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Forty points no longer the survival benchmark
QPR boss Harry Redknapp has stated today that forty points is no longer the target for his side to avoid relegation. Commenting on this seasons relegation battle, Redknapp said "If we can get to 37 points, I would take 37 points now and walk away and take my chances."
The comment was a fair and reasonable assessment of the task ahead of Rangers to palm away the threat of relegation, but was yet another indicator of the change in perceived requirements to stay in the league.
Previously pundits and managers alike would claim that forty points was the safety point upon which Premier League teams could claim that relegation had been avoided. In fact Redknapp himself told in December 2012 that "We will need as near to forty points as possible". So why the change?
Firstly each season needs to be taken as a separate entity. Based on the form of this season, it's difficult to envisage any of the current incumbents of the bottom five positions making it to forty points barring yet another fine end of season run for Roberto Martinez's Wigan side. All of these sides have averaged less than a point a game and with ten games to go, Southampton are the closest of the five to safety on just 27 points.
However whilst this is the case, many of the five have to play each other in the remaining games of the season, a key example being this afternoon's clash between Reading and Aston Villa. With so many points up for offer, these games could provide enough to pull a couple of the sides up to the magic forty points, though often bottom of the table clashes seem to cancel each other out with a win over one competitor oft followed by defeat to another.
Aside from the clear indications obvious to football fans with a pair of eyes, another reason that forty points no longer seems necessary is that recent history backs this theory up.
In the previous ten Premier League seasons, only twice have the sides that have finished 17th hit 40+ points (Wolves - 2010/11 and Bolton - 2002/03). These two occasions have occurred in the only two seasons that the combined total of the top fours points tally has dropped under 300 for the season. Perhaps it is solely coincidence but a stat like that would suggest that a season where the top four are consistently performing well takes away the competitiveness resulting in the lower teams struggling to pick up as many points, scrapping for the few on offer.
Judging by the performances of the top four so far this season, if they can continue their seasonal form path the four will collect a total of 320 points. Going back to the previous stat, this would prove yet another indicator that clubs could still survive without reaching forty points.
Some may believe that the forty point target is odd based on the above evidence but perhaps it goes back to the first eight years of the twenty team Premier League. During these eight seasons six times out of eight the 17th placed side required a minimum of forty points to survive. This was at a time when there wasn't such a huge gulf between the elite and the rest and therefore points were slightly easier to come by. This historical fact could prove the main basis for the forty point assumption.
There's nothing wrong with aiming for a total like 40 as getting there would virtually assure survival but is the benchmark now dropping? It would certainly seem so.
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