Premier League relegation worries, ranked

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More than half of Premier League clubs have reached the halfway point of the season, and the halfway point is a small-enough sample size to leave any team’s fate up for discussion.

But it’s also large enough that we can draw some big conclusions from some of the same data Premier League clubs are using to see their biggest strengths and weaknesses.

And while sometimes solutions look pretty obvious — Bournemouth’s purchase of Lorient playmaker Dango Ouattara addresses the most glaring need in the league — other times numbers can play games with us.

[ MORE: 10 things we learned from Premier League, Week 20 ]

There’s added mystery in the continued status of some big names and/or collections of talent in the bottom three in mid-January: West Ham, Everton, and Southampton sit 18th, 19th, and 20th on the table despite spending 11, 31, and 11 years each in their current Premier League spells.

Meanwhile, newly-promoted Fulham is way up the table — ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea! — and Nottingham Forest is now five points clear of the bottom three.

So who’s in trouble and why? We’d suggest that there’s currently a bottom 1.5 — giving Everton a huge and historical benefit of the doubt — and that a pretty decent team will end up sitting 18th at the end of the season.

Our bottom three projections say that the relegation zone has a sweet tooth, as it starts with Toffees and Cherries.

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Premier League relegation worries, ranked

1. Bournemouth

There’s no argument to the contrary: The Cherries are 20th in expected goals, 19th in expected goals allowed, 19th in chances created, 19th in shots on target per match.

They are also a league-worst minus-97 in shots from open play, have conceded 11 goals off corner kicks, and have forced their keepers to face six penalties. It’s bad, real bad. Hopefully Ouattara helps quite a bit; The $24 million buy arrives tied for 12th in Ligue 1’s big chances created and has put together 0.48 xG+xA per 90 minutes.

Three players who could help save the day: Phillip Billing, Marcos Senesi, Ouattara

2. Everton

This seems a bit ludicrous given the talent at Goodison Park, but things have just been rotten for Frank Lampard’s men.

The Toffees have that second-worst differential in shot attempts from open play and have allowed a league-worst 220. They are 16th in expected goals, 18th in xGA, and 16th in chances created per match.

Even worse, the Toffees are out-performing their xGA in open play, from corner kicks, and from set pieces.

Three players who could help save the day: Conor Coady, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Amadou Onana

3. Southampton

Spare a thought for Mohamed Elyounoussi, who is on pace to win the David McGoldrick Award for top xG in a season without scoring a goal (2.59 through 1,342 minutes).

Three players who could help save the day: James Ward-Prowse, Mohammed Salisu, Mislav Orsic

4. Nottingham Forest

The hope for Forest, now five points clear of the bottom three, is that their collection of talent is finally starting to settle under Steve Cooper. It’s reasonable enough to think that Morgan Gibbs-White, Renan Lodi, and Taiwo Awoniyi will find their groove.

The Tricky Trees could dance their way out of danger in about four weeks, however, with Bournemouth, Leeds, and over-performing Fulham their next three encounters.

Three players who could help save the day: Gibbs-White, Jesse Lingard, Ryan Yates

5. Crystal Palace

Palace is awful in open play (-11 GD, -10xGD) and leans too hard on Wilfried Zaha. The Eagles have a lot of enviable components in attack with Odsonne Edouard, Eberechi Eze, and Michael Olise, but the whole is worse than the sum of those parts.

Three players who could help save the day: Joachim Andersen, Eze, Zaha

BONUS: Why your favorite team dodged the top five

  • West Ham is the fifth-best defense in the league according to expected goals and sit 20th in chances created despite a good collection of talent we’ve seen deliver goals in the Premier League.

  • Leicester City has been without James Maddison for much of the season and is still ninth in chances created. The Foxes aren’t good, but it would be stunning to see them wallow near the bottom three.

  • Leeds is the Premier League’s 10th-best expected goals team and Patrick Bamford’s unbelievably unfortunate run in front of goal has stretched too long; Bamford is second in the PL in expected goals per 90 amongst players who have played more than 300 minutes. If it isn’t him, it’ll be someone.

  • Wolves have been unlucky in terms of both xG and xGA in literally every part of the pitch and have looked much better since the hiring of Julen Lopetegui. Now, can they navigate a possible sale of Ruben Neves?

  • Aston Villa is out-attempting opponents in open play and the numbers for both Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey suggest the season is on the upswing. The Villans do need to be tighter when teams get the ball back from them.

  • Fulham has a few abjectly dreadful advanced stats, but their 31 points and over-performances are probably already enough to keep them safe.

Premier League relegation worries, ranked originally appeared on NBCSports.com