Premier League: The closest relegation battle in history?

Ten teams are separated by just six points in the bottom half of the Premier League after 24 games, meaning this season's fight for survival is shaping up to be the most desperate yet.

The increased revenue from the £3bn television rights deal that came into effect this season has ensured playing in the top flight is more lucrative than ever before.

QPR received £39m after finishing bottom last season - but the prize for staying up this year is staggering, with the bottom side expected to receive more than £63m.  

Hardly surprising then that eight of the bottom 10 have broken their transfer record in the last two transfer windows - the only exceptions are Stoke and Sunderland.

But just how tight is this year's battle against relegation? What lessons can we learn from previous seasons? And who does BBC pundit Robbie Savage expect to go down?

Is it the tightest?

The Premier League was reduced to 20 teams in 1995-96 - since then the average number of points separating the bottom 10 teams in the table after 24 games has been 18 points.

This year it is just six.

Only once before has there been just six points between the bottom half of the table - that was in 2008-09 when West Brom, Middlesbrough and Newcastle were relegated.

That season just two points separated the bottom five teams at this stage of the season. Right now there are four points between the bottom five.

What does history tell us?

Stats from the past

  • Leeds United managed to finish 11th in 1997 after scoring just 28 goals, the fewest by a side in a Premier League season
  • In contrast, Blackpool were relegated in 2010-11 despite scoring 55 goals
  • But if anything, remaining tight at the back appears to be more important than finding the net at the other end
  • On average, sides relegated from the Premier League since 1995-96 have scored 37 goals and conceded 67
  • Those finishing 17th, one place above the relegation zone - have averaged 39 goals, conceding 59

The most important number for any club looking to avoid relegation is 39.

That is the average amount of points a team finishing in 17th has picked up and thus avoided the drop since the league was reduced to 20 teams.

There are the occasional anomalies. West Ham went down with 42 points in 2002-03, the highest in a 38-game season, while West Brom stayed up with 34 points in 2004-05.

Meanwhile, the lesson from 2008-09 is clear - expect a thrilling end to the current season.

On the last day of that campaign there were four teams that could still be relegated.

Of the bottom three at this stage of the season, two were eventually relegated. Only Blackburn managed to climb to safety.

QPR supporters

Fans are sure to experience a range of emotions during the final weeks of the season

Who is in the relegation scrap?

Stoke:

Stoke

League position: 11th

Top scorer: Charlie Adam (eight goals)

Robbie Savage's view: Charlie Adam has lost some weight and Mark Hughes has him playing well. I think their home form will see them survive.

Did you know? The Potters have the worst away record in the league having collected just five points from a possible 36 on the road.

Swansea:

Swansea

League position: 12th

Top scorer: Wilfried Bony (13 goals)

Savage's view: The sacking of Michael Laudrup comes at a bizarre time. But with Wilfried Bony's 13 goals this season, even with Garry Monk and Alan Curtis in charge, I think they will survive.

Did you know? Swansea have picked up four points from their last eight league fixtures - only Saturday's opponents Cardiff have such a poor sequence of recent form.

Hull:

Hull City

League position: 13th

Top scorer: Robbie Brady (four goals)

Savage's view: Hull City made good signings in January by bringing in Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic. They are also beating the teams around them in the table and that is essential for teams in their position.

Did you know? The Tigers have the eighth best defensive record in the top flight, having conceded 30 goals in 24 games.

Sunderland:

Sunderland

League position: 14th

Top scorer : Adam Johnson (nine goals)

Savage's view: Gus Poyet has got them playing good football in terms of passion and hard work and they also have Adam Johnson, who is in fine form.

Did you know? The Black Cats were bottom at Christmas and only one team in the Premier League has stayed up when propping up the table at that stage of the season - West Brom in 2004-05.

Norwich:

Norwich

League position: 15th

Top scorer: Gary Hooper (seven goals)

Savage's view: Gary Hooper is their top scorer, but they have only managed one win in the league since 7 December. They need the points on the board now.

Did you know? Former Celtic striker Gary Hooper scored five goals in eight games in November and December, but has not scored in Norwich's last six league games.

West Brom:

West Brom

League position: 16th

Top scorer: Saido Berahino (eight goals)

Savage's view: West Brom were 11 points better off and seven places higher in the league this time last season. I just think they will have enough to stay up but it will be close.

Did you know? The Baggies are struggling to keep clean sheets this season - they have managed just one in the league since 2 November.

Crystal Palace:

Crystal Palace

League position: 17th

Top scorer: Marouane Chamakh (five goals)

Savage's view: Tony Pulis has done an amazing job since arriving in late November. He's galvanised the squad, made some great signings in the January transfer window, and they have the best fans in the Premier League.

Did you know? Crystal Palace have scored 15 goals in their 24 league fixtures - the fewest in the division. They have failed to score in half of their 24 games.

West Ham:

West Ham

League position: 18th

Top scorer: Carlton Cole & Ravel Morrison (five goals each)

Savage's view: If they can keep Andy Carroll fit, his impact on the team, especially with team-mate Kevin Nolan alongside him, will see them just survive.

Did you know? The Hammers were bottom of the form table at the end of December following a torrid run of four defeats and two draws in six games but have collected seven points from a possible 15 in 2014.

Cardiff:

Cardiff City

League position: 19th

Top scorer: Fraizer Campbell (seven goals)

Savage's view: I don't think they have enough quality to stay up. I can't see who is going to score six or seven goals at this stage to keep them up.

Did you know? Cardiff's away form is one of the worst in the division, with all but one of their five wins this season coming at home.

Fulham:

Fulham

League position: 20th

Top scorer: Steve Sidwell (six goals)

Savage's view: They have not improved under Rene Meulensteen since he came in. Their players have not responded to a new manager like those at Sunderland and Crystal Palace, which is a massively worrying sign.

Did you know? Their goal difference of -31 is the worst in the top four English football divisions.

The new manager effect

Picking up the points?

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet
  • Gus Poyet (Sunderland, appointed 8 October): 1.35 points per game over 17 games
  • Tony Pulis (Crystal Palace, appointed 23 November): 1.33 over 12 games
  • Rene Meulensteen (Fulham, appointed 1 December): 0.82 over 11 games
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Cardiff, appointed 2 January): 0.75 over four games
  • Pepe Mel (West Brom, appointed 9 January): 0.50 over four games

More clubs in the bottom half of the table have changed managers during the course of the current campaign than in any of the previous six seasons.

Seven managerial changes were made by this point in 2007-08, while Michael Laudrup's departure from Swansea on Tuesday means six have made way this time.

Sunderland and Crystal Palace are the biggest beneficiaries of changing managers during the season.

Since Gus Poyet replaced Paolo Di Canio on 8 October, Sunderland have picked up an average of 1.35 points per game, while Tony Pulis is averaging 1.33 per game, a marked improvement on 0.58 prior to his arrival.

Sadly for Fulham, they are yet to experience the new manager bounce.

When Martin Jol was sacked on 1 December, the Cottagers had been averaging 0.76 points per game. His replacement, Rene Meulensteen, has only marginally improved that statistic, picking up 0.82 points per game.

Who is going down?

Form of the bottom 10 over the last eight top-flight fixtures

W D L Pts Pts per game

Sunderland

4

3

1

15

1.87

Crystal Palace

3

1

4

10

1.25

West Brom

1

5

2

8

1

West Ham

2

2

4

8

1

Stoke

2

1

5

7

0.87

Norwich

1

3

4

6

0.75

Fulham

2

0

6

6

0.75

Hull

1

2

5

5

0.62

Swansea

1

1

6

4

0.50

Cardiff

1

1

6

4

0.50

Savage's view: "Norwich have only managed one win in the league since 7 December and I just think they are going to go down because their last four games look extremely difficult. They play Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"Cardiff's away form is one of the worst in the division. I think because of that they will not pick up enough points. I'd love for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to keep a Welsh team in the Premier League, but I just don't think they have enough quality.

"Finally, Fulham. They can't score goals and can't defend. They were woeful in the FA Cup in midweek and I believe they will go down.

"It is so tight at the bottom from 11th down. This season is very bizarre and the three teams that I think will go down could get a couple of wins and get out of it. I'll probably be wrong but I am going to stick with my chosen three!"

Savage's verdict: Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham