EPL Relegation Odds: Can Luton Town's Fairy Tale Run Continue?
Relegation is one of the hallmarks of European Soccer and provides a massive incentive for teams to avoid finishing at the bottom of the league table.
In the English Premier League (EPL), the teams that finish in 20th, 19th, and 18th each season are demoted to the Championship.
For many teams, avoiding relegation is the primary goal at the start of the season. The consequences of relegation can be club-shattering, and often times, the drama at the bottom of the EPL table is just as captivating as the drama at the top.
Looking ahead to the upcoming EPL season, which begins on Friday, August 11th, which teams will be fighting to avoid the drop?
Let's break down the teams that are most likely to be relegated from the EPL this season. Here are the top six by odds:
All EPL odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
2023-24 EPL Relegation Odds
Luton Town (-270)
Luton earned promotion to the EPL with a fairy tale run through the playoffs after finishing in third place in the Championship last season. They defeated Sunderland 3-2 on aggregate before defeating Coventry City on penalties in the final.
They have had all summer to prepare for life in the EPL and will no doubt approach this season with an abundance of enthusiasm and excitement. After all, just nine years ago they were in the fifth tier of English football. It has truly been a remarkable run, but a reality check may be just around the corner.
Luton is the most likely team to be relegated from the EPL this season. They earned their promotion by playing exceptionally well on defense -- their 43.8 expected goals (xG) allowed were second-best in the Championship last season, but they struggled to score, generating 57 goals from 58.2 xG (8th-best). Improving on those numbers in the EPL will be an incredibly difficult task.
Luton have reinforced their squad with signings this summer but will still enter this season outgunned by their opponents, both financially and on the pitch. Their average home attendance last season (9,854) was the lowest in the Championship. They have already had to postpone their first Premier League home fixture due to concerns that their upgrade to their 10,356-capacity stadium -- the smallest ever to host an EPL match -- might not be completed in time.
This is a true underdog story, and one worth supporting, but make no mistake about it, Luton faces an uphill climb to extend their stay in the EPL to a second season.
Sheffield United (-160)
Sheffield United secured their place in the Premier League by finishing in second place in the Championship last season. They will be rejoining the EPL after a two-year absence. After achieving promotion in 2018-2019, they finished ninth in 2019-20 before being relegated back to the Championship with a last-place finish in 2020-21.
While Sheffield didn't come close to chasing down Burnley at the top of the table, they were far and away the second-best team in the Championship last season. Their 71.8 xG ranked second and their 44.3 xG allowed ranked third, resulting in a 27.4 xG difference that was only 0.6 below the aforementioned Burnley. Said another way, they allowed the same number of goals as Luton (39) but scored 16 more.
Sheffield has had a quiet transfer window thus far, with four new signings highlighted by defender Auston Trusty joining in a £5m move from Arsenal. Their run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup last season, which included a 1-0 victory over Tottenham, shows that this squad is capable of pulling off an upset.
Avoiding relegation will still be a difficult task. Finishing above the bottom three requires a greater level of consistency than making a deep run in the FA Cup. Sheffield made some noise last season, but they are still the second-most likely team to be relegated entering the 2023-24 season.
Bournemouth is the first side on this list that did not play in the Championship last season. After being promoted to the EPL last year, Bournemouth extended their stay for another season with a 15th-place finish. This will be their seventh season in the EPL over the past decade. They were last relegated in 2019-20 when they finished 18th.
Any season where they avoid relegation is a good one for Bournemouth, but they didn't leave much room for error, finishing just five points above 18th-placed Leicester City. Looking at the stats, they were fortunate to do so. Bournemouth finished with 38.6 xG, third-worst in the league, and their 63.9 xG allowed was fourth-worst. They had the second-worst goal differential (-34) and worst xG differential (-25.3).
By most accounts, Bournemouth should be playing in the Championship this season. If they don't make improvements with the second chance they've been given, they very well could be playing in the Championship next season.
To that end, they have been busy this summer, spending a combined £57.8m to bring in midfielder Romain Faivre (£12.8), forward Justin Kluivert (£9.5m), midfielder Hamed Traore (£20.0m), and defender Milos Kerkez (£15.5m). They also hired a new manager, Andoni Iraola, who previously guided Rayo Vallecano to an 11th-place finish in La Liga last season.
These new additions will need to result in improvement across the board for Bournemouth to avoid relegation this year. As it stands, they are the third-most likely team to be relegated.
Nottingham Forest (+230)
Last season, Nottingham Forest accomplished what Luton Town are trying to accomplish this season; they earned promotion to the Premier League through the Championship playoff and then avoided relegation. Forest finished the season strong, taking 11 points from their last 6 fixtures, to finish in 16th place and avoid the drop by 4 points.
Like with Bournemouth, the expected goal numbers indicate that Forest was fortunate to avoid relegation. That isn't shocking though, the margins are very slim and 4 points can swing on a bounce or two of the ball over the course of an entire season. Forest finished with 39.3 xG (tied for 4th-fewest) and their 64.2 xG allowed ranked third-worst. Their -24.9 xG differential ranked second-worst.
Forest won't care. They got the job done and that's all that matters as it pertains to last season. Looking ahead to this season, they know they need to improve to not tempt fate a second time.
This summer they brought in forward Anthony Elanga from Manchester United and signed defender Ola Aina on a free transfer. They also made forward Chris Wood, who joined Forest on loan in January, a permanent part of the team. Compared to the changes Bournemouth made, Forest appears to be behind.
There is still time for Forest to make additional moves before the deadline, but not before their first game of the season on August 12th. As it stands, Forest's plan to survive and avoid relegation seems to be centered on improving the players they have, whereas Bournemouth is opting to bring in new players.
Time will tell which was the right move. As it stands, Forest are the fourth-most likely team to be relegated.
Wolves finished last season in 13th place, five positions and seven points clear of the relegation zone. Their 41 points were their lowest total since they were promoted to the EPL in 2018-19 and they were last relegated from the EPL in 2011-12 when they finished 20th.
Wolves' 13th place finish masks a season that was much closer to relegation than it was to a mid-table finish. They finished last in both goals (31) and xG (36.8). Their defense propped up a horrendous goal-scoring season, finishing 14th in goals allowed (58) and 13th in xG allowed (59.9). Their goal differential (-27) ranked 16th and their xG differential (23.1) ranked 17th.
Last season, only one of the bottom five teams on xG differential were relegated (Southampton). As a result of that, there are three teams (Wolves, Nottingham Forest, and Bournemouth) that produced a season worthy of relegation but survived, creating a situation where the pool of teams likely to be relegated this season is large.
So far, Wolves' summer transfer window has seen more players depart than arrive. Those departures include Ruben Neves -- their top goal scorer in the EPL last season -- joining Al Hilal in a £47m deal. It's a concerning window for a side that needs to drastically improve in the final third. How they ultimately allocate the funds received from Neves' transfer may go a long way toward determining their outcome this season.
It's possible that after finishing no worse than 13th over the past five seasons, Wolves do not believe that they are in jeopardy of relegation despite the underlying xG numbers. Whatever their thoughts may be, as it stands now, they have the fifth-best odds to be relegated.
A team that will be extremely aware of how close they came to relegation last season is Everton. The Toffees are an institution in the top flight of English soccer. They have only been relegated twice and the last time was in 1950-51. That streak almost came to an end last season, when Everton secured a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on the final Matchday to finish in 17th and avoid relegation by 2 points.
The 17th-place finish was Everton's lowest since 2003-04 and was a continuation of a worrying trend that has seen them moving in the wrong direction since the start of the 2019-20 season. They have now finished inside the bottom five in back-to-back seasons.
Everton found themselves in the relegation battle primarily due to a lack of finishing. Despite generating 45.2 xG (15th) they finished with just 34 goals (19th). They were saved by a defense that somehow finished 13th in goals allowed (57) despite ranking 19th in xG allowed (65.7). If not for an overperformance on defense, Everton would likely be playing in the Championship this season due to an extremely inefficient performance by their forwards, outside of Dwight McNeil.
Looking ahead to this season, Everton is fortunate that several sides that probably deserved to be relegated last season were not. Those sides -- combined with the newly promoted sides -- give them a better outlook to avoid relegation again this season.
That said, Everton has done very little this Summer to help them achieve that goal. Their only arrivals are defender Ashley Young on a free transfer and a loan move for forward Arnaut Danjuma.
As it stands, Everton has the fifth-best odds to be relegated this season and could once again find their streak of consecutive seasons in the EPL at risk.
Crystal Palace (+600)
West Ham (+700)
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