The Premier League relegation race seemed like it would be between four teams. Thenfor breaching financial fair play rules it could get interesting at the bottom of the table if things stick. Bournemouth, Luton Town, Sheffield United, Everton, and Burnley seem to be the teams fighting it out to avoid the drop this season as it would take quite a tumble for teams between 15th and 10th to fall into the race, although with Fulham's attack (with 10 goals scored only Burnley, with 9 have fewer), they can't be ruled out of potentially joining the group of five.
All three of the newly promoted teams are in the mix as expected, while Bournemouth haven't been able to keep up their good form from last season as they have been architects of their own downfall. Moving on from Gary O'Neil during the summer, the Cherries have now seen Wolves, where their ex-manager took over, fly past them in the table. Meanwhile, Everton's great season, before the point deduction they looked to have pulled themselves out of the relegation battle entirely, runs the risk of being derailed by external forces making for quite the interesting mix among those battling it out at the bottom of the table.
Current bottom five
*Everton's points total takes into account their 10 point deduction for Financial Fair Play.
Why they'll survive: Talent-wise, Bournemouth may have the most options available to them of any squad in the bottom five. Dominic Solanke has proven that he can be a Premier League forward while Phil Billing has shined as a midfielder in the league as well. Defensively there are plenty of concerns, but in goal Neto papers over a lot of those problems by saving 70% of the shots that he has faced, and according to post-shot expected goals, conceding 3.66 goals fewer than he would've been expected to concede. The former Barcelona man basically is the Bournemouth defense, so January reinforcements which plugged some gaps in the back line could see this team rocket away from the relegation zone.
The issue is that when they took strides under O'Neil who is thriving with Wolves, it does make you wonder if Bournemouth would be in a better position this season if they retained their former manager instead of appointing Andoni Iraola. While Iraola thrived in La Liga in charge of Rayo Vallacano, uprooting an entire system takes time and time is something that isn't afforded to managers in the Premier League, nor is it something a team in the relegation battle can afford.
Why they'll be relegated: Neto being Bournemouth's biggest strength is also their biggest weakness. He's a 34-year-old keeper who has already missed two games this season and only featured in 27 last season. If he misses a significant amount of time, or if the laws of averages simply catch up with him, the defense will crumble leaving the team in a place where they can't pick things up. Given the form of the teams below them in the table, even that may not be enough to sink the Cherries. but it's something that needs to be taken into account.
Why they'll survive: Uh, manager Rob Edwards has magic beans or something? No one expected Luton to have a chance this season but if the season ended today, they would be safe. They've pulled off a landmark draw against Liverpool at Kenilworth Road, and home cooking has been critical for the Hatters. Only allowing seven goals in five home fixtures compared to 15 goals in seven away bouts shows just how important home form can be to a newly promoted team. Playing their games in a truly unique environment, Luton has been able to stave off pressure but the attack needs to be better to take advantage of the improved defense.
Why they'll be relegated: Facing almost 200 shots this season, Luton just allow teams to have too many opportunities. Teams have scored 22 goals against them, with only three teams conceding more than them, but even that doesn't tell the whole story. Their 25.38 xG against is the second worst in the league. Then, at the other end of the pitch, Carlton Morris has struggled to score from open play and they've had to turn to Andros Townsend for a creative spark. They just don't have the talent required to avoid the drop, so Luton will need a lot to keep breaking their way as they've already been walking a tightrope this season.
Why they'll survive: The Blades have struggled but in Cameron Archer and James McAtee they have something in their young players. Archer has scored two goals this season while McAtee has one assist and while it may not seem like much, the Blades collectively have only scored 10 goals all season. If they're able to continue improving, there is a chance to turn this into a league average attack even though that may not be enough to offset the defensive issues.
Why they'll be relegated: If you thought Luton's defense was rough, Sheffield United's makes it look like a great setup. Despite American Auston Trusty working himself into the starting XI, the Blades have struggled to prevent shots and also have the worst goal difference in the entire Premier League. At -21 they're joint bottom with Burnley with no sign of improvement
Why they'll survive: Under Sean Dyche, Everton is firmly a midtable side this season despite what points may say. They have the 1tth best goal difference and the ninth best xG difference. With a stout defense supporting Jack Harrison and Dwight McNeil on the wings the Toffees have one of their best XI's in recent memory available. Even if Dominic Calvert-Lewin misses time, goals are coming from enough places that that won't sink Everton.
Combine that with how bad the bottom of the table is this season, and even with a points deduction Everton can feel pretty safe. It's impressive that they don't even drop to the bottom of the table after having 10 points vaporized over night, and over the last five games, they've had the sixth best form in the league picking up 10 points scoring eight goals and allowing five. Things are turning around at Goodison Park, they just have to look beyond the real table at the moment.
Why they'll be relegated: After staving off relegation for the past few seasons, maybe the biggest concern is that a bad run of form sees this spell be an insurmountable one that leads to a rash firing of Dyche. Out of all of the teams currently in the bottom five, Everton is the one that feels least likely to end up in the Championship next season, so further external situations would have to push them away but stranger things have happened.
Why they'll survive: With only one win and one draw, there isn't much to like about the bottom of the table Clarets. Vincent Kompany had the attack shimmering in the Championship, but that goalscoring prowess hasn't followed them to the Premier League. Scoring the fewest goals in the league with nine, and allowing the second most with 30 isn't a recipe for success. If Burnley will survive, Kompany is going to have to rebuild the system from the ground up while starting with the basics. Taking a page out of Dyche's book from the "boring" Burnley days may be the only way to turn this ship around.
Why they'll be relegated: They're on pace for a 13 point season. This puts Burnley in dubious company. Only Derby County of 2008 has had a lower points tally in a season at 11. Widely regarded as the worst Premier League team ever, it's not a conversation that Burnley wants to be part of if they want a chance to save the season. It'll be tough sledding and maybe a managerial change will end up coming down the road, but it'll likely be time to prepare for a return to the Championship.
It's quite unfortunate that it seems like a season where all the newly promoted clubs will head right back to the Championship. While it would be fitting if Bournemouth could become one of the teams to drop after moving on from O'Neil, it doesn't seem like the promoted sides have what it takes to stick int he Premier League. January could bring chances to the ranks but at the moment, Luton Town, Sheffield United, and Burnley will all be heading back down.