Relegation Falls (or, Leicester’s Surpising In A Different Way This Year)

On February 14th, 2015, Leicester City were fourteenth in the Premier League, six points out of the relegation zone. This was in the middle of their streak that kept them alive for 2015-16.

On February 14th, 2016, Leicester City were first in the Premier League, just two points above the Arsenal team that had just beat them. As we know, they went on to win the title.

On February 14th, 20171, Leicester City were seventeenth in the Premier League, just one point above 18th placed Hull.

Leicester’s rise was nothing short of meteoric. Their fall has been similar.

Much has been made of the fact that, if the Foxes are relegated (which FiveThiryEight gives them a 39% chance of being, at the time of writing), they will be the first team to win the First Division and be relegated the next season. There’s been nothing like this before, but how about things that have been sort of like it?

EPL relegation teams.png

Note that, for teams that were promoted, I subtracted three spots (the three relegated teams).

I used Wikipedia to find a list of teams relegated from the Premier League and crosschecked it with their positions from the previous season. Out of the 70 teams that have been relegated2 in the PL era, seven (10%) of them were in the top half the previous season:

  • Queens Park Rangers (1994-95/1995-96)
  • Nottingham Forest (1995-96/1996-97)
  • Blackburn Rovers (1997-98/1998-99)
  • Ipswich Town (2000-01/2001-02)
  • West Ham United (2001-02/2002-03)
  • Reading (2006-07/2007-08)
  • Birmingham City (2009-10/2010-11)

Ipswich Town, as well as having the biggest fall in the PL era, were in the Premier League as recently as 2001-02? That’s just as surprising to me3 as that Manchester City were out if at as recently.

At the other end of the table, 31 (44.28%) of relegated teams were relegated in the first PL season. This is about what I expected here. But anyway, that’s not what we’re very interested in.

What we are interested in is seeing if the Premier League has been more or less “chaotic” in the last few seasons than in the earlier ones. We got the average positions of the teams on a graph, and used Excel’s R^2 function to figure it out.

EPL relegation teams graph.png

That is a pathetically low correlation, almost a homeopathic-level correlation.4 It’s pretty much random chance between the two variables.

However, looking at FiveThirtyEight’s values, the expected average for the teams this year is 14.97. Adding this to our graph increases the R^2 to 0.0115, and is the highest average since…2013-14.

Leicester’s fall is remarkable. Everything else is as per the norm.


1I wrote this on February 14th, but didn’t publish it because I didn’t finish it.
2I’m ignoring the teams relegated in the first Premier League season, as they hadn’t been in the PL the previous year.
3Keep in mind I’m an Australian who wasn’t alive when this happened. (Most kids my age could probably only name Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea, and that’s a liberal estimate.)
4Let’s not get crazy here.

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