This should really be titled: Why relegation threatened teams sometimes fight for their lives.
So, this is just a quick post, I wont go into huge detail, but you should get the point I am trying to make.
Points per game in the Premier League
|9 games||10 games||10 games||9 games|
|Aug 14-Oct 23rd||Oct 24th-Dec 31st||Jan 1st-Mar 18th||Mar 19th- May 13th|
It doesn't take much to notice that in 2011/12 relegation threatened teams up their game.
We can discount Villa, who were never really in trouble, and Wolves who were never getting out of the trouble they were in, and thus look at the remaining 4 teams from the bottom six.
Those teams; QPR, Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn all displayed better form in the second half of the season, when it may have dawned on those teams just what was at stake, namely Premier League safety.
So how did Wigan Survive and Blackburn suffer relegation?
Firstly, here is the PL table after 29 games.
29 Game table in 2011/12
As we can see, Wigan are in desperate trouble, with just 22 points from 29 games. Blackburn have a 5 point cushion.
The last 9 games, pressure and all, brought about very different form for those five relegation threatened clubs, Villa were always safe.
Green is good form, red is bad form.Blackburn and Wolves just could not lift themselves, whilst QPR just gained enough points and Bolton, despite best efforts, couldn't do enough to survive. Wigan, though, were superb. 7 wins from the last 9 games was an incredible run of results. Wigan's escape was a truly magnificent achievement for a relegation threatened side. Wigan defeated United, Newcastle, Stoke and Arsenal in that run of 7 wins from 9 games. A tactical switch to three at the back may have had a PL status saving effect, so too did the patience of Dave Whelan.
I would need more information as to the exact reasons Wigan stayed up, or maybe there exist no concrete reasons. Wigan had a +12 SoT target ratio over those 9 game, and whilst that is very good for a relegation threatened team, it doesn't really explain Wigan's 2.33 point per game over those nine games.
2.33 points per game, by the way, was, if recorded over the duration of the season good for 89 points. Wigan would have tied Man City and Man Utd at the top of the Premier League. Wigan, the team with 22 points after 29 games, went on a title winning-style run of wins in that last quarter of the season. A remarkable, if potentially non-repeatable, achievement.
The bottom six teams' form fluctuated over the season, as every sides form does. But what I hoped to prov in the charts above is that relegation threatened teams, when looking at 2011/12, somehow, someway find form when it really matters.Fear and a slow realization of just how close relegation is may be a big factor.
Relegated teams and their 38-game form OK, Wolves sank slowly but surely as the season went on, and not once had even a sustained flicker of improved form.
Blackburn, as the above graph indicates, steadily improved in terms of ppg from game 13 to game 29, but then the wheels fell off. However, from a versus fixture standpoint it was easier to play Blackburn in the first half of the season than the 2nd half.
Bolton, so near. Oh so near. A steady improvement in form from the low points of game 7, and secondly, game 16, just wasn't quite enough to rescue the season, which officially ended in relegation at the final whistle on the final fixture. Bolton just got better and better as the season went on in terms of ppg, if the rally had of started 2 games earlier, Bolton would still be in the PL, Coyle may still have his job, QPR would have no owners and a financial meltdown currently taking place.
Villa were in the midst of a very slow, imperceptible, but very real death spiral, and were saved only by the lack of games by which to complete that slow descent into the Championship. Villa never seemed like a real threat to go down, but the above graph shows just how close they may have came but for their relatively strong form of the early season.
QPR recorded 12 points in the last 9 games, this late season rally saved their PL status, but only just. QPR's first quarter results were fair. From that point their ppg steadily declined in the 2nd and 3rd quarters until that late season, 4th quarter rally. Yet again we see a team who were a more difficult opponent at the tail end of the season.
Wigan suffered through some horrendous form in the first 10 games. A small three game rally improved their points per game graph, but that quickly sank back into poor form again. It was around the 29th game, and that 4th quarter run, where Wigan's form just took off. The aforementioned 2.33 ppg, title form if you will, was what finally saved their PL status, and with room to spare.
Wigan were an easy opponent to face in the first 12 or 13 games, middling to poor in the middle of the season, and Man City like in the last quarter of the season. It was a great escape and full credit goes to Martinez and the players, and that patient Chairman at Wigan.
Form matters in the Premier League. No team is consistent all the way through the 38 game campaign. As for relegation teams, it may be fair to assume, when using only the 2011/12 season, that relegation teams (4 out of 6) tend to realize the severity of the situation, the urgency of now, and somehow muster up improved form which can save their PL status, as was the case for Wigan, or just fall short a la Bolton.
Why or how they manage this upswing in form is something we need to know more about.