European contention or relegation dogfight; how will Wolves do in the Premier League?

‘How will Wolves do?’ is one of the more intriguing questions as we approach the start of the Premier League season. After a Championship campaign where they were rarely troubled on their way to 99 points (let’s ignore the final day capitulation to bottom club Sunderland), will their frequently mentioned Portuguese links catapult them into the top half of the top tier and the edge of European contention – or, as is the case with so many promoted clubs, do they face an uphill struggle just to finish 17th?

The season points market on spread betting websites like Sporting Index usually acts as a good barometer of a team’s potential. Wolves are presently sitting at a spread of 47 to 48.5 points – a mid-point of 47.75 points. This would easily be enough points for Wolves to stay in the Premier League for a second season and would represent their greatest ever Premier League points haul.

Sporting Index points spread as at 5th August 2018.

The spread on Sporting Index puts them about level in expectations with Leicester and above the likes of established Premier League outfits in Southampton, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth. Brighton, the team Sporting Index anticipates finishing 18th, have a spread of 38 to 39.5 points – nine points away from Wolves.

The financial disparity between the sums spent in the Premier League and the Championship is well documented and is reflected in the difficulty teams tend to have in their first campaign in the top flight after promotion. Last season saw all promoted teams stay in the division for the first time since 2011-12, and for only the third time since the inception of the Premier League in 1992-93.

Wolves would probably be satisfied with 40 points or above and the chance to have a second season, but what chance of getting to the upper level of their anticipated points and making it to 48 points? Of course, every season is different and so is every promoted team, but here are the facts from the data:

  • Of the 68 promoted teams since 1995/96 (when the Premier League shortened to 38 matches), ten clubs have achieved 48 points or more – a likelihood of 14.70%.
  • Only Birmingham City, of all promoted teams in the last eleven seasons, have achieved over 48 points (50 points in 2009-10).
  • Since 1992-93, newly promoted teams to the Premier League average 39.13 points.
  • Wolves have spent four seasons in the Premier League (2003-04 and 2009-10 to 2011-12). Their points in those seasons; 33, 38, 40 and 25.

The data generally only appears to support one conclusion; getting to 48 points would be a fantastic achievement for Wolves. Their investment over this summer has primarily been in players who have no Premier League experience, overseen by a manager who also has no Premier League experience, adding to a squad which already has very limited Premier League experience.

Wolves have spent money, yes – but is it the sort of money likely to catapult them in front of the likes of Bournemouth or Crystal Palace? I’m not convinced. Whilst I’m not necessarily expecting Wolves to be involved in a relegation dogfight, if you take ten points either side of the spread, is it more likely Wolves will finish on 38 points or 58 points?

Only time will tell if the Sporting Index spread is accurate, but my personal feeling at this stage is that it may be a little on the high side.

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Promoted Teams in the PL – 1995-96 to 2017-18 – list of promoted teams and their corresponding points in their first season in the Premier League after promotion.

All information correct as of 5th August 2018.

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