swans

The key: How massive might that finale at Swansea be to both team’s fortunes? The list looks manageable for the team with the most goals conceded in the Premier League (by six).

Huddersfield Town

Home: Bournemouth, Swansea, Palace, Watford, Everton, Arsenal
Away: West Brom, Spurs, Newcastle, Brighton, Chelsea, Man City

The key: Three of Town’s last four come versus Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal. Even with City likely to have the title sewn up, that’s no cakewalk. Plus the fourth match is Everton. So gets points quick, especially with Bournemouth and West Brom next on the league docket.

West Bromwich Albion

Home: Huddersfield Town, Leicester, Burnley, Swans, Liverpool, Spurs
Away: Chelsea, Watford, Bournemouth, Man Utd, Newcastle, Palace

The key: Wins, not draws; The Baggies have more ground to make up than any other team. The points are certainly there for them.

January window made the difference in tighter relegation battle

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This year’s Premier League table sees just eight points between eighth place and 17th , and just four more before the relegation races. The latter gap will max at 15 and could be as small as nine.

It was 23 last season, and 21 the previous season. This year will end a three-season run of 20-plus points between 8th and 18th, and seems likely to be a harbinger of what’s to come.

With the big TV money increasing roster investment even more, it will become more difficult to stay in the league for all sides. Perhaps we’ll be talking a gap from 9th to the drop on occasion, especially if West Ham or Southampton ups its investments.

But look at tiny Burnley smashing its spending records this year, and how many clubs have shattered their transfer records. Part of that is a function of the market, but consider how much big boys Newcastle United and Aston Villa spent in an effort to return to the PL. The days of idle windows working are long gone. At best, they will be outliers.

Additionally, expect to see more activity in the transfer market itself (if not in January, then August).

Sunderland proved the old maxim of Jims and Joes being more important than x’s and o’s on a weekly basis this season, and — with apologies to Paul Clement, Sam Allardyce, and Craig Shakespeare — the winter window saved the seasons of Swansea, Palace, and Leicester as key pieces Patrick Van Aanholt, Luka Milivojevic, Mamadou Sakho, Wilfred Ndidi, Martin Olsson, and Tom Carroll arrived to new homes.

(You may find it curious to see Leicester there, but Ndidi’s arrival was probably the No. 1 move in the country. In a world without N'Golo Kante, he was Best XI quality at his position).

Even Hull City’s turnaround under Marco Silva prominently featured January buys in the forms of Andrea RanocchiaLazar Markovic, Alfred N'Diaye and others.

When you see that Sunderland whiffed on several half-hearted Moyes-Everton reunions and Middlesbrough got little from its four window buys, all four of which sit outside their Top 11 in per-match performance, it’s fairly clear that men make the difference.

There’s always danger in evaluating an entire league based on one season, but it feels prescient to me. What do you think?

STREAM LIVE: Massive six-pointer pits Palace, Hull

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Frayed nerves will be in abundance at Selhurst Park when Crystal Palace hosts Hull City in a high-stakes relegation six-pointer (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com)

Swansea City beat Sunderland on Saturday to pull level with Palace on 38 points, four more than Hull.

Palace knows it can clinch top-flight status for itself with a draw or better, and for Swansea with a win. Hull needs a win to fight into Week 38.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Palace is at Manchester United on the Championship Sunday, with Swansea hosting West Brom and Hull at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

 

Relegated Sunderland “obviously distraught”; Moyes wants to stay

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Neither John O'Shea nor David Moyes had been relegated during their long careers in football.

That changed Saturday.

The former Manchester United defender and Everton manager saw Sunderland drop into the second tier after a bevy of wasted chances and a lapse at the back perfectly summed up their season in England.

[ RECAP: Sunderland 0-1 Bournemouth ]

Moyes wants to stick around and help Sunderland back to the Premier League the way Rafa Benitez did this season in the Championship. Here’s what he said on NBCSN after the match:

“I feel for the supporters. They put their hard-earned cash out there to support the team, and my thoughts are really with them today.

“Yeah, the job’s to make sure that we get ourselves prepared and ready but we’re in this position, to talk about it now is just too quick.”

As for O’Shea, he’s clearly gutted and exasperated. The veteran Irish back did not have a strong season along with the majority of his teammates, and is left grasping for answers.

“Look, we’re obviously distraught. We all wanted the support that we got today. It’s not a nice feeling.

“Performances, results, are the obvious things at the end of the season. The detail never lies. We haven’t kept enough clean sheets, we haven’t taken enough chances. We needed a miracle run to save us, and we couldn’t produce it.”

The Black Cats were kept alive by Jermain Defoe‘s heroics for most of the season, but the striker went ice cold with finishing from February onward. The club rarely looked the part this season, and this might not be a short spell away from the top flight.