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How does the relegation picture look after Everton's points penalty reduction?

How does the relegation picture look after Everton's points penalty reduction?
© Reuters
Following Everton's points penalty for breaching financial rules being reduced from 10 to six, Sports Mole looks at their chances of survival in the Premier League.

Everton's chances of Premier League survival were given a huge boost when their points deduction was reduced from 10 to six on appeal earlier this week.

After being handed the harshest penalty in the history of the top flight, Everton instantly became one of the favourites for the drop, falling to 19th in the immediate aftermath of the punishment being handed out.

Positive form followed straight after and moved Everton back out of the bottom three, but indifferent results in 2024 saw them briefly drop back below the dotted line.

After draws against Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion, Sean Dyche's men did move a point clear of Luton Town in 18th once more, and the re-addition of four points to their tally has seen the Toffees climb to 15th, above Nottingham Forest and Brentford.

With another charge looming and the relegation picture still alive though, we look at Everton's chances of survival in the Premier League this season.


EVERTON'S CHANCES OF SURVIVAL

Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrates scoring their third goal with James Garneron September 23, 2023© Reuters

One of the reasons why Everton have found themselves in relegation trouble over the past two-and-a-half years has been down to their inability to score goals frequently, and their tally of 28 so far this season is among the worst, with only the bottom two on fewer goals.

Starting striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has the worst xG conversion rate of all attackers in the Premier League and has now gone 20 games without a goal, illustrating exactly why Everton's goal tally is so low.

With just one assist to his name this season (a header which bounced off Jack Harrison against Tottenham Hotspur), Calvert-Lewin is also struggling to influence the game in other ways while misfiring in front of goal.

Therefore, it is slightly surprising to see that summer signing Beto has hardly been given a chance by Dyche, despite his willingness to put himself about, with plenty of pace and height to trouble defenders.

Beto's composure in front of goal certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but with Calvert-Lewin not looking like breaking his goalscoring duck anytime soon, giving the Portuguese front man a run of games could benefit both players in the short term.

Everton have had to rely on set pieces for their goals, and all four of their strikes in February came from corners of free kicks, including Jarrad Branthwaite's superb effort at Brighton on Saturday.

Jarrad Branthwaite celebrates scoring for Everton on February 3, 2024© Reuters

The defence which has been put together by Dyche remains exceptional though, as James Tarkowski has proved to be the perfect leader to mentor Branthwaite who is set to move to a more successful side for huge money in the near future.

Vitalii Mykolenko's improvement at left-back this season has also been a big positive for Toffees, as only the top three have conceded less goals, while Arsenal are the only side to have kept more clean sheets than Everton's eight in the Premier League.

Manchester City limped past a resolute Everton side recently, while Jordan Ayew and Richarlison wonder goals stopped them from earning another two victories.

Everton's set-piece strength is not just prevalent in the attacking third either, as Lewis Dunk's goal on Saturday for Brighton was the first headed goal that Dyche's men had conceded all season.

Keeping the core of their side fit has been a challenge for the club this season, but if the central-defensive pairing and the likes of Amadou Onana and Abdoulaye Doucoure can stay fit until the end of the season, Everton chances of survival will be greatly heightened.


LUTON'S CHANCES OF SURVIVAL

Luton Town manager Rob Edwards on February 27, 2024© Reuters

In comparison to Everton's strength defensively, Luton's naivety at the back looks like it may cost them this season.

While being lauded for their open and front-footed style of play, Rob Edwards' side have conceded 19 goals in their last five games - losing four.

Despite taking the lead at Anfield in their last league outing, the scoreline could have been much uglier than the 4-1 defeat inflicted upon them by the league leaders.

Man City, and namely Erling Haaland, were much more ruthless in the FA Cup on Tuesday, as the Norwegian got five of the six goals that Pep Guardiola's side put past Luton in a dominant display at Kenilworth Road.

While Luton undoubtedly have more consistent goalscorers than Everton, their current style is unsustainable if they want to remain in the top flight, as Edwards's side have already conceded 51 goals in just 25 games this season.

It has proved fruitful in games such as their 4-0 win over Brighton, and successes away to direct rivals Everton and Sheffield United, but with only 20 points to show for it, Luton must tighten up.

With trips to Man City, Arsenal and Spurs to come, and no more meetings with the bottom two, Luton's four-point deficit to Forest above them looks very worrying, so it is likely that the Hatters will need a result when they face Bournemouth in their game-in-hand next month.


THE REST OF THE RELEGATION PICTURE

Nottingham Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo before the match on February 28, 2024© Reuters

Given that Everton and Forest are both set to face punishment for breaching financial rules for the most recent period, nothing can be said for certain yet in the relegation race.

The UK Government has made it clear to the Premier League that a final decision must be reached before the end of the season in order to uphold sporting integrity, but further deductions could blow the race wide open in the latter weeks of the season.

As Everton were given a six-point penalty for their first breach, the same fate could beset Forest, whose breaches are believed to be much greater than Everton's.

After facing punishment already for financial years that fall under the most recent breach, Everton may face a more lenient penalty, but any more points deductions will plunge them closer to trouble again.

Brentford are still in the relegation picture, and a worrying 4-2 defeat at West Ham United on Monday will not fill their supporters with great confidence.

Brentford's Ben Mee looks dejected after the match on February 20, 2024© Reuters

Thomas Frank's side have now lost 12 of their last 15 Premier League games, and sit just five points above Luton, but the return of Ivan Toney will likely provide them with enough goals to steer clear of the drop.

Crystal Palace looked like they were in big trouble during the final days of Roy Hodgson's era at the club, but four points in two games since he stepped aside due to poor health has put some distance between themselves and the bottom three.

Oliver Glasner is the man who has come in to lead Palace, and an impressive 3-0 win over Burnley in his first game in charge moved them eight points clear of the drop at the weekend.

Joining Palace on 28 points is Bournemouth, as Andoni Iraola's side have slipped into a spell of underwhelming form once again after a sensational end to 2023.

The current gap should keep the Cherries confident of survival at this stage though, and a win in their game-in-hand to come against Luton would almost assure them of another season in the top flight.

With 13 points apiece, the prospects of Burnley or Sheffield United staying up appear near impossible at this stage of the season, with it looking likely that there is only one relegation place left to be decided unless there is a remarkable shift, despite it still only being February.

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