We are getting to the stage in the Premier League season where you begin to wish you’d paid a little more attention to maths at school.
While it’s safe to say that nobody ever thinks about surds, algebra and the square root of pi once they’ve finished their GCSE’s, some basic knowledge of numbers can come in handy when working out what will happen over the next six weeks if Southampton win at West Ham United, Bournemouth hammer Palace and Huddersfield take something from Watford.
It’s made particularly complicated by how tight the bottom half of the table is; eight points separating tenth down to 17th means that realistically anyone in the bottom half of the table on a poor run of form could find themselves heading for the Championship next season.
You don’t need a maths degree to work out what the Albion need to do however. Over the past 22 years, only three teams have gone down having collected more than 40 points – Sunderland in 1996/97, Bolton Wanderers a season later and West Ham in 2002/03.
Brighton currently sit on 34 points, meaning six points from the next eight games will guarantee safety. That is two wins, one win and three draws or a highly unlikely six draws to secure trips next season to Old Trafford, the Emirates and Anfield rather than the Madjeski Stadium, the Riverside Stadium or Oakwell.
This is where maths meets divination as we all gaze into our crystal balls and try and work out where those six points are coming from. Here’s my prediction for what will happen which I invite you to take with a massive pinch of salt given that on the eve of the 2015/16 season which heralded our 22-game unbeaten start to the campaign, I predicted we would be relegated and Chris Hughton sacked before Christmas.
Looking back over the season so far, it’s fair to say we can discount any hope of three points coming on the road. We’ve won only twice away from the Amex and are the division’s lowest scorers on our travels with a paltry seven goals from 15 games played.
The one place we might pick up something is Selhurst Park. Derby games are notoriously tight so a 0-0 or 1-1 there seems likely. Trips to Burnley, Manchester City and Liverpool you can write off straight away. One point on the board.
That leaves our home fixtures. Still to visit the Amex are Leicester City, Huddersfield Town, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. The obvious place to look for points from those are the first two, with Huddersfield in particular being must win. We haven’t lost to a side outside of the top five at home all season and we owe David Wagner’s Terriers having been utterly hopeless on our visit to the John Smith’s Stadium in December.
So that should be three points. Leicester are a far tougher proposition and easily the best side outside of the big six in the division this season. A point from them would probably be a good result, which makes five. The last one? If any men in white coats are reading this, please come and find me but I fancy us to take something from the Red Devils. Twice this season we’ve gone to Old Trafford and twice we should’ve got at least a draw. Play like that with home advantage and who knows what will happen.
If something does happen against the Red Devils, then that is the magical 40 mark achieved and Premier League safety secured. No maths degree needed.