Top or bottom at Christmas: How often do Premier League teams stay there?

How often does the top team at Christmas win the title? What about the bottom three, how often do they go on to suffer relegation?

Here is your comprehensive guide.


The Premier League title

Beginning at the top, here is a look at every leader at Christmas, followed by the eventual winner:

There were some big leads in the early years of the Premier League, not least Newcastle’s before Manchester United won 13 of their final 15 games to claw it back in 1995/96.

For the last ten years though, the leads have been relatively slender and yet six of the last seven winners of the Premier League were all top on Christmas Day.

In total, 12 teams have been top at Christmas and been eventual winners, with an average lead of 3.8 points.

Arsenal have been top at Christmas twice, but never in the title winning years. They have always had a resurgence in the second half of seasons.

Each time Chelsea have been top (and the above list includes 2016), they’ve gone on to win it. A good omen, perhaps.

Manchester United have won the Premier League having not been top at Christmas on eight occasions. The 13 point gap to the top this year looks very improbable though as five teams currently sit above them.

Manchester City held Christmas top spot in 2011/12 before winning it, but they were third behind Arsenal and Liverpool in 2013/14 before they won it.


The fight for survival

Now for the other end of the table.

Our first graphic shows how many teams, by year, eventually go down having been in the relegation zone at Christmas.

The drop zone has been a bottom three in 24 of the Premier League’s 25 years, with the exception of 1994/95 when it was a bottom four in order to bring the total number of top-flight teams down from 22 to 20.

Only twice have we seen all three teams in the relegation zone at Christmas eventually go down. In 2001/02, Ipswich, Derby and Leicester fell and in 2012/13 it was Wigan, Reading and QPR.

In two of the last three years since then, only one team has remained and gone – the wretched Aston Villa side which everyone predicted last year and in 2013/14, Fulham couldn’t get out of trouble.

Sunderland were involved in both of those years and escaped in each. Below is a look at every team that has ever been involved in the scrap, with Christmas and eventual relegation included:

Only three teams have avoided relegation having been bottom on Christmas Day. West Brom, in 2004/05 were the first but Sunderland and Wigan have pulled off the most escapes from out of the bottom three.

Despite recent heroics, Sunderland did suffer three relegation earlier on in their Premier League career, though they haven’t suffered the most relegations overall.

Crystal Palace have one escape to their name, from their first season back in 2013/14 and have so far managed to stay out of trouble since.

They’ve suffered four relegations in total though, tied with Norwich – who have never been in the bottom three at Christmas! Remarkable, as they even appear on our other list, of Premier League leaders during the festive period (in 1992).

In fact, during Norwich’s first relegation fate, in 1994/95, they were seventh at Christmas but managed just one win from their final 20 games. This marks the biggest of all relegation falls.

Only four teams have been in the relegation zone at Christmas and never been relegated – Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham are in no danger but the other, Swansea, have work to do to pull off what they did last season.

They managed eight wins from the last 17 games and in the end avoided the drop quite comfortably.


This year’s dog fight

In this year’s red zone with Sunderland Swansea is Hull, who have been here before – in 2009/10 and 2014/15 – but have never made it out.

Crystal Palace are currently hovering above the bottom three and they’ve been pulled in having been outside at Christmas on three occasions – albeit all three of those were in the 1990’s.

Burnley have never managed Premier League survival.

They are three points from safety and have been sucked in once, in 2009/10, as well as being unable to escape having been in the bottom three at Christmas in 2014/15.

Leicester were still rock bottom with seven games to go in 2014/15, but seven wins from the final nine pulled off an incredible feat – something nobody thought the club could top, ever. How wrong we were.

Leicester have once been pulled in having been outside the relegation zone at Christmas, back in 2003/04.

This is Middlesbrough’s first season back in the Premier League since going down in 2008/09. They were unfortunately sucked into it that year, along with 1992/93, when they were twelfth at Christmas.

They have managed one escape, having been second bottom at Christmas in 2000/01, going on to finish fourteenth.

West Ham have been relegated twice and escaped twice, but like Watford, have never been pulled in if they were outside the bottom three at Christmas.

Stoke are the only team in the bottom half never to have been in the bottom three at Christmas, nor relegated.

Promoted in 2008, they have little to worry about.


Current odds:

Hull – 1/6
Sunderland – 8/11
Swansea – 8/11
Burnley – 4/5
Crystal Palace – 4/1
Middlesbrough – 13/2
West Ham – 12/1
Leicester – 14/1
Watford – 16/1
Stoke – 28/1


Written by Richard Clark

Follow Richard on Twitter @richardtheclark

Check out his excellent football blog, Blog of the Net and follow them on Twitter @BlogOfTheNet

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