The Premier League relegation battle, and the outrights market for the trio that will drop into the Championship next May, is already shaping up to be a tale of four teams.
It's around this time of year that the league table starts to take some meaningful shape. And across the board, bookmakers have identified the three newly promoted clubs, along with Bournemouth, as the teams that are by far the most likely to plummet into the second tier.
There even looked to be a danger that the quartet could be cut adrift of the rest with the four clubs all winning just one of their opening 11 league fixtures. However there have been tentative signs of life from some of these teams over the past fortnight, and a surprise win for the Cherries on Saturday felt like a significant moment in the race for Premier League safety.
Premier League relegation battle – Latest news
Impressive Bournemouth stun Newcastle
With Newcastle looking jaded after their Champions League adventures, Bournemouth produced the kind of high-intensity performance that could keep them above the dreaded dotted line.
A 2-0 victory, which came courtesy of a second-half brace from Dominic Solanke, goes a long way to easing the pressure on boss Andoni Iraola, and has resulted in Bournemouth’s relegation odds lengthening.
Blades off the bottom after Brighton draw
Things are also looking up for Sheffield United. Having taken just one point from their opening ten fixtures, there’s now a degree of hope for Paul Heckingbottom’s side. A dramatic late victory over Wolves last weekend lifted the roof of Bramall Lane, and they backed that up with a really good draw on the road at Brighton.
It was an own goal from the home team’s Adam Webster that levelled the game in the second half, and Sheffield United climbed off the bottom (and above Burnley) as a result. Their Premier League survival chances have improved slightly thanks to those last two outings.
Premier League relegation odds – Current outrights
Sheffield United (1/6)
Despite a couple of better results, the bookies still make Sheffield United are 1/6 to be relegated. Their points tally after 10 games was the joint-worst in Premier League history, with the exception of Portsmouth in 2009/10, if applying the 10-point penalty from the start.
Fast-forward to matchday 12 and things are looking slightly better, but the overall outlook is still bleak. Only 13 times has a Premier League side reached this stage with five or fewer points, and the Blades have the joint worst goal difference of the lot which currently stands at -21.
Even Derby County, statistically the worst ever Premier League team, had more points at this stage. Only once has a club survived after making a worse start to a Premier League season. That was Everton in 1994/95, with the Toffees reaching matchday 12 possessing only 4 points.
Luton Town (1/5)
Some bookies rate Luton’s survival prospects as even worse than those of Sheffield United, but they are priced at an average of 1/5 to be relegated. It’s not a pretty sight, when considering how their relegation from the ‘old’ First Division’s final iteration (1991/92) sparked a top-flight absence that ended just six months ago.
Yet, the fact that the Hatters were in the Conference Premier a decade ago puts the situation in perspective. In many respects it’s miraculous that they are even operating at this level, and their fans are clearly determined to enjoy the ride – however it may end.
And despite spending significant promotion money on the PL-mandated ground refurbishments, rather than vital new blood, Luton are currently the newly promoted side with the highest points tally and best defensive record. Then again, a return of only one win and just six points from their opening 12 matches clearly spells trouble.
Burnley are now the Premier League’s bottom club after suffering a 5th straight defeat in the 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday. The eye-catching brand of football which saw the Clarets run away with the Championship last season, has at times been brutally exposed at Premier League level.
They’ve let in 30 goals already, but Vincent Kompany remains convinced that his team can try to play their way out of trouble. Just as worryingly, however, this has not been a free-scoring team by any means, with Burnley’s tally of only nine goals being the worst in the division.
Despite all that, the bookies believe they still have a better shot at securing safety than the other new boys, with Kompany’s men 4/6 to be relegated, although those odds are shortening by the week.
The only side offering any real hope to the newly promoted clubs so far are Bournemouth. The Cherries haven’t really started to play the kind of football that Andoni Iraola is known for, and have looked short at both ends of the pitch at times.
However they’ve drifted out to 23/10 to be relegated, largely as a result of their impressive win over Newcastle, which gives them something to build from after the international break.