With the end of the Premier League season fast approaching, fans of clubs at the wrong end of the table face an anxious wait to see if they will be dining at the top table of English football again next year.
Ask any fan around this time and they’ll say it is all about reaching the ‘magic 40 point’ mark – the benchmark that is usually assigned in order for a team to stay in the Premier League.
But is it really the ‘magic 40 point’ mark? Is the 40 point threshold a footballing myth? We’ve looked back at every Premier League season to see how many points a club actually needs to survive in the top tier.
Because, as we’ve discovered, it turns out clubs rarely need to get to the 40 point mark at all – in fact, they don’t even need to get close. After crunching the numbers and firing up the calculators, the number of points a Premier League side need to stay up is just 37 points.
Actually, it’s a little bit lower. The figure is 36.66 recurring, but even the top footballing authorities haven’t thought of anything as mad as awarding points in decimals… but give them time.
So how did we get to this figure? And how certain can we be of the new magic number?
First up, we looked back at every Premier League season from 1995/96, not the very first Premier League season of 1992/93. The reason for that was the fact the first three seasons of the ‘new’ Premier League had 22 teams, before reverting to 20 in 1995. To include data from the first three seasons would slant any figure that would be relevant to the current 20-club format.
Next, we added one point to the total amount of points from the team that were relegated in 18th place. Therefore, last season Newcastle were relegated with 37 points, meaning a team would only need 38 points to stay up.
One problem encountered was what to do when two teams ended on the same amount of points and the team in 17th stayed up on goal difference? When this was the case for a particular season, we took the amount of points both teams scored as the figure needed to stay up that season.
For example, in 2008, Reading went down in 18th with 36 points, but Fulham stayed up in 17th place, also with 36 points, thanks to their superior goal difference.
OK, the number of points was the same for both the relegated team and the team that stayed up, but it would be unfair to add a point when it wasn’t necessary for the team to score that extra point to stay in the division that season.
The maths from then on was fairly straightforward – add the total amount of points required to stay up from each season, divide the number by 21 (how many seasons the data amounts to), and the average was calculated.
With the average number of points needed at 36.66 recurring, rounding it up to 37 seems the most sensible option.
But how certain can we be of this figure? Using the data, the figure of 37 points needed to stay in the Premier League looks pretty convincing. Not just from an averages viewpoint, but you only have to look at the points tally required to see that the 40 point mark is more than safe enough to achieve Premier League survival.
On only three occasions in the past 21 years has a team gone down with 40 or more points – the highest being West Ham’s unfortunate relegation in 2003 when they were relegated with 42 points.
Not only that – in 14 of the 21 seasons covered, a club only needed 37 points in order to survive in the division.
So with the 2016/17 Premier League season in its dying embers, some fans should rest a bit easier in the knowledge that the 40 point mark isn’t an absolute essential… most of the time, of course.
But in such an unpredictable world as football, what manager would be brave enough to rest on their laurels once they hit the 37 point mark? Not many, is our guess.