Chelsea have been playing relegation-form football for quite a while now, with just 18 points collected in our last 21 matches, dating back to late October’s 4-1 defeat at Brighton, and things only seem to be getting worse, with just two points gained from our last six games.
Fortunately, we banked a few wins earlier on, and while 40 is the generally considered the “safe” total, only 4 times in the last 27 seasons has a team gone down with 39 points or more; and only once since 2003, Birmingham City in 2011.
Of course, mathematically, it’s still possible for Chelsea to end up in the drop zone. While we remain 11th in the table and thus with a glut of buffer teams between us and the ledge, we’re ultimately only 10 points clear of 18th place and Leicester City, with 5-6 games to go.
And with four of our last six games against the current top-four, it’s not like we’re looking likely to pick up too many more points. In fact, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if we finished the season with the same amount of points we have now.
But to illustrate just how unlikely a relegation may be even if we do lose out the rest of the way, let’s play out that scenario. While I’d rather be contemplating the permutations of a title race or a top-four race, a relegation scenario is our current lot in football life, so this is what we have to talk about.
So, if Chelsea finish with 39 points, what would it take for most of the other teams below us to get to that mark as well. (I’m assuming we’d lose all goal difference tiebreakers; and I’m not considering draws to maximize the total points available.)
Let’s walk through the above chart, where ‘xx’ is a fixture against a team currently in the top half of the table.
So, if Chelsea finish with 39 points, that means Bournemouth will have finished with at least 39 as well, while Nottingham Forest would need to only beat bottom-half sides Southampton and Crystal Palace to do the same. Palace meanwhile can beat Bournemouth freely to get to 40 points.
That leaves Wolves, West Ham, Leeds, and the bottom three to consider. Wolves have only one game against a fellow lower-halfer, but they can surely collect a couple points against the top half. Same goes for West Ham. So let’s assume they also both get to 39, if not more.
So then we’re left with Leeds, Leicester, Everton, and us for the final two spots. Southampton would need to win all five of their remaining games to even get to 39, with four of those involving top half of the table sides. So let’s assume that’s not going to happen and they are definitely going down.
If Leeds beat both Bournemouth and West Ham, they would still need at least three points from three games against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Brentford. Doable? Probably. Brentford are not great, despite their latest showing at Stamford Bridge.
So then at least one of Leicester and Everton would have to get to 39 points. They each have just five games left, one of which is against each other. Leicester also face Liverpool, Newcastle, and Fulham, and would need at least 4 points from those three games. Not impossible.
Everton’s path is a bit tougher, even if they win all three of their remaining games against lower half teams. They would still need at least two points from the games against Brighton and Manchester City. Again, not infeasible but highly unlikely.
So, we’re probably safe. Officially, it will take a few more games, and we could help that process along by winning a few ourselves. It would be quite hilarious if we decided to finally do so in our next game, away to Arsenal.