Head to Head: The bottom half
We have been saying it for some time: The bottom half of the Premier League table is so compact that it is almost too close to call as teams fight against each other to avoid the dreaded drop down into the Championship and this is a crazy situation as we go into the final third of the season. At this moment in time, only seven points separate the bottom ten however, due to recent results, West Brom have been looking increasingly isolated so it might be more appropriate to say that there are three points separating 11th-19th places.
It goes without saying that every team, in this situation, has to put up a good fight for every single point that is available if they are to survive. However, when it comes to playing teams in the top half (especially the top six), points can be especially hard to come by and draws can be deemed as decent results. It seems that, when two bottom half teams come up against each other, it is a dog-eat-dog affair at times as teams and fans expect to play for and gain all three points against a team which is at a similar level to themselves.
I have drawn up statistics and I will take you through what the table will look like if the league was only against the bottom half teams.
Played: 14, Won: 6, Drawn: 6, Lost: 2, GD: 4, Pts: 24
In this list, Brighton are the ones who celebrate having the best defence with only conceding nine goals against the bottom half teams and also have the best goal difference. As well as possessing a stubborn defence, they also have the joint most amount of wins alongside Newcastle. However, similar to Newcastle, as we shall see in a moment, they have picked up a serious lack of points against top half teams having only achieved home draws against Everton, Burnley and Bournemouth and have lost against the rest.
Played: 14, Won: 6, Drawn: 5, Lost: 3, GD: 3, Pts: 23
It is a similar story to Brighton. The fact that we are not in the relegation zone is simply because we have picked up good results against the teams surrounding us because we have only picked up two points against top half teams with home draws against Liverpool and Burnley. However, on a more positive note, it is good see us getting something out of matches when we need to pick up points and particular highlights is the achievement of doing the doubles over West Ham and Stoke.
Played: 13, Won: 5, Drawn: 4, Lost: 4, GD: 1, Pts: 19
I do think that the sacking of Mark Hughes was justifiable and my only surprise was that it did not happen sooner. However they do have a better record than most against the teams around them albeit one of those wins came against Huddersfield which was Paul Lambert’s first game in charge of the Potters. It is early days so far of Lambert’s time at Stoke so I think that it is too soon to give my judgement. However, in their last match away at Bournemouth, it is a cause for concern for them when they had the lead for 65 minutes and ended up coming away with nothing. In the next twelve matches, it is something which is imperative that they have to improve upon if they are to keep up their survival bid.
Played: 14, Won: 4, Drawn: 7, Lost: 3, GD: 0, Pts: 19
It was around the festive period where Mauricio Pellegrino came under a lot of speculation as to whether he will still be in a job as we approached the second half of the campaign. However, since then, they have picked up a few draws in matches they were expected to lose along with a much needed confidence boosting win against relegation rivals away at West Brom in their last match.
Played: 12, Won: 5, Drawn: 3, Lost: 4, GD: 1, Pts: 18
This table might be placing Huddersfield in a good position but the real table, which is what really matters, reads a completely different story. After an impressive start to the season, the team who proved to be the surprise package in last season’s Championship, Huddersfield sent out a message to the Premier League to say that they weren’t in the shop to simply have a look around. However, since then, away matches have rarely gone their way and home matches have been a struggle. It seems as if the bubble is bursting at the Yorkshire club.
6th: West Ham
Played: 14, Won: 5, Drawn: 3, Lost: 6, GD: -2, Pts: 18
In this list, West Ham’s stats are rather inconsistent. They have the best attack (scoring 20 goals) but have the worst defence (conceding 22). However it does appear that David Moyes has done a decent job of turning things around down in East London by getting the best out of Marko Arnautovic which Slaven Bilic found a struggle and learnt that the hard way. Two thirds of West Ham’s points tally in the league have come against the bottom half teams which shows that they can put up a good fight against top half teams. Their surprise victory against Chelsea in December shows that they can fight against the bigger teams and that match seemed to mark the start in a change of fortune for the Hammers. On the other hand, they are far from safe at the moment and I wonder whether a poor January transfer window will come back to bite them.
Played: 13, Won: 4, Drawn: 4, Lost: 5, GD: 1, Pts: 16
Another season, another sacking as far as Watford seem concerned following the, in my view, harsh dismissal of Marko Silva. Similar to Stoke, it is currently early days for me to properly predict whether new manager, Javi Gracia has the ability to keep Watford away from the bottom three. However, they have struggled against the teams in the bottom half but find themselves in 11th place in the actual table along with a goal difference which is healthier than most of their relegation rivals.
Played: 12, Won: 4, Drawn: 3, Lost: 5, GD: 1, Pts: 15
Swansea may have been at the foot of the table when Paul Clement was sacked shortly before Christmas but bringing in Carlos Carvalhal, with no prior Premier League experience, was quite a gamble but one which has paid off and Swansea fans will be glad to know that Carvalhal has proved me wrong after I thought they were affectively doomed by not bringing in Slaven Bilic to replace Clement. In the division as a whole, Swansea are currently the joint lowest goalscorers with Huddersfield on 19 goals. The lack of quality firepower from Wilfried Bony (now injured for the rest of the season) has seen the Swans relying on Jordan Ayew. However, Carvalhal has reacted appropriately by purchasing a striker who has proven himself at the top level and will hope that goals from Jordan’s brother, Andre will help Swansea to safety. The Jack Army will just be hoping that Andre Ayew’s return won’t bear similarities with the rather underwhelming return of Wilfried Bony in the summer.
9th: Crystal Palace
Played: 13, Won: 3, Drawn: 6, Lost: 4, GD: -4, Pts: 15
This placing of Crystal palace in this list does not reflect in any way the excellent job Roy Hodgson has done with the Eagles. Three of those four defeats against teams in the bottom half came during the time when Palace broke the unwanted records before they bagged a single point in the campaign. This shows that Hodgson has got the best out of the players he was landed with after he joined shortly after the summer transfer window closed. Hodgson has achieved a decent record against the teams in the bottom half and with only 56% of their total points this season coming against bottom half teams shows that they are capable of getting something out of games when they play against the top six, their shock win at home to Chelsea and an unlucky draw against Man City shows what they are capable of when it is their day.
10th: West Brom
Played: 13, Won: 1, Drawn: 5, Lost: 7, GD:-7, Pts: 8
I think those stats speak for itself regarding the dire situation at The Hawthorns. In this list, they have won the least, lost the most, lowest scorers (12), conceded the most (19) hence the worst goal difference. Interestingly, they are the only team in this list who have gained most of their 20 points against top half teams with excellent early season wins against Bournemouth and Burnley but have only won once (coming against Brighton) in the last 24 league matches (a run that dates back to August) which places them in a rather desperate situation. Going into the final third of the season, they are going to be heavily reliant on Daniel Sturridge to score much needed goals and stay free from injury which, the latter, he has found difficult in the past.