Masters Of Mediocrity: Watford Is On Pace For An Ignominious Premier League Record
When it comes to Premier League records, the focus is always on the best of the best. Whether it be Manchester City's quest for 100 points or Arsenal's Invincibles season, people love the pursuit of perfection.
But at the other end of the table is a whole other set of records waiting to be broken, ranging from discouraging to downright embarrassing.
For example, last year Burnley was projected to break the record for the fewest goals scored in a Premier League season without getting relegated (28 goals, held by 2017-18 Huddersfield Town and 1996-97 Leeds United). The Clarets — who, with 22 matches played, were on pace to score just 24 times in the league — ended up with 33 goals while achieving EPL safety, thus avoiding an unseemly record.
But this season there is a solid chance that another ignominious Premier League record could be broken.
To start, we must look at the EPL standings and focus on the bottom quarter of the table:
Spurs and Man Utd keep the top 4️⃣ in their sights pic.twitter.com/BsSrSyNUcr— Premier League (@premierleague) January 20, 2022
None of the bottom four seem all that interested in distancing themselves from the relegation zone, combining for just nine wins from 77 matches, with 19th-place Newcastle and 20th-place Burnley earning just two wins from 37 matches.
Watford's Quest for an EPL Record
Our focus today is on 17th-place Watford — the last club currently assured safety. The Hornets have 14 points from 19 matches and are on pace for just 28 points for the season.
The record for the fewest points earned in a season without being relegated is held by West Bromwich Albion, which earned 34 points in 2004-05 and finished in 17th.
The Baggies finished a single point above Crystal Palace and Norwich City that season, drawing Manchester United on the penultimate matchday of the season and then parlaying a final day win over Portsmouth with a Crystal Palace draw against Charlton to become the first EPL club to avoid relegation after being in last place on Christmas.
Interestingly, Southampton finished bottom of the league that year with 32 points, meaning that 2021-22 Watford would have finished in last that season.
Watford's point total is also the lowest of any 17th place team at this juncture in the season in the last decade. Yet not only would the Hornets avoid relegation this season with that point total (should each club maintain their current points per match total), they would do so somewhat comfortably.
As for the other relegation-threatened clubs, 16th-place Everton is on pace for 38 points, which historically has been good enough to avoid relegation more than 75 percent of the time.
But last-place Burnley is on pace for 24.6 points, Newcastle is projected to earn 22.8 points, while Norwich is on pace for 23.5 points. None of those point totals have ever been enough to maintain Premier League safety.
Even expected goals (xG) does not change much for these clubs. Based on xG, Watford should have one more point right now, which still would only put the club on pace for 30 points for the season. Of the three clubs in the relegation zone, Burnley and Newcastle both have slight point increases based on xG — neither more than two points — while Norwich has overperformed its expected point total.
This situation could easily change — as a win by any of the bottom three sides would put them above Watford — but it seems that regardless of who is in 17th, the mediocrity of this year's bottom four will put West Brom's record in danger.