Fulham’s victory over Bolton on Wednesday night moved the Cottagers a step closer to survival in what is turning into a mass scramble to avoid the drop down to the Championship. A quick glance at the Premier League table will show just how tight the battle is, with only a handful of clubs able to guarantee their supporters top-flight football again next season at this time. As it stands, Everton in seventh position are the lowest placed side who are definitely safe, with Bolton in eighth still not mathematically sure of their elite status next season. While there is no suggestion the Trotters and co. will be dragged back into the struggle, it’s worth taking stock of what those still fighting should be aiming for.
The traditional target for clubs to achieve is 40 points. Should this be enough this season, everyone from 14th placed West Brom and up should already be safe and will just want to pick up a few more points to make sure. However, it is worth noting that clubs have survived with far fewer. The Baggies themselves hold the record for the smallest points tally accumulated while remaining in the top flight, achieving a mere 34 in 2005, while both Hull City and West Ham have survived on 35. With the Hammers propping up the table at present on 32, it seems unlikely that this will be broken.
The bunching of teams in the table proves one thing however, and that is that our top flight has proven more competitive this season than in previous campaigns. While Avram Grant’s men might be rooted at present, an unlikely victory at Manchester City on Sunday could lift them out of the drop zone. One further victory could even ensure survival. The lack of an anomaly the likes of which thrown up by Sunderland in 2003 and Derby in 2008 has resulted in a competitive and unpredictability to the season. As suggested, this writer doubts that Bolton will be dragged into a dog fight, but the very real prospect of any three from 13 clubs still succumbing has made for a thrilling climax and an entertaining season.
So what is required for those still in the survival race? A target of 40 certainly seems a sensible start. Blackpool and Wigan are both six points shy of this goal and, with four games remaining, a fifty per cent win rate seems a tall order for a struggling side. Birmingham will not yet feel safe but there is clearly a gap forming below them. One more victory for the Blues should see them home. For those falling below this marker, there is clearly much work to do and it seems likely that the final positions won’t be filled until the final day. To use an oft-stated clich