Prompted by a blast from the past, analysis returns to the question of how important league position is at Christmas time. There have been 3 Great Escapes from being bottom of the league but what about the rest of those at the bottom of the table? 

For the sake of this analysis, it is convenient to note that there have been 20 Premier League seasons with 20 clubs involved, having been slimmed down from 22 in 1995. This also makes sums somewhat easy. 

Although bottom at Christmas 2015, Aston Villa supporters will point to the hope that 3 teams have beaten the drop at the end of the season, 2 in the last 2 seasons. When their neighbours West Brom achieved the feat in 2005, they had also changed manager early on, Megson having been replaced by Bryan Robson. 

Similarly, Sunderland had replaced Di Canio with Poyet in autumn 2013. Leicester however had stuck with Nigel Pearson who claimed an astonishing end to the season in 2015. 

West Brom survived with 34 points Sunderland with 38, Leicester reached 41, all coincidentally having been on 10 points at Christmas. Since Villa were on 7, it seems optimistic to suggest their chances of going down are a mere 85%. 

So of the team in 20th place is the most likely to go down, who comes next? Statistics may be meaningless, they may indicate a cause and effect. Those most in danger may be the most likely to take remedial action. Teams well above the drop zone may become complacent. 

Not unexpectedly, 19th place has a 50% failure rate. Sunderland on 12 points appear well adrift but as with their Great Escape, they have a new manager in Allardyce will point to previous survivals during his spells in the North West. 

It may come as a surprise that the 3rd most likely team to be relegated has been the team in 17th place at Christmas. That honour this year goes to Newcastle United, one of the clubs that is surely too big to go down. Didn’t we say that in 2009? 

That 2009 relegation for Newcastle came with what has become a customary slump, falling from 12th at Christmas. Under Carver, of course only 3 wins came after the turn of the year, reflecting Pardew’s 18 and 16 point hauls after New Year in the previous 2 seasons. 

Under the circumstances, McClaren’s 55% chance of survival from 17th position looks challenging. It will be a big transfer window. 

Sitting slightly more comfortably in 16th were Swansea who have also experienced managerial change. The club appear well managed given their transfer activity in recent years, selling to invest despite the lowest average gate this season and lowest in the last. Any new permanent manger may be encouraged by their 60% chance of survival. 

The two teams with lower gates are Watford and Bournemouth, which leads us to the confounding factor of newly promoted clubs. On 90% of seasons, at least one newly promoted club has been relegated. 

Watford, in 7th, seem safe, despite Norwich’s record of being relegated from that position at Christmas before the Premier League had been shrunk. Bournemouth were in 14th, with a 25% chance of going down, Norwich in 16th at 30%. 

The odds would appear to favour a 3rd season of all promoted teams staying up. Curiously, the only team relegated from 15th was Cardiff in their top flight season. This time around that place was held by Chelsea, another club surely too well resourced to go down. 

What of the remaining outsiders? Since the 20 team league, the highest position to be relegated from was 10th, Blackpool in their single season promoted. Southampton could be the 3rd club to go down from 12th but look to have sufficient consistency to survive. Since Pardew, each of their managerial changes has also yielded success. 

West Brom’s 13th has led to only 1 relegation, despite the club’s own yoyo status. Tony Pulis also has a fantastic record in the sharp end of the season. 

So who are the best bets? 

Villa have too much history to overcome. At Christmas they were 10 points behind safety, since stretched to 11. It seems that the only question is who will join them? 

Is it likely that one of the promoted teams will go down? History suggests yes. If you stretch that to clubs that have been promoted in the last 2 seasons, there is a 100% probability. This points to a choice between Norwich and Bournemouth. 

That leads to 2 teams surviving out of 3, Newcastle, Swansea and Newcastle. 

Clearly much depends on what happens during the January window. Swansea have produced shrewd managerial changes in the recent past to secure Premier League survival, as well as a League Cup. Their transfer market activity suggests the purchasing of quality. 

Allardyce has a proud record, scrapping in the style of Pulis. He has experience of the relegation run in and surviving, notably with Bolton. 

That leaves Newcastle United. It is 5 years since Ashley has bought an English player with Premier League experience, although Colback has been added on a free. Despite the addition of a clutch of overseas players in January 2013, Newcastle have not amassed more than 18 points in the last 3 years in the 2nd half of the season. The total of 18 points this time would put Newcastle on a dangerous 35. 

Points needed at the end of the season suggest that at over 36 give a fair chance of survival. 37 points would have been safe in 70% of seasons. Given McClaren’s tail offs at other clubs, notably Derby last season, clearly something has to change, whether it is manager, transfer policy, tactics or a combination. 

Unless much changes in January, relegation favourites have to be Villa, Norwich and Newcastle, unless Middlesbrough prove to be the only North Eastern Premier League club next season. What will the clubs do to change that?