Winners that draw, hitting the woodwork
Norman Hubbard is ESPN's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
The myth, or theory, or correct (I don't know) belief that teams in the relegation zone are at their most dangerous during the final rounds of the season, to me, seems a little odd, because teams are usually in the bottom three come the final weeks because they are somewhat rubbish.
What is, if there is any, and I should hope there is, analysis on teams fighting the relegation battle in terms of points gained during the season compared to points gained in the final, say five weeks, when everyone, at least here in New Zealand seems to think teams "are at their most dangerous during their time spent in the trenches fighting against the noble enemy relegation", Rodney Brown asked
There is no sweeping trend, but strugglers generally get slightly better results in the final few weeks. If we look at the six teams who were in relegation danger, three ended the season on terrible runs: Wolves did not win in their last 14, Aston Villa won once in 16 and Blackburn lost eight of the last nine. Bolton's form - one win and seven points from their last eight games - was not great, either, but QPR won five of their last ten and Wigan finished the campaign in the best form of any team in the division, winning seven of their last nine.
Combined, their haul in the last six games each (covering five weeks or so) is 40 points from 36 games, or 1.11 per game. In the remainder of the campaign, they took 170 points from 192 games, an average of 0.88 per game, but that difference can be attributed largely to Wigan.
In the previous season, the bottom six teams took 35 points from the final 36 games (0.97 per game) after managing 201 from the previous 192 (1.04 per game). Wigan, incidentally, again moved out of the bottom three, with 11 points from six games, while an Alex McLeish-managed side again failed to win, meaning Birmingham were relegated.
And in the 2009-10 campaign, the bottom six took 34 points from the final 36 games (0.94 per game) after mustering 163 from the previous 192 (0.84 per game). Over the three seasons, the bottom six teams have taken 109 points from 108 games (1.01 per game) at the business end of the campaign and 534 from 576 before then (0.93 per game).
Within that, however, there are teams who have got out of trouble by embarking on good runs (Wigan twice), had their fate sealed by a poor runs (Blackburn, Birmingham, Hull) or tumbled into trouble (Villa), those who have veered in an out of the relegation places (Bolton, Blackpool) or who seemed doomed all along (Wolves this season, Portsmouth two years ago). So while it is a very vague conclusion, some relegation-threatened teams are at their most dangerous at the end of the season, but others are at their weakest.
Juventus won the Serie A title but though undefeated, they managed 15 draws throughout the league campaign. Is this highest for any league winner or any other team has managed to win the title with higher number of draws? Abhishek Korgaonkar from Mumbai asked
As with many questions, the answer is "yes and no". Juventus' total of 15 draws is the most of any Serie A winners. However, 15 draws in 38 games means they drew 39.4% of their matches whereas Giovanni Trapattoni's team of 1977-78 won the Scudetto after drawing 14 of their 30 league games - 46.6%.
Meanwhile, there are two English champions who have won the division after drawing 16 times - Huddersfield in 1924-25 and Leeds in 1991-92. In each case, however, it was a 42-game season.
After years of being a model for success in La Liga, Villarreal were relegated this season following a term filled with many key injuries. However, in the autumn Villarreal were competing in the Champions League. Has a team ever competed in the Champions League and been relegated during the same season? Josh Miera asked
Rapid as Villarreal's fall from grace was, it is not a first; indeed, it is not even a first for Spanish football. In the 2003-04 season, Celta Vigo did not just compete in the Champions League group stages but progressed from them, before losing to Arsenal in the last 16. However, they only took 39 points from 38 games in La Liga and finished 19th.
There is another example, albeit of a team whose relegation was not for footballing reasons, and regular readers may know where I am going here. Juventus were Champions League quarter-finalists in 2005-06 when they, too, were eliminated by Arsenal, and went on to win Serie A. However, because of calciopoli scandal, they were relegated that summer.
I would like to know exactly how many times Liverpool have hit the woodwork, and how many points they would have assuming all the shots go in instead in the league? Are you aware of any other team that have hit the woodwork more than Liverpool in history? Alvin Ding from Malaysia asked
Liverpool hit the woodwork 33 times in the Premier League, and 46 times in all competitions, this season. As far as I am aware - and the usual caveat, there are not all-time records in this field - that is the most. Had those efforts gone in, they would have brought Liverpool another 18 points and put them fourth - although, of course, that is assuming that opponents' shots that hit the Liverpool woodwork stayed out, not to mention the shots that hit post and bar which may have earned extra points for rivals like Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle, Chelsea and Everton.
Now that Norwich, QPR and Swansea all stayed up, I wondered how many times have ALL three newly promoted teams avoided relegation in the history of the Premier League? Ryan Hong asked
The answer is two, but two weeks ago, it was one. The three clubs promoted in 2001 - Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton - not only survived but all lasted for a minimum of 11 years in the Premier League. However, two of them, Blackburn and Bolton, were the sides who, by finishing 19th and 18th this year, permitted QPR to stay up.