The 40 point plan

Since the Premier League moved to 20 teams, the conventional wisdom is that 40 points is enough for survival in that division. I thought it was worth a quick look to see if this was true.

I have taken the number of points the 18th-placed team get and added 1- it could well be that a team survived with a lower point total than this because of goal difference, but I’m only concerned with points for the time being.

The graph below shows the survival total for each Premier League season since it was reduced to 20 teams in 1995.


2002-03 saw West Ham relegated with a record high 42 points, while 31 points would have been enough to get 17th in 2010. The record low number of points of a team that finished 17th was 34, achieved by West Brom in 2005.

The average is 36.85 points, which would suggest that the 40 point total is a reasonable goal if survival is to be achieved.

However, as you can see, 40 points is no guarantee of survival. In 3 of the 20 seasons, the team in 18th place has been relegated with a total higher than 40 points. There is still a risk of relegation if you settle on 40 points, but you will notice that references to getting 40 points tail off in the last few games as managers concentrate on just getting any and every point they can get to aid their survival bid. 40 points is a good total to aim for after 30 games to be pretty sure of survival: aiming for it over the season is foolhardy.

As for this season, it’s hard to tell what the survival total will be. Teams near the bottom generally pick up a bit of form towards the end of the season as they fight for their lives, play teams with nothing to play for that are mentally already on the beach, or have their individual players raise their game in the hope of getting a transfer out to avoid having to play in the lower league.

Sunderland have 25 points, Norwich 25 having played a game more, and Newcastle 24. They all have to play each other as well, so given that and the expected pick-up in form (especially with Benitez’ appointment), I would predict the total this year to be around 36 points.

The maximum points Aston Villa (or “Sorry Villa” as the BBC has dubbed them this year) is 40- survival is still possible, but that kind of turnaround of form would be little short of miraculous.


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