Is It Possible To Survive EPL Relegation Without Deep Pockets?
It takes a Herculean effort for a team to get promoted to the English Premier League and an even bigger one to stay up and survive the following year.
Hull City are a testament to that. Since 2008, they were promoted to the Premier League three times - in 2008, 2013, and 2016. However, on two occasions their stay lasted no more than two seasons, while their most recent EPL campaign in 2016/17 was just a one-season affair, and they haven't returned since.
In fact, in all but three seasons over the last 15, at least one of the promoted teams have been immediately relegated back to the Championship. In that time-span there's been four occasions where two of the three promoted teams have both failed to survive.
Keeping your head above water in one of the world's most competitive leagues is seriously tough. Just ask Fulham and West Brom, both of whom are struggling mightily at the bottom of the table this season. West Brom registered their first win this season after 10 games, losing 6 out of 9 and conceding 12 goals prior to their breakthrough. Fulham, on the other hand, won their second game of their season a few days ago, knocking off Brendan Rogers' Leicester.
There have only been 11 teams who finished in the top-10 after gaining promotion, out of which only two, Newcastle United in 1993-4 and Nottingham Forrest a season later, were good enough for a top-4 finish.
Year after year teams battle it out to gain promotion only to find themselves back in the very place they tried so desperately to get away from a season later.
Looking at this season's promoted clubs so far, Leeds United seem the only outfit genuinely capable of not only surviving, but perhaps pushing for a top-ten berth. While Leeds might just be only a few places above their promoted counterparts in Fulham and West Brom, they boast more points than the Cottagers and the Baggies combined. In fact, Leeds have gained 14 points in ten games so far, including earning draws against Manchester City and Arsenal not to mention a closely-fought 3-4 loss to Liverpool on the opening day of the new season- the kind of performance which made the league stand up and take notice.
So what makes it so damn difficult to survive in the Premier League?
Is it money?
Clubs in the Premier League obviously spend a lot more money than those in the Championship. The teams which finished in the bottom three last season spent a lot more compared to the money spent by the top three teams in the EFL Championships. Norwich, who finished dead bottom last season, spent €8.82m, while Leeds, who finished top of the Championship, didn't spend a single dime.
One of the perks of being in the top-tier of English football is that clubs have a much bigger budget. Over the years, the spending by English clubs has increased, and in order to make a mark for themselves, clubs are often having to break the bank and spend big on world-class players.
Look at Aston Villa. The club spent 81 million euros and are in the top-five right now, having absolutely hammered champions Liverpool 7-2 earlier in the season. On the other hand, if we look at a club like Brighton, who have been in the Premier League for a few years now - they spend just 6.3 million euros, and have endured a horrid start to the season and appear destined for a relegation scrap.
Leeds have spent €106.78 million, which is the most the club has invested in their history. Interestingly, they have also spent a lot more money than both Fulham and West Brom combined. Marcelo Bielsa pumped €30m into Spanish striker Rodrigo, who came in from Valencia earlier this season, making him the most expensive player at Leeds since Rio Ferdinanad in 2000. The Whites also purchased the experienced Helder Costa from Wolves for €17.70m as well as the youngster Raphinha for €18.58m. While Raphinha and Rodrigo have yet to set the world on fire so far, Costa has been at the top of his game, chipping in with 2 goals and 2 assists so far.
Fulham spent €37.5m this season, with the most being spent on the 28-year-old winger Anthony Knockaert, while West Brom spent €40.45m, €30m of which was poured into youngsters Karlan Grant and Grady Diangana.
Despite all this investment, both Fulham and West Brom have looked less than convincing. The pressure of playing in the Premier League can be incredibly overwhelming, even for clubs like West Brom and Fulham, who've enjoyed a solid history of top-flight football.
Nine games into the season, and there's still a long way to go before the conclusion of the Premier League. While it's still difficult to determine which clubs are going to be battling it out for survival, if history counts for anything, at least one of the three promoted clubs might be looking down the barrel by the end of the season.
Currently, Stats Insider's Futures projections are indicating Fulham are a 59.6% chance to be relegated, while it's even worse news for West Brom who currently have a 64.9% drop-down projection. As for Leeds, well there's some comfort in the fact the northerners are a just a 9.3% relegation chance at the moment.
While things are a little grim, there's at least plenty of time for the likes of Fulham and West Brom to piece together their survival strategies, and perhaps avoid that dreaded drop.
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