It’s a long-held belief that Premier League teams need to reach 40 points to survive.
The ’magic 40-point mark’ has long been spoken about by pundits and relegation-threatened managers alike, often pointing out that teams are guaranteed safety once they get to the milestone.
However, as the Premier League’s relegation run-in takes centre stage in the last few weeks of the season, research from SmartBets has found teams don’t need to get 40 points to stay up – with 38 being enough to do the job.
On average, teams who finish in 17th position (one spot above the drop zone) have only picked up 38.24 points – which while being less than 40 points, would be more than enough to survive.
Indeed, given 18th position amasses just 35.29 points, managers could switch off at the 36-point mark if they so chose, but that may be cutting it a little fine.
As we reach the final stretch of the season, the identities of the three demoted clubs are anyone’s guess, with just eight points separating Bournemouth in 10th from the relegation zone.
Eddie Howe’s men are all-but-safe, however, sitting on 36 points – needing just two more from their remaining seven games to reach the new ‘magic 38-point mark’.
With the rest of the bottom half so bunched, however, there could be plenty of twists and turns – starting with the six-pointers between Newcastle and Huddersfield, and West Ham and Southampton this weekend.
The Hammers are right in the firing line, coming into this weekend in 17th position, just two points ahead of the Saints, who are in 18th.
West Ham also have the unfortunate distinction of being the Premier League team relegated with the most points – 42, back in 2002/03.
Tipped as being “too good to go down”, Trevor Brooking’s Hammers far surpassed the ’40 point mark’, but still weren’t able to avoid the drop.
15 years on from that fateful season, David Moyes will hope his charges aren’t subject to a similar fate.
The other end of the table will see a similarly gripping conclusion to the season – even though the title race is all but over.
While the Premier League trophy is headed to Manchester City, the teams immediately below them are fighting it out for the top four, and qualification for the Champions League.
With the money and prestige that comes with reaching Europe’s premier club competition getting more and more important, and the quality of the top six increasing so much, none of Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham or Chelsea can afford to slip up and finish outside of the top four places.
That increase in quality between the sides is seen in the step up in the amount of points needed to get fourth this term.
On average, it has only taken 69 points to ensure a top four finish. However, this term it will be a lot more than that.
Assuming fourth placed Tottenham continue their points/game of 2.03, they will finish on 77 points - well above the average.
Interestingly, the lowest points haul for a team that made the Champions League was Liverpool in 2003/04, who picked up 60 – a mark all of the top four have already reached, even with eight rounds to go.
The Reds did, of course, go on to win the Champions League trophy the following season.
Lagging behind in the race for the top four, having been second as recently as January, and spending all but six weeks of the season in the Champions League places, are Chelsea.
The Blues have stalled at the worst possible time this term, and now sit five points behind Tottenham in fifth.
On 56 points, Chelsea would need 21 points from their remaining eight games to reach our top four estimate of 77 points – the equivalent of seven wins.
Considering the Blues have to play Tottenham and Liverpool by the end of the season, it will need something special from Antonio Conte’s men to secure Champions League football next term.
However, they do face Spurs at Stamford Bridge on Sunday knowing a win would cut the gap to the top four to two points – a result that would mean that despite a title procession, we could still see dramatic races for the top four, and relegation places as the season comes to a close.