Soccer

What it would take for Todd Boehly’s Chelsea to be relegated from the Premier League

lampard 1



lampard 1

Are Chelsea too good to go down? It is a question generally reserved for West Ham United but given the travails that Stamford Bridge has witnessed in the last few weeks, including losing to Brentford on Wednesday, it is suddenly not an entirely unreasonable question to ask, so long as you do it with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek.

Because the answer of course is yes, they are much too good to be relegated. They are, or at least were under Graham Potter, a better team than their results suggested even if a points tally that reflected their underlying numbers would not be good enough for a club where expectations are never less than stratospheric. Since the World Cup, Chelsea have 26.6 expected goals (xG) to their name and have allowed shots worth a combined 19.2. Rank the Premier League by xG difference and Chelsea are sixth, between Newcastle and Brentford.

Rank the division by actual points won and the Blues sit 13th averaging exactly a point per game over their last 18, no wonder when this team has scored 13 goals and conceded 18. Over the course of a whole season that would give Chelsea just about enough points to scrape by but probably only with a few squeaky bum moments in the spring months.

Having said that, Chelsea have quite a few very good players (and an awful lot of others over whom hang dozens of question marks). Teams with the underlying metrics that this one has tend to eventually find a run of games where the point tally picks up and anyway, they have 39 of them already. That is already more than the average number needed to avoid relegation. Only three teams in Premier League history β€” Sunderland in 1996-97, Bolton Wanderers the following year and the famed West Ham side of 2002-03 who couldn’t survive with 42 β€” have hit the 40-point mark and gone down.

The more intriguing question is could Chelsea go down? Mathematically, they certainly could even if the odds are vanishingly thin. FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model gives them a less than one percent chance of relegation. Indeed it only gives them a one percent chance of finishing 15th. Anything lower than that is in the realms of random acts of a malevolent deity (or perhaps a benevolent one if you’re an Arsenal or Tottenham supporter).

Could Chelsea lose every game left?

In purely mathematical terms, Chelsea do still need a few more points. If Leicester win their remaining fixtures they could end up on 44, Everton could get to 43 by losing to the Foxes and beating everyone else whille 45 point tallies are available to both Nottingham Forest and Leeds United if they win out. Obviously, they aren’t going to do that and so for this frankly daft thought experiment to have any merits, Chelsea will have to lose their remaining six games. That is not as wild a suggestion as one might imagine.

First of all, they have the right manager for the task. Frank Lampard’s last 19 matches as a manager have brought one win, two draws and 16 losses. Every game of his interim tenure has ended in defeat and even though the Blues are closing in on the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino as his permanent successor it appears unlikely that the Argentine would want to sully his name through association with this most disastrous of seasons.

Chelsea are also cursed with a fixture list in which they are heavy underdogs for away trips to a faltering Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs. They would do well to get anything at home to Newcastle on the final day. That leaves the trip to Bournemouth on May 6 and the visit of Nottingham Forest to Stamford Bridge seven days later. Those are the games where Chelsea should ease beyond the mythic 40-point mark but this is a season where they have lost home and away to Southampton, been crushed by Leeds United and brushed aside at Fulham.

Can enough teams catch them?

The hard part of this thought experiment isn’t actually the idea that Chelsea could lose all six games left on their docket. The challenge is getting enough clubs to clamber above them. It is all the more complex because Lampard’s men have a goal difference of minus-five; even if they were to lose every game left they might have a good enough defensive record to give themselves the tiebreaker over the likes of Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth.

Still, you can create some scenarios for everyone else leapfrogging Chelsea that do not sound entirely beyond the realms of possibility. Here’s one such possibility:

  • Crystal Palace beat Tottenham or Fulham
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Aston Villa and Brighton
  • West Ham beat Crystal Palace and Brentford
  • Bournemouth beat Southampton, Chelsea and Palace, draw with Manchester United
  • Leeds beat Bournemouth, Newcastle and West Ham, draw with Tottenham
  • Nottingham Forest beat Brentford, Southampton, Chelsea and Crystal Palace
  • Everton beat Newcastle, Brighton, Wolves and Bournemouth
  • Leicester beat Everton, Fulham and West Ham, draw with Liverpool

Looking at all those results in isolation, they all seem within the vague realms of credulity. Yes, there are a few big teams getting beaten by opponents they’d expect to crush and it is really contingent on the sort of drop-off from Newcastle that they showed no evidence of being destined for on Sunday. But it is not as if we’re asking Everton to beat Manchester City here. Anyway, if there is any time of year when that sort of result happens, when Leicester luck a point from Liverpool or Bournemouth stun Manchester United, it is when these teams have something tangible to fight for.

So, it could really happen then? Well… no. Teams such as Everton and Leicester are sat in the bottom three because they have not been able to convincingly put together a run of games in which they pick up points, let alone wins. One or even two of the bottom six getting hot is eminently plausible, four or five of them doing so is rather more unlikely.

Still, this thought exercise does tell us one thing, that it is eminently plausible Chelsea have not bottomed out yet. To greater or lesser degrees Palace, Wolves and West Ham all have momentum on their side. Chelsea have momentum too, the sort that a tonne of scrap parts develops when they’re hurled from an aircraft.

Potter and Thomas Tuchel might have saved Todd Boehly from the greatest indignation of all in his first season in charge but one thing is crystal clear when you look at their Premier League run in — this is more likely to get worse than it is to get better.

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Publish Date:2023-04-27 22:19:37

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