At the start of the season, three of the four favourites to go down were newly-promoted sides. Bournemouth were expected to be the basement dwellers, Fulham were seen as a yo-yo club and despite Nottingham Forest’s extreme spending, there were no certainties they would stay in the division.
Bournemouth and Fulham have guaranteed their place in the top flight next term after simply outstanding seasons while Forest are almost there. They are three points clear of the bottom three with two games to go, and both Leeds and Everton will have to pull something out of the bag to overhaul them.
Sky Sports gave the Tricky Trees a 75% chance of survival on Monday Night Football and they are almost there. A big result against Arsenal this weekend would almost take them over the line. If they manage it, it would be only the fourth time in Premier League history that all three clubs promoted from the Championship have stayed up in the following season.
In 2001/02, Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers all survived. In 2011/12, QPR, Norwich City and Swansea City all stayed up and the most recent success was in 2017/18, when Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town all did the business in the top flight.
So with this occurring for the first time in five years, is it a sign of the changing times in the Premier League and is the gap between the two leagues shrinking? Probably not. This season we have seen the trap door of the top flight gobble up some of the weaker teams in the division.
Southampton have been slipping down the Premier League table for some time but their performance this season has been, on the whole, woeful. It’s only two years since Leicester City won the FA Cup but their regression has been drastic and the decision to get rid of Brendan Rodgers now seems even more baffling.
Then we have Leeds and Everton that have both been pretty poor over the past two seasons. Marcelo Bielsa had Leeds fighting above their weight but since his dismissal they’ve been one of the worst sides in the division. Meanwhile the turgid situation at Everton doesn’t look like changing anytime soon and their escape last term looks like it may have only delayed the inevitable.
The quality of teams in the top division, on the whole, is increasing, but it also means that if a club is not making positive progress it is in danger of relegation. Brighton and Newcastle have shown what can happen if you get things right while, if you are slightly off it, the promoted clubs tend to have the upward trajectory to leapfrog them.
With three ‘established’ Premier League clubs going down this term, next season the top flight will look slightly refreshed, while the Championship could be stronger than ever after a particularly weak year this term. Burnley are likely to make a big impact under Vincent Kompany having strolled to the Championship title while Sheffield United look like a different outfit under Paul Heckingbottom.
Play-off final winners Luton Town or Coventry City are likely to be relegation favourites next term, but both have proved themselves to be adapt at overcoming the odds on their climb up the Football League. So all three promoted clubs next term will also fancy their chances at staying up.
Ultimately, money talks in football, but the achievements of Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth in particular should be heralded. The Championship clubs have more than held their own this term, and it’s created chaos at the bottom of a normally predictable division.
*18+ | BeGambleAware