The Hungry Games: Three Games to Go

Rank Team Remarks
A brown spot in the grass Wolverhampton
(23 points in 35 games; goal differential of -41) Best odds of relegation? (It’s a sure thing). With three games to go, Wolves Manager Terry Connor told reporters, “Over 38 games we’ve proved not good enough to stay in the Premier League.” Remaining schedule: Swansea, Everton and Wigan.
On the ground Blackburn
(31/35/-26) Odds, 2/11. A 2-0 win over Norwich ended a five-game skid, but Blackburn is still 3 points below the presumed safety line. That hasn’t discouraged Junior Hoilett, who told The Lancashire Telegraph, “We have belief and we just have to play our games and we will get the results.” Remaining schedule: Tottenham, Wigan and Chelsea.
Slipping backward Q.P.R.
(34/35/-18) Odds, 7/5. Adel Taarabt fueled an impressive 1-0 win against Tottenham, then, in typical Rangers fashion, was ejected from the game. Manager Mark Hughes also spoke of destiny, telling The Kilburn Times that he wouldn’t trade places with game-in-hand Bolton, no matter what. “My preference would be to have points on the board. I think that’s better than having games in hand.” It is, of course, but getting the points is the tricky part. Remaining schedule: Chelsea, Stoke City and Man City.
Gaining ground Bolton
(33/34/-28) Odds, 6/4. A draw against Swansea and then a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa led Bolton Manager Owen Coyle to announce that his players are “masters of their own destiny.” Whether they are or not, Bolton still has a game in hand on their rivals and has lost only twice since the beginning of March. Remaining games: Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom and Stoke City.
Only nervous Wigan
(34/35/-26) Odds, 3/1. Lost by 2-1 to Fulham after defeating Manchester United and Arsenal in consecutive weeks. But still has plenty of meat lagging behind them. Remaining schedule: Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolverhampton.

The Hungry Games: Four Games to Go

Rank Team Remarks
…just gristle (and buzzing flies) Wolverhampton
(23 points in 34 games; goal differential of -39) Best odds of relegation, 1/100. Ended a seven-game losing streak with a scoreless draw against Sunderland, but hasn’t won since beating, uhm, Rangers on Feb. 4. Remaining schedule: Manchester City, Swansea, Everton and Wigan.
Bone exposed Blackburn
(28/34/-28) Odds, 1/4. Losing streak lengthens to five after loss to Swansea. None of the other campers are brave enough to look Blackburn in the eyes. . Remaining schedule: Norwich, Tottenham, Wigan and Chelsea.
Sent back to kitchen Bolton
(29/32/-29) Odds, 11/8. In suspended animation. A listless 2-0 loss to Newcastle certainly didn’t help, but Bolton has six — count ’em — six games remaining: Swansea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom and Stoke City.
Clear bite marks Q.P.R.
(31/34/-19) Odds, 11/10. Glorious 3-0 win against Swansea followed up by an 1-0 defeat to West Brom. Has edge in goal differential over everyone, if things get close. But will need to start acting like Wigan’s players to stay close to them. Remaining schedule: Tottenham, Chelsea, Stoke City and Man City.
Merely sweating Wigan
(34/34/-25) Odds, 13/2. Assessing Rangers’ chances, we advised counting on something going to hell, like Wigan’s beating Manchester United. Wigan did, of course, and Arsenal to boot. Remaining schedule: Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolverhampton.

The Hungry Games: Six Games to Go

Rank Team Remarks
All-Gone Wolverhampton
(22 points in 32 games; goal differential of -36) Best odds of relegation, 1/50. As good as gone, as the cat said to the mouse; has lost six in a row despite smartest kit in the league. Remaining schedule: Arsenal (April 11), Sunderland, Manchester City, Swansea, Everton and Wigan.
Top-Off Wigan
(28/32/-27) Odds, 8/15. Just two losses since January, but only two wins, too. That is not how John Wayne would do it. Remaining schedule: Man United (April 11), Arsenal, Fulham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolverhampton.
Top-Off Q.P.R.
(28/32/-21) Odds, 4/6. Only two (ye gawds!) wins in 2012. If Rangers had won as often as they were red-carded, they’d be on to something. Remaining schedule: Swansea (April 11), West Brom, Tottenham, Chelsea, Stoke City and Man City.
Just nibbles Blackburn
(28/32/-24) Odds, 11/8. This is how things are going: After a 2-0 drubbing by Man United on April 2, Blackburn vowed grimly to bounce back, then lost by 3-0 to West Brom on Saturday. Remaining schedule: Liverpool (April 10), Swansea, Norwich, Tottenham, Wigan and Chelsea.
Just nibbles Bolton
(29/31/-27) Odds, 11/4. Three wins in the last five weeks, including against Rangers, but still leads the Premier League in defeats. Remaining schedule: Newcastle (April 9), Swansea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom and Stoke City.


The Hungry Games

“It is difficult to say what it will be, but I think the lowest point total has been something like 34,” he said. “I don’t think it will be as low as that but it won’t be as high as 40.

via QPR boss wants 12 points to secure safety- with three from Man Utd clash – QPR – Kilburn Times.

I am not British (“Up the rebels!”), and do not (despite having rambled on a bit on the subject) consider myself a soccer expert. But. A quibble:

It is true that the “lowest point total” recorded by a Premier League team that avoided relegation is 34 (West Brom in 2005), but that sort of thing should not be on the tip of a coach’s tongue. Outliers are so for a reason, and you do not have to be a poet to realize that emulating West Brom is not exactly the way forward.

The tricky thing about the way the Premier League table is shaping up is that (as of Saturday night) four teams were in an ungainly clot above last-place Wolverhampton (22 points): Wigan, Blackburn and Q.P.R. (28 points), and Bolton (29 points). That means it is not a target number Hughes should be worrying about — though 38 still sounds good to us — but like a bear-threatened camper in the woods, he should be thinking more about being faster than his slowest friends.

Unfortunately for their tender haunches, Rangers have easily the most difficult remaining schedule — including a grueling three games in the next seven days.

On Sunday, of course, they play league-leading Manchester United (76 points). That is followed quickly by a game Wednesday against fellow newcomer Swansea, a gallingly solid club that is gallingly clear of danger with 39 galling points, and then a regular Saturday morning start against West Brom (39). The rest of the season is more grim: April 21 vs. Tottenham (59), April 29 vs. Chelsea (56), May 6 vs. Stoke City (41) and May 13 vs. Man City (71).

That slate, the astute reader will notice, includes four of the top six teams in the league, opponents with an overall average point total of 54.4. It is no wonder that the odds of Rangers’ dropping have declined steadily from better than 6 to 1 three months ago to nearly even money now. Of their relegation-threatened peers, only Wigan (1/2 to go down) plays more than three of the league’s elite — and it finishes with games against Blackburn and Wolverhampton, potentially the softest landing for any Premier League team.

  • Wigan’s last six opponents are, in order, Man United (76), Arsenal (58), Fulham (42), Newcastle (56), Blackburn (28) and Wolverhampton (22).
  • Blackburn has Liverpool (43), Swansea (39), Norwich (40), Tottenham (59), Wigan (28) and Chelsea (56).
  • And Bolton goes Newcastle (56), Tottenham (59), Swansea (39), Sunderland (42), West Brom (39) and Stoke City (41).

Now, just spitballing here, but let’s half-assedly handicap that. Assuming a win against a top-six team is out of the question, and ties against opponents in that broad, featureless middle ground between 44 points and 39 points are a most likely outcome, 7 points for Wigan seems well within reach. So let’s call Wigan potentially the fastest camper. Blackburn can assuredly hit at least 6 points; of course, that takes 3 away from Wigan, but the point is Blackburn is not the slowest camper. And 4 points seems a fair minimum for sounds-delicious Bolton.

So you are left to conclude that Q.P.R. needs at least 7 points to avoid the grizzly’s steaming maw, and should obviously be aiming for better than that, assuming something goes to hell, like Man United’s laying an egg at Wigan. Because something always goes to hell.

Hughes thinks 12 points will get his club to safety; the question is, where do they come from? The two Manchester dates do not seem likely contenders, and the much-more talented Tottenham and Chelsea are sure to be motivated and still fighting for Champions League money. That leaves Swansea, West Brom and Stoke, three teams with vulnerabilities, probably, but who, definitely, have managed their affairs better than Q.P.R.

Even if you argue that three wins in seven games is Rangers’ best case, that puts them at only 37 points. Still in danger of a slow digestion next season in the Championship stomach.

Q.P.R. 3, Wigan 1 (Zagat-style)

Heidar Helguson, Akos Buzsaky and Tommy Smith scored as QPR gave new manager Mark Hughes his first league victory” — 3-1 against visiting Wigan on Saturday. “With both sides languishing in the drop zone,” “it was pacy and entertaining to the close” “in swirling conditions in West London.”

While Joey “Barton thanked [the former manager Neil Warnock] with a tirade of criticism on Twitter,” the unassuming Buzsaky “has been out to prove his point in a very different way.” Buzsaky enjoyed “a fine game alongside Barton in central midfield,” repeatedly testing Wigan goaltender Ali Al-Habsi before giving Q.P.R. “a commanding [2-0] lead at the break.”

“It was only a second home league win of the season for QPR, but” “the Hoops are now 16th and clear of danger, for the moment at least.”

via Bloomberg; The Observer; West London Sport; Kilburn Times; and Yahoo! Eurosport.