Premier League relegation: Who’s been best worst team?

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April 20, 2020
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    Bottom clubs

    The Premier League is on hold, indefinitely, along with most of the rest of the world.

    When – if – it does resume, Norwich City will be the side propping up the rest of the Premier League.

    The Canaries’ haul of 21 points from their 29 games so far may not tell the whole story, with Daniel Farke’s side consistently proving good to watch this season.

    Former Norwich striker Chris Sutton called them “the best ever team to have been bottom of the Premier League” earlier in the season – but is he right?

    And who do you think were the best worst side out of this lot? You can decide at the bottom.

    From Nottingham Forest to Huddersfield, 19 clubs have finished bottom of the Premier League, some more often than once, Sunderland and Crystal Palace on three occasions each.

    Let’s take a look at some contenders and cast your vote for the Premier League’s best bottom club…

    Norwich 2019-20

    Teemu Pukki

    ‘Star players’: Teemu Pukki, Tim Krul, Todd Cantwell

    Top scorer (all competitions): Teemu Pukki (11)

    Loads of eye-catching passing, little in the way of results? If you’ve seen the Canaries play this season you’ll no doubt agree.

    “They’re a brilliant team,” said Sutton on 606 in February.

    “They are really good and they haven’t lost confidence, they’re playing with belief, they’re bottom of the table. How many times have we seen Premier League teams do that? Norwich are the best ever team at the bottom of the table because of the courage and the way they play football and the belief.”

    All is certainly not lost for Norwich this season – should it resume. They are six points from safety with nine games left and already have more points than six 20th-placed sides collected in entire seasons.

    Their ‘entertaining’ brand of football may be a bit misleading though – they rank 13th for best goals/game ratio for bottom placed sides, ninth for shots/game and seventh for shots on target/game.

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    However, they are the only bottom side since 2003-04 to have an average possession of over 50%, so if the season gets voided and they decide to rank teams on that they might be OK…

    Nottingham Forest 1992-93

    Brian Clough

    ‘Star players’: Stuart Pearce, Nigel Clough, Roy Keane

    Top scorer (all competitions): Nigel Clough (12)

    Bottom of the league with 40 points? Well let’s clear that up straight away. The first three seasons of the Premier League contained 22 teams so each side played 42 games, skewing Brian Clough’s final season in charge of Forest somewhat.

    So that may inflate their points and wins tally, but should be taken into account when looking at their defensive record as well.

    Only three sides to finish bottom since have conceded fewer goals, even with playing four fewer games. Playing Roy Keane at centre-half may not have been as crazy as it sounds.

    Forest won the first live game shown on Sky Sports – beating Liverpool – but were rarely out of the relegation zone all season.

    Nottingham Forest 1996-97

    Stuart Pearce

    ‘Star players’: Stuart Pearce, Kevin Campbell, Ian Woan

    Top scorer (all competitions): Kevin Campbell/Alf-Inge Haaland (6)

    Forest again – who just drew too many games. Their points total of 34 is the highest recorded by a side finishing 20th since the Premier League went down to 20 sides in 1995.

    The average – over the 24 full seasons played by a 20-team league – is 26. Forest ‘only’ lost 16 times this season, the fewest defeats recorded by a team to finish bottom.

    For context, Norwich this season have already lost 18 times, while the record for defeats in a 38-game season is an eye-watering 29.

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    Not that it helped – 16 draws were the issue as they still ended up seven points shy of safety.

    Again their defensive record was impressive for a struggling side but a lack of firepower was the problem that even the arrival of Pierre van Hooijdonk could not remedy.

    Southampton 2004-05

    Southampton fans

    ‘Star players’: Peter Crouch, Kevin Phillips, Jamie Redknapp

    Top scorer (all competitions): Peter Crouch (16)

    The unluckiest team to finish bottom? Going into the final day of the 2004-05 season the Saints were 18th, a point from safety and even took the lead against Manchester United.

    But a United fightback coupled with a win for West Brom sent Harry Redknapp’s side tumbling down after 27 years in the top flight.

    No side to finish bottom of a 20-team division can match their haul of 45 goals – 16 scored by Peter Crouch – while only Forest in 1993 have as good (still bad) a goal difference as -21.

    They only lost four games more than Liverpool – who finished fifth and won the Champions League. And then signed Crouch…

    West Bromwich Albion 2008-09

    Jonathan Greening

    ‘Star players’: Chris Brunt, Borja Valero, Robert Koren

    Top scorer (all competitions): Chris Brunt (9)

    Eight wins is the most any team has managed while finishing bottom of a 20-team Premier League. It has happened on four occasions – Bolton in 1995-96, Crystal Palace two years later, West Brom in 2008-09 and QPR in 2014-15.

    We’ve picked this particular side as they were closest to staying up – finishing just three points behind Hull City and safety.

    Under Tony Mowbray, Albion were usually a good side to watch too, having 14.71 shots on goal per game – a total only bettered by West Ham two years later.

    Their average possession stat of 49.84% can only be bettered by this year’s Norwich crop too…

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    West Ham United 2010-11

    West Ham

    ‘Star players’: Scott Parker, Demba Ba, Mark Noble

    Top scorer (all competitions): Carlton Cole (11)

    The ultimate example of a team not being the sum of its parts?

    A squad containing Rob Green, Wayne Bridge, Kieron Dyer, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Carlton Cole, Robbie Keane, Demba Ba and Thomas Hitzlsperger reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, with a manager – Avram Grant – who had been in the Champions League final three years earlier, but still spent just three weeks of the season outside the relegation zone.

    Failing to turn draws into wins was costly – Wolves lost more games but stayed up.

    Sure, they managed over 15 efforts on goal per game – with 4.58 of those on target every match, the most of any team to finish bottom – but Green was beaten on 70 occasions.

    West Bromwich Albion 2017-18

    Darren Moore

    ‘Star players’: Ben Foster, Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon

    Top scorer (all competitions): Jay Rodriguez (11)

    What do you get if you start with Tony Pulis, add some Gary Megson, sprinkle in some Alan Pardew and end up with Darren Moore?

    Relegated, that’s what. But relegated with the best defensive record in Premier League history. If there’s ever a way to give yourself a pat on the back for shipping 56 goals, this is it.

    The average for teams who finish bottom in the 20-team era is 69.7 so this West Brom side were on to something – it just wasn’t staying up.

    Thirty-one goals scored at the other end was their issue and a late revival under Moore of three wins in four was fruitless.

    Now vote for the Premier League’s best worst side…

    If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.


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    April 20, 2020
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